Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘leaders’ Category

I agonized for a few days over what kind of brilliant advice I should share with you on this 1,000th post since the launch of the BrandBuilder blog before finally realizing that no. 1,000 is no different from 999, 1,001 or 356. So no more pondering, no more worrying about writing an epic post (the time for that will come again in due time), and no more waiting around for inspiration to strike. Today, instead of talking about social media, brand management, who does what well and who does what poorly, let’s just talk a little bit about leadership. Corporate leadership, that is.

And instead of doing all the talking, I will let people with a whole lot more experience than me give you some tips about how to become a better leader. Great stuff that transcends the typical leadership quotation mill.

Anne Mulcahy – Former CEO of Xerox

In a crisis, you have the opportunity to move quickly and change a lot – and you have to take advantage of that.

Change doesn’t happen if you don’t work at it. You’ve got to get out there, give people the straight scoop, and get buy-in. It’s not just good-looking presentations; it’s letting people ask the tough questions. It’s almost got to be done one person at a time.

There’s not a lot of room anymore for senior people to be managers. They have to be leaders. I want people to create organizations that get aligned, get passionate, get really inspired about delivering.

Stories exist at every level of the company. Whether it was saving a buck here, or doing something different for customers, everyone has a story. That creates powerful momentum – people sense that they’re able to do good things. It’s much more powerful than the precision or elegance of the strategy.

I communicate good news the same way I do the bad news. I thank people and make sure they feel a sense of recognition for their contribution. But the trick is always to to use the opportunity to talk about what’s next, to pose the next challenges. Where do we want to go? How do we want to build on it?

Margaret Heffernan – Author, The Naked Truth

Nothing kills morale like a staff’s feeling helpless. This often plays itself out when there are rumors of a new strategic shift or a major personnel move, or worse, when the papers are littered with bad news about your company. A big part of boosting morale is about constructing a haven of logic that offers individuals shelter from any storm. At its most basic, leaders have to communicate their awareness of business conditions and place their plans in that context. Each time [a CEO outlines] a future that comes true, he demonstrates his own competence and reinforces trust.

The happiest people aren’t the ones with the most money but those with a sense of purpose – a sense that they are contributing to something bigger than themselves. At least some of this has to derive from work. The purpose of a business, then, must be explicit and go beyond boosting the share price or fulfilling some bland mission statement. People want to believe that they are part of something meaningful. The sense of purpose doesn’t have to be grandiose or revolutionary, merely credible and anchored in values.

Purpose is achieved through goals, and the acid test for any leader is defining the appropriate ones. Too small, and celebrations soon ring hollow. Small goals breed cynicism. But too-big goals produce helplessness. Although it can be temporarily thrilling to rally around a big corporate slogan like “kill the competition,” the reality is that employees can’t do it alone and they can’t do it quickly.

Alignment between corporate goals and personal development has never been more critical. The more unpredictable the outside world, the more urgent the personal quest for self-determination. What employees look for in leadership is a sense that their personal journey and the company journey are part of the same story. When these goals aren’t aligned, employees tend to whine with others, eager to share their sense of anger and injustice, polluting morale. The only way to combat this and get back on track is proper feedback. Give employees the tools to influence their own fate.

Get a life. Keeping morale high is like being on a diet: It requires constant effort and is never over. New ideas, stimuli and motivation come from all around you. It’s the larger life, after all, that gives purpose to the climb.

Alan Deutschman – Senior Writer, Fast Company – writing about how IBM builds new businesses

Look for opportunities that can become profitable [billion-dollar] businesses in five to seven years. You’ll probably find them by talking to customers rather than to brilliant researchers in the labs, who are are looking further ahead.

J. Bruce Harreld – IBM

You want to celebrate failure because you learn something. You need some level of security to say ‘I screwed it up,’ and be comfortable that you won’t be fired.

Marcus Buckingham – Author, Break All The Rules

Turn anxiety into confidence. For a leader, the challenge is that in every society ever studied, the future is unstable, unknown, and therefore potentially dangerous. By far the most effective way to turn fear into confidence is to be clear – to define the future in such vivid terms that we can see where we are headed. Clarity is the antidote to anxiety, and therefore clarity is the preoccupation of the effective leader. If you do nothing else as a leader, be clear.

