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Monday, October 31, 2011

Social Animal: #8--Self Control

Self Control: Kids are born with a certain temperament—basically high reactive or low reactive—essentially they are either anxious or calm. However, the range of this temperament is wide, and kids can evolve within broad limits or bands. Anxious kids will likely be more anxious than calm ones, but over time they can adapt and evolve to be less anxious. Researchers maintain that people who learn self control (whether anxious or calm) will become far more successful over a lifetime. Experiments around children being able to delay gratification are stunning in their ability to project future lifetime success. Athletes, researchers found, engaged in cycles of perception, re-perception, and correction. And star athletes did this better because their brains were quieter (less distracted) than other athletes. Their self-monitoring, called mind-sight, keeps them in control of which inner self they will allow to manifest. The Cherokee legend of the Two Wolves would be a perfect fit for this chapter. Just Google it for the story. It’s worth your effort.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Social Animal: #7--Norms

Norms: Researcher Annette Lareau (Univ. of Penn.) has found that children of well-off parents are surrounded by “concerted cultivation.” These children have incredible development opportunities mostly offered by adults—soccer, piano lessons, karate, flute, boy and girl scouts…the list goes on. In this highly structured world, parents shuttle kids around for these rich learning experiences. Poorer kids play more informally because parents can’t shuttle them about. The line between kids and adults is more defined in less wealthy homes. But, in
well-off homes, kids learn the language of adults—they get nearly four times as many words pushed at them per hour as poor kids. Both represent “emergent systems,” when two (or more) different things come together to form a third. Thus, cultures get formed by a set of forces coming together to form a system. This cultural system pushes back on and affects people. Wealthier kids group up in an emergent system that programs them toward communicating with adults and complex social systems like attending college, whereas poorer kids get programmed in a less sophisticated way—a culture (emergent system) that does not move them necessarily in that direction. The result: Kids in the bottom poorest quartile of the population have an 8.6% chance of going to college. On the other hand, top quartile kids have a 75% chance to earn a college degree. Changing the culture of a school, a group, or a system can lead to significantly different outcomes.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Social Animal: #6--Learning

Learning: High school is a classic social learning lab. Just look at the cafeteria and who sits where to understand the sociology of this environment. Geeks sit in one place, football players in another, socialites in another, and Goths in another. Cliques and “gangs” form. They always will—whether in schools, at work or in prisons. During high school the brain begins pruning unused areas of neural activity. Notably the last part of the brain to get cleaned up is the prefrontal cortex—the executive center of the brain. That’s the part that uses good sense to control outbursts and govern the actions of people. It’s one reason that juvenile records are sealed…we know intuitively that kids will act out and don’t want that to affect the rest of their lives. During this period of “hormonal hurricanes,” girls strongly react to relationship stress but boys (with all that testosterone) relate to “status assaults.” Even when boys are fully grown they have arguments about whose car is faster or whose job pays more. Enter good teachers. They possess equal parts of caring and discipline for their students. They force kids to learn, even at the risk of being less popular. They praise students for hard work, never for being “smart.” Such directed praise keeps kids curious and less likely to protect their “smart” status by always opting for the safer choices. Good teachers expose students to stories, narratives that allow students to hang new-found information on. Finally, good teachers give students a pathway to learning that includes reading, thinking, sleeping on it, reflecting, writing, even using teaching itself.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Social Animal: #5--Attachment

Attachment: To have socially attuned children, parents need not be trained psychologists; rather, they simply need to be warm, loving, and good enough to model how they react to the world to show their kids good behavioral models to emulate. Attachment theory also helps us understand how children will approach the world. If the parent, especially the primary caregiver (usually the mother), is in tune with the needs and wants of the child, the two are in a kind of harmonic dance and become attached. Such well attached children can face new or strange situations with calm and flexibility. They see the world as welcoming and inviting. They tend to be more truthful and less boastful…not feeling the need to puff themselves up. Thus, strong attachment in early childhood shapes future relationships for the child throughout his/her life. However, when those initial bonds are weak due to detached or emotionally unavailable parents, those children are said to become detached and model a similar behavior to others in their lives. Children who are more inconsistent emotionally with life tend to be raised by inconsistent parents. These children tend to be more fearful than others throughout their lives. Children also often replicate their parent’s behavior when they have their own kids. But life is robust and not deterministic, and all children are not necessarily doomed to replicate their early upbringing.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Social Animal: #4--Mapmaking

