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Monday, September 28, 2009

MHTA's ACE Leadership Programme Provides the Connection

Here is a great initiative from Minnesota, designed to help local companies remain globally competitive:

'Leadership: It’s the X-factor that can make or break a company. It’s more than just squishy soft skills. It’s about being real – we can all spot a phony a mile away; it’s influencing and inspiring to get long term, sustainable results. And it’s a company’s biggest lever for increasing productivity and performance.

The Minnesota High Tech Association is leading efforts to develop next-generation leaders through the ACE Leadership Program, an initiative now entering its fifth year. The purpose of the ACE Leadership Program is to develop and connect our region’s next-generation technology company leaders and to assist them in preparing for the important roles they will play in making and keeping our region globally competitive.

The ACE Leadership Program believes effectives leaders:
  • Are aware of and understand their individual strengths and leadership skills.
  • Effectively communicate their beliefs and use their leadership skills as advocates.
  • Collaborate effectively, respecting differences in leadership styles.
  • Create lasting value for their companies and their communities by doing so.
The ACE Leadership Program is designed around these principles, and creates opportunities for participants to develop their strengths while interacting with senior technology company leaders as well as 30 other next-generation leaders. Beginning in January 2010, the program consists of seven daylong sessions over the course of the year, during which participants will:
  • Increase awareness of, explore and develop their leadership strengths (and uncover blind spots) in an applied, real-world setting.
  • Explore issues that are important to keep their company’s and our region’s tech-based economy globally competitive.
  • Test and improve their ability to communicate and advocate for these issues.
  • Connect and collaborate with regional leaders and other next-generation leaders to drive innovation and have a positive impact on their organizations and communities.
The ACE Leadership Program involves leaders teaching leaders, with current senior executives from technology companies, government and education sharing lessons learned in their areas of expertise.Using action learning, participants will discuss ideas, test and apply them in their own organizations and collaborate with other next-generation leaders. Individual and small-group initiatives create visibility and play a pivotal role.

“Innovation,” “partnering” and “collaboration” must be more than buzz words if Minnesota technology companies are to remain globally competitive. Through the MHTA ACE Leadership Program, broad networks are being forged and leadership skills are being honed among the CEOs and community leaders of tomorrow.'

Xerox’s Groundbreaking Woman to Woman Leadership Succession

Earlier this year, Xerox announced a remarkable leadership transition. After a 33 year career at the global document management company including eight very challenging and successful years as CEO, Anne Mulcahy (56), passed the helm to Ursala Burns (50), a 30 year company veteran and previously, the company president.

Not only is this a groundbreaking woman to woman leadership transition, but Burns is also the first black female CEO to run a large publicly traded company in the USA.

Today, Xerox announced its biggest acquisition ever, the $6.4 billion acquisition of Affiliated Computer Services.

Congratulations are in order to Mulcahy, Burns and Xerox in blazing the trail and making American corporate leadership history!

The Value of Mentoring Future Leaders

This past June, Proctor & Gamble announced that A.G Lafley, one of the most highly revered CEOs in America, would be succeeded by operations chief Robert McDonald. One of the interesting facts emerging in the story of the transition came from the Wall Street Journal. (P&G Chooses a New CEO as It Adapts to Era of Thrift – June 9, 2009)

'The day of his P&G job interview, Mr. McDonald dined with Mr. Lafley, who was to be Mr. McDonald’s company mentor because they shared military careers prior to P&G. As their company careers crisscrossed over the years, the two would rib each other about their military days.'

That should add more weight to the argument about the value of formal mentorship programs.

Better Today than Yesterday - Tiger Woods

Most people are hugely impressed by Tiger Woods, who yesterday collected a $10 million bonus as the winner of the season long FedEx Cup on the PGA Tour.

Tiger is the greatest golfer of his generation, and most likely of all time. As with other super successful sports stars and Hollywood celebrities, he is driven to succeed.

The leadership question about Tiger is whether that drive is born from a desire to overcome some tragic past or flaw, or simply to be at one's best every day.  This ESPN interview provides an answer. The interview is almost 28 minutes long and is worth every moment.

Conversation with Tiger Woods

Here are the things that seem most impressive about what Tiger had to say:

1. Tiger is a man who values friendship and respect. His relationship with Steve Williams, his caddie, is a perfect example of a team where respect and trust matter.

