Positive Leadership has also been recognised as a Top 50 Leadership Expert to Follow on Twitter.

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Preparing for the New Year

As we slowly approach the end of another year, there is once again a discernible feeling of anticipation for what the upcoming year will bring. In many ways, this is quite natural and expected since, like a present wrapped in shiny paper, the start of a New Year often stirs a sense of optimism that better times and new opportunities for recovery, growth and development await us just around the corner.

While leaders use the end of the year to focus on developing plans for what they need to achieve in the New Year, it’s also important that they not lose sight of the lessons learned over the course of the previous one. Indeed, the successes and failures incurred over the past twelve months can provide a wealth of insights that can help leaders chart a clearer path towards their organisation’s goals, provided that they take the time to reflect and review on what came out of these past outcomes.

With this in mind, here are ten questions leaders can ask to reflect and assess both their own performance and that of their employees, and how they can ensure that their team remains focused and driven toward reaching their shared goals:

1. What goals did we succeed in reaching this past year?
2. What goals did we fail to achieve and why? What obstacles did we encounter and how can I help my team overcome them now that we’re aware of these challenges that stand in our way?
3. How many failures did we encounter and did we really learn anything from them? Is there a risk that we’ll repeat them or have we properly addressed and resolved the issues behind our failure?
4. How can I encourage my employees to be more open to failure?  To stepping forward with new ideas for us to test and explore without fearing that the outcome might be not what we hoped for?
5. What unexpected opportunities came up and what did we learn from them? How did my response shape the reactions of those I lead?
6. How consistent was my message to my team? Did I respond to misunderstandings by listening to what was being said and clarifying what I meant?
7. How much time did I spend outside of my office, watching how my team operates and listening to what’s going on around them? How can I make myself more aware of the challenges they face and how it impacts our goals?
8. Did I provide my team with enough opportunities for growth and development? What other measures can I use to improve the coaching/mentoring I offer to my team?
9. What events/moments during the past year opened my eyes to new ideas, insights or opportunities for growth? What can I do to learn more and explore these untapped outlets for growth?
10. Who did I often turn to for support, guidance and calls to action? Can they continue to help me as I move forward? And how can I help them succeed with their goals?

Naturally, there are other questions we can ask ourselves that can help us with assessing what we’ve done and where we can go next. But by asking ourselves these questions listed above, leaders can ensure that their focus is directed on building on their team’s accomplishments, as well as on what they’ve learned through their experiences over the course of the year, both key factors to creating a realistic guide for where we want – and can – grow in the coming year.

With such a guide at their disposal, leaders stand to benefit from not only from having a clear sense of direction of where they need to lead their team over the coming months, but also a keen appreciation for where they’ve been and the lessons learned along the way.


How to Lead (part 2)

Former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman discusses how to lead in a male dominated world. 


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How to Lead (part 1)

CNN's Fareed Zakaria asks former British Prime Minister Tony Blair if leadership in politics is unique.


14 Ways to Keep Your Team Engaged

Barely a fifth of U.S. workers in a recent survey said they were "highly engaged" with their jobs, and that's a sign that corporate leaders are getting something badly wrong. 

Boost engagement and motivate your employees by being warmer, more honest and less quick to anger. Your team will then judge you by your action, moods, and behaviours, not by your intent.


Monday, December 27, 2010

The 200 yard Gong Shot


Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg looks at why a smaller percentage of women than men reach the top of their professions -- and offers 3 powerful pieces of advice to women aiming for the C-suite.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas!


The Path to Peak Performance

Dr. Edward M. "Ned" Hallowell outlines the five steps necessary to excel at work: select, connect, play, grapple and shine. He is the author of Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best from Your People


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What Makes Leaders Tick?

Neuroscientists and psychologists believe they can make a real contribution to our understanding of what makes leaders tick. For more, see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-11730685


Monday, December 20, 2010

Young Women in Leadership

Young women may face unique challenges in asserting and developing a leadership style. Some struggle with managing others while maintaining a “good girl” image. They don’t want to be ignored, but they don’t want to be seen as too pushy, either. It’s a delicate balance to find a style that’s effective and feels like a good fit.

Women leaders must navigate a “double-bind”: If they assert themselves forcefully, people may perceive them as not acting feminine enough, triggering a backlash. But if they act in a stereotypically feminine way, they aren’t seen as strong leaders.

One major problem is a shortage of female role models. People often learn leadership styles by observing others; but there are often few female executives to observe. Women can watch male leaders too, of course, but men can’t illustrate how to navigate female stereotypes.

Here are several strategies to deal with the challenge. If there are few female leaders at their employer, young women should join professional associations or community organisations to find role models. These non-work settings also offer young women a chance to try out new leadership styles outside the office.

At work, young women should enlist mentors and solicit feedback on leadership techniques. After a meeting, ask a trusted superior what behaviours worked and what didn’t. Asking subordinates for feedback, however, is usually a mistake because it can indicate the leader is unsure of herself — a perception young female managers particularly want to avoid. In theory, these mentors could be either men or women, but young women should realise that male mentors may not be as aware of the unique challenges young women face in asserting leadership.

