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Friday, April 30, 2010

Emotional Control Matters for Peak Performance

Controlling our emotions is important for peak performance because it maximises our brain resources. 

Our emotional experience is connected to a large brain network called the limbic system. When the limbic system gets overly aroused, it reduces the resources available for the prefrontal cortex functions we use in decision making and problem solving. But when we get emotional we don’t usually handle it in the best way.

We have three options: express them, suppress them, or change them. Expressing or suppressing them rarely help and often only makes things worse. Brain research has shown that changing how we think about our emotions is the best course. This strategy has two components: labelling for most situations and reappraisal for the most intense situations. 


Leaders Need 'Presence'

Being 'in the present' is a key leadership skill. In this respect there is much to learn from the theatre. Watch this talk for some enlightening views. Patsy Rodenburg is a sought-after voice and acting coach has worked with some of the world's leading actors, including Daniel Day-Lewis and Judi Dench.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Preventing Leadership Failures

What causes a leader to fail? What can we learn from those who have fallen? How do we avoid failure of our own? These are just a few of the question answered in  a new book for leaders and aspiring leaders of all levels by Dr. Tim Irwin.

Derailed: Five Lessons Learned from Catastrophic Failures of Leadership (NelsonFree)chronicles the collapse of six high-profile CEOs, the factors that drove their downfalls, and the lessons that we can learn to avoid derailing our own lives and careers.


True Leadership

True leadership is about bettering the lives of the people around you. That is a simple idea, but far too few people follow it. Too many executives get caught up in making money at any price.

When you make any business decision, about training or compensating employees or dealing with clients or anything else, consider how that decision will make the lives of the people around you better. Do so during both good times and bad times, and you will make better decisions.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Excellence: Don't Fear Failure

Tom Peters tells a story about a man who was unafraid to fail, and why that makes him an excellent role model:


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Signs of a Positive Leader

So how do we know when we're following a true leader? Well, that's something we all have to decide for ourselves. But we have some ideas about what it takes to excel - as an expert and as a leader. So here's our list:

1. Positive, no Matter What.  Leaders don't jump on the easy bandwagon of negativity. A true leader is determined to find the positive, no matter how ugly things appear. They hold fast to their positive vision - tirelessly seeking the best outcome for all. Anyone can throw in the towel and succumb to negative, woe-is-me, finger-pointing thinking. Leaders rise above the negative path - finding positive aspects in any situation to help their followers find a better way to live and grow.

2. Problem Solving. When there are issues, leaders focus on solving them in the most expedient way possible. They don't start a witch hunt to find out who caused the problem. That won't solve anything. Leaders roll up their sleeves and dive into problem solving mode. They inspire others to do the same - leveraging expertise and a positive focus to solve the issue and move on.

3. The Guts to Be a Winner. Those with true expertise usually also have the guts to spit in the face of a business storm and come out a winner. They don't collapse under the weight of negative commentary, shudder when the naysayers gather like a pack of wolves. They stand up and come out fighting with every positive aspect in their bones. Their inspiration teaches all of us how to be winners in the face of the negative storms that are bound to hit us.

4. Thoughtful Commentary. Leaders don't run around pointing to others saying things like 'just look at that awful product, look at how stupid those other companies are'. No way. Leaders are thoughtful and constructive with every word that comes from their mouths. Our words are one of the most powerful things we own. Leaders know that, and are thoughtful with their words. When they comment - it's always in the spirit of positive, helpful and supportive advice or wisdom. Even when they point out an issue - they follow it with a recommendation for how that issue can become a  strength. Their words are always used to inspire and lift their followers.

5. Consistency and Integrity. Leaders value their own integrity above all else. They refuse to sacrifice that integrity no matter how large their potential gain. Leaders have consistent, fair and well-founded opinions. Yes, those opinions will evolve - they must to avoid getting stuck in the status quo.   But when they do evolve, leaders will share the logic and reasoning behind that evolution. Then they'll be consistent with that evolved opinion. Leaders don't flop back and forth like a poor fish out of water, seeking a ride on the most popular tide.

