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Sunday, January 31, 2010

British Leaders - They're Not What They Were

'Leadership, wrote the Chinese general Sun Tzu, is “a matter of intelligence, trustworthiness, humaneness, courage and discipline”. If so, the mind boggles at what he would make of British public life at the beginning of 2010.

Contemplating the grim prospect of Gordon Brown struggling to cling on to power, Labour ministers lining up to offer excuses at the Chilcot Inquiry, bankers refusing to accept responsibility for their mistakes and David Cameron approving those ludicrous airbrushed posters, it is hard to detect much intelligence, courage and discipline at the summit of our national institutions. And trustworthiness is not a word many of us would apply to the current House of Commons. '

For the full text of this fascinating article, see - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/gordon-brown/7104500/British-leaders-theyre-not-what-they-were.html

The Quiet Mind and Innovation

'Executives at GE, 3M, Google, Bloomberg Media, and Salesforce.com do it. Ford chairman William Ford does it, as do former corporate chiefs Bill George of Medtronic and Bob Shapiro of Monsanto. Phil Jackson and Italy's 2006 World Cup champion soccer team all do it.

The "it" is designating daily time to calm and quiet the mind using techniques like meditation and neurofeedback.

The question of course, is why? The short answer is that 'break' is a big part of breakthrough - literally, figuratively, and scientifically.

Researchers looking into how the human brain actually solves problems now confirm what many artists and scientists have instinctively known about the process of idea incubation: that seemingly unproductive times are a key ingredient of immensely productive and creative ones.

We've all heard of apparently serendipitous occurrences - Archimedes' ("Eureka!") flash of insight regarding displacement occurring during a bath, and Einstein's theory of relativity coming to him in a daydream.

Neuroscientists now believe that the ability to engineer creative breakthroughs hinges on the capacity to synthesize and make connections between seemingly disparate things, and a key ingredient is time away from the problem. Experiments show that creative revelations come when the mind is engaged in an activity unrelated to the issue being addressed, and that pressure is not conducive to creative thought. Recent research demonstrates that the ultimate break - sleep - actually changes our mind's perspective unconsciously. Information is consolidated by a process taking place in the hippocampus during sleep, enabling the brain to effectively clear itself and reboot, all the while forming new connections and associations. The result is new insight and the aha! feeling of the Eureka moment.

The catch is obvious: if the neural workings of the brain are hidden from our awareness, we can't speed them up or artificially influence them to work harder or more intensely. We can only let go. Ironically, when we do - when we stop thinking and escape either physically or mentally, we actually speed up the transformational processes.

But here's the thing: we're reticent to take those breaks. Certainly we don't include them or build them in as a formal part of our problem-solving efforts. The question is why we don't, when without the break, there may just be no breakthrough.

Enter the irrational fear of failure.

Backing off is counterintuitive. It somehow feels wrong, like preemptive surrender. It's scary to ease up, because we may lose our steam, or we may abandon hope. We get anxious when the answers aren't so forthcoming, and we begin to doubt our creativity, abilities and intelligence, fearing that if we take our eye off the problem even for a moment, we may lose the energy we've invested.

The key is a quiet mind. We need to learn to rid ourselves from the potentially destructive negative self-talk: inevitable thoughts of failure, inner voices of self-criticism and judgment, and the ever-present temptations to compare ourselves to others whose circumstances have little to do with ours.

High performers know that the line between failure and success is very often drawn on the mental field of play. The good news is that turning down the chatterbox brain is something that can be learned.

Some prefer simply taking downtime to reflect and think, (or not think as the case may be). 'Think Week' is the now-legendary solitary sabbatical taken twice yearly by Microsoft founder and chairman Bill Gates. In his tiny lakeside cottage hideaway, he ponders the past, present and future of his company, of technology, and of his industry. He takes long walks along the lake shore in contemplation to quiet his mind.

Others take a more technological approach. Neurofeedback training is becoming popular with athletes and executives. The aforementioned Italian soccer team regularly unwound before matches in the ultra-secretive Mind Room, a facility wired for the technique, which involves zero-gravity recliners, stereo headphones, and tiny electrodes placed on the player's scalp that are linked to computers displaying various types of brainwave activity. Trainers monitor feedback and response to various stimuli, searching for unique triggers that improve the level of sensorimotor response (SMR) brainwaves that create the feeling of suspended focus athletes refer to as "the zone." Neurofeedback centers are popping up everywhere.

Finally, meditation may be the most powerful tool known.

Neuroscientists have since the 1990s been studying Tibetan monks in the hills above Dharamsala to understand how meditation affects brain activity. In the most experienced Buddhist practitioners, researchers using electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have discovered abnormally high levels of gamma brainwaves, which are believed to be associated with the brain's ability to synthesize disparate bits of data, solve problems, heighten perception, and boost consciousness.

Scientists have now concluded that mental training of this sort can create an enduring brain trait. That means we may actually be able to rewire our brains to adopt different thinking circuits. In fact, in a reversal of conventional medical wisdom, which holds that mental experiences result from physical goings-on in the brain, startling new evidence suggests the reverse may also be true - that our mental machinations may actually alter the physical structure of our grey matter. Neuroscientists call the phenomenon neuroplasticity.

In other words, when you quiet your mind, you change your brain, thereby setting the stage for breakthrough ideas. And that leaves a whole new world of opportunity for the innovator. '

Excerpt of Matthew E May's portion of an article originally featured on CNBC.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

How To 'Manage Up' A Difficult Leader

Here is an interesting story from Forbes magazine (http://www.forbes.com/2010/01/19/manage-up-boss-leadership-careers-workplace.html?partner=leadership_newsletter):

'Yael Zofi thought she was going to get fired.

An outgoing, talkative woman, she reported to a man whose personality couldn't be more different. Her boss ran the global leadership development and performance management division of J. P. Morgan. The two were in frequent communication, but Zofi tended to write long, detailed, chatty e-mails, and her boss zapped back terse, single-word responses. "I would write an e-mail describing the approach, the process, the length of time the project would take," she recalls. "He'd write, 'Yes.' I'd say, 'Yes what?'"

Terribly frustrated, Zofi reluctantly adjusted her communication style to suit her superior. "It drove me nuts to report to him until I realized he needed bullet points," she says. She began to omit all but the most pressing details from her notes, sending her boss e-mails that were nearly as brief as his responses.

After some weeks of this strategy, she left on vacation with a girlfriend. "My relationship with my boss was so rocky, I thought I was going to get back and be fired." Instead, when she returned to New York she discovered she had been promoted to vice president.

That was back in the 1990s. Zofi didn't quite realize it then, but she was using a technique that many oppressed underlings have found useful in dealing with difficult superiors: managing up. In other words, assessing your boss's weaknesses, paying attention to his or her management and communication style, and coming up with a strategy for dealing with it.

In 1998 Zofi left J. P. Morgan and started her own consulting and executive coaching business....In 2008 she published a book on the topic of managing up. It's now one of the focuses of her consulting work.

"You have to look at your relationship with your boss as your most critical relationship in your company," she advises. "Think about the boss not as a boss but as a client." Approach your boss on his own turf, she adds.

Zofi finds there are four primary categories of bosses--trendsetter, outgoing, perfectionist and stable--but she concedes that most humans are complex creatures who can have a little of each quality. Once you've figured out your boss's style, you can come up with an approach to suit it.

For instance, if you have a perfectionist boss who can't tolerate any form of chaos and expects employees to be expert at their tasks, you should always do plenty of background research, ask questions in advance of your work on a project, provide plenty of data to the boss and check in with progress reports along the way.

What if your manager is downright incompetent? Zofi has a solution for that, too. One of her clients worked at a medical device manufacturing company and reported to the daughter of the owner. The company made sophisticated medical resonance imaging machines that were constructed from parts produced in various countries including India, China and Israel. Overwhelmed by the challenges of coordinating so many disparate sources, the boss became extremely anxious, constantly pestering the employee for information and even interrupting her when she was in meetings or on the phone with long-distance suppliers.

"My client was getting sick over it," Zofi recalls. "It was affecting her personal life. She even thought about going on Prozac." Zofi counseled the employee to assess her boss's erratic personality and come up with a strategy to calm her down. Instead of confronting the boss directly, Zofi's client reached out to the foreign suppliers and gathered information. She wound up creating spreadsheets that laid out the status of each part and when it would come into the manufacturing facility. "She gave her boss a comfort zone," Zofi notes. The strategy worked. In addition, the employee formed good relationships with the suppliers, which helped everything run more smoothly. "She doesn't love her boss," Zofi notes, "but she's still got a job, and she's dealing with it." '

Friday, January 29, 2010

People Centred Leadership Delivers Outstanding Performance

The Work Foundation’s major study to reveal the essence of outstanding leadership has crushed the commonplace assumption that powerful leaders with a controlling and target-driven approach are essential in tough economic times. Based on over 250 in-depth qualitative interviews, the two-year study, Exceeding Expectation: the principles of outstanding leadership, provides proof that a highly people-centred approach to leadership results in outstanding performance.

Six high-profile UK organisations took part in the study including EDF Energy, Guardian Media Group, Tesco and Unilever. As data in the report demonstrates, one of the most striking elements to emerge from the research was the stark contrast between how outstanding and good leaders behaved.

Outstanding leaders focus on people, attitudes and engagement, co-creating vision and strategy. Instead of one-to-one meetings centred on tasks, they seek to understand people and their motives. Instead of developing others through training and advice, they do this through challenge and support. They manage performance holistically, attending to the mood and behaviour of their people as well as organisational objectives. And instead of seeing people as one of many priorities, they put the emphasis on people issues first.
Outstanding leaders are focussed on performance but they see people as the means of achieving great performance and themselves as enablers. They don’t seek out the limelight for themselves but challenge, stretch and champion others, giving them the space and support to excel.
The findings strongly suggest that an approach which connects leaders to people and people to purpose defines outstanding leadership. Leadership that focuses on mutuality and respect is not only good for people but good for organisations too.
For the full research findings, see - http://www.theworkfoundation.com/Assets/Docs/leadershipFINAL_reduced.pdf

Removing Negative Self-Talk

As we all know, people talk to themselves.  We all spend the whole day talking to ourselves, even if we don’t realise it.  Self-talk is like having a radio in our heads. We hear it wherever we are, and more often than desired, this voice is a non-stop reminder of how unlucky, bad, or silly we are.  This character in our heads is an expert in getting us down through pessimism and criticism.
This voice can make us feel worthless and can leave us without control over our lives.  It can convince you not to apply for your dream job, or not bother to make that positive change your life needs so much.  Our inner critic feeds on the fear and the doubt it produces in us, but it is up to us not to let it take control.  We can easily control the radio in our heads to play the stations that work for us instead of against us.
There is a way to change the station to a more positive one every time the negative tries to take control. 

Follow these 3 simple steps, and turn the voice in your head into your biggest admirer:
1.    First, be aware of that negative voice talking to you and what it is saying.  Observe the self-talk inside your head, truly listen to it; commonly we don’t pay attention to our thoughts, they just come and go automatically, and equally control our lives.  You must gain awareness of what that voice is saying. Is it saying the same thing over and over again?  How is it making you feel?  Most of us don’t focus consciously on what our inner voice is saying; we simply accept its judgment as the truth, and this is where many of us get stuck, sometimes for our whole lives.  Negative self-talk is, in most cases, only trying to deceive us with feelings of fear and doubt. What it says is not true. Learn to recognise who truly is in control of your life.
2.    Second, assess your inner voice.  Learn to recognise the forms it takes: maybe it gets nervous, mad, or frightened?  Maybe there is a hint of a positive voice trying to gain strength over the negative one; if there is, you should be proud.  Try to focus and listen to that background positive chat more and more every time you hear it. With practice, you will eventually hear it all the time.  The most important thing is that you are aware that your inner critic is just a habit of your mind and that you can easily change the station to listen to a different tune, one that makes you feel good, energised, and proud about yourself and your life.
3.    Now, after consciously recognising, listening, and evaluating your inner critic, you can start replacing negative talk with positive one.  Give the good talk space to speak, and encourage it through positive affirmations, until you feel the change inside yourself.  Affirmations are very powerful; these energise you and prompt you to act positively.  If you feel resistance, try this:  As soon as you identify the negative talk nagging you with something like “I can’t do anything right”, instantly change that into a positive affirmation, like “Everything I do turns out right”.  This is a very powerful exercise because it allows you to assess how each statement makes you feel, and you will want to continue giving yourself bigger doses of positive talk every time.


US Business Leaders Lack Credibility

Only about a quarter of people consider U.S. business leaders to be credible, according to a new global survey. That's markedly worse than the global average and a sign that U.S. bosses need to show more of a common touch, says Richard Edelman, the public relations executive who commissioned the poll. "They need to be talking not just to elites but to customers and employees," he argues.

For more, see - http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/content/jan2010/db20100126_231956.htm and http://www.edelman.com/trust/2010/

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Attitude is a Key Value of Positive Leadership

At Positive Leadership, we define attitude as an overall outlook on life, a mind-set or way of thinking that affects everything that you do. It's your demeanour.

Attitudes can be either positive or negative. The notion of a positive attitude can be looked at from a whole variety of important dimensions, including courage, confidence, passion, enthusiasm, humour, patience, happiness and humility. A positive attitude often includes a simple smile.

While it's more common to promote a positive attitude, negative aspects can pop-up quite easily -- like arrogance, selfishness, complaining, comparing and judging others. These are dimensions of attitude that don't serve us well or for very long.

For this occasion, let's look at attitude from a couple of perspectives, enthusiasm and optimism.

Enthusiasm is derived from the Greek word for spirit. When you're enthusiastic, what spiritual well are you calling upon? Some say it's a virtue that inspires others to action even while it pushes fear and worry away for others.

Enthusiasm is contagious, but you can't pass it on unless you've got it yourself. George Bernard Shaw once said, “A candle loses nothing by lighting another.”

Greeting people with “I'm feeling great today” rather than just “I'm fine” or “OK” can set the tone for your conversations. Think about how a smile communicates your attitude. And a good belly laugh can really feel great, too.

People just naturally want to be around others who are upbeat. Enthusiasm is an attitude that we can choose.

Some wise person once said that an optimist is a human manifestation of spring. And springtime is when we're looking forward, we're planting, we're starting new projects, we're upbeat. This kind of positive outlook is a huge asset for anyone -- students, teachers, parents and leaders.

Humility is another valuable element of attitude. While some people think of this quality as meekness -- some say weakness -- it's more about respect and an unpretentious way of holding yourself.

As opposed to exalting yourself, it's about having a healthy ego. To many people, humility is born from one's spiritual perspective and has to do with yielding to a higher power, however you conceive of that. In the end, if you say you're humble, you're probably not.

There are lots of ways to work on your attitude. Here are just a few: be courageous and take calculated risks; try being patient; have confidence in your abilities; be open to seeing new possibilities; start your day with quiet reflection; and be grateful for the blessings you've received.

Viktor Frankl, the Holocaust survivor, once referred to attitude as “the last of the human freedoms.” Attitude is a choice. Choose well !

Positive Leadership

It's hard to believe Clint Eastwood will be 80 this coming year.

Do you remember him from the Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns of the mid-'60s? Grizzled and unyeilding, you had no doubt this was a true tough guy. Then through his Dirty Harry era he continued to evolve the tough guy persona, growing even meaner as he aged. In 1971 he caught the directing bug and shot his first film, "Play Misty for Me," in which he also starred. This was a haunting and often frightening tale of a disk jockey that is stalked by an obsessive fan. Even in his first film, a critical favourite, you could see the flashes of a great American storyteller.

Eastwood had proven to be versatile, tackling subjects as diverse as World War II and Blues music. He also had a very deft hand with the Western, reinvigorating the genre with "Unforgiven." So much so that we can often excuse him for the occasional clunker like "Space Cowboys" or "The Rookie". In "Invictus," Eastwood once again strikes Oscar-worthy gold with the inspiring true story of Nelson Mandela's quest to unite an apartheid-torn South Africa by winning the Rugby World Cup.

Teaming up once again with old friend Morgan Freeman (very convincingly as Mandela), they tell a story of hope, courage and the inspiration of positive leadership. Mandela, after spending 30 years as a political prisoner, is elected the president of South Africa — a South Africa deeply divided after decades of apartheid and rife with crime, economic chaos and social injustice. His quest, initially, is to bring the nation together through the universal uniter of sport. The only problem is, the South African rugby team, the Springboks, are not that great. Often disorganised, more often uninspired, the Springbok team has become something of an embarrassment for the country. Lead by Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon), the squad struggles until Mandela sees the potential for unification and invites Pienaar to afternoon tea to plant the seed of a World Cup Championship.

Both Damon and Freeman give inspired performances, performances that could easily have fallen into preachiness. Here, however, under the skilled direction of Eastwood, both actors give a performance that is subtle and inspiring. Freeman becomes Mandela and channels his soft spoken, positive energy perfectly. Damon, as the rugby team captain, gives a strong performance as a man shifting through the sea of change, embracing it and becoming a driving force within his country.

Not a sports movie nor a political movie, "Invictus" is a story about hope and change. Eastwood illustrates the great spirit within man to unite in a common spirit that can overcome any obstacles.

This could easily have been a film that spoke down to the audience. Instead, Eastwood delivers an inspired message that should be welcome by all.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Leaders of the Pack

Here is some interesting and thought provoking comment from Forbes magazine ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos:

'One of the issues being raised at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week is how to build effective institutions. It's a great topic, especially since so many of the world's major institutions are viewed as political, bureaucratic, unresponsive, costly and generally "ineffective."

But no organization ever starts out that way, and most leaders don't intentionally think about how to make their institutions less effective. So it's important for world leaders at Davos to get to the root of what causes organizational arteriosclerosis to set in--and how to prevent it from happening.

Institutions are living organisms that grow, develop, mutate and evolve over time. Some of this evolution is purposefully aimed at achieving specific goals, but much of it is unplanned as the organization reacts to environmental stimuli, competitive forces, political pressures, changing managerial priorities and technological innovations.

The result of this unplanned evolution is "complexity creep," the tendency for organizations to add units and layers; broaden its scope and mission; proliferate products and services; develop disconnected and inefficient processes; and reinforce unproductive patterns of behavior--all of which contribute to the gradual degradation of institutional effectiveness.

All organizations are subject to these forces over time. But some are fortunate to have leaders with the courage and skill to rein in the complexity creep and refocus the organization on getting things done more simply and with greater effectiveness.

When Jim Wolfensohn became president of the World Bank in 1995 he launched a series of initiatives challenging the complexity and lack of focus that built up in previous years. Relentlessly over the next decade Wolfensohn pushed the Bank's managers and stakeholders to focus on poverty reduction; simplify lending and internal administrative processes; create knowledge networks for leveraging the Bank's technical skills and experiences; improve management disciplines; increase transparency; and fight corruption.

His personal energy, along with his willingness to fight and make tough decisions, transformed the Bank from a bloated, ineffective and increasingly irrelevant institution to one that continues to play a key role on the world stage.

Unfortunately not every organization is blessed with leaders who instinctively know how to fight against complexity. In fact many people would say that a large number of today's leaders, many of whom are at Davos, are caretakers at best (and undertakers at worst)--and that there is a dearth of transformative leaders both in the public sector and corporations.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Every leader--be it a CEO or a middle manager--has the potential to push back against complexity and make the organization more effective. The starting point is to declare that the war against complexity is an intentional, ongoing and highly visible part of the leadership job--a "core competency" that is just as critical as strategic planning, budgeting and operations management.

So here's what the participants at Davos can do to build effective institutions--starting with their own:

Listen to your customers: To sharpen your institutional focus, get out and talk to the people who use your services or buy your products and encourage your team to do the same. Then come back and connect the dots between what your customers need and what you are actually providing. Most of the time you'll find that there are activities, initiatives, products and services that don't add value and should be eliminated or reshaped. At the World Bank Wolfensohn and his team created a "village immersion" program where senior staffers lived in poverty-stricken areas for weeks at a time. These experiences led the Bank to recalibrate many programs around villagers' needs instead of the needs of government bureaucrats.

Build internal and external networks. It is important to encourage your people to break through the constraints of organizational structure and systematically connect with partners, both inside and outside of the institution. At the World Bank Wolfensohn launched networks for all of the key professional groups (economists, agronomists, education specialists) and appointed senior people with clout and credibility to lead them. Sharing project information and experience across the Bank's different geographic units, and reaching out to experts around the world, accelerated progress on many initiatives, prevented the same mistakes from being made over and over and increased the capabilities of the Bank's staff.

Streamline processes. Over time, in any institution, people can get locked into doing things in complex ways that no longer make sense, take too much time or have too many steps. And since most people only see their own piece of the process, they rarely initiate process improvements. Therefore you and your team need to build the capabilities and forums for end-to-end process simplification and make it an ongoing part of the way the organization evolves. At the World Bank Wolfensohn funded a small group of business process improvement experts who worked with staff to streamline core processes such as lending, project approval and project evaluation, as well as internal processes such as performance management and budgeting. Over time they not only made it easier to get things done but also built the capabilities to continue process simplification on an ongoing basis.

If we really want to build effective institutions, the hard truth is that we will first need to build effective, transformative leaders who are willing to make it happen. Rather than just debate the question, perhaps the participants at Davos can decide if they want to step up to the challenge.'

Building a Leadership Community of High Commitment and High Performance

If the leaders of the financial institutions implicated in the economic crisis had had the aspirations, the higher moral purpose, or the savvy to build resilient organisations capable of sustained advantage, could we have avoided the financial crisis? Harvard’s Michael Beer thinks so. Leaders of high commitment, high performance organisations (HCHP) make principled choices. He argues in High Commitment High Performance: How to Build A Resilient Organization for Sustained Advantage, “These choices begin with their definition of firm purpose—a desire to make a positive contribution to customers, employees, and society.” If a leader’s “primary goal is to acquire money and power, building an HCHP organisation will be beyond their reach.”

To build enduring HCHP organisations, leaders must stick to the firm’s why: purpose and guiding values, strategy, risk profile, and basic for motivating, organising, and managing people. “In times of crisis, when capital markets may demand expedient decisions that could take the firm off the HCHP path, commitment to principles enables CEOs to go against conventional wisdom in decisions about strategy, debt, growth rate, acquisitions, and layoffs.”

These circumstances often create conflicting demands between people and profits that leaders must learn to integrate. This does not call for heroic leaders—single-minded and single-handed leaders—but leaders who are willing to listen and engage others in a collective action learning process. In a crisis we often look for saviours, but instead, writes Ron Heifetz in Leadership Without Easy Answers, “we should be calling for leadership that will challenge us to face problems for which there are no simple, painless solutions.”

Heroic leadership isn’t about listening or collective learning. “Most important,” writes Beer, “heroic leadership fails to perform the central function of leadership—engaging employees authentically in a process of organisational learning and development from which they as leaders also learn.” Leading the creation of a HCHP organisation is “not about aligning the company with the leader’s ideas. It is about enabling leaders and their people to learn together about the problems they face and the actions they must take.”

Surviving and thriving in this crucible of conflicting demands is no easy task. It requires that leaders strengthen and develop their internal resources. They must learn to enter the fundamental state of leadership when faced with challenges—a state that demands that they dig deep into their values and purpose. That fundamental state of leadership requires leaders to move from comfort with activities to focus on results, from self-absorption to commitment to mission and higher purpose, from focus on self to focus on others, from being internally closed to being externally open, and from hiding the truth to embracing the truth.

In general, underperforming companies have not developed leaders throughout their organisations. Beer suggests that this is because “most managers had come up through their home function, business unit, or region, and never acquired the broader general management perspective needed to understand and manage cross-boundary activities….In many of the companies, ineffective senior teams did not spend time developing common values and perspective about what constituted good leadership.”

Again, the primary responsibility to learn to lead from where you are lies with you.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Leadership Skills Lacking in Over 50% of US Managers

According to a recently published survey, the majority of workers in the U.S. find their bosses likeable, but feel the management within their companies have room for improvement.

When asked to rank which qualities their boss best exhibited, likeability took the top spot among U.S. workers, followed by leadership, honesty, fairness, patience and loyalty.

Although leadership ranked second, just less than half of workers polled (49%) thought their managers exhibited strong leadership skills – a sobering data point reinforcing the need for renewed focus on leadership development.

Among other key findings from the survey are:

•Motivation & Mentorship Lagging: Only 24% of employees polled felt that their manager displayed motivational skills, and the same number noted that their supervisor failed to mentor and explain the choices made from an organisational perspective.

•Career Growth Continues: The majority of workers surveyed (66%) still feel that their manager promotes work and career growth internally – an important element to ensuring strong retention and engagement as the economy turns around.

•Leadership Is Remaining Honest About Economic Climate: 75% of employees trust their manager to be honest about their job security, and 77% agree that their supervisor should be candid about the company direction.

Regardless of how the economy is fairing, it's mission critical that organisations look inward and consistently review how their employees perceive the actions being made by supervisors and management. Employees that feel underappreciated and unmotivated are less productive and will be the first to leave once the job market shows signs of improvement. Developing strong leadership – at all levels of an organisation - is essential to solve this problem effectively and improve employee morale and retention.

Here are some thoughts for organisations looking to improve leadership development:

•Focus on identifying and developing leaders in critical roles at all levels of the organisation. It is essential for organisations to develop their leadership talent beginning with emerging leaders who may be in their first managerial roles and continuing through more senior high potentials and succession candidates. This comprehensive focus on development drives a culture of leadership excellence and improved performance throughout all levels of management.

•Ensure that leadership development efforts are aligned with specific business objectives and strategies. Leadership development activities should reinforce strengths and close skill gaps to enable leaders to bring their own performance and the performance of the teams they lead to the highest level of effectiveness in ways that are aligned with the evolving needs and goals of the business.

•Implement development approaches, such as executive coaching, that reinforce sustainable behaviour change. Development investments must drive a positive impact on the business in a method that can be sustained over time. Effective executive coaching is a strategic way to help management gain vision while continuing to expand skills.
For more, see - http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/lee-hecht-harrison-survey-finds-strong-leadership-still-lacking-in-the-workplace-82679982.html

Business Leader becomes Sports Leader

To David Brandon, leadership is about fostering integrity and character, eliminating divisiveness and encouraging hard work.

That leadership style - including a strong grasp of branding principles - provides a framework for how the outgoing Domino’s Pizza CEO is likely to run the University of Michigan’s athletic department. Brandon, speaking to reporters recently, said he would emphasise an intense work ethic and values as fundamental qualities necessary to improve the athletic department. And Brandon's business colleagues said in interviews that his comments fit with his general leadership philosophy.

Brandon formed his leadership philosophy from his days as a Wolverine football player for Bo Schembechler to his 11 years as CEO of Ann Arbor-based Domino’s. Brandon understands that U-M’s athletic success - or lack thereof - bears significant implications for the university’s educational reputation. After U-M won the national championship in 1997, for example, applications to the university rose by 22 percent.

“It provides an enormous benefit and has a huge impact on the Michigan brand,” Brandon told reporters. “I really view it as somewhat of a selling point for the University of Michigan.”

Brandon’s leadership qualities were born when he won three Big 10 championships as a backup quarterback for Schembechler in the 1970s. “He surrounded himself with terrific people," Brandon said of Schembechler. "I learned that from him. He recruited character and integrity. I learned that from him, and I translated that to the way I conduct my business career."

Improving Workplace Communications for Improved Results

Take a read at these communication tactics for a hospital  Emergency Room and think about how they might translate into your leadership style in business for improved staff performance and results:

Tactic #1: Rounding for Outcomes – Rounding for outcomes is the consistent practice of asking specific questions one-on-one of staff and patients to obtain actionable information. It enables a leader to play offense, not defense.

Rounding on staff is the single best way to raise employee satisfaction and loyalty and ultimately attract and retain high performing employees. Rounding on patients improves clinical outcomes, promotes patient safety, and increases efficiency in the ER.

Tactic #2: Key Words at Key Times – Use Key Words at Key Times in the ER so patients know why you are doing what you are doing, to be compliant with regulations, and to ensure consistency in communications to reduce patient anxiety and increase safety.

Use key words for pain, plan of care, and keeping patients informed (duration) since these match patient priorities in the ER. Choose a few key words and key times and then use them with every patient every time. Be relentless!

Tactic #3: Patient Post-Visit Phone Calls – Post-visit (discharge) phone calls improve clinical outcomes, increase patient satisfaction and market share, reduce complaints, and decrease costly and unnecessary re-admissions. They save lives.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Leadership - Building a Strong Corporate Culture

Positive Leadership™ is a proprietary leadership strategy which helps organisations and leaders (at all levels within the organisation) excel under pressure. Positive Leadership™ aligns closely with business strategy to drive higher levels of performance across an organisation.

Positive Leadership™ brings people together around a shared purpose and empowers them to step up and lead in such a way as to create value for all stakeholders. Those who embrace Positive Leadership™ are authentic and passionate individuals whose work is shaped by a strong, ‘values-based’ foundation.

Research has shown that organisations which are ‘value-driven’ fundamentally increase their prospects of high performance. Organisations that take the trouble to ensure that their values are shared widely are those most likely to achieve long term commercial and social sustainability.

Leaders today should be spending a lot of time trying to build the organisation's culture. One of the essential tasks of leaders is to inspire people—but it isn't just to inspire people individually, it's also to create a framework in which people can communicate and collaborate. Having a strong corporate culture is one of the best ways to do that.

For more on how businesses can benefit from thinking broadly about society, see - http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703414504575001442544795652.html

Arrogance is the Mother of all Derailers

Derailed, Five Lessons Learned from Catastrophic Failures of Leadership, studies a number of CEOs who had been fired by their boards in recent years. While these individuals often had performed brilliantly in the past, they failed catastrophically in the jobs from which they were fired. They were like the engineers of huge freight trains who ignored critical warnings and went off the rails. Most of these individuals were ultimately fired, not because of a lack of competence, but rather a lack of character. A big lesson learned …“Arrogance is the mother of all derailers.”

One of the most revealing tests of a person’s character is power. We see in the six failed leader profiles in Derailed that power, in many cases, became self-serving. The “trappings” of power often tell a lot about character. Bob Nardelli created a nine car personal parking area for his cars underneath Home Depot’s corporate office. His private elevator went from his personal parking area straight to his private office on the top floor of the building without stopping on other floors.

While a failure of character can manifest itself in many ways, the most foundational and most self-destructive is arrogance. Just as humility seems to be at the epicenter of leadership effectiveness, arrogance is commonly at the root of a leader’s undoing…and ours. The specific derailers that rendered the profiled leaders incapable of continuing in their positions varied, but there is an underlayment of arrogance in every one of their derailments.

Arrogance takes many forms. The most rudimentary is the self-centered focus that fosters a belief that 'I am central to the viability of the organisation, the department or the team'. The resulting dismissiveness of others’ contributions is inevitable. When arrogance blossoms into hubris, a sense of entitlement results. “This place can’t function without me, and I deserve special perks.” Arrogant leaders also seem to eschew feedback so beneficial to any leader. They become “truth-starved.”

Nardelli became known for arrogance and an alienation of the people he needed most. Regardless of Nardelli’s vision for the company, how could he ever achieve his objectives without the alignment, commitment, and loyalty of the Home Depot employees? The big lesson is that no matter how brilliant, charming, strategic, or commanding in presence a leader is, the consequences of a failed character are extraordinarily disabling and will bring down even the strongest among us.

Effective leaders must set direction, gain alignment among diverse constituencies, risk change, build high-performing teams, achieve results, go the extra mile and endure ungodly stress. To be enthusiastically followed, leaders must also be guided by an inner compass that fosters trust on the part of their followers. That compass is character.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Why is Leadership so Important?

Understanding the importance of leadership is the key to your business success.

Leadership has so much influence in our lives because so often it determines whether we enjoy a particular experience. The US Army Leadership manual, FM 6-22, expresses the importance of leadership well:

'A leader is anyone who inspires and influences people to accomplish organisational goals; they motivate others to pursue actions, focus thinking, and shape decisions for the greater good of the organisation.'

Since we spend the majority of our day participating in some event influenced by a coach, teacher, or other leader, the person in charge has a significant impact on the experience. Consider any new activity or recall youth sports. The ability of the coach (leader) to inspire and motivate influences our interest and desire to stay involved.

When leaders are passionate and influence us in a positive way, we get excited and want to continue our involvement.

How important is leadership to you? Life is short -- why participate in an activity if we don't enjoy it, and if we participate, why not do so with all of our energy?

Leadership is about communicating and building teams so that everyone works together. The importance of leadership is a key ingredient to successful businesses and championship teams. Teams that have this synergy tend to be the ones on top.

Can you learn to lead?

The short answer is yes. It is hard work, but much easier if you are willing to set aside your ego, serve others, and strive to make your organisation a better place than when you arrived.

Find a good example; a coach, a teacher, or someone who made an impression on you as an effective great leader. Read everything you can about successful leaders with these key areas in mind and consider the following questions:


A leader is someone you trust and is knowledgeable, but not all knowing; speaks with purpose, but listens well; sets the example and lives the corporate values everyone is expected to follow.

Why do some people attract followers and others do not?

Can you learn to attract followers?


Teamwork establishes an environment that allows everyone to feel that they can be a part of something greater.

What is the importance of teamwork in your business?

Do you feel you are in an environment where you will be able to learn and grow?


Communication is about creating new or better awareness; achieving a common understanding.

What is the importance of communication in your business?

Does your team share the same values and support a common vision?

Leadership is a continual journey. When you understand the importance of leadership, you seek ways to improve and build teams who communicate well.

What is your definition of leadership?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Debriefing as a Key Element in High Performance Leadership

The importance of debriefing in the high performance environment is an important element of the Positive Leadership model. The leader's role at the centre of the performance cycle, is key to delivering desired results.

‘Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organisational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.’ ~ Andrew Carnegie

Debriefing in an organisation is an important way for the organisation's employees to learn new skills as individuals, as a team and as managers. This article discusses some of the ways in which your organisation might benefit from different methods of debriefing to enhance the lessons that apply to your organisation.

Consider the fact that there are at least four possible means by which one can debrief. Alone, each of these methods has singular utility but they are most successful when combined as an overall strategy for turning an employee's learning experience into an organisational lesson.

These methods are:

• Debriefing with oneself
• Debriefing with a team
• Debriefing with a client
• Debriefing with peers

Debrief with oneself

Before taking your learning experience to a wider audience, it is important to go through your experience with yourself. This type of debriefing consists of asking yourself questions about the learning experience and keeping notes. In this way, you not only prepare yourself for sharing the experience more widely, but you also learn about the experience at a deeper level for yourself and hopefully also take this chance to reflect on how you might approach things differently next time if the learning experience was more of a negative one.

Questions that you might ask yourself include:

• What did I learn?
• What lessons can I extrapolate from this experience to bring to the organisation?
• What was good about this learning experience?
• What was bad about this learning experience?
• How can I build on both the negative and positive aspects of this experience?

Debrief with a team

Select the appropriate organisational team people who will benefit from your learning experience and who can expand upon its import for the rest of the organisation. Initially, tell the team about the experience and about what you learned. However, this time you should also aim to elicit team responses to how they perceive the learning event and how they see its applicability to the organisation. The team should be made up of individuals who are able to address issues that have been raised and come up with solutions, actions and outcomes.

Debrief with the client

In a situation involving a client, the ability to ask the client about the experience is invaluable. This time, frame the questions using "we" and genuinely seek answers from the client that can help to improve both the client's experience and the working patterns and deliverables of your organisation. This is not meant to be a confrontational exercise but is a genuine attempt to come to grips with areas of weakness in your organisation and they may well be areas that nobody has considered before or has only danced around. Finally, clients appreciate being asked, so this does a great deal for building a strong relationship.

Questions that you might consider asking the client include:

• Did we do a good job for you this time?
• If not, why not and how do you feel we could have made this a better experience for you?
• Are there particular areas that you feel need greater attention?
• What did you like about your experience with us?
• Is there any particular activity or event that you believe is superfluous to the achievement of a good outcome?

Debrief with peers

Peers in your profession are also bench markers and innovators. They are watching you and you are watching them. Touch base through networks and exchange ideas and thoughts over recent learning experiences in a broad manner that does not breach client or organisational confidentiality. You can, and should, share experiences with peers. Some may have answers to problems that you are facing; some may appreciate your answers to problems that they are facing. Developing strong relationships even within a competitive context is vital to ensuring that all clients are receiving the best advice, skills and up-to-date information, so it pays back for all of you.

Questions that you might consider asking include:
• Why did you resolve X problem in that way?
• Did you see any additional benefits doing it like that as opposed to the traditional way?
• Would you recommend doing X again?
• Do you think it would have had to same outcome if you had done Y?
• Have you had any thoughts about developing Z instead?

Keep a record of debriefing

Unless you debrief for personal reasons, it is always a good reason to keep file or notebook records of debriefing sessions. That way you, your team and your organisation can continue to learn from past lessons and the discussions surrounding these experiences. It will also help you to better recall what each of your clients expects of you in the future and gives you a good indication of how your client's organisation operates and the types of expectations under which that organisation may be working.

Learn from the debriefing

Don't just stick the notes in the bottom drawer. Pursue the lesson actively and put into practice what you have learned. If you, your team or your organisation generally needs extra skills or a change in direction, start implementing the things that need to be done to achieve this. Book yourself into a conflict management course, book team members into an updating seminar on the industry in which you work or make proposals for changes in direction about the ways that things are done, produced, manufactured and delivered within your organisation. Use every debriefing session to build upon the last, to continuously strive for improvement from the individual level to the wider organisational community.

Don't forget that a "client" should be a very broad concept. Even organisations that do not traditionally consider client relations to be a top priority are dealing with clients; for example, a government department has members of the public and members of the department and other departments who can be viewed as clients. A writer at home has readers as clients. There is a client somewhere in all lines of work.

Things You'll Need

• A team
• Time set aside specifically for debriefing
• Record-keeping to ensure maintenance of corporate knowledge.

Remember the four key questions in any debriefing:
  1. What was I trying to achieve?
  2. What did I achieve?
  3. If there is a gap between 1 and 2, what caused the gap?
  4. What am I going to do to close the gap? 


Friday, January 22, 2010

What Motivates Staff?

According to a recent McKinsey survey, three non-financial incentives (led by 'praise and commendation from immediate manager') are more effective motivators than the three highest ranked financial incentives. For more, see - https://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Motivating_people_Getting_beyond_money_2460

What Does a Positive Leader Look Like?

The Positive Leadership model of leadership integrates things that people acquire - skills and competencies - and things people develop: values and attributes, with desired results, all of which are capable of being evidenced in situations of pressure.

Positive Leaders:

• aspire to leadership yet maintain humility;

• find mastery in a few areas but value many;

• have a core set of beliefs but embrace the many beliefs of others;

• have clear views and yet are open to the views of others;

• can set a specific direction but have the ability to adapt and adopt;

• have a deep moral structure but hesitate to judge others (as bad or good) too quickly;

• have a wide repertoire of behaviours all of which are authentic;

• speak with their own voice even if representing the position of others;

• embrace paradox with certainty of purpose.

By contrast, failing leaders assume they are the means of success rather than being part of it. The failure results from:

• not using talent and abilities around them;

• directly or indirectly discouraging bad news;

• behaving inconsistently with what they say and with espoused values.

Natural leadership shows up throughout life. People can and do develop into leaders that others will choose to follow. Leadership “competencies” - things that effective leaders do - can be learned. So, true development work must parallel skill or competence acquisition. The result of addressing both is integrity and authenticity.

How do you identify people who are going to make a success of the job?

Looking for the best and the brightest is a good predictor of management, not of leadership success. We should be identifying people who seek development opportunities and grow from them: people who have the ability and desire to learn about self, values and our mental models of the world. Coaching and mentoring have an important role in helping leaders find authenticity.

Never Waste a Good Crisis

Given the natural cynicism of the British, it was easy to get out the sandbags and put up defences as the UK went into recession. No doubt it will prove more difficult to come out of it. But make no mistake, we are on the road to recovery. The question is how businesses will behave at this critical time.

In the good times, organisations grow flabby, comfortable and perhaps a little complacent. But recessions provide an opportunity to get back into shape. No matter how big or small your business, it is a time to put right all the profligacy and excess from the boom.

By excess, we mean the likes of exorbitant hires that go wrong; the launching of products that wouldn’t be touched in the lean times; fuelling advertising and marketing campaigns with little regard for return on investment; expanding into territories that haven’t been researched or experienced; or moving into unnecessary and expensive new buildings.

With a recovery ahead, we stand in a transition phase in which few people will resist changes, be they regulators, consumers or your staff. After all, in the teeth of a recession, tough decisions must be made and everyone knows that. With this in mind, never waste a good crisis. Don’t let the opportunity slip to make all the positive changes you have been thinking about but have not been brave enough to implement.

Far too many businesses have become obsessed with tactical cost-cutting, which is often unsustainable and has the corrosive effect of breathing low morale into the workforce. Whether savings are made by doing away with training and development or slashing marketing budgets, it is clear that these measures can only work in the short term.

The answer is to reinvent your business. Start listening to your customers and frontline operators and you will immediately know what the real problems are and how they should be fixed. And if listening to customers is step one on the road to recovery, step two is acting on that information. Businesses can do so much more for their customers and people in a recession than they can in the good times, yet few do.
One of the oldest of adages about corporate culture – that the way staff are treated is the way they will treat customers – has not been lost on the smartest organisations.

Asda has two principles. The first is to offer everyday low prices to everyone. The second is to ask everybody that applies to join the Asda team, “do you love people?” If the answer is no, applicants progress no further.

To sum it up, companies that create positive experiences will reap rewards in the upturn. On the road to recovery, optimism must be a force multiplier. The most lethal combination is a pessimist and a recession. Those that will come out of recession first will be those who act like they can. They will gravitate towards an opportunity, praise their people and continue marketing aggressively. After all, businesses get the recovery that they deserve.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Determination is one of the values of Positive Leadership.

Here is the story of Jim Abbott, a man who has battled the odds his entire life. Despite being born with only one hand he was the 15th baseball player to ever make a professional debut in the Major Leagues. His baseball achievements include the Sullivan Award (best amateur athlete in the United States), male athlete of the year for the 1988 Olympic Games and many awards at the University of Michigan, including the Jesse Owens Athlete of the year.

He is an inspiration to all that meet him or have followed his career. More than his no-hitter, his 13 strike out game, a seven game winning streak, overcoming an eleven game losing streak, Jim Abbott became a great baseball player and a great person. He learned to overcome adversity and be an inspiration to those around him.


Helping Leaders Excel Under Pressure

Central to the Positive Leadership philosophy of enhancing the performance of leaders under pressure is the belief that learning is the skill that underpins all others.

We work with high perfomers to help them understand their character, their thinking preferences, and their learning styles - we do this in order to help them Learn to Practice and identify when their Learning Cycle might "stall". Once high performers are aware of how their preferences and natural strengths can serve and inhibit them, we then work on Practicing to Compete - at this stage we might explore "Building Pressure in Practice", "Building Resilient Self Confidence" or "Decision Making Under Stress". Once we've improved the quality and effectiveness of practice and the tranference of skills into the decision making environment, we work on Competing to Win - here, we "Find Your Performance Edges" and "Establish Your Performance Routine".

For more information on how we help leaders excel under pressure please contact: gavin.hastings@positiveleadership.co.uk

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Influence is one of the values of Positive Leadership. All Black captains have influence and inspire followers:


Team Spirit

Team Spirit is one of the values of Positive Leadership. The New Zealand All Blacks are the epitome of this value:


You've Got to Work Hard to Win

Hard Work is one of the values of Positive Leadership:



One of the values of Positive Leadership is Determination. These athletes embody the spirit that 'impossible is nothing':


Mental Toughness

'The most important attribute a player must have is mental toughness.' - Mia Hamm

One of the values of Positive Leadership is Mental Toughness.

There are seven characteristics of mental toughness in the Positive Leadership model. They are a set of behaviours and beliefs about yourself, your work, how you interact. A person who is mentally tough looks at competition as a challenge to rise up to rather than a threat to back down from. Like physical skills, mental toughness can be learned through quality instruction and practice.

The seven characteristics are:
  1. Competitive
  2. Confident
  3. Control
  4. Committed
  5. Composure
  6. Courage
  7. Consistency


Seize Your Leadership Day: Ann Mulcahy, John Chambers And Jacqueline Novogratz

Here are three great interviews with much to learn.

First up is Anne Mulcahy (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/22/business/22corner.html?_r=2&th=&emc=th&pagewanted=all), chairwoman and chief executive of Xerox Corporation, a company that she took over on the brink of extinction and turned around. “In 2002 this company lost almost $300 million, and by 2006 we were making over $1 billion.” Now that’s a turn around!

When asked what the secret was, Mulcahy said, “It isn’t a secret sauce. It’s actually fundamental communications, in terms of your ability to really get out there and be with your people, tell a story. People really have to begin to believe in a story to get passionate about the direction the company is going in, which hopefully you’ve been able to do through the way you articulate it, simplifying the complex so that people can get their arms around it and see how they can make a difference. There’s nothing quite as powerful as people feeling they can have impact and make a difference. When you’ve got that going for you, I think it’s a very powerful way to implement change.”

Next is a video interview with John Chambers of Cisco Systems (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/video/2009/03/25/VI2009032500990.html?hpid=topnews). The dot com bomb blasted Cisco and Chambers brought it back. In the interview Chambers talks about managing in this downturn, how collaboration is the next phase of management style, change, and identifying market transitions. He also discusses how business leaders need to “earn back” public trust, how he is adapting the company and why he’s “far from a perfect leader.”

Finally is a great McKinsey print and video interview with venture philanthropist Jacqueline Novogratz (http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Women_and_leadership_Learning_from_the_social_sector_2336)

“As a venture philanthropist, Acumen Fund’s Jacqueline Novogratz leads entrepreneurial projects across the globe—many of which put women at the helm of emerging local businesses. In this video interview, she discusses her experience developing other women leaders, the way they have shaped her own approach to leadership, and the different leadership cultures she sees at play in the public and private sectors.”

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Resilience is one of the values of Positive Leadership. Here is what Michael Jordan has to say about 'failure':



In these videos, Roger Federer and Thierry Henry talk about the importance of Confidence, one of the primary Positive Leadership values:


Mental Toughness

Mental Toughness is an important Positive Leadership value. Here is what Roger Federer has to say about the role of mental strength in winning:


Hard Work

Hard Work is one of the key values of Positive Leadership. Here is what Roger Federer has to say about being at your best every day.


The Best of Us

The objective of the IOCs 2007/8 promotional campaign was to communicate the key Olympic values of Excellence, Friendship and Respect to a global youth audience. These are also Positive Leadership values.



Passion is another of the values which underpins the Positive Leadership model. Listen to what basketball superstar, LeBron James has to say about Passion:



Positive Leadership is a strategy which helps organisations and leaders (at all levels within the organisation) excel under pressure. One of the values which underpins the Positive Leadership model is Resilience. Here is what basketball superstar LeBron James has to say about resilience:


Aligning Tasks and Talents

Many organisations at this time of year complete their project planning for the coming 12 months. Priorities are set, goals are formed, and teams are tasked with their objectives for the year. Leaders and managers begin anew with the job of recreating, motivating and supporting team members in their efforts to reach the organisation’s objectives.

Top-tier leaders take this opportunity to realign talents and tasks in their workgroup. Your team members have specific skills, talents and preferences that you will use to reach your team’s goals. The key to success as a leader of such a workgroup is to help your team members understand these talents and preferences, align their work roles with them, and be sure that the team’s overall skills and talents complement each other.

That sounds like a lot of work. It is a lot of work. Yet one of the best indicators for motivated and engaged employees and high-performance teams is the degree to which team members are able to use their best capabilities on a regular basis.

Fortunately, there are some simple ways to think about talents and preferences that will help you get this initial teamwork set-up done well. William Daniels, a noted author on organisational performance provides a schema you can use to align tasks and talents.

Daniels tells us there are four types of tasks that team members may perform: routine tasks, troubleshooting tasks, project tasks and negotiable tasks. Each type of task is rated as to whether it is of high or low predictability, and of high or low timeliness.

Routine tasks are high in predictability and high in timeliness. Project tasks are high in predictability and low in timeliness - they can be completed in delayed intervals.

Troubleshooting tasks are low in predictability but high in timeliness, and negotiable tasks are low in predictability and low in timeliness.

Let’s take an example. An organisational leader, Susan, recently took an assessment designed to determine these preferences and skills. She found that her ideal work distribution would involve 10 percent routine tasks, 30 percent troubleshooting tasks and 60 percent project tasks.

These results turned out to confirm Susan's own thinking. She is the CEO of an independent organisation, who is exceptionally good at planning and executing project-based work - and she was brought in specifically to help develop and deliver a new strategic plan for her company.

Her role in this mid-sized organisation requires her to periodically "put out a fire" where she can use her troubleshooting skills. She does have responsibility for crafting budgets, financial reports and the like, but has staff to help with other routine task.

If Susan was the type of leader with a high troubleshooting preference, who liked to work in a fast-paced and at times chaotic environment where her ability to respond quickly to urgent needs was necessary, the position as a project planning and execution leader would not fit well with her. Worse, her motivation would quickly tire.

As a leader, you enhance your team’s effectiveness if you are able to match individual work preferences and skills with tasks and workflow. It doesn’t always have to be as good a match as Susan’s, but avoiding critical mismatches is important.

As you set up your year and review the plans with your team, help them express where they feel most energised by their work. An important question to ask is when or where they feel drained or de-energised by a work task. This could be an indication of a talent and task mismatch.

As the new year begins, take the opportunity to increase the performance capability of your team or organisation. Align talents and tasks for success in 2010.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Leadership

As a tribute to the great leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., here are some of his words to reflect on regarding leadership.


"People are often led to causes and often become committed to great ideas through persons who personify those ideas. They have to find the embodiment of the idea in flesh and blood in order to commit themselves to it."

"The people are looking to me for leadership - and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they too will falter."


"If a man hasn't discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live."


"I have a dream my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!"


"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."


"The time is always right to do what is right."

"There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe nor political nor popular, but he must do it because his conscience tells him it is right."


"I will not be intimidated, I will not be harassed. I will not be silent, and I will be heard."


"A man all wrapped up in himself is a mighty small package."


"We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop... I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land."


"The first thing we must do here tonight is to decide we are not going to become panicky. That we are going to be calm, and we are going to continue to stand up for what is right. Fear not, we've come too far to turn back... we are not afraid and we shall overcome."


"A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus."


"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

"We are not asking, we are demanding the ballot... "

"When evil men plot, good men must plan. When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind."


For more information on Dr. King and his powerful leadership, read the following:

Martin Luther King, Jr., on Leadership: Inspiration and Wisdom for Challenging Times