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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

On-Board Coaching Starts Here

On-boarding is a critical issue for executives matriculating from other companies. Because the failure rate is so high (40-50% within two years), it's an important topic for all companies. This week and next will be devoted to this topic of executive coaching.

This is the first of a number of posts about on-boarding for executives

1.What does on-boarding mean, relative to new executives?

a. Whenever you bring a new executive (or anyone for that matter) into a company, it’s as if he or she were entering into a tribe. Such tribes (companies and organizations) all have a distinct culture and hierarchy, both official and, more importantly, unofficial. I sometimes describe culture as the organizational unwritten attitudes, behaviors and rules that are strictly enforced.

b. As a new executive comes onboard and enters into the corporate culture and power structure, the entire organization tries to figure out, very quickly, if this new person will be a threat or an asset.

c. The time frame for critical decisions (threat vs. asset) by the organization varies but the first 6 months (especially the first 3 months) are the most important. If executives are brought on board in a thoughtful, concerted way, they have a much better chance for success.

Ken Blanchard Praises Transparent Leader

This is the final post regarding The Transparent Leader:

Ken Blanchard, national bestselling leadership author, has just endorsed my newest book, The Transparent Leader, focused on the success of women:

“Steve Gladis knows that honest and open communication between people is the key to successful working relationships. The Transparent Leader is a story about how simple it can be to improve your leadership style by learning to listen to, trust, and open up truthfully to those around you at every level. Read this book and be a better leader!”
- Ken Blanchard, coauthor of The One Minute Manager® and Leading at a Higher Level

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Transparent Leader

This the first of several postings this week regarding my new, just-released book: The Transparent Leader: Clear and Effective Leadership Communication.

Written as a business leadership fable, The Transparent Leader is the story of a smart emerging leader, Stephanie Marcus, as she navigates the challenging world of business. Fortunately, she meets Lou Donaldson, who acts as a friend, informal coach, and mentor as he guides Steph through the complicated business ecosystem in which she finds herself. Throughout the story, Steph learns about clear leadership communication as she also adapts and changes and becomes a more transparent—clear and open—leader. At the same time, she learns Lou’s personal story, which helps her fully appreciate his wisdom. An especially good read for women in leadership positions.

Create a Culture of Candor

This the third and FINAL of several postings this week regarding the June issue of the Harvard Business Review.

What’s Needed Next: A Culture of Candor by James O’Toole and Warren Bennis (HBR June, 2008, 54-61)

According to the authors, in particular Warren Bennis, who is a world-class mind and Professor at USC, candor in organizations has always been and will be critical to those very organizations themselves. The authors say in a sidebar: Why Good People Do Bad Things: “….ethical problems in organizations originate not with a “few bad apples” but with the “barrel makers”—the leaders who, wittingly or not, create and maintain the systems in which participants are encouraged to do wrong.”

Their advice is simple and straight forward:

--Tell the truth. Leaders must tell people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. A record of candor is the only standard.

--Encourage people to speak truth to power. Leaders must create systems that allow people to tell the truth without retribution, or no one will tell you when your pants are on fire!

--Reward Contrarians: Listen to all sides. Don’t dismiss people’s value just because they don’t agree and thank them.

--Practice having unpleasant conversations. Getting good at having truthful, respectful conversations that leave people undamaged is a skill that’s only learned by practice.

--Admit your mistakes. Give people permission to be human—just like you are.

--Build organizational support for transparency. Protect people who tell the truth (not only whistleblowers) but create a culture of candor.

--Set information free: Become a transparent organization and give everyone the data…unless there’s some compelling reason not to. Remember: The truth shall set you free!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Good Boss in a Bad Economy

This the second of several postings this week regarding the June issue of the Harvard Business Review.

How to Be a Good Boss in Bad Economy by Robert Sutton (HBR June, 2008, 42-48)

During tough times, Sutton, as Stanford professor, finds that bosses get less sensitive to people’s needs, but people spend a lot of energy and time focused on their bosses actions and intentions—a cauldron that produces toxic gases that erode trust. Here’s what he suggests:

1. Predictability: Give first…give people information. The more they know in advance, the better prepared they are, even for the worst news.

2. Understanding: People can handle the “what” if they know the reason, the “why.” Make communications clear, concise, and to the point.

3. Control: Don’t scare people with the overwhelming size or difficulty of the situation. Frame it in such a way as it’s solvable or attainable. (Remember, you can only eat an elephant one bite at a time!)

4. Compassion: If you have to let people go, show the utmost of empathy. It helps them deal with the near-death like feeling of losing a job and also demonstrates to the “survivors” your character. It’s a VERY tough event for everyone but allows you to actually build trust if done with dignity and style.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Trust in an Uncertain Economy

This the first of several postings this week regarding the June issue of the Harvard Business Review.

“REBUILDING TRUST” emblazons the cover of the June 2009 cover of the HBR. Sadly, it’s no real surprise that so many people have lost trust in financial, real estate, auto and other industries decimated by the financial meltdown. HBR has done an excellent job keeping focused on issues surrounding this crisis. And this month several articles revolve around the issue of trust in a bad economy.

One observation about trust, a topic I’ve written about in my recent book, The Transparent Leader, and which will be the topic of a 2010 book in process, The Trusted Leader:

Trust is earned or eroded every day by what we say and do. Executives making incredibly difficult decisions in a time of economic uncertainty are especially vulnerable to a massive loss of trust. One data point quoted in “The Buck Stops (and Starts) at Business School” in the June issue of HBR, shows that HBR readers have lost 76% of their trust in senior management in US companies. That astonishing statistic should rivet leader’s attention.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Reciprocity…you tend to get what you give.