6. Placing others before themselves. Leaders know that the 'good of the many outweighs the good of the few, or the one.' They place the good of their followers above themselves, their fame, their fortunes. Great leaders are servants - placing the value they provide above all else.

7. No Chest Thumping. Leaders quickly let us all know they are just like the rest of us. Leaders do everything they can to make others feel special because they are focused on lifting their followers - not themselves.

8. Thumper Rules! Leaders follow Thumpers' lead:  'If you can't say something nice, then don't say anything at all'!

For more on how we can help you develop as a Positive Leader, please contact: graham.watson@positiveleadership.co.uk 


Developing Leaders from the Military

Bill Simon, the chief operating officer of Wal-Mart U.S. and a 25-year veteran of the US Navy and Naval Reserves, had a suggestion. What the company should do, he argued at the time, was create a programme to recruit junior military officers - the lieutenants and captains who had recently led soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen.

Regardless of where you fall on the favourable-of-military-and-war scale, the fact is the military is a leadership-training hotbed, particularly in wartime.

According to General David Petraeus, the man in charge of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan:

"Tell me anywhere in the business world where a 22- or 23-year-old is responsible for 35 or 40 other individuals on missions that involve life and death. Their tactical actions can have strategic implications for the overall mission. And they're under enormous scrutiny, on top of everything else. These are pretty formative experiences. It's a bit of a crucible-like experience that they go through."

Recently GE CEO Jeff Immelt gave a speech at West Point called "Renewing American Leadership". In the speech he said that 21st-century leaders:
  • Need to be better listeners.
  • Need to be comfortable with complexity.
  • Must be willing to delegate so that the organisation can move quickly.
Even the US Army Training and Leader Development Panel concluded in 2001 that it needed officers with two basic qualities: self-awareness and adaptability.

Does this mean that the military is the only place you're going to find:
  • Better listeners.
  • Those comfortable with complexity.
  • Self-awareness.
  • Adaptability.
  • Those who take strategic risk and fail with certainty.
  • Those who are comfortable leading self and others.
No, of course not, but this definitely provides a learn-by-doing framework from which to source future leaders within and without your organisation.

Maybe they came from the military, or public safety (police and fire), or another company, or even your own firm (when you weren't looking) where existing leadership trial by fire and brimstone has forged the new millennium of management talent.

Identify them. Nurture them. Train them. Allow them risk and responsibility.


Monday, April 26, 2010

What Leaders Need To Do To Keep Top Talent Happy

With unemployment rates so high, you may think that your employees have no option but to stay with your company. That is a dangerous assumption. As we move into recovery, employees — especially star performers — are likely to start weighing their options. Use these four tools to keep your stars where they are:

  • Praise. It is the most inexpensive and underutilised tool out there. When your stars do something right, say thank you.
  • Challenging assignments. Give your top performers the opportunity to work on new projects that build their skills and give them a chance to shine.
  • Development opportunities. Find inexpensive ways to deepen your stars' skills such as providing mentors or opportunities to teach others.
  • Non-monetary perks. Most top performers crave things that are intangible and easy to provide, such as flexibility, better work/life balance, or more autonomy.


Are You Squandering Your Intelligent Failures?

Columbia Business School professor Rita McGrath studies innovation, corporate venturing, and entrepreneurship. Her latest book is Discovery-Driven Growth: A Breakthrough Process to Reduce Risk and Seize Opportunity.

Here is what she has to say about the concept of ‘intelligent failure’:

‘Despite widespread recognition that challenging times place unpredictable demands on people and businesses, you still run across many managers who would prefer to avoid the logical conclusion that stems from this: failure is a lot more common in highly uncertain environments than it is in better-understood situations. Instead of learning from failures, many executives seek to keep them hidden or to pretend that they were all part of a master plan and no big deal. An extraordinarily valuable corporate resource is being wasted if learning from failures is inhibited.

Naturally, to an executive raised on the concept of "management by exception," any failure at all seems intolerable. This world view is reinforced by the widespread adoption of various quality techniques, for instance, six sigma, in which the goal is to stamp out variations (by definition, failures) in the pursuit of quality. Managers are supposed to be right, aren't they? And having the right answer is just as valuable in management as it was in school, right?

