Posts Tagged ‘normal’

There is no one style, personality profile, or interaction approach for an effective leader

There is no one style, personality profile, or interaction approach for an effective leader. Leaders do come in “all shapes and sizes.” Few can deny the leadership skills of Golda Meir, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Meg Whitman, Dr. Martin Luther King, Lee Iacocca, Oprah Winfrey, and Steve Jobs. And, few can deny that these leaders differ significantly.

One Size Does Not Fit All Leaders

The management guru, Peter Drucker, noted that some of the most effective chief executives he has worked with did not have “one ounce of charisma.” He cites the example of Harry Truman as an example of a non-charismatic individual who was still one of the most effective chief executives in US history. He also states that he worked with effective leaders who were very diverse in terms of their personalities, attitudes, values, strengths, and weaknesses. Some were introverted while others were extroverted. Some were easy going and others were controlling.

Abraham Lincoln’s Road to Leadership

History also supports Drucker’s view on the diversity of effective leaders. Abraham Lincoln is arguably one of our greatest Presidents. However, a look at his early life would not have predicted this greatness. He suffered various setbacks before becoming one of our greatest Presidents including:

• Failure of a business that left him deeply in debt;

• Limited attendance in school as a child due to his family being poor;

• An episode of severe depression;

• A refused marriage proposal.

Clearly, Lincoln’s tenacity and his ability to learn from his mistakes kept him on his road to greatness as a great leader. He did not let past failures dictate his future.

Common Leadership Practices

While leaders are diverse in their approach, we can identify common practices that they share. In his consulting work over the years, Drucker identified eight practices that the effective executives he worked with had in common. These eight practices are the following:

1. They asked, “What needs to be done?”

2. They asked, “What is right for the enterprise?”

3. They developed action plans.

4. They took responsibility for decisions.

5. They took responsibility for communicating.

6. They were focused on opportunities rather than problems.

7. They ran productive meetings.

8. They thought and said “we” rather than “I.”

The Lesson for Today’s Business Leaders

Effective leaders make these eight practices a normal part of their operational practices. It becomes a part of their management DNA. It is ingrained in their communications, their decision making practices, and their interactions with others. They also look at organizational mistakes differently. While mistakes have consequences, effective leaders also know that mistakes are opportunities for learning and innovation. The ability of these leaders to apply these eight practices to organizational mistakes allows them to make “lemonade out of lemons.”

Now that we know the recipe, we too can become more effective leaders of our enterprises! Get more information about how to be an effective executive, by purchasing my book Why Smart People Fail at Management at

Since the beginning of time starting with adam and eve in the garden of eden, humanity has known conflict

Since the beginning of time starting with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, humanity has known conflict. Most people, especially the male species of which the author is a member; attempts to avoid, accommodate, compete, collaborate, or compromise conflict. Many sincere well intentional people such as coworkers, friends, family members, and spouses often disagree; this is normal, and helpful. Often conflict is attributed to one of the main reasons why most managers fail and my personal belief to be the pivotal cause of most societal problems. Remember, conflict of an in itself is never the problem; that would be too easy. People are always the problem.

The main benefit of healthy conflict is the exchanging of differing viewpoints and ideas. Healthy conflict can help to solidify a particular point or expose potential weakness in its rationale. If everyone agreed on every item without conflict, mankind still would be writing with a chisel and stone tablet. Let’s not confuse conflict with combat. Combat occurs when one or more individuals take a stand on a particular subject regardless of the validity concerning the subject and without the possibility of compromise.

I will be the first to state that the subject of managing conflict is much easier to write and speak about than to implement; with that said, realizing that one has a problem in that area is the first step in managing conflict. For this reason, everyone should understand that managing conflict must be an ongoing learning experience for each of us.

To begin managing conflict, managers and leaders must know what results they are looking for. The results and the ideal situation is where effective conflict management begins. The first question asked should always be, what can I do to resolve this situation that may be favorable to all parties? Remembering that we must always attack the problem and never the person we should always avoid using the word “you”.

Finding commonality with other individuals works magic; people feel comfortable with people that they feel they are just like them or that sees the world from their perspective. Rarely, will a conflict allow such an easy way out. Using previous relationships that was established with past successes is also a good method of finding commonality.