2. Tiger is driven to be better tomorrow than he is today. It takes a deep reservoir of confidence to constantly put yourself in a position to fail so that you win.

3. Living in the moment is better and easier than watching it. Wow!. Let that sink in. How often do you live in the moment? There is a peacefulness, a quiet confidence that comes in knowing that at any moment you can be your best.

4. What may be the most amazing thing about Tiger Woods is his self-perception. He doesn't seem to be influenced by what others think of him. Scott Van Pelt, the ESPN interviewer is obviously friends with Tiger. There was a sort of awkwardness as they spoke on camera, for the record. It became clear that Tiger sees himself as possibly the greatest golfer of all time. He has the desire to become that, and so he is driven everyday to be his best. It isn't about being the best so you or I will acknowledge it. It is for his own self-perception. It may be that his focus away from what others think is what enables him to concentrate so well on the course.

In Jim Collins' 'Good to Great' chapter on the Hedgehog Concept, he sets up a way to organize one's self-perception in a practical way. There are three circles. One has to do with what you are passionate about, another that represents the economic engine of your passion, and the third that one thing that you are the best in the world at doing.

You don't have to be a champion golfer or the CEO of a FTSE 100 company to have the kind of drive to be better every day like Tiger does. That has nothing to do with what your talent may be, and everything to do with your character. What Tiger has is a paradoxical belief in both the nobility and importance of being the best, and a humility to recognize that his greatest opponent is his own character. That is what is most impressive about the man.

Share this video with people you know. Help them come to understand that they can achieve great things if they just focus on being better today than they were yesterday. That's all it takes.

Tomorrow's Global Leader

What are the most important skills needed to be an effective “global leader” in the future?

Would you agree that the following traits could be the most essential:

· Ethics
· Honesty
· Transparency
· Integrity
· Humility
· Respect
· Flexibility
· Collaboration

Innovative Leaders

'Some of the sharpest insights on innovation come off the playing field....That ability to spot insights and lessons from fields far outside your own is one hallmark of an innovative leader. Of course, leaders have to do more than see the parallels--they have to adapt them to fit their own needs and then convince their teams to put them into practice, time and time again.'

Here is a fascinating insight into the approach to learning adopted by one innovative leader, the late Bill Walsh (ex San Francisco 49ers coach) - http://www.forbes.com/2009/06/09/innovative-leaders-bill-walsh-intelligent-technology-walsh.html

Lessons From Lance's Coach

Here is a fascinating insight into leadership; a book written on France's muddy roads and mountain passes. It is entitled,We Might as Well Win: On the Road to Success with the Mastermind Behind a Record-setting Eight Tour De France Victories  and it is written by Johan Bruyneel.

Bruyneel, the team director for all seven of Armstrong's Tour de France victories, was a mid-level pro cyclist himself in the 1980s and 1990s. With unexceptional talent, Bruyneel managed to stay at the sport's highest levels with a superior grasp of strategy, planning, tactics and psychology. At age 34, Bruyneel retired from racing and took up Lance Armstrong's invitation to become team director for U.S. Postal. In 1998 U.S. Postal was a rag tag bunch whose best cyclist, Armstrong, was a cancer survivor and impatient hot dog who had yet to win a multi-stage race of any kind. Bruyneel brought a new style of organization to a sport forged in romance and tradition. He promptly bagged eight wins in the Tour de France, seven with Armstrong and one with Alberto Contador.

Once in a generation, a competitive sport is transformed by a visionary leader. Think of John Wooden in college basketball, Doc Councilman in swimming, Bill Bowerman in distance running, Bill Walsh in professional football. In every case it turns out that the transformative leader is just plain smarter than his peers but is also a person of great personal courage and conviction.

Bruyneel is that person. His book is a delight to read. You will be the richer for it.

View from the Corner Office

Here is an extract from an interesting Q&A with Lawrence W. Kellner, chairman and chief executive of Continental Airlines:

Q. What are the most important leadership lessons you’ve learned?

A. A lot of the lessons probably came from my dad. When I was a kid, he was a manager in a Campbell’s Soup plant and had several hundred people working for him. When I watched him at work, he never really seemed to tell people what to do. He always seemed to figure out how to get them to want to do it. He always spent a lot of time figuring out who his best people were, and he spent a lot of time figuring out what it was they wanted to do, and then it all seemed to work flawlessly. So it comes back to getting the right people, and getting them doing the right thing, and getting them the right training.