Perhaps not.

For many years, scholars such as Sim Sitkin of Duke (see his article "Learning through failure: The strategy of small losses,") have been studying how organisations learn, and they have come to the conclusion that intelligent failures are crucial to the process of organisational learning and sense-making. Failures show you where your assumptions are wrong. Failures demonstrate where future investment would be wasted. And failures can help you identify those among your team with the mettle to persevere and creatively change direction as opposed to pig-headedly charging blindly ahead. Further, failures are about the only way in which an organisation can re-set its expectations for the future in any meaningful way. 

Not all failures, of course, are going to be useful from a learning point of view. The concept of intelligent failure makes a difference here. Sitkin's criteria for intelligent failures are:

•They are carefully planned, so that when things go wrong you know why.
•They are genuinely uncertain, so the outcome cannot be known ahead of time.
•They are modest in scale, so that a catastrophe does not result.
•They are managed quickly, so that not too much time elapses between outcome and interpretation.
•Something about what is learned is familiar enough to inform other parts of the business.

We could add a couple of other criteria:

•Underlying assumptions are explicitly declared.
•These can be tested at specific checkpoints, identified in advance, since planned results may not be equivalent to outcomes.

If your organisation can approach uncertain decisions as experiments and adopt the idea of intelligently failing, so much more can be learned (so much more quickly) than if failures or disappointments are covered up.

So ask yourself: are we genuinely reaping the benefit of the investments we've made in learning under uncertain conditions? Do we have mechanisms in place to benefit from our intelligent failures? And, if not, who might be taking advantage of the knowledge we are depriving ourselves of?’


Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Art of Leadership

Senator William W. Bradley, 66, is a Managing Director of Allen & Company LLC.  From 2001-2004, he acted as chief outside advisor to McKinsey & Company’s nonprofit practice.  He was a Senior Advisor and Vice Chairman of the International Council of JP Morgan & Co., Inc. from 1997-1999.  During that time, he also worked as an essayist for CBS evening news and was a visiting professor at Stanford University, University of Notre Dame and the University of Maryland.  

Senator Bradley served in the U.S. Senate from 1979 – 1997 representing the state of New Jersey.  In 2000, he was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States.  Prior to serving in the Senate, he was an Olympic gold medalist in 1964 and a professional basketball player with the New York Knicks from 1967 – 1977 during which time they won 2 NBA championships.  In 1982 he was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame. 

Here is what he has to say about leadership:

'Leadership means getting people to think, believe, see, and do what they might not have without you. It means possessing the vision to set the right goal and the decisiveness to pursue it single-mindedly. It means being aware of the fears and anxieties felt by those you lead even as you urge them to overcome those fears. It can appear in a speech before hundreds of people or in a dialogue with one other person – or simply by example.'


Ross Perot on Leadership

Ross Perot, the 79-year-old a former independent US Presidential candidate commented recently that many of the US’s problems would be minimised if Americans had access to good public schools, strong family units and a “strong moral ethical base.”

Perot, who said some of his best decisions have been hiring compassionate employees, looks for employees to have integrity and be self-reliant, with a history of success since youth. The Boy Scout programme, he said, is an example of a youth leadership program that sets the stage for achievement.

“Bring me people who love to win,” he said. “If you have to, find people who hate to lose.”


America's Favourite Bosses

Working for the man in charge of Cheerios, Trix and Lucky Charms might seem less glamorous than working for the man behind the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad, but according to new ratings from Glassdoor.com, General Mills' chief executive officer, Ken Powell, beats out Apple's Steve Jobs as the most popular boss in America.

Glassdoor, a Web site where employees post salary information and reviews of their companies and bosses, has just released its latest ratings of CEOs. The list is based on reviews voluntarily posted by employees who answer the following question: "Do you approve of the way this person is handling the job of leading this company?" One hundred percent of the General Mills employees who answered that question about Powell said "yes," putting their boss in the No. 1 spot. Stanford University President John Hennessy came in second; Jobs ranked third.