Make sure the conflicting parties explain to you what the issues are from their perspective. The best way to ensure that both parties are speaking the same language is to ask the exact same questions to each party independently. Having each party to explain what the issues are and what they feel the best solution is, helps you make sure that you are dealing with the exact same perceived issues. Many times, the conflict is simply miscommunications of two parties talking at each other in lieu of communicating with each other.

Sometimes reminding all parties of organizational policies and procedures as well as the acceptable norm in the corporate culture; works wonders and helps all parties bring their conflict into a proper perspective. Developing a reputation of being a good listener, peacemaker, fair-minded, and results oriented, helps to enter into a conflict with credibility and a edge over most managers. Constantly go to work on developing the pseudo-psychology skills that all managers desperately need.

Recently i was doing a keynote presentation on innovation when a member of the audience, a senior manager at a large company, posed this question:

Recently I was doing a keynote presentation on innovation when a member of the audience, a senior manager at a large company, posed this question:

“What’s the difference between individual and organizational innovation?  We have plenty of people who come up with good ideas, but nothing new ever seems to get done in our company.”

This particular manager happens to work for a well-known company that likes to consider itself innovative, so his question momentarily took me by surprise.  But one thing I have learned over the past few years is that our assumptions and beliefs about what goes on inside an organization versus its public persona are often two very different things.  And there is no shortage of misguided ideas and assumptions about the innovation process.

In business, innovation is the act of applying knowledge, new or old, to the creation of new processes, products, and services that have value for at least one of your stakeholder groups.  The key word here is applying.  Too many people assume that innovation consists solely of coming up with good ideas.  That’s part of it, of course.  But in order to have true innovation, you must implement.  You have to actually do something different that has value.  Brainstorming or chatting about new ideas does not qualify as innovation.

Individual innovation has to do with the content of innovation.  It involves examining your own thinking process to understand why you think the way you do.  More important, it involves pausing your thinking process every now and then and contemplating how to change perspectives, how to challenge your own assumptions, how to consider the opposite of what you normally think, how to ponder multiple right answers, and how to do things differently.

Organizational innovation is all about the context for innovation.  Context includes the culture, leadership styles and norms, competencies of individuals, teams and functions, business processes, performance measures and strategies.  Have you created a context in your company that encourages, inspires, and fosters doing things differently? Do you have systems and processes in place that operationalize doing things differently on a regular basis?

Most organizations operate from a “control and manage” mindset.  When people bring up new ideas, the leaders smile and say, “That’s nice. Now go back to your job and get me that report.”  In other words, keep doing the same things in the same ways.  Organizational innovation involves developing the spirit, tools, processes, and attitudes that encourage people at all levels to every now and then pause and think differently.

Not about everything, of course, because you have to do some things the same way in order to be effective.  But every once in a while it pays to stop and ask “What if….?”  For example, “What if our biggest competitor purchased us?  What would they see?  How would they approach our market differently?”  Or, “What if we didn’t know what we already know about our customers?  How would we go about determining their wants and needs?  How would we use that information to add more value than anyone else in the industry?”

Like everything else, fostering organizational innovation starts at the top.  People pay far more attention to what you do than what you say.  So if you want to encourage innovation at all levels, you have to model it.  Practice the concepts and tools of innovation. Practice screening in (rather than screening out) more data so that you can look at things differently.  In particular, learn how to look at things outside your industry and make new connections to your business.

When I worked for The Coca Cola Company, every year the chief marketing officer flew to Paris for the fashion shows.  Why?  To see the fashion trends and get ideas on how new styles could be applied in the beverage sector.  It is easy to look around your own sector, at similar companies and get ideas.  Part of your job as a leader today is learning to look in new and different places for ideas that can be applied to your business.

Every time you have a thought bubble that says, “I am right!”, deliberately pause and ask, “What if I’m wrong?  What if there’s a different way to see this?”   Innovation doesn’t mean you walk around wondering if you’re wrong all the time.  The idea is to force yourself (every now and then) to open your mind, suspend your assumptions and judgment, and simply ponder, “What if…?”

