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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Values Based Leadership

"Humility is the one indispensable trait of truly values-based leaders,” explains leadership expert George Greenfield in Davis H. Taylor’s book, THE IMPERFECT LEADER: A Story About Discovering the Not-So-Secret Secrets of Transformational Leadership. Values-based leadership has, at its core, basic human traits such as integrity, humility, compassion and gratitude. These values are not so secret, but codifying them into a leadership philosophy is.

“I wrote ‘The Imperfect Leader’ to explore the ‘not-so-secret’ secrets of transformational leadership,” Taylor writes in his introduction. “It takes a leader who embraces a worthy mission, envisions a compelling, preferred future, and then leads from personally-held core values to engage and motivate employees to exceptional performance through values-based leadership.”

The book is appropriate for anyone who finds themselves in a leadership position, be it the upper echelons of corporate management or a small subcommittee, school, church or even at home.

The elegantly-written narrative acquaints the reader with Josh McCall’s plight: he is drawn to leadership positions and does reasonably well in them. Unexpectedly, he finds himself unemployed, humiliated and unable to provide for his family. At first he is insulted by leadership-expert George’s questions: “What are you trying to do, and what about you is standing in the way?” It does not take long before the two men are meeting weekly in a coffee shop to discuss values-based leadership. Through their discussions, George’s presentation and a meeting with a local business owner who successfully puts the values into practice, the reader gains an understanding of this common-sense leadership philosophy.

Interspersed throughout the book are the main tenets of values-based leadership to aid the reader in examining the framework of the philosophy. “Humility is the one indispensable trait of truly values-based leaders.” Humility is also almost impossible for the characters to define.

Nonetheless, the message here is that a good leader is not after personal gain and status but a positive, satisfying, encouraging environment for those they lead and clients they serve. Everyone must share the organisation’s values to achieve superior and transformational results.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Spectacular Failure of Political Leadership

'The events of the past week have raised urgent questions about the quality of political leadership in Britain, on the verge of a historic general election. The controversy about Gordon Brown’s alleged bullying is undignified: it has not only further lowered his reputation among the electorate, but it has also damaged Britain’s standing internationally. Yet there has been no sudden transformation of the Conservatives’ position in the polls; on the contrary, their lead is still showing up as a single digit. This apparent failure of leadership is perhaps the hottest single topic of discussion in Westminster, thanks in large part to malcontent Tory MPs who, as one commentator put it this week, are “torn between Schadenfreude and panic” and increasingly wringing their hands in public.'


Corporate Role Models Re-Emphasise Values and Ethics

It's hard to find many bright spots in the increasingly gloomy economy, but they're out there.

Among big companies, IBM and Procter & Gamble are bright spots. IBM's earnings have beaten forecasts; P&G has a robust business and has already integrated its huge Gillette acquisition relatively seamlessly. Why are these and select other companies faring well today? Because they made important changes well before the recession hit full force. This includes, for these two companies, a re-emphasis on values and ethics. This downturn's survivors will be the role models for a new kind of business practice that is more socially responsible, not as an add-on or after-thought but as a first thought at the core of its business operations.

Seeking role models - not just benchmarks - is one way to find an upside in the downturn. It's counterintuitive, because downward spirals or losing streaks tend to push people and companies to withdraw and become insular - like individual depression that might cause people to stay in bed rather than face the world. With a little extra time, or as a pause between bouts of hard work, we can look at positive models, current or historical, to find inspiration.

A time of cynicism and mistrust can be made brighter by focusing on heroes. And because every story of success is also a story about persistence despite obstacles, the lessons can be applied to one's own situation, as a source of inspiration and practical tips. One of the things that most heroes, both top leaders and individuals, have in common is their feeling of obligation to leave a positive mark on the world. They do not stop feeling it just because the going suddenly got tough. This stimulates their creativity, produces innovations that turn out to be valuable in downturns, and motivates effort, no matter what. Their work matters. Think about how Nelson Mandela survived twenty seven years in prison before emerging to become South Africa's first democratically elected president. He never forgot that he was the leader of a movement, and that others depended on him.

The way companies like IBM and P&G emphasise their social mission and get real work done can help build the foundations for a stronger economy.


Friday, February 26, 2010

Ten Rules of Good Followership

How does one become a good follower? This is a responsibility no less important than that of leadership––in fact it enables good leadership––yet it is often ignored. 

The nature of leadership can perhaps be best understood by turning the coin over and studying followership. Why do people follow leaders? If we can understand this, then we will be a long way down the road to creating those followers and hence becoming an effective leader. People don't just follow anyone. You can't just say 'follow me' and expect people to follow out of the goodness of their hearts. You have to give them good reason for them to follow. Moreover, it is likely that all of us will be followers more often than we will be leaders!

Here then are our Ten Rules of Good Followership gleaned from experience:

  1. Don’t blame your boss for an unpopular decision or policy; your job is to support, not undermine.
  2. Argue with your boss if necessary; but do it in private, avoid embarrassing situations, and never reveal to others what was discussed.
  3. Make the decision, then run it past the boss; use your initiative.
  4. Accept responsibility whenever it is offered.
  5. Tell the truth and don’t quibble; your boss will be giving advice up the chain of command based on what you said.
  6. Do your homework; give your boss all the information needed to make a decision; anticipate possible questions.
  7. When making a recommendation, remember who will probably have to implement it. This means you must know your own limitations and weaknesses as well as your strengths.
  8.  Keep your boss informed of what’s going on in the team; people will be reluctant to tell him or her their problems and successes. You should do it for them, and assume someone else will tell the boss about yours.
  9.  If you see a problem, fix it. Don’t worry about who would have taken the blame or who now gets the praise.
  10. Put in more than an honest day’s work, but don’t ever forget the needs of your family. If they are unhappy, you will be too, and your job performance will suffer accordingly.
See also, The New Psychology of Leadership: Identity, Influence and Power. In this book, the authors write; 'The development of a shared identity is the basis of influential and creative leadership. If you control the definition of reality, you can change the world.'


