Sunday, December 11, 2011

Greatness is in the Giving

Daniel Boulud is among the best chefs in the United States, and he is at the pinnacle in the realm of French cooking. He holds high standards and works hard, getting in the trenches when needed. Boulud offers an interesting blend of business savvy and an insightful recipe for success that works well beyond the confines of a cooking pursuit:
"To be a great chef is to be able to express what makes you the most happy, and the most in harmony.... In the end, everything we do is not for ourself but to give it to someone else. What I love about cooking is the personalization of the work and the spontaneity of it. For me, the definition of a great chef is to be able to be spontaneous as well as intellectual and disciplined -- it is a combination of things that give a little more power in the soul." (Wine Spectator, 09/30/11).
Personal success (and organizational leadership) evolves from clarity about where you want to go and commitment for how you are going to get there. Add a splash of curiosity and, as another famous icon once wrote, "Oh, the places you'll go." (Dr. Seuss, 1960)
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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Competitive Edge of the Curious

I believe curiosity is among the four cornerstones that drive effective organizations and strong leaders. Mike Myatt does a nice job of pushing reflection along those lines in one of his blog posts. I was particularly taken by his point about the value of genuine curiosity for encouraging curiosity in others. He writes:
"If your ego is messaging you have all the answers, and that your way is the only way, then why would anyone ever be inspired to pursue change and innovation? A leader who doesn’t encourage others to challenge their thinking isn’t a leader – they’re a dictator. Dictators suppress individual thought and new ideas, while leaders encourage it at all costs."
For the next few days, while you serve your organization, observe yourself and reflect upon your actions. Are you inquiring out of curiosity or control? Do you put aside your ego without apologizing and encourage the risk of new thinking among those around you? If not, what do you need in order to start doing it? If so, what do you need to keep it up?
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Monday, November 28, 2011

Change Starts with the Right People

People can forget that moving from a change through transition into the desired new world takes people. They have to be able to see the value of the change and commit to the value of the transformation enough to want to start it and see it through. McKinsey offers a quick read for how a bank revamped its change strategy by focusing on the people who could make it happen. (McKinsey requires a free registration or email me and I'll share a PDF). The key is to find the people who have influence and focus; support them with customized solutions. Help them realize the change you both want to see.
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Friday, November 18, 2011

Reward With Experiences

People crave experiences. They find greater reward from experiencing something than from possessing it. These are incredible truths from which managers might benefit when considering how to reward their employees. Give them something from which they can expand their perspective and discover something about themselves and they might give the organization the benefit of that growth.
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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Follow Your Yellow Brick Road

Sometimes, the best workplace lessons are found in the pages of literature. Consider The Wizard of Oz. A panoply of organizational lessons are to be found amidst the plot, the setting, the characters and the journey. Don't work so hard to unveil the man behind the curtain, rather help him (or her) discover the responsibilities they can embrace and the positive power they can compound by working in the better interests of those around them. Find your way around the schemers and the doubters; don't allow them to drive away the talents of those truly seeking collaborative success. Don't forget, too, to celebrate the value of affirmation and positive reinforcement and recognize the value of connectors who can bring together the talents of others in order to realize greater gains. And, always remember that you have with you what it takes to stay true to your path so that you can return home having made the workplace better for all.
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Monday, November 14, 2011

Genuine Actions Reinforce Good Intentions

A lot of workers right now are unhappy. Surrounded by negativity, they seek support that motivates them to survive another day. Recent research by Mercer reinforces long-held attitudes of employees: 28%-56% of them are seriously considering leaving their jobs. Regardless of today's stats, management cannot afford to take things lightly ever. People are vitally important to the success of organizations. So, be straight up. Give them the respect they deserve as fellow human beings just trying to make a livable life.