When you learn to insert the “What if?” pause once or twice a day, you’ll come up with more new ideas.  You’ll model an important behavior that will help set the context for innovation in your company.  And you may be very surprised at the answers you get.

What is your next “What if?” question?

All companies compete to find the best people in the workplace to fill their key leadership positions

All companies compete to find the best people in the workplace to fill their key leadership positions. But once they hire them, are they able to keep them happy and productive?

Some of the most promising and highest potential leaders we have worked with have attained great success in their jobs and worked hard to earn that success, only to ultimately decide that the price to remain is too high. The problem isn’t that they aren’t suited for the work, but rather that the size of their workload is too much to handle in a normal work week.

As the new generation of workers becomes qualified for higher positions on the corporate ladder, they have a different set of expectations than their predecessors. By and large, these are people who work to live, and not the other way around. Ironically, those who are the most talented, ambitious, and have promising futures are the ones searching hardest for balance in their lives. They choose in greater numbers to avoid the jobs that require 60+ hours in a typical week.

This choice has been called “opting out,” and it has been described in numerous places, most recently in The Opt Out Revolt: Why People are Leaving Companies to Create Kaleidoscope Careers
by Lisa Mainiero and Sherry Sullivan.

Burning Out the Brightest

To me, the tragedy isn’t that people are losing jobs, because as the book title suggests, those who opt out are doing just fine, thank you. Rather, it’s that the most promising and productive people are the ones leaving, meaning the companies involved are losing some of their best and brightest emerging leaders. I hear these individuals say things like: “I value myself too much to pay such a high price for success at work.”

To be fair, we shouldn’t label companies in question as taskmasters. Surely, some organizations are better than others at demonstrating that they value a work/life balance for their employees. But in many cases, the nature of management jobs – the ones higher up on the corporate ladder — require a larger time commitment. People who stick to a 40-hour week don’t get let go, but they do get put into a new box that limits their potential ascent within the organization.

Gender plays one role in this phenomenon, but not the only role. Women seem to opt out in greater numbers, often because of choices to focus on raising children. Their employers seem to show a willingness to reduce the workload for new mothers or parents, but these employees also lose their status as high potential leaders in the organization. (To be fair, men are opting out, too.)

Organizations are rapidly realizing that their pipeline for emerging leaders is becoming sparse, and many senior leaders have publicly discussed the lack of qualified people in the workforce. That’s why opting out poses a greater problem for them than for individuals. There will always be bodies that are willing to fill leadership roles. But from our perspective, the ones leaving are the ones that demonstrate the highest levels of emotional intelligence, relational capacity, and maturity.

Tasks Before Relationships?

There’s another side to this discussion of heavy workloads. As an alternative to opting out, many try to adjust their jobs to make them more manageable. We work with leaders who work to prioritize tasks, and invest their time in more urgent matters. This adjustment leads to a different set of challenges.

At the Bailey Group, we often talk about relationship-based leadership as a core characteristic of an effective leader. The ability to be a coach, mentor, motivator, and people-focused leader is a valuable and powerful part of a leader’s job. Sadly, we observe that this relationship-based work, which takes a significant investment of time and energy, is the part of the job that gets set aside when leaders try to streamline their workloads.

Whether this adjustment represents an intentional decision or an unintended one, reducing the relational part of the job has numerous repercussions for organizations. As one-on-one meetings get postponed and team meetings become tactical instead of strategic, workers become less engaged. The leaders in question struggle: they know that they need to be more attentive to the needs of their staff. They are used to being successful at their jobs, and frustrated to be missing opportunities to help their team develop. Yet to readjust requires adding time to the workday, reinforcing this cycle of overactivity.

My colleagues and I observe that opting out is the right choice for some people. They find other ways to succeed, fill their time productively, and invest in new relationships, both professionally and personally. Since they’ve had professional success, they can afford to take breaks. In time, they build successful new careers and generally feel better about themselves.

Our clients tell us that key leadership positions are becoming harder to fill, with organizations investing considerable resources in recruiting and transitional training. Some companies communicate that they value employees with balanced lives, but then take actions that contradict the message. That’s a growing problem, especially as baby boomers retire and the next generation of leaders—those who place even greater value on balance—take their places.

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