Leadership coaches encourage women to take charge of their office image by showcasing their workplace activities in thoughtful ways, such as leading presentations at meetings. They shouldn’t be content simply that their name is on an important report. Instead, they should actively engage colleagues and superiors, and talk frequently about their ideas and research.

Self-promotion may feel unnatural. Young women may worry that they’re setting expectations too high or drawing too much attention. But there are ways to feel more comfortable doing this. First, they should evaluate their work to pinpoint what differentiates them from other colleagues. Then, start small. One tactic? Exude enthusiasm about a company’s new project. The delight will translate to others as confidence. When the company has new projects in the works, women should suggest how their research and skills could contribute.

It’s also important for young female managers to ask superiors to back them up when others second-guess them. Women should ask their bosses to be ready to explain why they were chosen and what skills they bring to the position. Many women don’t ask for this support.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Developing Great Leaders

World-changing business innovations start off as simple questions, says business professor Jeff Dyer. After six years of research into the habits of visionary CEOs like Michael Dell and Jeff Bezos, Dyer is convinced that all leaders can learn to tap their own creative impulses by internalising simple tricks. For a start, he advises, business leaders should spend 15 minutes a day jotting down ideas and questions that challenge their companies' status quo. Visionary leaders also are good at studying how other people -- and companies -- do things. Dyer said such leaders also are more likely than non-visionaries to have lived in more than one country for an extended period of time. He believes the two qualities are related.

For more, see - http://www.sltrib.com/business/ci_14636149

Monday, December 13, 2010

I Never Want To Hear You Say ' I Can't Do It'

Legendary tennis coach Nick Bollettieri has coached ten world #1 tennis players including Andre Agassi, Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Jelena Jankovic, Mary Pierce, Jim Courier and many more. 


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Positive Leadership

Positive Leadership refers to an emphasis on what elevates individuals and organisations (in addition to what challenges them), what goes right in organisations (in addition to what goes wrong), what is life-giving (in addition to what is problematic or life-depleting), what is experienced as good (in addition to what is objectionable), what is extraordinary (in addition to what is merely effective), and what is inspiring (in addition to what is difficult or arduous).


Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Winner's Dream!


The Capacities of Great Leaders

1. Great leaders recognise strengths in us that we don't always yet fully see in ourselves.

2. Rather than simply trying to get more out of us, great leaders seek to understand and meet our needs, above all a compelling mission beyond our immediate self-interest, or theirs.

3. Great leaders take the time to clearly define what success looks like, and then empower and trust us to figure out the best way to achieve it.

4. The best of all leaders — a tiny fraction — have the capacity to embrace their own opposites, most notably vulnerability alongside strength, and confidence balanced by humility.


Friday, December 10, 2010

Excellence & Success

'There are many people, particularly in sports, who think that success and excellence are the same thing. They are not the same thing. Excellence is something that is lasting and dependable and largely within a person’s control. In contrast, success is perishable and is often outside our control. If you strive for excellence, you will probably be successful eventually. People who put excellence in the first place have the patience to end up with success. An additional burden for the victim of the success mentality is that he is threatened by the success of others and he resents real excellence. In contrast, the person that is fascinated by quality is excited when he sees it in others.'

Joe Paterno, Head Football Coach at Penn State University


Thursday, December 09, 2010

Performance and Fulfillment

In business you need high performance. In life, you need a sense of fulfillment. In leadership you need both. 

Performance is external. Fulfillment is internal. Performance comes from achievment of something beyond yourself, whilst fulfillment emerges and grows from within - when your achievements are congruent with a consciously held purpose and the values that you choose to define your character.
Performance requires rules and discipline to control some 'part' of your life. Fulfillment is the freedom to choose your response without manipulation.

Performance is to prove something. It requires finite measurement. Without proof, there would be no performance.

Fulfillment means you dont need to prove anything. Fulfillment is endless and unmeasurable. It flows from a sense of completeness. When your whole life environment feels fully integrated, you don't need more of anything.

Performance requires you to consume something - resources, time, your skills or energy. In order to achieve a certain performance you have to spend something. Fulfillment doesn’t need anything. It creates something good out of the current state, whatever that is. It is never expensive. It gives you something instead of taking something away.

Effective leadership flows from inside out, not from outside in. Effective leaders integrate performance and fulfillment, not choose between them. Success in business requires high performance. Success in life requires a sense of fulfillment.

In leadership, you need both together.


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Change the Process, Change the Result

"If we find success, it’s all about sustaining it.  And if we are struggling, it’s all about responding."  Trevor Moawad, Director of IMG Performance Institute, explains the main principle about adopting the correct attitude to affect the performance and being able to talk athletes into winning.