Consultant Ray Williams makes some good connections in his post, "Good leaders are careful to not demotivate employees." Referencing Collins' new book is solid. My take-away: use genuine actions to reinforce good intentions. Without good intentions, don't bother with your actions. You run the risk of demotivating your people further and forcing an exodus that might have been avoidable. Be real. Know the true future of the organization. And, don't invite input you have no intention of using.
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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Reshape Agenda for More Strategic Board Discussions

Boards of Directors should discuss issues strategically. They should help the organization's leaders stay on track and identify when they need to refocus or recharge. The agenda of the Board meeting can be a good signal and a good tool for keeping those discussions at an appropriate level.

Following is a sample from the nonprofit world to get you thinking.

A. Welcome and Introductions
B. Special Recognition or Announcements (mission moment)
C. Consent Calendar/Agenda
     • Minutes of the previous board meeting
     • Minutes of a recent Executive Committee conference call or meeting
     • President’s Report/Executive Director’s Report
     • Development Committee Report
     • Other Committee Reports as appropriate
     • Routine correspondence
D. Major Discussion Items (taken from Strategic Goals)
     1. Finance Committee Proposals
     2. Governance Committee Proposals for Consideration
          a. Proposal of New Board Member Orientation Program
          b. Approve revised Committee Descriptions
          c. Consider Bylaw revisions
          d. Consider undertaking a board self-assessment
     3. Review and Update of Major Program Strategies
     4. New Cooperative Programs /Strategic Alliances
E. “What did we do in today’s meeting that helped us advance our mission?”

Confine the routine business with a consent agenda. Leverage the strategic plan to parse meaningful issues throughout the year. Allow ample time for discussion. Always recap with a reflection that ties the meeting actions to the intended purpose.

(While geared for nonprofits, it works equally well across sectors and the concepts can be adapted for a variety of situations.)
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Wednesday, November 09, 2011

It's the Way You're Viewed

"... being nice, contributing costly resources to the group, acts of generosity—these all increase your prestige. Other people admire you and say, ‘Oh, that’s really great. This is a kind person who’s doing all these wonderful things.’ But it decreases your dominance. It makes you look not so tough.”

So says research released by the Kellogg School of Management, which also highlights that prestige matters. Clearly, there is a delicate balance between these two concepts and it goes beyond surface impressions and fleeting actions.

People respect power when those yielding it demonstrate compassion (or at least consideration) for the people side of the equations. Yet a steely disposition trumps the winsome smile. So, a challenge for leaders is to examine the culture in which they operate and to understand the people involved in the dynamics -- reflecting just the right combination and/or shaping qualities in those who are intended to rise to the top.
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Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Leaders Have Vast Responsibilities

The vast responsibilities of a leader can be overwhelming -- inspire strategic focus, motivate focused implementation and provide inspirational motivation. IBM's HR leader provides some interesting commentary on its culture and its influences on how to motivate and reward behavior. He speaks of how the organization values stamina and thinking beyond business as usual -- two things reflected through my own methodologies and intent. Leaders who move beyond themselves and align their interests with that of the overall organization become far more effective in helping others engage for the greater good. Find your way.
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Monday, November 07, 2011

The Power of a Vision is in What Others See

A person deserves a purpose and is less than complete without it. Helping someone find their purpose within an organization is among the most powerful and important responsibilities of a leader (executive, manager). It can, however, take time. And, it isn't solely the leader's responsibility to convert that inspiration to action -- that's where the person comes into play. Offer a direction and watch the response. So shares Barbara DeBuono in The Corner Office. Success is a multi-person adventure and a process of exchange. So, model behaviors you seek; reflect the shared purpose for which you strive and, above all, stay connected!
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Saturday, September 24, 2011

5 Ways To Enhance Team Effectiveness

Here are five things a leader can do to enhance its team's effectiveness:
1. Establish clear direction and align actions accordingly.
2. Foster curiosity and collaboration for moving the organization forward.
3. Model active two-way communication consistently.
4. Reflect and reward commitment to advancing identified intentions.
5. Make tough decisions from a position of mutual respect.
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Thursday, August 04, 2011

