Posted on May 22, 2013 | 2 Comments
Categories: Books, Business Toolkit, Communications, Guest Blogger, Leadership
Today’s post is by Roger Schwarz, author of Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams: How You and Your Team Get Unstuck to Get Results (CLICK HERE to get your copy). Here’s Roger…
Do you see accountability problems in your team? Do your team members need to be more accountable? If so, you may be contributing to the problem.
Here are three leadership behaviors that undermine team accountability. Recognize yourself? If so, there are specific things you can do differently to help the team you lead be more accountable.
You don’t require team members to share their own information.
Eric, one of your direct reports, comes into your office and says, “Janice is driving the project costs through the roof. She keeps changing the standards and it’s delaying implementation.” You and Eric briefly discuss the situation and you say “I’ll handle it.”
How you undermine accountability: The moment you agree to talk to Janice, you’ve shifted accountability from Eric – where it belongs – to you.
How to generate greater accountability: Keep the accountability where it belongs: Start by asking, “Have you talked directly with Janice about it?” If Eric hasn’t, get curious. Ask, “What’s prevented you from doing that?” If Eric doesn’t know how to raise the issue with Janice or has had little success, you can be part of the conversation with them. But if you agree to serve as intermediary, you send the message that team members are accountable to you but not to each other.
You don’t raise and resolve team issues in the team.
Posted on May 20, 2013 | 5 Comments
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Communications
Road rage. Uncouth manners. Snappy remarks. Abrupt and curt conversations. Mean comments. Profanity-laced tirades on the phone. It’s disappointing and painful. The worst part is rude behavior can bring out ugly things inside of us and the next thing you know, we’re being rude too. It has to stop somewhere. You may as well be the first one to try to stop it. If we don’t put a halt to it, pretty soon we’ll be on a beach looking at a half-buried Statue of Liberty screaming “We finally really did it. YOU MANIACS! YOU BLEW IT UP! OH, DAMN YOU! GODDAMN YOU ALL TO HELL!“*
Allow me to offer a few examples of the kind of behavior I’m talking about before I give you a solution that will absolutely melt the brains of the rude offenders:
- A procurement guy hung up on me during a phone call on which we were discussing a contract. Seriously. <CLICK>. Gone. When I called him back and said “I think we got disconnected” he replied “No. I hung up on you. I didn’t like what you were offering us.” Note: we were in contract negotiations at the time – it wasn’t a sales cold call or anything like that.
- I had a sales guy cold call me. I listened to his initial pitch. I told him “thanks but I’m not interested.” He did his obligatory “overcome objections” script. I again said “thank you but I’m not interested.” His response was “Fine.” <CLICK>
- I had a colleague tell someone they wouldn’t be able to give him exactly what he wanted and the recipient of the news responded with F-bombs like he was flying a B17 over Dresden.
All of these rude responses were uncalled for and disproportionate relative to the “offenses” that provoked them. On top of that, they were mean, childish, and unprofessional. The good news is, there’s an easy way to get back at these rude folks and make them go completely berserk.
Posted on May 15, 2013 | 1 Comment
Categories: Books, Guest Blogger, Innovation, Leadership
Today’s post is by Maureen Metcalf – a thoughtLEADERS instructor and author of The Innovative Leadership Fieldbook. and the newly-released Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations (CLICK HERE to get your copy). Here’s Maureen:
Sarah was the Vice President of Marketing for a Fortune 100 company when we met several years ago. She was known throughout her division for the bright colors that she wore and for her equally bright disposition. Her ability to help people she feel almost instantly comfortable was a well-crafted skill.
Sarah rose through the ranks in the company starting out as a sales assistant and then slowly earning her way to progressively more responsibility. As an executive she was centered, focused, and highly successful. Her office was an interesting mix of beautifully crafted cherry furniture, professional certifications and awards, and personal memorabilia highlighting both work and family relationships. Entering a conversation with Sarah in this setting had the instantaneous feeling that something of importance was about to transpire.
When we last met, she told a story of a Senior Director “He was a top salesman when he came to us and was quickly moved into our high achievers program. His numbers were always solid and his group was very productive when he was a manager.” At that, she looked down reflectively and then back to me. “But even then” she remarked, “I would hear about incidents where people left meetings feeling demoralized. He has such strong people skills and is so bright; I thought that these incidents must have been attempts to help his staff stretch. Now, in retrospect, I think I missed some warning signs. We are at the point where he has stepped on so many toes that nobody wants to work with him.”