Mapmaking: If the world is the ocean, then our minds are the charts and maps we form to navigate it. We take in billions of impressions that sort and give meaning to what we need to survive and thrive. Whether we think about an apple or a dog, our brains form neural networks to help us to understand each distinctively. Such neural networks are the physical results (neural pathways) that get formed by experiences, habits, personality, and practice. We tend to get the “gist” of what’s happening, then combine it with something else and produce a story—that has a narrative arc. Children use this narrative when they play with toys. Adults use it when contemplating the unknown. They tend to live into the narrative they create and, depending on how they view the world, their narrative determines how their life turns out.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Social Animal: #3--Mindsight

Mindsight: As social animals, babies, from the very instant of birth, insinuate themselves into the minds of their parents, especially their mothers. Actually, it’s a survival instinct that babies are born with. They’re dependent on their mothers for their very lives and play to that dependency by getting into their heads right away. That’s why even newborns will mimic mommy and daddy—to get fed, changed, and touched. In fact, studies around touch, smell and other forms of interpenetration show that mammals’ brains develop best when interconnected with others. Orphans’ IQs increased after they were adopted by loving parents. “Mirror neurons” in our brains account for much of our interpenetrations with others. Literally we reflect what we see. We interpret others’ behaviors through an internal mimicking and rehearsal of what they’re doing. So when someone licks their lips, we might feel dry or need to do the same. That’s why we will watch a sad movie and cry or watch a comedy and laugh. Our emotional Wi-Fi picks up that of another person or group, making us feel as if we’ve just experienced something ourselves. Indeed, smiling and laughter are instinctive social bonding exercises among people. We laugh 30 times more when around people than by ourselves.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Social Animal: #2--Decision Making

Decision Making: 90% of all communication is nonverbal. So, what we take in lies well below the conscious surface of our minds. Yet that unconsciousness takes command of our minds when we make decisions—the most important of which is with whom we mate. Men are attracted to women based on a number of nonverbal cues like facial symmetry, full lips, full hair and waist-to-hip ratios. Indeed, both men and women are attracted to each other based on kindness and displays of compassion. And language itself fuels the courtship process. We have over 60,000 words but use only 100 words to express 60% of our world and 4,000 to express 98% of life. Emotion, it seems, is at the heart of all decision making. Researcher Kenneth Dodge says, “…emotion is the energy that drives, organizes, amplifies and attenuates cognitive activity and in turn is the experience and expression of this activity.”

Monday, October 24, 2011

Social Animal: #1--Overview

Overview: It’s no startling surprise to find out that we’re all social animals, each belonging to our tribes, whatever we call them—families, companies, churches, or political parties. However, David Brooks, vaunted journalist and author, scrapes off the layers of paint atop that old truism down to its bare metal, exposing three key insights: 1) the power of the unconscious; 2) the centrality of emotions; and 3) the deep interpenetration and interconnectedness of our minds. Using the power of a narrative to weave in Brooks’ prodigious experience in politics and people, as well as the depth of his observations and interpretation of scientific research, the reader gets a decent story packed with solid facts. It’s a bit like reading excellent historical fiction; but, this book is about how we live today. Using two fictional characters, Harold and Erica, to carry the narrative and provide the scaffold for his story, Brooks borrows from the tradition of parable and fable, thus weaving extraordinary scientific research into a story we can actually remember. And these two characters emanate from two very different social classes—Harold from the upper middle class and Erica from a family of immigrants. As such, they come at life very differently, yet somehow connect with each other in what might be described as a rich cocktail of humanity. The author raises the old Greek notion that we suffer our way to wisdom. Such wisdom operates below the surface of our conscious in our intuitions, emotions, and biases that formulate our thoughts while we navigate the choices of life. In essence, we’ve all been given a gift of the unconscious—but until now have not realized its power so well. Brooks talks about a lot of skills that operate as we play out these three insights of unconsciousness, emotions, and interconnectedness. This week, I’ll explore his book in detail