Effective leaders don’t have to be passionate, charming or brilliant. What they must be is clear – clarity is the essence of great leadership. Show us clearly who we should seek to serve, show us where our core strength lies, show us which score we should focus on and which actions we must take, and we will reward you by working our hearts out to make our better future come true.

See? Told you these folks know what they’re talking about.

Thanks to Fast Company‘s March 2005 issue for providing much of today’s content. (I have quite the collection.)

Cheers.

Read Full Post »

I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership, lately. Particularly, what makes a great leader vs. a lousy one. I’ve known a lot of lousy ones. I can count the great ones on the fingers of one hand. That’s really sad… and a little bit scary.

Back when I was fresh out of college, I enjoyed a brief but unforgetable tour of duty with the French Navy Marines. For the better part of a year, I had eight NCO’s working under me, each with a leadership style of their own. One was a tyrant. Another was a big brother. The rest found themselves somewhere in between. Most of these guys had 10-15 years of experience under their belts. I had three months. Let’s just say that when it comes to leadership training, I could have done a lot worse.

The tyrant didn’t last long with me. He and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on much. He had grown bitter about his career and enjoyed the power he held over his men a little too much. Morale on his team was low. His men weren’t engaged. They all wanted to transfer out to other units. Ironically, he was the one who got transfered after a few months. He was replaced by his second-in-command who ended up making a fantastic squad leader. Before long, requests for transfers ceased altogether, and everything got back on track.

I learned quickly that leadership isn’t about being the boss. It’s about giving your people the tools, the space, the authority, and the support they need to do their jobs. If you have the right people in place and give them all of these things, there is nothing they can’t or won’t accomplish or risk for you. Nothing.

I’ve met my share of lousy and good leaders since then, and I can tell you that the difference between a good leader and a bad one is huge. A bad leader can sink a billion-dollar company with a captive market faster than I can lose my shirt in a crooked poker game. A great one can make a small company with no capital the talk of its industry, and turn a small idea into a cultural phenomenon.

Let me tell you this: Leadership has nothing to do with diplomas or resumes. Our country clubs and executive suites are filled with serial CEO’s who couldn’t lead themselves out of a bunker, much less turn the companies they work for into the successes they were hired to conjure up. Leadership is a gift. A talent. You’re either a great leader or you aren’t. Sometimes, you don’t really know who the leaders are in a crowd until the fit hits the shan, and someone has to step up to save the day. Leaders aren’t always who you would expect.

Being a great leader is as much about character as it is about skill, experience and knowledge. It’s a complicated package. It’s a rare one. Finding one in the crowd can be as difficult as finding gold deep inside dark, damp mountains.

But they’re there, if you know what to look for.

What makes the lousy ones lousy? Here’s a list:

They don’t know how to listen.
They don’t love what they do for a living.
They don’t care about the people who work for them.
They don’t understand the difference between leadership and management.
They think that leadership is best exercised by barking orders.
They love power a little too much.
They inherited their position from Daddy.
They aren’t having any fun anymore.
They refuse to delegate.
They are terrified of making mistakes.
They really, really like the prestige of their position.

What makes the great ones great?

You naturally want to work for them.
They love what they do.
Their vision is both original and unshakable.
To them, failure is just a point on the learning curve, and nothing to be afraid of.
They’re most inspiring one-on-one, over a beer.
They are loyal to their team.
They are naturally curious.
They know when to listen, when to speak, and when to act.

Here’s more on what makes great leaders… well, great (via servant of chaos, by way of Johnnie Moore, originally posted by Lisa Haneberg):

“A leader is most effective when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, his troops will feel they did it themselves.”

– Lao Tzu

And this, from Lisa herself:

“Invisible leadership feels more like doing the best things without yielding power. Invisible leaders influence the system and people by being a partner.

“How do you select, hire, measure, and retain invisible leaders? Now that’s the rub. Well, if they love what they do (and they’d have to) retention is probably not the issue. Finding invisible leaders will take more work and a whole new mindset toward hiring criteria. The behavioral interview, so popular today, might not work to find the best invisible leader.

“Personally, for my next corporate gig, I want a fair wage for what my role is expected to contribute and then NO financial incentives. Hold me accountable – absolutely. Fire me in a heart beat if I do not perform. If I am doing my job as a leader, you will know it – not because I get accolades at meetings or make big and flashy wins. You will know it because the workplace is engaged, on fire, and performing better than you could have imagined.