Problems like this senior director’s are as complex as they are common. He had all of the technical skills, intelligence, and motivation to be a very effective leader. However, staff turnover, poor collaboration, and a reputation of being difficult to work with find him doing as much harm to his company as good.
Part of the challenge in building innovative leadership is learning to use the clarity of your introspection. Looking inside yourself and examining the make-up of your inner being enables you to function in a highly grounded way, rather than operating from the innate biases of more uninformed decision-making. This ability to reflect and consider how you as a leader need to change as part of the larger change initiative is critical to leading successful organizational transformation efforts.
Posted on May 14, 2013 | 1 Comment
Categories: Books, Career, Communications, Leadership
Today’s post focuses on the importance of providing clear and direct feedback to members of your team. It’s an excerpt from One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership (you can get your copy here).
Taking risks on people is important but leadership requires more than that. The other side of the development equation is feedback. If you are committing to a team member’s growth you first have to give them the opportunity and then ensure that they do, in fact, grow. The only way they will learn and develop in those roles is with coaching and feedback.
Giving feedback can be challenging. Many times we nail the easy feedback when we say things like “great job on beating your goal by 37%!” That is not a particularly hard message to deliver. Such feedback is not remotely useful either. There is no action being requested of the recipient. Your job as the leader is to provide an observation on the recipient’s actions and give them ideas on what they might do better or differently going forward. That is easy to do in a goal-beating situation but what about more difficult conversations? Many of us avoid having them because they are uncomfortable, but when you ignore the problem it festers until those conversations turn into the “very difficult conversations,” then “extremely difficult conversations,” and eventually the “here’s your severance check and pink slip” conversations. I know my gut instinct is to avoid these discussions at first but I also know it is my responsibility to have that feedback conversation as soon as possible. I have adopted a maxim designed to hold me accountable for doing exactly that. My maxim is “It’s easier to correct course 100 yards into the journey than 100 miles into it.”
The maxim sounds good when you first hear it and it makes sense on its face but that is not enough. A maxim must cause a visceral emotional reaction inside of you for it to be effective. My story behind this maxim is about a time I mismanaged a member of my team. Let’s call him Bob. He was a well-intentioned and seemingly hard-working guy. Over time, I began to hear feedback from members of his team that he could be rude, abrupt, and demeaning. I would tell the person providing the feedback “thank you for sharing that with me.” And then I did nothing about it. I had a good relationship with Bob and I rationalized away the complaints. I avoided a mildly uncomfortable conversation.
Posted on May 8, 2013 | 1 Comment
Categories: Books, Guest Blogger, Innovation
Today’s post is by Mats Lindgren, CEO of Kairos Future and author of 21st Century Management – Leadership and Innovation in the Thought Economy (CLICK HERE to get your copy). Here’s Mats…
“Mission: Get some ideas.” That was Dagens Media’s (Today’s Media) front-page headline on September 12th 2012. The article in Sweden’s leading trade paper for the media industry was specifically about the crisis in media and its search for new ideas and business models, but the simple and straightforward message could apply to almost any industry today.
Today’s management challenge is exactly that: getting some ideas, or more accurately, about getting some ideas off the ground. High-flying thoughts are not enough if businesses and organizations are to keep up with an increasingly fast-changing world. Ideas must lead to action.
Brainstorming about possible actions will not cut it. It’s just as necessary to have highly developed processes for production of new ideas and possible futures as it is to have such processes for production of goods and services. Not many organizations have that.
“Why should the Devil have all the good music?” asked William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, and decided to borrow heavily from contemporary popular music. We could ask something similar today, like “Why should ‘production’ have all the good methods and processes?”. Why are we not as systematic when innovating as we are when producing? And why do we, as managers and leaders, spend so little time taking the long view and charting the future? Why is so much time spent weathering storms, deflecting threats and merely reacting to events?
Posted on May 6, 2013 | 7 Comments
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Business Toolkit, Career, Leadership
No, this isn’t a “your mom” joke post. Today I’ll share some thoughts on how to lead like your mom. I’m picking this topic today because it’s a gift for Mom’s birthday (and it’s cheaper than flowers… have you seen FTD’s prices lately?!?). That’s one of my favorite photos of her over there on the left.
I’d like to share some leadership lessons based on things Mom taught me. Last time I did a post like this, I covered leadership lessons from my dad for his birthday and it was really well received so I’m going to stick with something that works. So Mom, Happy Birthday! I love you! Thank you for all the things you’ve given me and taught me.
So here’s what Mom said…
Do Stuff You Don’t Like Because Other People Do Like It
We hate doing things we don’t like. Watching movies we hate. Going places we hate. There’s a reason we hate those things. The thing is, other people like them. When I was growing up, I used to play Dungeons & Dragons (if you’re under 25, go look it up on Wikipedia). I loved that game. Unfortunately I was a bit of a dork (Shocker! I PLAYED D&D!) and didn’t have tons of friends to hang with. We didn’t have teh interwebz then either. But you need two people to play the game.
Enter Mom. She created a character (a cleric – a healer… hmmm…). She named her Nomannic (she had made French toast that day so cinnamon was fresh on her mind). She played the game with me one afternoon. I loved it. I’m sure she didn’t exactly have a blast (what mom enjoys fighting basilisks and shambling mounds?). But she played because it was important to me. She put the person she was leading first. I’ve tried to emulate this with my own kids. I actually go to the mall with my 13 year-old daughter for several HOURS (and I actually go INTO the stores with their perfume spraying, bone jarring music, and disinterested staff). I don’t always do it well but I have been trying more frequently to do a better job of it.
So for you… Read More…
Posted on May 1, 2013 | 2 Comments
Categories: Guest Blogger, Sales, Strategy
The traditional approach in business is to regard competitors as enemies. In keeping with that philosophy, when a competitor succeeds, wins a customer, or lands a deal, the result is lost business opportunities for you. However, that old attitude toward competition needs an adjustment if you’re going to adapt to the realities of the modern business world. These tips will shed light on how working with your competitors can actually enhance your business.
If you are competing with another company for the same customer and you’re both offering the exact same goods or services, you’re likely stuck in the dog-eat-dog mentality. In that kind of business culture, it’s difficult to partner with competitors, and success usually means lowering prices. No business owner wants to slash revenue in order to succeed and there are things you can do to avoid getting caught in that kind of uninspired business model.
Rather than offering identical products or services that others already offer, aim for specialization. If you differentiate yourself and find a unique niche, you’ll ultimately improve your business because you’ll have an easier time focusing and striving for improvement. By concentrating on your strengths, you may appeal to a smaller market, but you’ll have that market cornered. And if your would-be competitors adopt the same approach, you can easily refer customers to one another.
Referrals from Competitors Carry Great Weight
Posted on April 29, 2013 | 9 Comments
The squirrel works his butt off all summer fortifying his little tree fort, scurrying around gathering acorns, and storing his food and water like a nut job doomsday prepper. The grasshopper goes partying, drinking margaritas, hitting the clubs, and making fun of the squirrel for wasting his entire summer.
Then Old Man Winter comes. The squirrel is fat, warm, and happy in his little nut hut bunker eating acorns and sipping cognac by the fire. The grasshoper gets cold and hungry then freaks out and asks the squirrel for some food but the squirrel tells him to bug off (see what I did there?). The grasshopper then starves due to malnutrition, poor planning, and hypothermia. I’m pretty sure that’s how the story goes.
The question I’ll ask you is when it comes to networking, are you a squirrel or a grasshopper?
From what I can tell, there are loads of grasshoppers out there but very few squirrels.
I can spot a grasshopper a mile away. They’re partying their butts off at work while they have a steady paycheck and predictable job. Then comes the harsh winter of the layoff. The grasshopper frantically spins up the LinkedIn machine, sends out a million connection request (or introduction request) messages to people he hasn’t spoken to in years, acts like he’s best buds with them, then unceremoniously and selfishly asks “hey, can you introduce me to everyone in your network because I’m looking for a job.” To the grasshopper, this seems like a totally reasonable approach.
The squirrel hates it and would do well to let the grasshopper starve. Why? There are a few good reasons.