Q. Any other key lessons that you learned along the way?

A. The importance of listening and, in many cases, getting the quiet person who doesn’t necessarily always contribute to speak up. You’ve got to go ask them sometimes, and I counsel them on the side: “Don’t make me come find you. When you’re in a meeting and you see where we’re going and you’ve got a view on it, don’t wait until I ask your opinion.” As I moved up the chain, I quickly realized that I knew less about a lot of areas than the people who worked for me, and if I was talking, they were just going to do what I wanted. So it was really important to listen to them and get their feedback. By listening to all sides, I could try to figure out the right answer.

For more, see - http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/27/business/27corner.html?_r=1

Practical Leadership Lessons from Sport

Some of the most practical leadership lessons come to us everyday. We may not regard them as such but they are presenting fundamentals in both personal and organisational development. Where can you find these lessons? In the sports pages of your daily newspaper or on the screens of your favorite sports shows. Everyday you will find stories about athletes who push themselves to the limits to achieve stardom or just the opposite, athletes with plenty of raw talent but no brains, nor sense of restraint so they end up frittering their gifts away through drink, drugs or sheer laziness.

You will also find stories of coaches who set the right example for their teams by setting standards for athletics and teaching to those standards. And on the professional side you will see stories of owners who build organizations designed to put coaches and players first so that the team wins. And of course you will find stories of owners who care only about polishing their egos at the expense of everyone else. Taken together these stories provide valuable insights into character, motive, energy and commitment. 

Ultimately sports are about performance. There are three elements to performance at the highest level: drive, determination and discipline. You will find these elements in every successful athlete as well as every successful organisation.

While drive, determination and discipline are essential internal motivators, they can be taught to the entire team and ultimately the entire organisation. In doing so, these elements will help create a culture where people can and do make a positive difference.

Drive. How do you define it? Drive is what gets you up in the morning and at your given task. Drive derives from the inner motivation to succeed. It is your internal motor that keeps you going and focused on what you need to do. For athletes, this means training, be it lifting, running or stretching as well as practicing a skill. For employees, drive is our desire to come to work and achieve. Our exercises may be mental, such as reading and studying. The key to drive, however, is universal. It is your desire to succeed. You develop a goal and you strive for it. Athletes want to win; employees want to win by doing their jobs well so their team succeeds. Goals are what make drive click. It’s like turning on the ignition to your car but leaving it in park. You have no place to go and you are wasting petrol.

Determination. If drive is your motor then determination is the fuel – your will to succeed. Success in sports requires the will to persevere. If you are a hockey player, you don’t step onto the ice without learning to skate or spending hours upon hours on stick handling drills. Your determination is honed by years of practice. Call it “stick to it ness.” While others are relaxing or partying, you are working at your craft. Determination is, or should be, nurtured through school and university. You choose your path – engineering, science, or the arts – because you have an interest in it. Where it leads you is up to you. Determination is what you make of your talents and how you apply them. Your determination will dictate to some degree how far you go in your chosen field. Your determination will steel your pursuit of your goals. The more you want to achieve the more events and circumstances will stand in your way. For example, you will always find someone more talented than yourself; how you prepare yourself for that competition will depend upon your determination.

Discipline. Engaging your drive and fueling your determination comes down to discipline. In other words, how badly do you want to achieve your goals? For an athlete who wants to compete in the Olympics, discipline is continuous. It pushes you to endure grueling training and eating only the right foods along with preparing the mind to compete. Discipline is all-consuming. In the workplace, discipline is not simply showing up. It is the rigor that you apply to doing a job and doing it well. It also means not cutting corners for expediency but giving full measure. Discipline is not easy; that’s why it takes discipline.

While it is necessary to demonstrate drive, determination and discipline, personal success depends upon an ability to create new opportunities as well as to adapt to changing conditions. Risk is an element of success, as is courage. All athletes demonstrate risk when they put themselves on the line to compete. The risk may come in the form of ego, as in, “Do I have what it takes to compete against the best?” Pro golfers feel this every time they put tee to ground as they enter a tournament. Courage may enter in competition that exacts physical pain, be it football or tour cycling. Injuries are part of the competitive process. Despite such limitations, keeping drive, determination and discipline in mind will focus you on both the immediate tasks as well as the long-term goals. That is a lesson that all athletes eventually learn: as you train your body, your mind conforms, too. Your mind works two ways. It sets the body in motion, but it also provides you with excuses to slack off. By adhering to the rigor of competition, be it sport or business, you eventually develop a system that allows you to compete at a high level but also achieve things you never thought possible, be it a gold medal or an all time sales record, or brand-new process that no one had ever envisioned.