This is the 4th and FINAL post this week on Change Your Questions, Change Your Life by Marilee Adams, Ph.D. (Berrett-Koehler, 2009). A recommended read for any leader.

In her book, Adams mentions that we’re ALL Judgers to one extent or another. She calls us “recovering judgers” so:

1. Accept that you’re likely to be a default Judger when faced with a problem.
--Her advice: “Accept Judger AND practice Learner.
--Judger begets Judger and Learner begets Learner. Basically you get back whatever you first give.

2. Teams are an especially important place to employ the Leaner Path.
--It takes effort and attention to engage others in our life, especially a team at work.
--Have to trust people to find the answers at their own time and place.

There's a lot more of great value in this book. Read it and change your questions, change your life.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Choice Map

This is the 3rd of several posts this week on Change Your Questions, Change Your Life by Marilee Adams, Ph.D. (Berrett-Koehler, 2009). A recommended read for any leader.

Adams has created a neat visual called the Choice Map (need to buy the book to SEE it--well worth the purchase).

What she shows is a diagram of a person at a decision point…a place we’re at many times a day. We get hit with thoughts, words, ideas. Sometimes we knee-jerk react to them, and other times we take a more reflective posture. She discusses two distinct paths: the Judger and Learner paths.

1. The Judger Path is often a knee-jerk reaction to a circumstance, event, or challenge we must face. When you start down this path immediately, you find yourself often emotionally bound, over reactive, in place of blaming others, finger pointing…and looking often for a scapegoat. In the end, this thinking spirals into what Adam’s calls “The Judger Pit,” not a fun place and often a place of despair and dysfunction.

2. The Learner Path takes a positive inquiry approach and asks questions like “What are the facts?” and “What can I learn form this situation?” Such questions keep you, the leader, centered and able to respond with an open and inquiring mind, much less likely to cause people to clam up…rather be open to mutual solutions, not blame.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Talk Less, Question More

This is the 2nd of several posts this week on Change Your Questions, Change Your Life by Marilee Adams, Ph.D. (Berrett-Koehler, 2009). A recommended read for any leader.

As leaders, most of us want to have the right answer when people ask us, especially our boss. So we study for briefings like they were final exams. And like many professors from the old school, the boss will often ask a question about an obscure footnote to see if they can catch you unprepared. This approach is not only unproductive but damaging to the person and the organization because it cuts of important other broader and more thought provocative questions.

1. Adam’s would argue that great leaders have great questions, not THE exact answer. Instead of being an answer man or woman, we need to be more critical thinkers asking the right questions.

2, Asking questions respects the knowledge of others and opens the questioner up to a dialog of thought, he or she might never have thought about.

3. Try this: In your next conversation instead of talking 80% of the time, talk 20% and listen 80%.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Questions vs. Answers

This is the first of several posts this coming week on Change Your Questions, Change Your Life by Marilee Adams, Ph.D. (Berrett-Koehler, 2009).

"Some men see things as they are and ask why? I dream dreams that never were and ask why not?” Ted Kennedy quoted this line from George Bernard Shaw’s play “Back to Methusala” to describe his brother Bobbie Kennedy—after he’d been assassinated--to the shock and dismay of the country and the world.

Marilee Adam’s book, Change Your Questions Change Your Life, helps explain how questions create frameworks of the mind. Most especially, she explains how questions transform our thinking and eventually our actions.

Many of us have grown up and been rewarded (and punished, Adams might add) for being the “answer person.” She explains how having all the answers is far more dangerous and less productive than having all the right questions. Moving from a position of Judging (having the right answers) to Learning (asking the right questions), creates a wining dynamic and keeps us out of what she calls the Judger Pit…a morass of blame, second guessing, and finger pointing.

This week, I’ll explore her work in a series of posts and hope you’ll join me.

End of the Journey of the Accidental Leader

This is the 6th and FINAL of several posts this week on my book The Journey of the Accidental Leader (HRD Press 2008).

Basic tenants of The Journey of the Accidental Leader follow:

9. Initiative: The long journey starts with the first step. Often we get stuck in the mud of indecision. It’s fine, in fact healthy, to question everything along the way. However, at some point, you have to take the first, often uncertain step and then the next. If you look to far down the path, it might be scary. Better to take the first step before worrying about all the rest.

10. People: Have a passion for people. Nothing gets the work done like having a passion for people. Ask yourself: What can I do to help these people be successful? If you keep such a question in your leadership toolbox, it won’t ever let you down. You’re programmed by the questions you ask yourself. Put your questions through the Passion for People filter.

Best of luck!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Lessons 7 and 8 from The Journey of the Accidental Leader

This is the 5th of several posts this week on my book The Journey of the Accidental Leader (HRD Press 2008).

Basic tenants of The Journey of the Accidental Leader follow:

7. Courage: Leadership is all about courage. Here’s a simple formula for this principle: Leaders do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason. Companies with thick rule books miss the point of this idea. If you have to tell managers everything they can and cannot do, you never develop the kind of courageous leader who will take the company to the next level. The best rule to lead by: Do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason.

8. Principles: Change will happen if you stick to your core principles while reaching toward the future and adapting to the world as it changes. Everything changes dynamically. Nothing stays the same, so leaders must adapt and remain flexible or be set adrift. The key: Stay focused on core, sound principles upon which the company was founded. Try to keep those always before you.

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