The Winning Mentality

'While evaluating international teams for CONCACAF (FIFA's regional leadership arm) in the Gold Cup, a tournament of National Teams, I was interviewing the national coaches from Mexico, Canada and China. They told me that what distinguishes the Americans from other countries is their winning mentality. The USA players have an enormous will to succeed, and it is very respected.

This mentality is a description of the strength of your psychological dimension. It involves your capacity to reach down inside and find your inner hardness. It's what happens when you emerge triumphant from any physical duel or combative situation. The winning mentality is partly optimism, but mostly it's a combination of focus, pride, competitive anger, relentlessness, hardness, fitness and courage - all of the most descriptive words for competitive athletics. This type of mentality is not about your skills or tactics. What it comes down to is intense desire. To get this winning edge, you need to build an indomitable will. This means you must be relentless; you must never give up.

What I love about this mentality is that it's not a talent; it's not part of a genetic code you're either born with or not. It's a choice, a decision you make to develop it. It is not an easy choice, but it is what is going to elevate you from the ordinary player. The question is: can you make the choice to be indomitable? Of course, having this mentality doesn't guarantee winning, but it's a quality that gives you the incredible strength, power and hardness that is an element in every consistent winner. You are already aware of our emphasis on one v. one at UNC. We use one v. one as the best training ground for developing the winning mentality. That's because it embodies all of the qualities mentioned above.

The winning mentality is the defining aspect of the National Team and UNC players. But that doesn't mean they have this trait as soon as they get here. Our players are still a work in progress. Most young players are. I can see this in my evening talks on the winning mentality at summer camp. This mentality requires a domination in both practice and games. The girls nod their heads yes when I'm talking about this, but I know what most of them are thinking: That's not me.

We joke with our players all the time (remember the importance of a laugh?). We tell them that we know women have evolved to a higher level - they know their relationships are more important than soccer. That's absolutely true, we say, but forget that for the 90 minutes it takes you to win the game!'


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Winter Olympics 2010


Winter Olympics 2010 - Moments of Excellence

Canada appears to have fallen far short of its goal of "Owning the Podium" at the Vancouver Olympics. How can leaders know the difference between a "stretch" goal that inspires people to reach new heights and an unattainable goal that winds up demoralising people?

Canada is hardly flopping in the Olympics. While their goal to "Own the Podium" is ambitious, there is nothing wrong with having high expectations. "Stretch goals" are obtainable if all the ingredients of success are present: careful planning, motivation, and a little luck. Even then, the individual or team still needs to make that giant leap to glory.

Demoralisation comes from feeling fear and doubt. It does not come from having high goals. Limitations only have power when one believes in the fears that give them life. Because of the Canadian team's high goals and their desire to not just win, but win big, many amazing things have happened that demonstrate the team's resolve.

Just a couple of days into these Olympics, Alexandre Bilodeau won Canada's first gold medal in freestyle skiing. The Canadian men's hockey team made it to the semi-final round after an overwhelming victory against the Russians. Joanie Rochette, just days after her mother's death, gave a courageous figure skating performance in which every second was just as powerful, emotional, and inspirational as the last.

These moments are what the games will be remembered for. Canada might not have achieved their desired medal count, but they have sought excellence, and are now in a different realm because of it. The Canadians are close to achieving the highest amount of gold medals they have ever achieved in a single Winter Olympic Games. If this is the result of having goals that are out of reach, then that giant leap is always worth it.


The Power of Charisma in a Leader

Some people can to draw followers the way a lamp attracts moths. Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy had that magnetism. Barack Obama has shown it. It is far easier to identify than to explain. What is it?

The word comes from Greek, meaning divine favour, as true charisma can seem to be a gift of the gods. In the 1920s the German sociologist Max Weber defined it as "a certain quality of an individual personality, by virtue of which one is 'set apart' from ordinary people and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities" that are "regarded as divine in origin or as exemplary." In our time, with brands and personalities exerting huge cultural influence, charisma is bigger than ever.

Corporations large and small recognise that success begins at a personal level, and they realise that charismatic leaders are valuable because they are the ones who can connect with others in a visceral, direct way, creating memorable, treasurable experiences. They also know that charisma plus operational ability can make for a very strong leader.

What does it take to be a charismatic leader?

According to Richard Wiseman, professor of the public understanding of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire you don't need divine powers to be charismatic. He estimates that charisma is half inborn and half acquired, which means you have to be blessed with certain qualities at birth but you also need to nurture and develop them. He says every charismatic leader shares three qualities: He or she feels emotions very strongly, excites them in others and is impervious to the influence of other charismatic people.

Here are some quick keys to being charismatic, or at least to drawing on the virtues of charisma even if you haven't really got it yourself. These are things people with real charisma consistently do:

Stretch the world: Charismatic leaders live as if heeding the old saying sometimes attributed to Niccolo Machiavelli, "Make no small plans, for they have no power to stir the soul." They realise that only an audacious view of the future will excite people and bind them together. They also make it a point not to restrict their bold outlook to one primary aim; they extend it to almost everything they get involved in. In every undertaking they push the boundaries beyond what is ordinarily thought possible.