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Projecting a Leadership Presence

To be a successful leader - to truly influence outcomes and inspire others - it is paramount that you project a leadership presence on a daily basis.  Leaders gain the confidence of others by showing that they are in control of themselves and their immediate environment.  Your leadership presence is not a facade that you create.  It is your actual belief in your abilities, which is expressed through your words, deeds, and behaviours.

Here are a few simple - though often overlooked - ways that you can project your leadership presence:

Dress the part.  While you do not need to spend a fortune to ensure that you are wearing the latest fashion, you do need to make sure that your outward appearance is neat and appropriate to the standards set by your company.  Looking as if you just rolled out of bed is no way to inspire the confidence of others.

Clean up your workspace.  Your immediate environment says a lot about you.  Take a look at your desk.  Does it project a sense of organisation and competence?  Or, does it scream dishevelled mess?  Even worse, does it communicate to your colleagues that you have just given up?

Slow down!  Constantly rushing from one meeting to another and arriving exasperated projects to others that you are not in control of your own schedule.  Being over-committed does not show others how important you are, it shows that you cannot competently keep up with your current demands.

Control those emotions.  Flying off the handle or breaking down in tears each time something does not go your way gives others the impression that you cannot be counted on during the difficult times - when leaders are needed the most.

As a leader, colleagues look to you to provide the example to which they aspire.  Start setting the best leadership example today by projecting a leadership presence and see just how influential you can become!


Monday, December 06, 2010

Decision Making at GE

Leadership by fiat when done in moderation can drive change and set a course. 

“I think that if you run a big company, you’ve got to four or five times a year, just say, ‘Hey team, look, here’s where we’re going’. If you do it 10 times, nobody wants to work for you. If you do it zero times, you have anarchy.” 

Jeff Immelt, CEO, General Electric


Decision Making in a Crisis

By taking your time, evaluating the facts clearly and keeping the bigger picture in mind small business owners can make good business decisions.

In the current environment many of the traditional rules of business seem to have been changed. Yet we still have to make decisions, often quickly. Here are some thoughts on how you can make effective decisions in this challenging environment:

1. Get as much information as you can

Unless a decision is a ‘snap' one, you have time to get more information. Use this. Information isn't just ‘facts' about market size etc. Often the most important information about a decision is how key individuals are going to react to it. Can you sound as many people out as possible? Sometimes, of course, you can't do so directly, but is there any way you can get a feel for how they are going to react?

2. Plan your decision

Making a decision is a process, not something that happens in a moment. Plan the information gathering; give yourself a space to decide and make a plan for implementation.

3. Don't make decisions quicker than you need to in order to appear ‘decisive'

Very often people are pressurising you into a making a quick decision, because a quick answer suits them, not you. So instead, buy time - you almost always have more time than you think, and (unless you drag your feet excessively) deals usually get better if you wait a bit.

4. Keep the big picture in mind

It's easy to get led astray by short-term considerations. Sit back and ask yourself what the decision is ‘in service of'. What are your key values and long-term aims?

5. Know and clearly state what the ‘deal breakers' are

The old sales distinction between ‘must haves' and ‘would like to haves' comes in very handy when considering the consequences of various courses of action.

6. Take time out to make a decision

Give yourself time to marshal all the facts and devote your entire attention to the decision in hand. If you can, then go for a walk, and when you do so, don't force your mind to concentrate on the decision; let your unconscious mind turn the matter over. Then decide. But don't tell anyone.

7. Sleep on it

Live with the ‘trial decision' you made above for at least a night. This is an old piece of wisdom that is still of huge value in today's fast-moving and turbulent world.

8. Give yourself ‘wiggle room' - nothing ever works out exactly as expected

This is of particular importance in the current environment, when things seem to be changing so fast. This runs in the face of much comment on decision making; that praises people who force through unpopular decisions as ‘visionaries'. Actually, the visionaries are the ones who force through unpopular decisions that turn out to be right. If the decision is wrong, they get called other names. The best decision makers implement their decisions gently, in the light of changing circumstances. They are prepared to change tack if the world around the decision changes.

9. Make sure there is an escape route if things go really wrong

This takes the point above further. Sometimes decisions, however well made at the time, just turn out to be wrong. Then the role of the good leader is to admit the fact, accept the new circumstances and make a new decision. Sometimes it will be a simple reversal; more often a hybrid of the old and new.

10. Follow your intuition

If your head says yes but your gut feeling says no - it's wrong!


Sunday, December 05, 2010

How to Treat People

Don't talk to all your staff or all your clients/customers the same way, because they're not the same.

The Dreyfus model of skill acquisition posits that there are five stages people go through:

1. Novice
--wants to be given a manual, told what to do, with no decisions possible.

2. Advanced beginner
--needs a bit of freedom, but is unable to quickly describe a hierarchy of which parts are more important than others.

3. Competent
--wants the ability to make plans, create routines and choose among activities.

4. Proficient
--the more freedom you offer, the more you expect, the more you'll get.

5. Expert
--writes the manual, doesn't follow it.

If you treat an expert like a novice, you'll fail.


Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Snowstorm Study: A Classic Study of Employee Commitment

With the UK gripped in the midst of another winter freeze, consider this fascinating piece of research!

Behavioural scientists do many studies, including controlled experiments, which entail massive advanced planning. But some of the most interesting studies happen when something strange or unplanned unfolds, and the researcher capitalises on serendipity. Consider a little study done in the late 1970’s by industrial psychologist Frank J. Smith, who had collected employee attitude data from about 3000 employees at Sears’ headquarters in Chicago. Smith found that employee attitudes towards their jobs and their supervisors weren’t especially useful predictors of which employees were absent from work UNTIL the day a crippling snowstorm hit. Employees had a good excuse to stay home, so they had considerable discretion over whether to make the tough trip in or not. That day, employees who were more satisfied with their supervision and other parts of their jobs were far more likely to make the trip in than those who were dissatisfied.  In particular, whether or not they were satisfied with their supervision was among the strongest predictors of attendance.

Since then, many other researchers have shown that when people feel mistreated and dissatisfied with their jobs, they are unwilling to expend “discretionary effort.”  It makes sense.  When you are stuck working for, or with, people you don’t admire, you don’t go out of your way to help. But when you  admire your bosses and peers, you will go to extreme lengths to help –- and it is clear that most people feel and act the same way.


Chinese, Indian Workers Give Bosses Top Marks

Workers in Japan gave their bosses low marks while managers in China and India won kudos in a recent survey. Only 35% of employees in Japan rated their company's senior management highly on a set of five attributes—such as their commitment to high-quality products and their people management skills. Globally, 55% of employees rated their senior managers highly, and in the U.S., 56% of employees did.

The survey was conducted earlier this year by the Kenexa Research Institute, and included 29,000 respondents from companies with at least 100 workers.

Separately, Kenexa's research has found that employees at higher-performing companies tend to rate their leaders more highly than employees at lower-performing companies do. In the U.S., Americans gave the highest scores to senior managers' commitment to high quality products and services, and the lowest marks to the confidence they inspired. Among industries, only 46% of government workers believed that their senior managers were effective, according to the report. In contrast, 64% of workers in high-tech manufacturing rated them highly.


Friday, December 03, 2010

Making Choices

Life provides all of us with a series of choices. The choices we make determine how successful we are.  

When you acknowledge that you and only you are responsible and accountable for the choices you make, and when you refuse to blame others for the choices you have made, you have in your hands the blueprint for success. When you allow others to choose your path so that you can then blame someone else when things don’t go your way, you are fooling no one and cheating no one but yourself.  When you accept the fact that you are in your present condition, good or bad, because of the choices you have made, you will then find yourself capable of changing your situation by making better choices.  No one but you determines your success in life. Making the right choices paves your way.

Think about all of the sports fans, who love watching successful coaches lead their teams, cheering them on when they win, exhorting them when the game is close, or even booing them when they fail, not living up to expectations. How many of these fans, fans who expect nothing less than excellence from their favourite teams, have the same high expectations for their occupational teams, ie, their work or business teams? 

High achievement requires disciplined thinking, thus the goal setting, personal responsibility and work ethic.  But, why is it that many of these same fans, fans that pay good money to see excellence during the sporting event, will, in their own professional lives, live with mediocrity, seeming to ignore the success standards and principles that they demand of their favourite sports teams?  Have you ever thought about this paradox?   

Why do fans, who love excellence in competitive sports, enough to pay for the right to experience it real time, not apply the same excellence in their own competitive professions, even though others are paying for the right to experience it real time.  Don’t the customers or employers have the same right to witness excellence in the workplace that fans at the sporting event have?  Imagine the quality of products and services across the world, if everyone took their professional excellence, as seriously, as they did their professional sports.


Thursday, December 02, 2010

Keep Your Team Smiling

We once had a colleague ask how we trained our employees to smile. We told him we didn’t. We hired the people who smiled during the interview, and then told them to just keep smiling when they worked.

Now here’s the story about what good managers can do to keep employees smiling.

Welcome employees — everyday!
Try to imagine being a new employee (again) for a day and realise what that’s like. Joining a new group of people or a new company is usually confusing and full of anxiety. Most of us don’t like change and this represents one of life’s bigger changes.
  • Give them a warm initial welcome.
  • Provide lots of information and printed materials. Make sure the answers to all their questions are easy to find and understand. Create FAQs about everything.
  • Say “good bye” and “thank you” when you’re done, always.
  • Let them take stuff with them, to read and absorb it when they can, and have it when and how and where they need it.
Follow the Golden Rule
Treating others the way you want to be treated is just plain good sense. It’s what we all learned growing up and there’s no reason not to practice this at work, everyday, in every way:
  • Set high standards for yourself and make sure you apply those standards to them.
  • You like getting as much information, in a friendly and relaxed environment, as you can get — so will they.
  • You want to be treated with respect and sensitivity — so will they.
  • You want to know how you’re doing and what’s really going on — so will they.
  • You want to feel comfortable — so will they.
  • You’ll want answers to your questions — so will they.
Explain “why”
Adults like to understand the big picture, to see how things fit together with everything else, to feel like they matter, to know that there’s a plan, to have a say in what’s going on. You can do all of that if you are always prepared to explain “why” you’re doing or asking something.
  • Be attentive, communicate well, articulate your thoughts understandably, listen to questions about what you just said, resolve conflicts and confusion, and respond appropriately — all the things effective managers are supposed to do that employees appreciate.
  • And if they appreciate you, they’ll follow you.
  • Remember: “People don’t care what you ask them to do as long as they know you care”.
Catch people doing things right
If you’ve hired the right people, told them in simple terms what you need them to do, trained them well and explained “why” – then get out of the way and let them do what they do.
  • If they meet or exceed your expectations, let them know! How often have you been in the situation where you’re doing what’s expected and nobody says anything? It’s disheartening.
  • Decide what you can and should you do to recognise those efforts (after all, isn’t that what you asked them to do?
  • Never ignore the behaviours you want repeated — start telling the people who meet or exceed your expectations how good they are and how much you appreciate their efforts.
Ask questions and really listen to the answers
The best people to ask about customer needs and preferences are your employees. They’re also the best ones to ask how you and your company can be better. They’re out there on the front line, so they should know.
  • Don’t say you don’t trust them. You hired them, so now you need to listen to them and use their experience to make things as good as they need to be.
  • Give them the tools they need to do what’s expected — everybody’s okay with doing more with less; most won’t put up with doing it with nothing.
Be fair
  • Forget consistent — unless two separate circumstances are identical, consistency is far less important than fairness.
  • “Play the face.” It means you look someone in the eye and use your experience, common sense and judgement to do what’s right. In the end, that’s all anyone asks for and can expect. Done right, this promotes trust and respect.
Sounds like a lot, but it’s not! In reality it’s just about following the Golden Rule,  and if people feel like you are — every day and in every way — they’ll smile. 


Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Winning Breeds Winning

An appreciation of legendary basketball coach John Wooden who died earlier this year.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Positive Leadership and Elite Sport

Positive Leadership Limited helps leaders throughout an organisation excel under pressure. Our advice assists clients solve critical strategic issues, accelerate growth and enhance financial performance. We equip leaders at all levels with the values, confidence and practical skills necessary to succeed and win consistently in a highly competitive environment.  

The Values of Positive Leadership™ are the keys to unlocking the strategy for delivering high performance and optimum results under pressure. We draw extensively on thought leadership from international business and elite sport in our consulting work. 

For more information on how our advice might help you and your team excel under pressure, please contact: graham.watson@positiveleadership.co.uk


Creating Meaningful Corporate Values

Andrew Cosslett has been Chief Executive of IHG since February 2005. IHG is the World’s largest hotel company operating over 4,100 hotels under brands such as Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza and InterContinental. 

Here he talks about how to turn your front-line into raving fans of your corporate values and why bringing passion into the business is so important for all winning organisations. Don't just talk about your values, live them!


Monday, November 29, 2010

Servant Leadership In the Workplace

An exceptional recent study of 815 employees and 123 supervisors published in the Journal of Applied Psychology makes a very strong argument for the value of servant leadership at work. 

The authors found that the practice of servant leadership had important implications for both individuals and the groups they worked in. The study found that servant leadership enhanced both the self-efficacy and the commitment to the supervisor of the individual employee. At the group level, servant leadership lead to employees’ perception that they were treated fairly (justice climate) and the shared perception customer service was expected, supported, and rewarded (positive service climate). These individual and group effects combined to produce a significant impact on the organisational citizenship behaviour of individual employees.

Employees that are good organisational citizens go above and beyond their formal job descriptions. If everyone in an organisation only did what was required of them, the organisation would be mediocre at best. Organisational excellence requires a critical mass of employees doing more than what is officially recognised and rewarded. The extant research has demonstrated organisational citizenship behaviour is strongly associated with employee task performance, organisational productivity, and customer satisfaction.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Asking the Right Questions

Today, we would like to suggest a way to ask questions that will help you change your focus from problems to solutions.

If you want to make your communications as effective as possible, and if you're interested in finding solutions to problems rather than becoming bogged down in them, we have a suggestion that will help. If you ask the right questions, you can direct your communications to get answers that are genuinely helpful.

For example, if you ask someone, “What's wrong?” you will get an answer - often a long one - which will focus on the problem. But if you ask, “What do you want?” or “How would you like to change things,” you have redirected the conversation from the problem to the solution.

In every situation, no matter how dark or dismal, there is a desirable outcome. You can convince people, including yourself, to focus on that outcome, by avoiding questions that ask “why” and choosing “how” or “what” questions instead.