Saturday, October 22, 2011

HBR October: Post #7--Coke CEO

Shaking Things Up at Coca-Cola (interview by Adi Ignatius, p. 94).
When CEO Muhtar Kent took over the CEO position at Coke in 2008, he strove to develop a long-term vision and double the business in 10 years—neither of which is a small feat. He also moved toward other supporting issues. For instance, he moved 20% of his media buys to social media, supports sustainable communities, and is pushing Coke to become water neutral…return every gallon of water Coke takes from the earth. Concerning leadership, he contends that CEOs, especially of large companies, have less power than most people think and can only influence people! I find influence a critical element for all CEOs to recognize and practice

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

HBR October: Post #6-- Bad Bosses

The Cure for Horrible Bosses (Rosabeth Moss Kanter, p. 42).

We’ve all worked for jerks. Hopefully, only one or two in a lifetime. But the worst, according to Kanter, are disrespectful of your time. They ask for things without a decent deadline or apply more pressure than necessary. The best cure is forming alternative relationships among colleagues to weaken control of the autocratic boss. Oftentimes, such an alliance ensures that people above the horrible boss get wind of his/her style and will control or fire him/her.

HBR October: Post #5--Mentors & Proteges

The Relationship You Need to Get Right (Hewlettt and Marshall, p.131).

The authors studied one of the key relationships in creating successful leaders, the sponsor-protégé model. They discovered in the best of these relationships that the sponsor (or mentor) provides coaching, advocates for protégés, call in favors for them, and makes connections for them. On the other hand, protégés should be fiercely loyal, give 110% to any effort, and reciprocate. Further, both sponsor and protégé should subscribe to the “pay it forward” philosophy.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

HBR October: Post #4--Performance

Defend Your Research: If You Want to Win, Tell Your Team It’s Losing (a Little) by John Berger, p.36.

In an experiment, various groups competing with others in “another room” were given different kinds of feedback. One group was told that they were far behind, another that they were slightly behind, and a third that they were slightly ahead. Only the group that was slightly behind substantially (with statistical significance) picked up its rate of performance in the second round of competition.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

HBR October: Post #3--Retaining High Potentials

How to Hang On to Your High Potentials (Fernandez-Araoz, et al, p. 76).

Unemployment may be down, but only 15% of companies in North America have the level of high potentials they need. The talent wars are alive and well. In a key study conducted on high potentials, the authors (practitioners and academics) have developed what will become a classic in the field of talent management. They recommend developing a high potential program focused on corporate strategic alignment, a rigorous selection process, a balanced reward and incentive program (both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards). There are lots of specifics, examples, and meat in this article to help guide a company to start or modify its current high-potential company.

Friday, October 14, 2011

HBR October: Post #2--Finding the Right CEO

The Art and Science of Finding the Right CEO (Lafley & Tichy, p.67). The former chairman of Procter & Gamble writes about how seriously his company takes choosing the next CEO. In fact, he started the search for his successor the day he took over as CEO himself! Here’s what they did in a nutshell: PG set up a process for regular exposure of candidates to the board, established clear criteria for selection and measured candidates against those criteria, developed likely scenarios the company might be confronted with and matched candidates to them, identified “crucible” issues facing the company and placed candidates in charge of solving them, and Lafley himself became PG’s chief leadership coach.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Harvard Business Review Oct.: Post #1 Talent Management

Harvard Business Review, October 2011, as reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D., October 2011
This month’s issue focuses on Talent Management:

Making Yourself Indispensable (Zenger, Folkman, and Edinger, p. 85). Leaders can become exceptional and indispensable by developing several key strengths, which are also important to the companies. Most execs go right to the latest 360’s weaknesses and chip away at them. Better to look at 16 key strengths for the several that you can take to a significant level…especially if you do a kind of leadership cross training that the authors discuss. This article is one that executive coaches will be discussing with their clients for a long time.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Good Strategy-Bad Strategy: Post #14--FINAL Post

Final Words: Richard Rumelt’s life work has been focused on strategic thought. His book gives us a glimpse into his engineer-academic-consultant’s brain, which is problem-oriented, strategic, and practical. The book is well worth reading by any serious-minded leader.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Good Strategy-Bad Strategy: Post #13 Strategic Thinking--Keep Your Head

Keeping Your Head: Rumelt provides one of my favorite Rudyard Kipling quotes: “If you keep your head when all about you are losing theirs….” Rumelt contends that good strategy emerges from independent assessment, insight, and purpose. Bad strategy follows the herd headlong over the cliff. Remember the technology Dot-com bubble and subsequent burst of the 90s? Social herding presses us to accept “what is” because the herd says it is so. Taking the “inside view” (strategy-hypothesis testing), a wise leader pays attention to data and results of tests and not to the “echo chamber” of the crowd.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Good Strategy-Bad Strategy: Post #12 Strategic Thinking--Using Your Head

Thinking Strategically:
Using Your Head: To use strategy well you must: 1) fight your own narrow (myopic) thinking; 2) question your own judgment; and 3) make and record your judgments. To help these three activities, Rumelt again discusses using the kernel (diagnosis, an overall guiding philosophy, and taking coherent action). He also mentions problem solving as a way of attacking or diagnosing the problem. Next, he offers “create and destroy” as a critical thinking technique. Developing a strong counter to your own strategy—whether a real panel of devil’s advocates or ones in your head—will help vet ideas that can stand up to challenge. Finally, good judgment comes from self knowledge and knowing others, as well as anticipating and testing your own thoughts. Taking a stand, defending, and then modifying your position are important skills for all leaders to learn.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Good Strategy-Bad Strategy: Post #11 Strategic Thinking--The Science

Thinking Like a Strategist: In this section, Rumelt moves us from traditional wisdom about strategic thinking—putting on the hat of someone else when considering all aspects of a strategy—to taking such thinking to the next level, or “thinking about your own thinking.” Such metacognition can force leaders to consider how their thoughts emerged and were influenced to test the origins and validity of such thoughts.

a. The Science of Strategy: Both strategy and science test hypotheses—logical guesses about the future…what might be if we do this or do that. And like science, strategies must be tested, amended and retested. A good strategy helps us think about what directions will work in the future, and the best people to hypothesize those new paths are those closest to the action. Furthermore, Rumelt’s brief history of enlightenment—from the belief that everything is known, to what we must rediscover in the world around us every day—was enlightening! Galileo’s new hypothesis that the earth revolved around the sun changed astronomy. The Starbucks story about how Howard Schultz rethought his industry by combining the importing of strong coffee beans with the idea of establishing an Italian coffee house in the U.S. was a remarkable and insightful lesson on how hypotheses work.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Good Strategy-Bad Strategy: Post #10--Sources of Power

Sources of Power. Good strategy requires leaders to apply a variety of sources of power to any situation to make it happen. Coherent action comes from focused energy or power. Here are just several he mentions:
a. Leverage: Such power comes from anticipating and having insights into what’s most critical to a situation and then applying (leveraging) concentrated energy to it. Such insight into critical issues comes from practice and disciplined determination. Nothing is intuitive the first time you do it!
b. Proximate Objectives: Every parent knows the advantage of proximate objectives. By setting out achievable objectives, you can get kids from here to there. Kennedy did it with his audacious goal of putting a man on the moon. To do that, he set up goals to first have unmanned exploration, then larger booster rockets, and so on. One reasonable step at a time works.
c. Competitive Advantage: Rumelt argues: “…you cannot expect to make money—to get wealthier—by simply owning, buying or selling competitive advantage.” His point is that wealth increases when you can increase the advantage or when the demand for the resources underlying it increases. Thus, competitive advantage is dynamic and sometimes ephemeral—just ask Detroit!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Good Strategy-Bad Strategy: Post #9 The Kernel--Coherent Action

Coherent Action: This final step takes the mental state of possessing a guiding policy and puts it into focused action. Ultimately, all strategy has to be actionable, or it’s just a great brainstorming exercise. Great strategy tells you what to say “yes” to and what to say “no” to—and that’s no easy task. Furthermore, actions need to be coherent and related. When actions conflict with each other, confusion, disorder and misdirection dissipate focus on even the best diagnosed problems. The author summarizes this section: “Good strategy and good organization lie in specializing in the right activities and imposing only the essential amount of coordination.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Good Strategy-Bad Strategy: Post #8 The Kernel--Guiding Policy

The Guiding Policy: This step in the process emerges directly from the diagnosis because it outlines a general approach for solving the problems posed in the diagnosis. Gerstner’s guiding approach was reallocation of IBM’s resources from main-frame technology to more customer-centric solutions. Guiding policies are less of a vision and more of a method—a way to approach the obstacle. Guiding policies are not the “what’s going on” but the “how we’ll approach it.”And, guiding policies lead to coherent action.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Good Strategy-Bad Strategy: Post #7 The Kernel--Diagnosis

The Diagnosis: This step tries to answer the question: What’s going on here? Like medicine, leaders look for emergent patterns when trying to diagnose a problem. And reducing overly complex situations to a story or an analogy can often help leaders from becoming hopelessly stuck. Rumelt uses the Lou Gerstner story at IBM as a way to approach diagnosis. Gerstner determined that IBM needed to move from an integrated IT model to an integrated consulting model focused more on the customer than the technology. That story began to penetrate the market and change the course of IBM’s slump in the mid ‘90s.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Good Strategy-Bad Strategy: Post #6 The Kernel

The Kernel of a Good Strategy: “Good strategy is coherent action backed by argument, an effective mixture of thought and action with a basic understanding of what I call the kernel.” For Rumelt, the kernel consists of three key elements: 1) A diagnosis—a simplified explanation of the issue or challenge being faced; 2) a guiding policy—an overall approach to face the obstacles identified; and 3) a set of coherent actions—focused actions to implement the guiding policy.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Good Strategy-Bad Strategy: Post #5--Why?

Why So Much Bad Strategy? To answer this question the author points to three problems. 1) The unwillingness or inability to choose. To create a coherent plan to execute a strategy, you have to say yes to some things, but just as often you must say “no” to others. This gets very hard when executives have pet projects and/or resources they are loathe to give up in service of a new strategy. Unless it’s a dire state, the status quo wins every time. The “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” philosophy compelled people in Detroit to keep making big cars long after things changed, but no one could see it or wanted to react to it. 2) Template-Style Strategy: Here Rumelt does a frontal assault on the typical vision-mission-values-strategy templates used by so many consultants with companies, churches, government agencies and nonprofits. One example he uses to show the futility of this approach is Enron’s values: “Respect, Integrity, Communication and Excellence!” He says: “…template-style strategy frees them from the onerous work of analyzing the true challenges faced by the client.” Thus, by couching issues in the more positive terms of this model, people can avoid the very difficult issues so no feelings are hurt. 3) New Thought: For ages, people have subscribed to the notion that you get what you think about. Rumelt beats up on this idea by offering the fact that we also have to think about not-so-happy thoughts if we want to vet a workable strategy.

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