That last part, the section in bold letters, it pretty much says it all. I’ve seen that magic happen before. I’ve seen it in the Navy. I’ve seen it on the soccer field. I’ve seen it in the corporate world. I’m not sure that a leader should necessarily be invisible, but I’ll settle for one that knows how to empower her people and is wise enough to get out of their way once they start working their magic.

Leaders take their people and their companies where they always wished to go, but would have never dared to on their own.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Read Full Post »

Peter Diana / Post-Gazette

Mike Tomlin. Photo: Peter Diana / Post-Gazette

Mike Tomlin: The youngest coach to win a SuperBowl.

This is what I like to see: Management empowering dynamic new voices to lead.

To every football team, school district, board of directors, Senior VP, CEO and CMO: Next time you overlook the visionary kid with new ideas, remember this face.

Tell me he was the easy choice. Tell me he wasn’t the gamble. Tell me you wouldn’t have hired someone with more “proven” experience. Someone with a more impressive resume. Someone with a bit more seniority. Someone with more wins.

You would have been wrong.

Alexander the Great wasn’t a graying battle-hardened General when he conquered Persia.  Bill Gates wasn’t a Wharton MBA with twenty years of executive corporate experience when he started Microsoft.

Empower visionary leaders no matter how new and how young they may be. Mentor them if you must, but do not stand in their way. Do not tell them no. Do not tell them once you’ve been here twenty years, we’ll talk about it.

The Steelers made a choice. A difficult, risky choice. And it paid off.

In truth, these are the kinds of choices that almost always pay off.

So my question to you is… what kinds of leaders is your organization producing?

It’s an important question. One that could very well decide whether or not your company succeeds or fails in the next decade. Maybe even in the next year.

Give it some thought. Serious thought.

Welcome to a whole new work week. 😉

Read Full Post »

Robert Killick on the need for intellectual curiosity and courage in the face of “unknowns” in today’s business leaders:

Risk was once seen as a catalyst for competitiveness, innovation and change in enterprise culture. Now it is seen as a negative barrier to be avoided with all sorts of precautionary measures. ‘Risk consciousness’ is the order of the day, but the preference to always dig up the dark side of humanity betrays a lack of faith in human reason. Curiosity and foolhardiness are often derided as irresponsible and egotistical traits, but the great heroes of the past have taken personal risks that benefit all of us.

Today, research and experimentation that does not have a measurable ‘positive effect’ is seen as irresponsible. Yet it is precisely through experimentation, risk – and, yes, mistakes – that some of the major scientific breakthroughs and technological inventions have come about. Without risky experimentation, and without individuals willing to take those risks in the pursuit of knowledge, we wouldn’t have aeroplanes, penicillin, MRI scans or X-rays.

The ability to handle risk – though technology, human ingenuity, reason and resilience – is a measure of modernity and it can only be achieved through more experimentation, not less. The hard won freedoms to creative expression, communication and to technological innovation should be treasured, and the twenty-first century should be when we take them even further.

Risk-adverse/risk-paralyzed leaders aren’t leaders at all. At best, they are followers promoted or appointed to positions they should have had enough common sense, integrity and professionalism to turn down.

Fact: Leaders “lead.” They take their companies in a specific direction and make sure that course corrections occur as needed along the way. Standing still, ignoring emerging market trends, rewarding business-as-usual strategies, waiting for competitors to make a move before testing the waters, or building protective walls around organizations are not examples of leadership.

No one is advocating making rash decisions of course, but in order for companies to be successful, their leaders must possess certain key personality traits – among them the essential combination of vision, courage and an unbreakable pioneering streak.

Bear this in mine when placing your bets on a company, new boss or potential candidates for an executive-level position.

Have a great week, everyone!

Read Full Post »

I have to admit it, my latest guilty pleasure is watching HBO’s “Generation Kill” (the story of the 1st Marine Recon Batallion in the first few weeks of the 2003 invasion of Iraq) on Sunday nights. The 7-part miniseries is currently on episode 3, and so far so good. Think “The Wire” meets “3 Kings” with a “Band of Brothers” vibe. 