So, instead of asking your boss why you didn’t get a raise, ask him, or her, what you need to do in order to justify a salary increase. And, instead of demanding from your employees why they didn’t make the sale, ask them what they can do differently so they will be certain to make the next one.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

How Companies Can Develop Critical Thinkers and Creative Leaders

This article was written by Col. Bernard Banks, a faculty member in the Department of Behavioural Sciences & Leadership at West Point and a Colonel in the United States Army.

'Today's leaders are continually cajoled to act as "outside-the-box" thinkers. Such pronouncements give the impression the only sound solutions are ones never previously conceived. However, what industry and the military really strive to produce are leaders possessing strong critical and creative thinking skills. Both implicitly eschew the notion that a box even exists. What can industry learn from the military about how to advance the development of such leaders? One tangible example is how to construct and execute experiential training while continuing to meet the needs of customers and stakeholders.

Today's organisations operate in what the U.S. Army War College defines as a VUCA environment. Volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity are constant realities in the 21st century. The military seeks to prepare for the challenges it will inevitably face by crafting realistic training scenarios and routinely integrating such activities into its ongoing operations. The goal is not to teach them what to think, but to enhance their ability to think critically and creatively about the myriad of contingencies posed by a fluid environment — in essence to teach them how to think.

In industry, 90% of time is typically devoted to executing business actions, and less than 10% is allocated for increasing organisational and individual capabilities through training. The military, on the other hand, spends as much time training as it does executing — even in the midst of high stress/high risk operations. A unit in Afghanistan or Iraq will not suspend its experiential training program while involved in combat operations, because its ability to cogently and creatively address future challenges is enhanced by an enduring commitment to improving people's competence and adaptability through experiential exercises, as well as actual experiences. But the real lesson for industry leaders is not simply that training is important. What's really valuable is how the military crafts its training opportunities.

The Army defines leadership as both accomplishing the mission and improving the organisation. Permanently improving the organisation requires the development of its human capital. The military believes you substantively improve people by improving their ability to adroitly address challenges in their environment. Therefore, we do not seek to confine people's thinking by restricting the solutions available to them, unless the proposed action violates any of these criteria: is it immoral, unsafe, unethical, or illegal?

In order to have people wrestle with what it takes to conceive of action plans where the aforementioned criteria constitute their only boundaries, the military structures its experiential training activities with wide parameters. Events are constructed to reflect ambiguity in the operating environment (while also targeting specific organisation needs). Leaders are responsible for setting the conditions in every training event and resourcing them appropriately, as well as for reminding participants throughout the exercises that there are a myriad of potentially elegant solutions to each ill-defined challenge.

Two other things are important to take away from the military practice of engaging in routine experiential training. First, feedback is crucial. The military practice of conducting intermediate and final after-action reviews (AARs) — in which all participants examine the planning, preparation, execution, and follow-up of any significant organizational initiative — fosters a learning culture. Second, coaching is required to translate feedback into behavioural changes. Research has demonstrated that feedback without coaching  rarely results in behavioural changes. So, all leaders must develop their capacity to coach others. Reflection and dialog lie at the heart of development. Experiential training creates the impetus for both to occur.

If you wait for the right time to train it'll rarely occur. Today is the opportunity to prepare for tomorrow, regardless of how much else is going on.'


Friday, November 26, 2010

Persistence Wins!


You must have more than your fair share to succeed. There's plenty of advice out there about knowing when to give up!

Tom Peters' advice? Hold out longer than anyone thinks is wise.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all followers of the Positive Leadership Blog and especially to all our friends in the USA. 

Please remember at this special time thaeveryone we interact with is a chance to create a remarkable experience.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Aligning Behaviour Around Values

Leaders intent on optimising performance and results need to recognise the importance of aligning everyone around a single set of core leadership values; defined as the behaviours and activities essential to the organisation's success. 

Here are four steps to align behaviours with core leadership values:

1) Start by listing your core leadership values and related performance measures.
2) Next brainstorm the associated behaviours that support these core leadership values.
3) Share this list with other people in the organszation and solicit their feedback.
4) Incorporate the core leadership behaviours into your performance appraisals and assessments.

This process can be done regularly and will result in an organisation whose behaviours are well aligned around its core leadership values.

For more on the Values of Positive Leadership™ and how our approach of building strategy around these values can help maximise profitability, please contact: graham.watson@positiveleadership.co.uk


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What is an Authentic Organisation?

An organisation is authentic when its actions, its character, and its sense of purpose are aligned with and support each other. 

An organisation can be authentic only when: 
  • The organisation knows ‘who it is” and what characteristics make it distinctive. 
  • People in the organisation understand why these distinctive features are meaningful.
  • The organisation knows what it is striving to create in this world. It has a sense of purpose that goes beyond the products and services it offers.
  • The organisation knows how its distinctiveness fuels and adds unique insight to the pursuit of organisation’s purpose.
  • The organisation has a few signature actions, behaviours and products that bring to life the organisation’s meaning, and move it towards its purpose.
  • Both the purpose and the distinctive, meaningful characteristics of the organisation resonate with stakeholders and draw members, customers, and constituencies to the organisation.
  • The organisation actively supports its members, customers, and constituencies in their own authenticity as they work with the organisation to achieve its purpose.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Positive Leadership

A Positive Leadership strategy will help you optimise the profitability of your business.

For more information on how we can help your business succeed under pressure, please contact: gavin.hastings@positiveleadership.co.uk


Sunday, November 21, 2010

It Is About You

When we think about the best bosses, we think of pride-builders. Pride-builders are experts at engaging the emotional commitment of employees. They do this with a laser-like focus on making their people feel good about the work they have to do — whatever it may be — and take pride in giving their personal best every day.

In the excerpt below, Robert Sutton, the author of  Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best... and Learn from the Worst reminds us that there are important emotional and informal elements to leading people, and that some leadership qualities are more important than others in this regard. One of the more telling qualities, he says, is an acute sense of self-awareness. This is certainly true for pride-builders. If they didn’t understand how others perceived and responded to them, they could not hope to frame their actions in ways that motivate and energise their followers emotionally as well as rationally.

Excerpted from Chapter 9 of Good Boss, Bad Boss:

‘How to Be the Best…and Learn from the Worst

Last year, I led a workshop at Stanford on being a good boss during tough times. As we walked to lunch afterwards, a manager from the session told me about his boss. A few weeks earlier, a secretary in his office walked up to this vice-president and asked, “When are the layoffs coming?” The boss was stunned. He had no clue how she discovered big cuts were in the offing: the decision had just been made and extreme care had been taken to keep it under wraps. When the bewildered VP asked how she knew, the secretary answered that when bad news was coming, he couldn’t bring himself to look his people in the eye. This VP had what poker players call a “tell,” a habit or quirk that revealed when he was hiding something (bad news in this case). The codeword among his charges was, “The boss is wearing interesting shoes today.”

The “interesting shoes” story reflects a pervasive theme…that…distinguishes the best from the worst bosses: If you are a boss, your success depends on staying in tune with how others think, feel, and react to you. Bosses who persistently promote performance and humanity devote considerable energy to reading and responding to followers’ feelings and actions, and those of other key players like superiors, peers, and customers. Of course, there is no single magical or simple thing that defines a great boss…anyone who promises you an easy or instant pathway to success is ignorant or dishonest, or both. The moves that great bosses make are too complex, varied, messy, and unpredictable to be captured by any single theme, slogan, or set of steps.

Yet some skills and aspirations are more important than others. Developing and sustaining self-awareness ought to be at the top of the list for every boss. David Dunning of Cornell University shows that a hallmark of poor performers is they lack self-awareness, consistently overestimating their skills in just about any task that requires intellectual and social skills, such as debating, having a sense of humour, or interviewing others. In contrast, Dunning finds that self-awareness is a hallmark of the best performers — they are especially cognizant of their strengths and weaknesses, and fret about overcoming pitfalls that can undermine their performance. 

When it comes to bosses, one implication is the best might laugh at the VP in the “interesting shoes” story. But they also realise that they could easily be that guy — that every boss is prone to bouts of cluelessness and to forgetting how closely followers track every little thing they do. The best bosses reduce the risk of self-delusion by seeking and responding to hints and hard data about how others read their moods and moves. They urge followers to challenge them with enlightening — and disconcerting — questions, like when the VP’s secretary asked, “When are the layoffs coming?” They want their followers (and bosses, peers, and customers, too) to keep feeding them such information, no matter how unpleasant and unflattering, because they are obsessed with how their words and deeds are interpreted by others.

The upshot is, to be a great boss, you’ve got to think and act as if “it is all about you.” Your success depends on being fixated on yourself. On the surface, this conclusion clashes with advice from many gurus and experts. Former GE CEO Jack Welch and Stanford’s Robert Joss (dean of the Graduate School of Business for a decade), for example, implore managers, “It’s not about you.” I agree with the spirit of this advice, as the aim is to discourage bosses from falling prey to their most selfish and destructive instincts. Yet I question the words because most bosses, like most human beings, are remarkably self-obsessed — and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Yes, the worst are selfish, are oblivious to their charges, and cling to dangerous delusions about their magnificent leadership skills. The best are equally self-obsessed, but have different motivations. Their obsession isn’t for egotistical or for selfish reasons. On the contrary, they focus on controlling their moods and moves, accurately interpreting their impact on others, and making adjustments on the fly because they want their people to produce work that others will admire — and to feel respect and dignity along the way.’


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Use Failure to Grow Your Business

How can companies plan and pursue an aggressive growth agenda with confidence? By framing their strategic growth opportunities, testing assumptions, and creating a culture that acts on evidence and learning. (An interview with Rita McGrath, Professor, Columbia Business School.)