Don't hide. Be seen: Charismatic leaders keep themselves always visible. They stand up to be counted in every crisis. They make unwavering efforts to motivate their people, whether by listening and responding to them or by working alongside them. Their constancy emboldens their people to go on, even in the darkest times.

Talk the talk: Charismatic leaders embrace every opportunity to convince others to adopt their vision. They make it a point always to speak in ways that convey personal integrity and engender trust.

Speak even when you are silent: Charismatic leaders send out the right signals through all their actions. They always appear enthusiastic and passionate and make others feel good and strong in their presence. They let people know that they matter, even if just by simple and subtle gestures such as upright posture, direct eye contact, genuine smiles and firm handshakes.

Charisma effectively deployed can have electrifying results.

For more, see - http://www.forbes.com/2010/01/25/charisma-speaking-communication-leadership-managing-inspiration.html

Ten Powerful Phrases for Positive People

Ten Powerful Phrases for Positive People

“I’m wrong!”
“I’m sorry!”
“You can do it!”
“I believe in you!”
“I’m proud of you.”
“Thank you!” 
“I need you!”
“I trust you!” 
“I respect you.” 
“I love you!”


How Leaders Can Reap Big Results From Collaborating

Here is some interesting perspective from Morten T. Hansen, the author of Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big Results. He is a management professor at University of California, Berkeley, School of Information.

'Recently, President Obama strode into the White House Briefing Room, surprising the reporters there. He had just held the first of a new string of meetings — a bipartisan gathering involving congressional leaders from both parties...This is a good effort, but it comes a year late. Obama came into office promising to end the politics of division. A year later, it seems we have more division and less collaboration.

It's a lesson in how not to collaborate, and it applies equally to business leaders. All leaders and managers can learn from five key mistakes made by the White House:

1. Wrong language by the rank-and-file. 
President Obama says many of the right things about the need for bipartisanship and collaboration. But his team does not follow suit. Rahm Emanuel, most notably, is often making news with heated rhetoric, most recently when he called people with whom he disagreed "F—ing retarded" (and they were Democrats!). As I argue in my book Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big Results, how leaders talk matters a great deal. In a fascinating experiment at Stanford University, students played a game where they chose to cooperate or compete. When it was called "the community game," given the impression that it was about cooperation, 70 percent chose to cooperate. When it was called "the Wall Street game," suggesting market competition, 70 percent chose to compete — the exact opposite! Rhetoric shapes behaviours.

To get people motivated to collaborate, you need to talk the language of collaboration, all the time. And you can't extol it one day and then say something differently another day. The White House can learn from the example of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California who came into office callinghis opponents "girlie men." That rhetoric led to even more division, but once he cooled the rhetoric, he was able to get a lot done by collaborating.

2. Confusing delegation with collaboration. 
President Obama pledged to work with Congress; but he has been criticized for delegating major legislative initiatives like health care reform to the Democratic leaders in Congress. What's the difference? Delegation means letting other people do the work, with little oversight. Collaboration, in contrast, means that leaders are actively involved — they sit around the table, sweat through difficult discussions, given and take, and forge solutions. President Obama's relatively recent hands-on involvement with health care legislation is a good sign that he is rectifying this particular mistake.

3. No meaningful outreach to opponents. 
The Republicans have complained that they haven't really been listened to during last year's legislative meetings on health care. It's of course hard for outsiders to judge what really went on, but this brings up a vital point: real collaboration means bringing in all parties — including those who disagree with you — to the debate early in the process, and not later when many decisions have already been made.

To collaborate well, you must involve all parties in a meaningful way: invite people to propose divergent views and promote vigorous debate (some call this constructive conflict). Let robust ideas and solutions get a fair chance, even if you may not like them much.

4. No hard compromises. In 2006, when Governor Schwarzenegger turned collaborative, he and the democratic leaders in California passed major legislation because they made some tough compromises. Consider the increase in minimum wage to $8 per hour. The Governor compromised by agreeing to an increase (which he had twice vetoed before), while the Democrats compromised by dropping their insistence on an automatic adjustment pegged to inflation. They both made painful choices.

Good collaborative leaders have learned the art of compromising. 

5. Lack of a compelling common goal. In 1961, President Kennedy pronounced his famous "man on the moon" goal. It was a great goal because it unified. People set aside their own agendas and ideologies. For example, Wernher von Braun, a towering figure in space exploration, set aside his agency's cherished method to get to the moon ("earth orbit") and embraced a rival's method ("lunar orbit"), precisely so that they could reach Kennedy's goal in time.

Has President Obama articulated a "moon goal" for healthcare that can unite all parties, even many Republicans? Great collaborative leaders craft such common goals, and they lead people like von Braun (or the Republican leader John A. Boehner....) to set aside own agendas in pursuit of a compelling unifying goal.

Had President Obama and his team avoided these five missteps and practiced the five corresponding good collaborative practices, things may have looked differently today. But there is still time to practice good collaboration, for all of us.

Examine your own organisation: do you have compelling unifying goals that unite people from different units? As a leader, do you set a tone that invites collaboration? Do you foster real debate early in the process, reach out to those who disagree, and stay hands-on in major initiatives? And — when the process stalls — have you been willing to make hard choices?'


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Leadership Lessons from the Winter Olympics 2010

The 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver have already provided many wonderful stories of athletes resiliently staring hardship in the face, picking themselves up and turning in the performances of their lives.

These are the kinds of stories that fill those end-of-broadcast montages that send shivers up your spine and make you reach for the Kleenex box. Of course, those montages always include the heartbreaking near-misses and lost opportunities as well. Isn’t that what draws us so irresistibly to sport? While we know that we’ll witness extraordinary athleticism and thrilling performances, the tension created by the knowledge that anything can happen keeps us engaged and on the edge of our seats.

There are a number of leadership lessons we can learn from these extraordinary athletes and their coaches. What stands out most is the role that a team’s or individual performer’s coach plays once the athlete(s) enter the field of play.

Coaches stand back and let the athletes perform. They are not out there moving the athletes’ feet, pushing them down the track or holding their hockey sticks. They allow the athletes to perform unhindered because they recognise who has the talent. Similarly, managers who build their teams by selecting people whose strengths eclipse their own, and then allowing them to express those talents freely, will reap the reward of outstanding performance.

One of the best cues we can take from these Olympic partnerships is that if an athlete fails to deliver an expected performance, the best coaches do not berate and hang on to the team or athlete’s shortcomings. They recognise that the athletes are fully aware of what went wrong.

The best coaches support and encourage, helping the performers to regain their confidence so that they are psychologically prepared to face their next battle. Managers who focus their feedback on detailing an employee’s deficiencies will simply demoralise individuals and seriously undermine future opportunities for exceptional performance. Great managers seek what’s working and no matter how small the feat, they fan that flame to give the employee the confidence to keep going. Of course, they don’t ignore easy fixes but they frame the feedback in a future-oriented way: "Next time try this…" They provide ideas about how to improve and always include the employee’s ideas in the plan.

Finally, anything great that has ever been accomplished has been accomplished through the conscious collaboration of extraordinary individuals. While the high-performing individual can certainly impact certain outcomes, the makings for great and sustainable performance on the field or in your organisation are found in those groups of people who have discovered how to bring out the best in themselves and each other by virtue of working together and supporting the best in one another.

Leadership Lessons from the Life of Gandhi

A Higher Standard of Leadership: Lessons from the Life of Gandhi tells us that we need to adhere to moral principles in all our activities, rather than using a position of leadership as a way to achieve power and privilege.

If we are to look for a model, an individual to benchmark for a higher standard of leadership, what better example could we follow than that of Mahatma Gandhi. While Gandhi was seen by most as an idealist, he demonstrated that he could also be a practical and effective leader. The author, Dr Keshavan Nair, a lifelong student of the teachings and life of Gandhi, provides the reader with a pragmatic guide based on three concepts Gandhi exemplified.

1. Service is the purpose of leadership.
2. Moral principles must be the basis of goals, decisions, and strategies.
3. A single standard of conduct needs to be employed in both public and private life.

Dr. Nair brings Gandhi's ideals to us in clear business terms without taking away from or diluting their moral or ethical value. As Nair says, "Everyone in the organisation, irrespective of position, can commit to one personal act of service every day."


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Leaders Need To Be Energisers

Harvard Professor, Rosabeth Moss Kanter tells us why 'energy' is such an important dimension of leadership:

'Some people become leaders no matter what their chosen path because their positive energy is so uplifting. Even in tough times, they always find a way. They seem to live life on their own terms even when having to comply with someone else's requirements. When they walk into a room, they make it come alive. When they send a message, it feels good to receive it. Their energy makes them magnets attracting other people.

Just plain energy is a neglected dimension of leadership. It is a form of power available to anyone in any circumstances. While inspiration is a long-term proposition, energy is necessary on a daily basis, just to keep going.

Three things characterise the people who are energisers.

1. A relentless focus on the bright side. Energisers find the positive and run with it. A state government official in a state that doesn't like government overcomes that handicap through her strong positive presence. She dispenses compliments along with support for the community served by her agency, making it seem that she works for them rather than for the government. She greets everyone with the joy generally reserved for a close relative returning from war. I can see sceptics’ eyebrows starting to rise, but judging from her success, people love meeting with her or getting her exclamation-filled emails. She is invited to everything.

The payoffs from stressing the bright side can be considerable. In my new book, SuperCorp: How Vanguard Companies Create Innovation, Profits, Growth, and Social Good, I tell the story about how Maurice Levy, CEO of the global marketing company Publicis Groupe, tilted the balance in his company's favour when his firm was one of several suitors for Internet pioneer Digitas. At one point in a long courtship, Digitas hit problems, and the stock collapsed. One of Publicis's major competitors sent Digitas's head an email saying, "Now you are at a price which is affordable, so we should start speaking." Levy sent an email the same day saying, "It's so unfair that you are hurt this way because the parameters remain very good." Levy's positive energy won the prized acquisition.

2. Redefining negatives as positives. Energisers are can-do people. They do not like to stay in negative territory, even when there are things that are genuinely depressing. For example, it might seem a stretch for anyone to call unemployment as "a good time for reflection and redirection while between jobs," but some energisers genuinely stress the minor positive notes in a gloomy symphony. A marketing manager laid off by a company hit hard by the recession saw potential in people he met at a career counselling centre and convinced them that they could start a service business together. He became the energising force for shifting their definition of the situation from negative to an opportunity.

"Positive thinking" and "counting blessings" can sound like naïve clichés. But energisers are not fools. They can be shrewd analysts who know their flaws and listen carefully to critics so that they can keep improving. Studies show that optimists are more likely to listen to negative information than pessimists, because they think they can do something about it. To keep moving through storms, energisers cultivate thick skins that shed negativity like a waterproof raincoat sheds drops of water. They are sometimes discouraged, but never victims.

An entrepreneur who has built numerous businesses and incubated others had a strong personal mission to raise national standards in his industry. He began that quest by meeting individually with the heads of major industry organisations, all of whom told him that he would fail. He nodded politely, asked for a small commitment to one action anyway, just as a test, he said, and went on to the next meeting. Eight or nine meetings later, he was well along on a path everyone had tried to discourage him from taking.

3. Fast response time. Energisers don't dawdle. Energisers don't tell you all the reasons something can't be done. They just get to it. They might take time to deliberate, but they keep the action moving. They are very responsive to emails or phone calls, even if the fast response is that they can't respond yet. This helps them get more done. Because they are so responsive, others go to them for information or connections. In the process, energisers get more information and a bigger personal network, which are the assets necessary for success.

The nice thing about this form of energy is that it is potentially abundant, renewable, and free. The only requirements for energisers are that they stay active, positive, responsive, and on mission. Are you an energiser? '


Leadership Trends for 2010 - If your business isn't looking ahead, you're already behind

Two results from this year's Best Companies for Leadership survey, conducted by Bloomberg BusinessWeek and Hay Group, stood out. First, the Top 20 companies this year are significantly more likely to be primarily focused on "positioning for the future" than other companies.

The behaviour of these companies indicates they believe the recession is over. Their focus is on seizing the initiative as the recovery begins to gather momentum. These companies are innovating new strategies, tactics, and execution and are already working to gain a competitive advantage.

Secondly, there is a revealing shift in what the top companies value in leaders. In last year's programme, the quality that the Top 20 companies valued most in their leaders was execution—the ability of leaders to achieve results through others. This year, the most valued quality is strategic thinking.

Last year's focus on execution was a clear reflection of the turmoil that virtually every business had to deal with. In the teeth of the recession, with workforce reductions and limitations in resources commonplace, forward-looking companies recognised the importance and value of simply maintaining focus and performance with some kind of consistency.

This year's emphasis on strategic thinking suggests that, like an individual recovering from a personal upheaval, businesses today are taking stock: reviewing their options, rethinking their strategies, considering new opportunities and innovations.

As the recession recedes—but with reduced credit resources and different consumer and business buying patterns—companies are shifting their vision from the short to the long term and choosing to move forward with new strategies and initiatives that offer the greatest potential to impact top-line growth.

At the same time that they are shifting focus from short to long term, this year's Best Companies for Leadership are taking a broader view of what's important. The data suggest that the Top 20 companies this year are more likely than other companies to find value in being inclusive, socially responsible, and globally aware in their outlook.

This result reflects recognition on the part of leading companies that they are operating in a complex and every more deeply interconnected global system and that their responsibilities extend beyond achieving short-term returns in shareholder value.


Athletes as Role Models

Why is it that more professional athletes seem to be struggling to maintain one key ingredient in their lives – integrity?

Days of Grace is the memoir of the late pro tennis great Arthur Ashe. The book outlines Ashe’s final years after it was learned he was infected with the AIDS virus through a blood transfusion during a heart bypass operation in 1983. Ashe was able to keep the illness private until 1992. He died in early 1993.

Ashe epitomised integrity, both personally and professionally. What would Arthur Ashe say if he were able to provide insight on some of the latest story lines in professional sports?

How would Ashe react to someone like Michael Vick being given a chance to resurrect his tarnished image in the NFL? It certainly helps that Vick has someone in his corner whose personal integrity parallels that of Ashe. When you listen to Tony Dungy, you see a man who gets it today like Ashe got it then. Dungy and Ashe are examples that integrity can co-exist in professional sports. Does Vick get it? Public opinion is still out.

What would Ashe say to gun-carrying Gilbert Arenas of the NBA's Washington Wizards? Several incidents involving guns and pro athletes in the USA over the past few years have fuelled public perception that some carry handguns around like women carry purses!

What would Ashe think of the soap opera that has become Tiger Woods’ world? It is anybody’s guess how the Woods saga will unfold over the next year. A billion-dollar image is now mired in alleged infidelity with multiple women.

Professional athletes who feel they are above the law or public scrutiny have been around for years in the UK and the USA. In baseball, home run records established by Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds are now tarnished milestones?

More professional athletes need to work on expressions of solid character and less on expressing themselves as a human canvas for tattoo artists. After the career is over nobody will remember their body art. Athletes are remembered for character. 


Monday, February 22, 2010

Preparing with a Purpose

The images are timeless:  the clock ticking down, the wild celebrations in the rink, the goalie wrapped in an American flag, and legendary sportscaster Al Michaels screaming the now-iconic line, "Do you believe in miracles?"  The 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team's defeat of the Soviets is one of the greatest upsets in sports history.  Disney even got in on the act with the release of its blockbuster movie Miracle in 2004, which won an ESPY as the best sports movie of the year. 

Thirty years ago today, on February 22, 1980, that famous game took place, which captured America's heart and made Olympic history.  It would come to be known as the "Miracle on Ice." But as Jim Craig, goalie for the team, will tell you, "What we did wasn't a miracle.  It was the result of hard work." 

This is Craig's insight  on that famous game, and on what US Olympic Coach Herb Brooks did to get his team ready:

"Brooks ran every practice preparing us to beat the Soviets, the best team in the world," Craig says.  But even before Brooks began preparing his team, he prepared himself.

For more than a year before the team roster was set -- even before he was named to the position of Head Coach -- Brooks analysed the Soviet team, studying their style and figuring out what had made them so dominant.  He watched game reels and even travelled to watch them play in Moscow and on the road.  As the gold medal winners in five of the last six Olympic Games, the team from the USSR was unquestionably the best team in the world.  

Before long, however, Brooks discovered that the Soviets' dominance wasn't due to a secret technique.  Instead, he realised that their success was owed to the fact that they could out-skate their competition at the end of the game, when the stakes were the highest.

From that moment on, his coaching philosophy shifted as he focused most intensely not on hockey skills, but on conditioning for his team.

"Coach pushed us harder than any of us had ever been pushed," Craig explains "But he did it because he knew that the great strength of that Russian team was that its players were in incredible shape at the end of the game.  They blew people away in the third period. We took that away from them by being in better shape.  We worked every day in practice to be ready for that third period of that one game."

Brooks' non-traditional approach to preparation was intense:  The US team worked out before games, when other coaches insisted their players should rest; they worked out after games, when other teams were celebrating a win or consoling each other over a loss.  When the moment finally arrived all that practice made sense.  As the Americans came out of the locker room, trailing just 2-1 to start the third period of that game 30 years ago today, the Soviets looked into their opponents' eyes and they saw no fear.

The rest is history.  

Even though Al Michael's line was a fantastic one that truly captured the emotion of the moment, as Jim Craig observed, the greatest moment in US Olympic history really wasn't a miracle.

Brooks did not push his team to simply practice the skills they already possessed.  Instead, he found where the competition was stronger, and focused his team's training on overcoming that strength.  They didn't just work to match the next team they would face, but they drove themselves to the point of exhaustion in order to beat their biggest competitor.  

Great teams understand that victory over their toughest competition is the result of careful and meaningful preparation.

The lesson is easily transferable to whatever your own goal may be.  Do you prepare with an eye towards the biggest opportunity you can imagine?   If you hone your thought-process and develop your practice habits around taking on your greatest opponent, imagine how easy it will be to win against lesser competition along the way.

How does your team prepare?  Do you do the homework to find out exactly what it is that makes your competition so tough, and do you follow that up with the necessary work to face it head-on? 

Greatness is not achieved simply by reviewing what you already know but by tailoring your work to fit the needs of each situation, and by understanding what is necessary to succeed in every competition.  Take the time to consider exactly what kind of preparation each scenario calls for, and then pursue that goal with dedication and focus.

There wasn't any other way of beating the Soviets.  Many other teams were just as good at puck-handling and skating as they were.  The only way to defeat them was to meet their level of endurance, and then to go past it.  Before Brooks prepared his team to do just that, no one else had been able to match the Soviets' conditioning.  Afterwards, every member of that American team knew that the late nights, aching muscles, and burning lungs had all been worth it. 

Remember, Greatness isn't something that happens by accident.  It comes about because of long hours and intense preparation.  The road to success is not always comfortable, but the result of that work is truly Great!


What it takes to Win an Olympic Gold Medal

Team GB gold medallist Amy Williams' coach, the former world champion Austrian Mickey Gruenberger, was emphatic that, above all, it was triumph for the rider's skill and nerve – but there was no doubt about the value of her design support.

Gruenberger said: "If you want to win a medal everything has to stick together. You have to have the right equipment – you have to have the right athlete. You see in Formula One, Michael Schumacher is not able to win with a Minardi. It's quick but it is limited when compared to a Ferrari."


Teaching Leaders How Not to Behave

Peter Drucker once said: ' We spend a lot of time teaching leaders what to do. We don't spend enough time teaching leaders what to stop. Half of the leaders I have met don't need to learn what to do. They need to learn what to stop.'

What are some of the behaviours which leaders need to be careful about? Typically, they are transactional flaws performed by one person against others. They include:
  • Winning too much.
  • Adding too much value.
  • Passing judgement.
  • Making destructive comments.
  • Starting with 'No', 'But' or 'However'.
  • Telling the world how smart we are.
  • Speaking when angry.
  • Negativity or 'Let me explain why that won't work'.
  • Withholding information.
  • Failing to give proper recognition.
  • Claiming credit that we don't deserve.
  • Making excuses.
  • Clinging to the past.
  • Playing favourites.
  • Refusing to express regret.
  • Not listening.
  • Failing to express gratitude.
  • Punishing the messenger.
  • Passing the buck.
  • An excessive need to be 'me'.
The solution to changing behaviours such as these is relatively simple - leaders need to use their positive skills rather than expose their negative flaws.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mental Toughness Matters in Elite Sport and in Business

Mental Toughness is a key attribute of Positive Leadership™. Elite athletes show it in abundance. Congratulations to Amy Williams, Team GB's first individual Winter Olympics gold medallist for 30 years. 

Read this article from the English Institute of Sport website, published just before competition started and then compare it with Williams' comments as described in The Times after she won gold. It is clear that she did learn the importance of mental toughness and used her preparation to excel under pressure. There are lessons in this for business leaders as they prepare for high performance in their world.

English Institute of Sport

'The Skeleton competition gets underway at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games later today (Thursday), with Team GB slider Amy Williams in particularly impressive form in yesterday’s final practice.

The 2009 World Championships silver medallist, who accessing a range of English Institute of Sport (EIS) support services as part of her British based training at Bath, finished second fastest on both the final two practice runs at the Whistler Sliding Centre, where she was runner up at a World Cup event last year.

Among the EIS support she has received, Williams has worked closely with EIS Sports Psychologist Deirdre Angella leading up the Vancouver Games.

“The preparation with Skeleton for Vancouver from an EIS psychology perspective started about two and a half years ago and we really planned backwards from the Winter Olympics to ensure the athletes were in the best possible  position to deliver for these Games” she says.

“The British Skeleton Coaching and support team is well established and everyone’s expertise dovetails to provide the very best athlete preparation. One of the aspects for psychology was to focus on maintaining many of the effective features already in place.  With individuals working to personalise what was necessary for them to maximise their strengths in order to deliver their best performances.”

This process included looking at areas of performance that can and can’t be controlled, whilst agreeing on procedures that the athlete will look to follow in the event of various scenarios so that they are prepared for whatever happens on the day of competition.

“For Amy some of the work she did was aimed at harnessing the excitement of competition so that she can effectively transfer training performance into competition performance” Angella adds.

“We looked at ensuring she follows all the day to day basics and normalises her routine as much as possible so that she finds herself in a position where when she gets on her sled she has a simple focus which just allows her to trust her ability, the work she has done and the thrill of sliding.”

The hard work seemed to be having the desired effect in the practice runs, with Williams commenting yesterday’. “I managed to enjoy it, and whenever I relax, enjoy it and have fun, it seems to work out. If I can enjoy the track I think the results will follow” she said.'

The Times

'Amy Williams gave Great Britain a gold medal shot in the arm on day eight of Vancouver Winter Olympics and admitted her love for the Whistler track, on which the Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili was killed last week.

Williams, leading after the opening day of the women's skeleton, held her nerve brilliantly to seal victory with two more lightning quick runs to get Britain's medal haul up and running.

"I love this track," she said after winning. "Once you get over the fear factor you learn to love it and the speed is your friend. You've got to work with it and relax and if you do that it's a great track to slide."

Williams insisted she had never let her position as overnight leader play on her mind. "I surprised myself because I wasn't really nervous," she said. "I slept absolutely perfectly and I was quite excited. It doesn't feel like an Olympic Games - it just feels like a normal World Cup race except with more people shouting for me.

"I'm not very good at statistics so I didn't realise I'm the first [individual] gold medallist for a long time. But I think it shows that if you have the determination any country can be good at any sport and you just have to concentrate and do your best." 


The Victorious Army Attacks the Defeated Enemy

At 23, Kevin Plank created a sports apparel company out of a Washington D.C. boat house. Fifteen years later, Under Armour is taking aim at the industry's biggest players, including Nike, Adidas and Reebok. Here he talks about growing his company, 'playing offense' and wisdom from Sun Tzu. 
For more, see http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/15/AR2010011503033.html?sid=ST2010012102117


Are You a CEO of Something?

This New York Times interview with Mark Pincus, founder and chief executive of Zynga, a provider of online social games, shows how a collaborative leadership style makes an impact:

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

A. If I was going all the way back, it would be playing on my school’s soccer team, because we were on the same team together, most of us for eight or nine years, and we were at a really little school in Chicago that had no chance of really fielding any great athletes. But we ended up doing really well as a team, and we made it to the state quarterfinals, and it was all because of teamwork.

And the one thing I learned from that was that I actually could tell what someone would be like in business, based on how they played on the soccer field.

So even today when I play in Sunday-morning soccer games, I can literally spot the people who’d probably be good managers and good people to hire.

Q. Based on what?

A. One is reliability, the sense that they’re not going to let the team down, that they’re going to hold up their end of the bargain. And in soccer, especially if you play seven on seven, it’s more about whether you have seven guys or women who can pull their own weight rather than whether you have any stars.

So I’d rather be on a team that has no bad people than a team with stars. There are certain people who you just know are not going to make a mistake, even if the other guy’s faster than them, or whatever. They’re just reliable.

And are you a playmaker? There are people who don’t want to screw up, and so they just pass the ball right away. Then there are the ones who have this kind of intelligence, and they can make these great plays. These people seem to have high emotional intelligence. It’s not that they’re a star player, but they have decent skills, and they will get you the ball and then be where you’d expect to put it back to them. It’s like their head is really in the game.

Q. How has your leadership style evolved, given your experience running several companies?

A. You can manage 50 people through the strength of your personality and lack of sleep. You can touch them all in a week and make sure they’re all pointed in the right direction. By 150, it’s clear that that’s not going to scale, and you’ve got to find some way to keep everybody going in productive directions when you’re not in the room. And that, to me, is a huge amount of what it means to manage.....

Q. So give me an example of what you did to change that.

A. I’d turn people into C.E.O.’s. One thing I did at my second company was to put white sticky sheets on the wall, and I put everyone’s name on one of the sheets, and I said, “By the end of the week, everybody needs to write what you’re C.E.O. of, and it needs to be something really meaningful.” And that way, everyone knows who’s C.E.O. of what and they know whom to ask instead of me. And it was really effective. People liked it. And there was nowhere to hide.

.....I keep my eye out for someone who has achieved a lot, so they’ve been a great athlete or on a great team, but then something didn’t go quite right, and they’re still very hungry and want to be C.E.O. of something. I like to bet on people, especially those who have taken risks and failed in some way, because they have more real-world experience. And they’re humble.

I also like to hire people into one position below where they ought to be, because only a certain kind of person will do that — somebody who is pretty humble and somebody who’s very confident.
This is another thing I really, really value: being a true meritocracy. The only way people will have the trust to give their all to their job is if they feel like their contribution is recognised and valued. And if they see somebody else higher above them just because of a good résumé, or they see somebody else promoted who they don’t think deserves it, you’re done.
My approach is that you have to earn the respect of people you work with.'

For the full interview, see - http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/31/business/31corner.html?pagewanted=1&ref=business

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Leadership Development Requires the Involvement of Leaders

Recent research in the USA indicates that most senior executives are believed to spend less than 25 percent of their time on leadership development activities, even for positions typically associated with leadership development - (http://www.hreonline.com/HRE/story.jsp?storyId=213109302)

While it is clear that the quality of the time spent on leader development is far more important than the quantity of time, researchers found that the quantity of time does matter and that many organisational leaders are reporting that senior executives are simply not putting in the necessary time.

Specifically, about two-thirds (65 percent) of executives whose firms have a head of human resources, half (50 percent) of executives whose firms have a chief learning officer, and four in 10 (40 percent) of executives whose firms have a head of leader development, indicated that no more than 25 percent of those individuals' time was spent on leadership development.

This may be seen as a clear signal that leadership development is not a high priority, despite rhetoric to the contrary.

Separate global research (http://image.exct.net/lib/fefd1674706403/m/1/RM_Employee_Engagement_Jan_2010.pdf) shows that only 34% of employees identify themselves as fully engaged, while 50% identify themselves as completely unengaged with their organisation.

With this in mind, the good news is that senior executives do see leader development as being among the top five leadership challenges confronting their organisations, with only the issues of leading innovation and internal growth being seen as bigger challenges.

The Priorities of Leadership

“The more senior your management position is, the more important it is to connect the organisation or the project to the outside world,” said Alan Mulally, president and chief executive officer of Ford.

“How does this fit in with what we’re doing? What is the real goal, the real mission? And it makes you think about: What business are we in?”

The comments come from an interview for The New York Times, “Planes, Cars and Cathedrals,” published online on September 5, 2009. Throughout the interview, Mulally addressed the following questions:
  • How do senior leaders set organisational vision and values?
  • How do senior leaders deploy your organisation’s vision and values?
  • How do senior leaders’ personal actions reflect a commitment to the organisation’s values?
“I think the most important thing is coming to a shared view about what we’re trying to accomplish—whether you’re a nonprofit or a for-profit organisation,” said Mulally. “What are we? What is our real purpose?”

High-performing organisations focus through a shared vision. Creating such a vision requires leaders who will listen to employees and customers and find the common themes and interests that everyone can support. “The higher the calling, the higher the compelling vision that you can articulate,” Mulally said, “then the more it pulls everybody in.”

To make his point, he recounted one of his favourite stories. “This reporter stops by a construction site and he interviews three bricklayers. He asks the first bricklayer, ‘What are you doing?’ And he says, ‘Well, I’m making a living laying these bricks.’ The reporter says: ‘Oh, that’s great. That’s very noble.’

He asks the next bricklayer, ‘What are you doing?’ And he says, ‘Well, I am practicing the profession of bricklaying. I’m going to be the best bricklayer ever.’

And the reporter asks the third bricklayer, ‘What are you doing?’ And he says, ‘I’m developing a cathedral.’ There is technical excellence and professionalism, but we all want to contribute to making a cathedral.”

Mulally listed four things he has “to really come through on” as the leader of Ford, along with critical questions he must answer:

1.Connecting what Ford is doing to the outside world. “Where is the world going? Where is the technology going? Where are the customers going? Where is the competition going?”

2.Identifying the value proposition of the company. “What business are we in? What are we going to focus on?”

3.Balancing the near term with the longer term. “Do we have a plan that works in the near term and also creates value for the long term?

4.Focusing on the values and standards of the organisation. “What are the expected behaviours? How do we want to treat each other? How do we want to act?”

These and other critical questions are asked and answered as part of developing a Positive Leadership™ strategy. To learn more about the process of introducing Positive Leadership™ to your organisation, please contact: graham.watson@positiveleadership.co.uk

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tiger Woods

'I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in....... I've had a lot of time to think about what I've done. My failures have made me look at myself in a way I never wanted to before. It's now up to me to make amends, and that starts by never repeating the mistakes I've made. It's up to me to start living a life of integrity. I once heard, and I believe it's true, it's not what you achieve in life that matters; it's what you overcome. Achievements on the golf course are only part of setting an example. Character and decency are what really count.' 
Tiger Woods, 19 February 2010


Leadership is Linked to Financial Results

Comparing the total return for the 20 Best Companies for Leadership in a recent BusinessWeek.com/Hay Group survey against the S&P 500 shows the following:

% Change
I Year
3 Years
5 Years
10 Years
Top 20
+ 1.6
+ 4.0
+ 8.4
S&P 500
- 37.0
- 8.4
- 2.2
- 1.4


Role Models for a Leader

During his stint as commanding general of the multi-national force in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus took "enormous strength" from the experiences of Ulysses Grant at Shiloh. Petraeus also commended former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's advice to attend to problems when they first crop up, and businessman Jack Welch's views on subordinate leader development. However, for the military, "this is also about life and death," Petraeus said, causing him to place a premium on leadership qualities such as integrity.