In terms of pure entertainment, it’s mostly a guy thing I guess, so it may miss the mark with broad audiences. But in terms of painting a pretty complex web of interactions between layers of hierarchy, leadership styles and gradients of professionalism, the show is pure gold. MBA students should be required to watch the show just to see what great leadership and bad leadership look like, and perhaps more importantly how they can work together hand in hand within a single, complex, diverse organization. Sure, the vernacular is more akin to military units and sports teams than the board room, but the principles of applied leadership are exactly the same.

Management Lessons from Generation Kill so far:

  1. As a leader, being competent matters.
  2. As a leader, being competent doesn’t always matter.
  3. Leaders who cultivate cults of personality don’t have to explain themselves as much.
  4. Expectations don’t have to be realistic. Instead, they should always be just shy of impossibly high and unwavering. (Shatter your people’s comfort zone early and consistently.)
  5. Clarity of purpose is key.
  6. Clarity of execution is key.
  7. Use a map or a diagram. Point at something and tell your team where they are, where you want them to go, how you expect them to get there, how fast, etc..
  8. If a process doesn’t exist, create one.
  9. If a process needs to be improved, improve it.
  10. Excuses have an effective range of exactly zero meters.
  11. Train harder and more often than any reasonable person would, then train some more.
  12. The mission is the mission. 99% completion = failure. 100% completion = success.
  13. Success is the only currency you have when it comes to securing a better place on the food chain.
  14. Not everyone in your organization is an A-lister. Too bad. Welcome to the real world. You still need to get the job done. (See #10)
  15. Mistakes may happen, but there will be no screwups.
  16. Every organization needs a ball buster somewhere towards the top of the hierarchy to keep everyone in line.
  17. The grooming standard must be maintained. It is the foundation upon which everything else either clicks like a well oiled .50 cal or falters like a one-eyed, three legged dog.
  18. Be the first to get the thing done. People don’t always notice the best, but they always notice the first.
  19. Do what the other guys are too afraid to do.
  20. Never let the enemy dictate the pace of your movements.
  21. Keep the violence of initiative on your side.
  22. Understand the rules of engagement.
  23. Communicate the rules of engagement to your team in real time.
  24. Let whatever you fear the most be the thing that drives you the most.
  25. Do not dwell on mistakes. Learn from them quickly and move on.
  26. Personal opinions are always irrelevant and unwelcome.
  27. Respect for authority doesn’t have to come from the heart, but it has to come anyway.
  28. Orders are orders. If they were optional, they would be called something else.
  29. Your job description is subject to change at a moment’s notice. Accept this and move on.
  30. If you want routine, you are in the wrong job.
  31. Following the same road as everyone else is no way to get in the game.
  32. How you phrase/present your report matters at least as much as what the report is actually about.
  33. Look after your people but never hold their hand.
  34. Hold your people to the highest standards.
  35. Get the job done. Every time. Faster than anyone else. Be that guy.
  36. Know how to sell your successes.
  37. Action wins. Hesitation loses.
  38. The shortest way between two points is exactly that: The shortest way. (See #18 and #35).
  39. The shortest way is rarely the easiest way.
  40. The easiest way is almost never the right way.
  41. Once failure stops being an option, it effectively cease to exist as a potential outcome.
  42. Nothing you do will ever work the way you expected it to. Embrace the elegant predictability of Murphy’s Law and get the job done anyway.
  43. Blind ambition and gross incompetence often get you there just as well as the other option.
  44. Know your place along the chain of command.
  45. Treat others with respect.
  46. Do not confuse treating people with respect with being polite.
  47. Your environment does not dictate the success of your mission. You do.
  48. Nobody cares about why something didn’t get done. They only care that it didn’t get done.
  49. If you don’t get it done, you probably don’t belong here.
  50. Your job isn’t to be cool or fun or popular. Your job is to kick ass.

And we’re only on the third episode. This is definitely a to be continued post.

 

Read Full Post »

Perhaps it’s a question of upbringing. Perhaps it’s a question of education. Perhaps it’s a question of pride or culture or personality. I may never understand full why some people are always full of excuses why they fall short or can’t get something done. Students. Athletes. Business managers. Farm hands. Soldiers. The list is long.
Every once in a while, yeah, even the best among us drop the ball. It happens. Maybe it’s a crappy client making too many unreasonable demands. Maybe it’s a huge project dropped on you at the last minute. Maybe your heart wasn’t into it – whatever it was. Maybe you just messed up. Or maybe you took on too much and there physically aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done.

It happens.