From Strategy to Action: 10 Steps

First thing to do is take out your strategic plan. Then:
1. Go Goal By Goal
2. Brainstorm What Activities will Move You Toward It
3. Review the Activities Against the Mission
4. Prioritize the Activities, based upon impact and upon necessary sequencing
5. Assign the Lead Person Responsible for the Activity
6. Set a Deadline (quarters work well here)
7. Review everything by goal
8. Reorder everything by timeline (use quarterly or semi-annual targets)
9. Sift and winnow to promote focused progress
10. Get Started!
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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Focus on your ideology to refocus your org

An organization’s ideology should provide a useful guide for all aspects of decision-making within the organization and at all levels of the organization. It becomes the guide post for attitudes, behaviors and evaluations. The mission statement captures the organization’s purpose; the vision statement reflects what it hopes to accomplish; and the values reflect principles that shape how it lives forward its mission. The ideology is reflected in the brand and forms the basis for the strategic plan.
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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Wants, Needs and Deliverables

A question was posed recently about what nonprofit Board members need or won't do without. There are so many appropriate responses to such a question. As I reflected upon the key points I might share, it become evident that people are people who have wants of organizations (or the people leading/staffing them).

Consider the following in light of shaping a nonprofit Board members' experience or that of a volunteer, a coworker or someone for whom you have management responsibility ... Give to others, demand for self and deliver among colleagues:
  • Clarity of role, responsibilities and expectations.
  • Context on issues and impacts.
  • Efficient use of time.
  • Effective leveraging of talents.
So, now, dig deep and think about what you can do to deliver on the wants & needs of any person who gives of themselves to advance an organization's intent.
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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Culture shift is possible

There is a reason some words take on a buzz. Words like 'empowerment' and 'collaboration.' It's because at a core level, people want the good feelings that go along with what those words have come to mean and to represent. People want respect. Workers want to believe that their colleagues and their bosses believe they have something of value to contribute. Plus, as human beings, we want connections. We've come to believe that things work better when the people are working together. After all, two heads are better than one. There has, too, been a recurring, expressed desire for more entrepreneurial cultures in organizations of all types, sizes and sectors. A cry for innovation. A call for new thinking. And, in some cases a caution for the responsibility that goes along with all such good things.

In late March, Monitor released an excellent framework that speaks to the opportunities of infusing an entrepreneurial culture and the bold, courageous moves required by leadership to help it take hold and be sustained. It asserts that companies "do have the power to break down the cultural and organizational barriers to entrepreneurship" and it identifies three inter-connected enablers required to move it forward along with the five levers for making it work.

For me, examining their findings, my eyes were opened to why I am consistently drawn to organizations in transition and those trying to break beyond business as usual. The consideration for executive leadership, aligned incentives, clear direction, celebration of things good and things learned, and the overwhelming power of one's space ring true. As do the enabling connections between intention, action and impression.
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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Power Relationships Shape Success

Understanding organizations is about understanding people -- and all the complexities and context that go along with their individual survival and group dependencies. A recent Harvard Business Review blog posting walks through the value of wise leaders and those who cultivate such knowledge, it further points to the absolute necessity of understanding the power relationships among the people and the ideals that drive an organization's behaviors and actions. Those power relationships are critical and something that people often fail to examine with a true eye toward learning and growth. They tend rather to view them from the surface in order to assess how they might manipulate or use them to advantage. Give away those tendencies, dive deeper into the organization toward the interdependencies of the various levels and the dynamics of how the broader good (through the individual contributor) might be advanced. You might discover ways to grow and succeed unlike any you've known before. Seek to understand how best to grow the people and you might become more insightful about how to grow the organization.
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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Find your transformation agents within

Sometimes organizational transformation has to be signaled, driven and reinforced from within the very culture it seeks to influence. Consultants can be helpful for framing processes and facilitating examinations. Yet, the consultant can only survey the scene, it is the people inside of the organization who have to solve the problem(s) by living forward the transformation long after the consultant leaves.