And that’s exciting as anything you might read in the sports pages.

7 Types of Leadership Stories

"Through a story, life invites us to come inside as a participant." -- Steve Denning, author of the Springboard: How Storytelling Ignited Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations and Squirrel, Inc.: A Fable of Leadership and Storytelling

In his recent book, "Squirrel, Inc.," author Steve Denning, describes seven types of stories:

Sparking Action. Leadership is, above all, about getting people to change. To achieve this goal, you need to communicate the sometimes complex nature of the changes required and inspire an often skeptical organization to enthusiastically carry them out. This is the place for what we would call the "springboard story," one that enables listeners to visualize the large-scale transformation needed in their circumstances and then to act on that realization. Such a story is based on an actual event, preferably recent enough to seem relevant. It has a single protagonist with whom members of the target audience can identify. And there is an authentically happy ending, in which a change has at least in part been successfully implemented. (There is also an implicit alternate ending, an unhappy one that would have resulted had the change not occurred.) The story has enough detail to be intelligible and credible but not so much that listeners become completely wrapped up in it. If that happens, people won't have the mental space to create an analogous scenario for change in their own organization. For example, if you want to get an organization to embrace a new technology, you might tell stories about individuals elsewhere who have successfully implemented it, without dwelling on the specifics of implementation.

Communicating Who You Are. You aren't likely to lead people through wrenching change if they don't trust you. And if they're to trust you, they have to know you: who you are, where you've come from, and why you hold the views you do. Ideally, they'll end up not only understanding you but also empathizing with you. Stories for this purpose are usually based on a life event that reveals some strength or vulnerability and shows what the speaker took from the experience. For example, Jack Welch's success in making General Electric a winner was undoubtedly aided by his ability to tell his own story, which includes a tongue-lashing he once received from his mother after he hurled a hockey stick across the ice in response to a disappointing loss. "You punk!" he reports her saying in his memoir Jack: Straight from the Gut. "If you don't know how to lose, you'll never know how to win."  Unlike a story designed to spark action, this kind is typically "well told," with colorful detail and context. So the speaker needs to ensure that the audience has enough time and interest to hear the story.

Transmitting Values. Stories can be effective tools for ingraining values within an organization, particularly those that help forestall future problems by clearly establishing limits on destructive behavior. A story of this type ensures that the audience understands "how things are done around here." These narratives often take the form of a parable. Religious leaders have used them for thousands of years to communicate values. The stories are usually set in some kind of generic past and have few context-setting details--though the context that is established needs to seem relevant to the listeners. The "facts" of such tales can be hypothetical, but they must be believable. For example, a story might tell the sad fate of someone who failed to see the conflict of interest in not disclosing his or her financial interest in a company supplier. Of course, narratives alone cannot establish values in an organization. Leaders need to live the values on a daily basis.

Fostering Collaboration. Every management textbook talks about the value of getting people to work together. But most don't offer advice on making that happen in real-life work environments--except, "Encourage conversations." Yes, but how? One approach is to generate a common narrative around a group's concerns and goals, beginning with a story told by one member of the group. Ideally, that first story sparks another, which sparks another. If the process continues, group members develop a shared perspective, one that enables a sense of community to emerge naturally. The first story must be emotionally moving enough to unleash the narrative impulse in others and to create a readiness to hear more stories. It could, for example, vividly describe how the speaker had grappled with a difficult work situation. For this process to occur, it is best if the group has an open agenda that allows the stories to surface organically. It is also desirable to have a plan ready so that the energy generated by the positive experience of sharing stories can be immediately channeled into action.