You take your licks. You learn. You make adjustments. You move on.

While failure or less-than-stellar performance occasionally make an unwelcome visit in our daily endeavors, some people make failure a daily companion.

Heck, some people like to make it their M.O.

With them, there is always a good reason why something didn’t get done. Why goals couldn’t be met. Why something couldn’t be accomplished. There was a barricade. They’re still waiting for the email from so-and-so. The map was wrong. The system doesn’t give them visibility to some critical file they need. The situation changed and they couldn’t get in touch with their superior. There wasn’t a gas station for miles. No one gave them the customer list. There were too many bullets flying at them. There was too much distance between them and the finish line. There were too many distractions along the way. There were too many Persians.

Truth: There were too many obstacles in their heads. Too many reasons why sitting on their asses and waiting for someone to come bail them out seemed like a better option than getting the job done in spite of a few insignificant hurdles.

As I said earlier, perhaps it’s a question of upbringing. Perhaps it’s a question of education. Perhaps it’s a question of pride or culture or personality. The point is that not everyone is cut out to be a leader, and for some of us whose mentality leans towards the “excuses are for suckers” camp, that is sometimes difficult to accept.

Cinemax showing 300 every ten minutes isn’t helping either.

There is no doubt that if everyone in Corporate America (or if educators and students) took their work as seriously as Spartans took soldiering, American companies would indeed be something to behold.

Yet, many of them fall short of their potential.

And now, a reading from The Book of Gym Jones:

If you weren’t given the gift you can’t get the gift so the best you can do – if your goal is important – is work as hard as you possibly can, pay attention every hour of every day and then maybe, maybe if you’ve done enough and been smart enough you’ll emerge from the muck of mediocrity to shine a bit brighter than you shone before. Then, upon reflection you might decide your goal is a bit more important so you’ll start paying attention every minute of every hour of every day. You’ll find people who are better than you and you’ll take an empty cup when you meet them. Their example will destroy or inspire you and if it’s the latter you may stay and learn. You might imitate, doing as they do because you’ve already accepted that you do not know best – if you did you’d be leading the group they were trying to join. Perhaps being exposed to their superior ability will drive you to work harder than you thought possible, or necessary. Maybe you’ll overcome your self-imposed (or worse, society-imposed) limitations and shine even more brightly. Wow, you’re getting it: positive reinforcement for hard work and suffering. So maybe you give your goal even more significance and you begin cutting away the ideas and the expectations and the people who you believe prevent you from achieving it. Now you become a real selfish prick, and you begin paying attention every second of every minute of every hour of every day, and you sustain your awareness for weeks and months at a time. You no longer think yourself a unique snowflake, you’re a steel-edged blade shaped like a snowflake and you’re spinning at warp speed. You’re the biggest fish in the pond. You’re a badass. Now you have options.

1) If you think you haven’t yet done enough, and you could do more, you might begin to understand that, the more capable you become, the higher the mountain rises ahead of you. At that moment you may recognize the existence of a legitimately serious group, ahead of you, above you, somewhere you’re not. They are silent, implacable, constantly improving and evolving and because they are truly capable they are accessible to those who are genuine. Among them there’s no defensiveness, no posturing or pretending, and they aren’t interested in anyone else’s. Selection for such a group isn’t based on physical performance alone. Issues of character and commitment, and discipline and persistence balance physical talent. Because you clawed your way out of the muck, were “up all night, dedicated” and maintained interest for long enough to differentiate yourself from the short-attention-span sporting dilettantes who commonly brush up against this group they might accept you as an apprentice. If you empty your cup your chances are better. If you redouble your efforts your odds improve again.

2) If however, you think you’ve done enough or you decide you have “arrived” then you’ll stay in the small pond and stagnate. And when the rot is complete you’ll be just a little bit better than those around you – your initial example will have driven them to reach higher levels of performance – and there you’ll sit, an intellectually bloated, pontificating fuck who once had the juice to work hard but having done so feels entitled to coast on past success all the way to the grave. That’s when you’ll start offering opinions based on the certainty of your own short-lived, amateur experience.

Have a great Tuesday, everyone…and EAT HEARTY, FOR TONIGHT, WE DINE IN HELL!!!!!


um… sorry. It happens every time I watch it.


Leave comments on the main page, not the permalink.

“A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.”
– Francis Bacon

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »