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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