So, before jumping to a consultant as part of your effective transformational strategy, look inward for ambassadors and agents. (You might even find someone not only capable of helping you move forward but also eager to make that contribution.) And, if your search from the top to the bottom of your org chart reveals a willingness for change but a lack of understanding for how to make it possible, then consider how you'll get better results if your consultant of choice works from a platform of employee engagement.
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Friday, April 15, 2011

Four cornerstones to progress

When you're ready to move, manage the details and focus on engaging people in a sound process.

  1. Start with clarity on what needs to be accomplished.
  2. Spark curiosity to inspire possibilities.
  3. Garner commitment to the determined direction.
  4. And, drive communication clearly and consistently through implementation.

Four cornerstones for strategic thinking and practical planning that gets the intended results.
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Thursday, April 14, 2011

The discipline of transformation

Organizational transformation is tough stuff for most people. It takes a discipline that has become more and more scarce (perhaps reflecting how discipline in its more traditional forms has been fading in our Western society). Leaders must take a hard look inside themselves to be clear on how capable they are to lead the charge, maintain momentum and continually reframe progress as positive and possible. They must consider what attracts them about the culture and what they are willing to adapt when the cultural norms begin to exert their powerful influence for status quo.

For once the transformation process begins, they must focus and be disciplined in both their communications and in their actions. People are watching -- often often waiting to circle the wagons with business as usual. The leader who remains focused on the end game, reinforces aligned actions and corrects out-of-step behaviors makes it possible for people to believe in the possibilities of the new way. It also helps preserve those good things about the corporate culture that brought the good people there in the first place.
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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A New Order

Executives have a responsibility to simplify. They achieve it by making clear decisions, providing consistent context and articulating strategic themes.

Managers have a responsibility to focus. They achieve it by deliberating resources, deflecting distractions and articulating strategic direction.

Supervisors have a responsibility to clarify. They achieve it by discerning priorities, securing intentions and articulating strategic connections.

Staffs have a responsibility to deliver. They achieve it by seeking clarification, framing issues and taking strategic actions.
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Monday, March 07, 2011

Dig for Reality

Surface issues come with surface solutions. You pave over the underlying issue and you leave it to wreak havoc another day. Effective professionals don't take the pass. They ask the "why" question over and again to root out the underlying issue. They dig a bit deeper to determine if a system is awry or merely a process has gone sour. And, then they work it. They identify the root cause and make a practical assessment if it is something that can be yanked out or something that is going to take a bit more of a strategic de-rooting. But, they don't stop at the surface. Dig.
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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Strategists Must Be Grounded

The problem with a strategist not grounded by some aspect of implementation is that they reinvent good ideas time and again without recognizing the micro-steps of progress being made or the energy required to advance the new way of thinking. And, for whatever reason, they tend to re-engage at the moment when those deep in implementation are overwhelmed.

So, for those strategists who go from idea to idea, think about that which you do and the impact of your next new idea ... and, for people working them strategists, don't accept the folly -- you have the right to put the brakes on that new initiative and/or question its priority in light of the other initiatives intended to be implemented!
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Monday, February 21, 2011

Simple Tools for Stronger Teams

Don't run from simple tools or simple models when working to build a team. The danger is not in the use of simple models, it is in the simplistic interpretation of the resulting insights. Simple models in the hands of strong facilitators and insightful translators can be profound and powerful. They can cut through the "consultant speak" accusations and get people thinking in a fresh way. They can surprise doubters with the richness of the results and win over worriers with their ease. In times of trouble, when people feel conflicted, complexity only gives rise to doubt and skepticism. Give stressed-out people well-designed simplicity and give them the space and freedom to break barriers, bond with colleagues and explore new frontiers. They become powerful allies in whatever you seek to accomplish.
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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Race From Accountability

Why is it that people work so hard to avoid being accountable? If you become accountable for something, you get the opportunity to celebrate its achievement. When you step up and offer a solution, you get to savor the moment of possibility. The point at which you say, "I will," you gain stature. Sure, there's the risk ... the possibility of failure. Yet, without that turning point toward commitment, you languish.
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