Friday, November 19, 2010

Dominating Leaders Make Worse Decisions

Powerful leaders make worse decisions by dominating their colleagues into silence, a new study from the London School of Economics (LSE) has found (http://gradworks.umi.com/33/53/3353459.html).

According to the LSE study, entitled The Downside of Looking Like a Leader, strong leaders may also be worse managers because they give off such an impression of power that their colleagues’ opinions are stifled.

The study suggests that while it is important for leaders to exude authority and competence, the evidence suggests that appearing too powerful will inhibit their team members from expressing an opinion. This harms the ability to make good decisions by excluding arguments and evidence from the decision-making process.

The study’s authors point out that to dominate the decision-making process may be damaging in a business world loaded with specialist and technical information, where team members often know more about a specific subject than their leader and where participative decision-making is accepted as more effective.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Doing What We Already Know

In the final round of the 2006 World Match Play Event, professional golfer Stephen Ames loses to Tiger Woods “nine and eight” (almost as badly as it’s possible to lose in match play). One month later, he surges six strokes ahead of his closest competitor (and fifteen strokes ahead of Tiger Woods), to win the Tournament Players Championship and take home the biggest check in golf history at the time ($1,440,000). How did he make it happen?

One answer may be the fact that the biggest obstacle in performance isn’t not knowing what to do; it’s not doing what we already know. 

So what keeps us from doing what we know? Typically, it’s interference—or more often, interFEARence—created by those external and internal factors that slow us down, immobilise us, and keep us from performing at our best. By shifting what you pay attention to and how you pay attention, the resulting performance improvement can be dramatic.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Positive Leadership Limited - The Power of Sound Advice™

For more information, please contact: graham.watson@positiveleadership.co.uk


Building Power and Leadership

When Ann Moore was on her way to becoming CEO of Time Inc., before women were found in top management ranks, she won loyalty by, among other things, spreading a perquisite of her magazine publisher job to peers and subordinates: preferred seats at the best sporting events in New York. Across the Atlantic, Maurice Levy was appointed CEO of Publicis while still a junior employee, in part because of his fervent commitment when the headquarters in Paris caught on fire, and he ran into the offices to rescue client files.

High achievers don't turn into leaders, even if they seem to have the right skills, without the power that comes from going beyond the letter of the job and doing the 'Extras':

1. Colleagueship. Being a good colleague means helping the entire group achieve results even when you're not in charge — for example, by filling in for an absent colleague, turning up at a special event that's not required, or helping with ideas and information for someone else's project. Colleagueship is considered a sign of whether someone can take on bigger leadership responsibilities in a flat, decentralised organisation.

2. Opening doors. Power to the connectors! Those who rise to leadership keep their virtual Rolodex rolling. They know enough about others to spot something of interest to them and pass it on, opening doors or making key introductions. In the new networked companies, connectors are the go-to people, the must-haves at meetings. The effects are viral. The more they connect, the more connections come to them.

3. Extra resources. Being a giver is powerful, especially when the gift is unexpected. Sprinkling small amounts of money or opportunities around the organisation can build enormous goodwill, for example; funding dinners for a hard-working project team or providing seed money for expenses for promising innovations. Using personal resources can matter even more, such as donations to colleagues favourite charities.

4. Framing issues. Being the first to name an issue shows leadership. One big Extra in any endeavour is to identify new opportunities or unsolved problems, and then convene conversations around them. With self-organising now a major operating mode, the people who set the agenda also set themselves up as potential leaders. It's not necessary to ask anyone's permission to lead; the self-organisers just do it.

5. Strong commitment. Some people falsely equate commitment with hours worked. But commitment is about quality, not quantity. This Extra involves the verve or passion which potential leaders convey about the mission and the singular focus they exhibit when doing each piece of work. Other people want to be led by committed leaders, not those whose eyes are always on another project or who make it clear that other parts of their lives matter more to them.

6. External diplomacy. Civic boards or charitable causes can groom leaders, and even more so if one's own organisation has an interest in the cause. Joining professional associations or industry networks and carrying information back and forth to and from the home team can also build internal power. Being a good ambassador externally reverberates internally.

Extras serve as signs of whether a person can be entrusted with major decisions or control over assets that requires doing what needs to be done regardless of formal requirements. They show that the leader will take care of others and the organisation.

At the same time, Extras carry a tinge of unfairness. Extras can be tapped more readily from jobs with discretionary budgets, or that face outward, toward clients and customers. In contrast, people holding more routine, internally-facing jobs have fewer automatic chances to show leadership. That group often includes women, who are disproportionately concentrated in staff jobs such as the Ps of personnel, public relations, and purchasing. Moreover, women who might be time-constrained by family obligations don't always have the time for Extras.

But not every Extra is out of the reach of determined potential leaders. Commitment and colleagueship are largely under individuals' control, and they build a better work community for everyone.

If the why and how of Extras can be discussed more openly, perhaps they can become more universally attainable. So consider this list both a How-To guide and a manifesto for change.