Taming the Grapevine. Rumours flow incessantly through every organisation. "Have you heard the latest?" is a whispered refrain that's difficult for managers to deal with. Denying a rumour can give it credibility. Asking how it got started may ensure it is spread. Ignoring it altogether risks allowing it to grow out of control. Rumours about issues central to the future of the organisation -- takeovers, reorganizations, major managerial changes-- can be an enormous distraction (or worse) to the staff of an organisation and beyond. So as an executive, what can you do? One response is to harness the energy of the grapevine to defuse the rumour, using a story to convince listeners that the gossip is either untrue or unreasonable. This kind of story highlights the incongruity between the rumour and reality. You could use gentle satire to mock the rumour, the rumour's author, or even yourself, in an effort to undermine the rumour's power. For example, you might deal with a false rumour of "imminent corporate-wide reorganization" by jokingly recounting how the front office's current struggles involving the seating chart for executive committee meetings would have to be worked out first. Keep in mind, though, that humour can backfire. Mean-spirited ridicule can generate a well-deserved backlash. The trick is to work with, not against, the flow of the vast underground river of informal communication that exists in every organisation. Of course, you can't ridicule a rumour into oblivion if it's true or at least reasonable. If that's the case, there is little that can be done except to admit the rumour, put it in perspective, and move on.

Sharing Knowledge. Much of the intellectual capital of an organisation is not written down anywhere but resides in the minds of the staff. Communicating this know-how across an organisation and beyond typically occurs informally, through the sharing of stories. Knowledge-sharing narratives are unusual in that they lack a hero or even a detectable plot. They are more about problems, and how and why they got--or, more likely, didn't get--resolved. They include a description of the problem, the setting, the solution, and the explanation. Because they highlight a problem--say, the challenge employees face in learning to use a new system--they tend to have a negative tone. And because they often focus in detail on why a particular solution worked, they may be of little interest outside a defined group of people. Though unashamedly entertaining and lacking most elements of a conventional story, they are nonetheless the uncelebrated workhorse of organisational narrative. They present a difficulty, however. In a corporate setting, stories about problems don't flow easily, not only because people fear the consequences of admitting mistakes, but also because, in the flush of success, people tend to forget what they learned along the way. As a result, the knowledge-sharing story cannot be compelled; it has to be teased out. That is, a discussion of successes may be needed to get people to talk about what has gone wrong and how it can be fixed.

Leading People into the Future. An important part of a leader's job is preparing others for what lies ahead, whether in the concrete terms of an actual scenario or the more conceptual terms of a vision. A story can help take listeners from where they are now to where they need to be, by getting them familiar and comfortable with the future in their minds. The problem, of course, lies in crafting a credible narrative about the future when the future is unknowable. Thus, if such stories are to serve their purpose, they should whet listeners' imaginative appetite about the future without providing detail that will likely turn out to be inaccurate. Listeners should be able to remold the story in their minds as the future unfolds with all its unexpected twists and turns. And clearly, they should portray that state in a positive way: People are more likely to overcome uncertainty about change if they are shown what to aim for rather than what to avoid. Note that telling an evocative future narrative requires a high degree of verbal skill, something not every leader possesses. But the springboard story, described above, provides an alternative. Hearing about a change that has already happened can help listeners to imagine how it might play out in the future.

Seeing things Differently

Here are two lessons to illustrate an unusual characteristic of leadership.

The two stories, one about Tom Watson Jr. and the other about Thomas Edison, both illustrate how great leaders deal with costly mistakes.

The way both leaders responded to their situations demonstrated an essential characteristic of leadership - the ability to see things differently. An ability which illustrates the importance of vision over short-sightedness.

A Costly Mistake or a Learning Investment?

Tom Watson Jr., CEO of IBM between 1956 and 1971, was a key figure in the information revolution. Watson repeatedly demonstrated his abilities as a leader, never more so than in our first short story.

A young executive had made some bad decisions that cost the company several million dollars. He was summoned to Watson’s office, fully expecting to be dismissed. As he entered the office, the young executive said, “I suppose after that set of mistakes you will want to fire me.” Watson was said to have replied, “Not at all, young man, we have just spent a couple of million dollars educating you.”  (Source: Edgar Schein in his book Organisational Culture and Leadership)

The story provides a strong message of support and a reminder that some of the most powerful lessons we can learn are from our so called failures or difficult times.

Remember Edison's famous saying: "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." Thomas Edison also demonstrated a great response to adversity which compliments Watson Jr's actions.

When his factory was burned down, with much of his life's work inside, Edison said: “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew."

A characteristic of leadership is to see things differently. Seeing mistakes as an investment in learning. Seeing that, even in disaster, you can start anew.