One thing all these top-rated bosses have in common is long careers at their companies. Example: Ken Powell joined General Mills in 1979 straight out of Stanford business school. The sixth-rated boss, James Truchard of National Instruments, which makes hardware and software for scientists and engineers, cofounded his company back in 1976.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

What is Success?

'Success is a result of consistent practice of winning skills and actions. There is nothing miraculous about the process. There is no luck involved. Amateurs hope, Professionals work.'

Bill Russell, ex Boston Celtic player, who many Americans regard as the greatest team player of the 20th century.


Excellence Under Pressure

Excellence Under Pressure is a key value of Positive Leadership and the ultimate goal of all Positive Leaders.

‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.’ Aristotle

‘There is no substitute for excellence. Not even success. Many people, particularly in sports believe that success and excellence are the same. They are not. Success is tricky, perishable and often outside our control; the pursuit of success makes a poor cornerstone, especially for a whole personality. Excellence is dependable, lasting and largely an issue within our own control; pursuit of excellence in and for itself is the best of foundations.’ Unknown

Here are some reference materials which speaks to this value:


Friday, April 23, 2010

Citizenship in a Republic

One hundred years ago today, US President Theodore Roosevelt spoke at the Sorbonne in the Grand Amphitheatre at the University of Paris. He had come to Paris with his son Kermit, just days before - by way of the Orient Express - to give his ‘Citizenship in a Republic’ speech.

The speech emphasised his belief that the success of a republic rested not on the brilliance of its citizens but on disciplined work and character; the quality of its people. 

He told the audience: “Self-restraint, self-mastery, common sense, the power of accepting individual responsibility and yet of acting in conjunction with others, courage and resolution—these are the qualities which mark a masterful people.” And importantly, a democracy needed leaders of the highest calibre in order to hold the average citizen to a high standard. They were to do this not by words alone but by their deeds as well. “Indeed, it is a sign of marked political weakness in any commonwealth if the people tend to be carried away by mere oratory, if they tend to value words in and for themselves, as divorced from the deeds for which they are supposed to stand.”

Roosevelt firmly believed that one learned by doing. It is better to stumble than to do nothing or to sit by and criticise those that are “in the arena” he explained. “The poorest way to face life is with a sneer.” It is a sign of weakness. “To judge a man merely by success,” he said, “is an abhorrent wrong.”

The famous paragraph from that speech, reproduced below, expressed the standard by which he judged himself and others:

‘It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.’

Read the complete text of the speech - http://www.theodore-roosevelt.com/trsorbonnespeech.html


Can Scottish Enterprise help to build better businesses?

From The Herald (23 April 2010):

'Scottish Enterprise does not possess 2020 vision. The agency was bang on the money in its focus on technology commercialisation and creating a more globally competitive Scottish economy when it rolled out its three-year business plan yesterday. Scotland has a long history of enterprising small companies growing to a certain size before selling out to foreign competition or plodding along in the home market without the know-how or confidence to exploit the scope for exports.

If Scotland is to thrive in the 21st century global economy, it needs to nurture a new generation of globally-competent companies....

However, the acid test of SE’s work, if the agency’s stated ambitions are to be believed, is how many more .... big global players...we will have on our corporate stage. The secret of their success was not a big helping hand from the government but dynamic leadership, clear vision and vaulting ambition. 

As it happens, this was precisely the point made to Holyrood’s Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee this week by Scottish Enterprise chairman, Crawford Gillies. He argued that for Scotland to raise the bar on productivity and target new markets at home and abroad, the Scottish business base needs better leadership.......

In the past Scotland has depended heavily on the public sector, particularly, for employment. With deep public spending cuts on the agenda, whoever walks into 10 Downing Street on May 7, that can no longer be relied on. The country has rarely been so dependent on business growth to fill the looming economic gap.' 


Imagine Yourself........Leading


Why is it that some Leaders speak so well in public?

Public speaking is an invaluable skill no matter what your leadership role is, whether you are in sales, need to talk to investors or just want to be better at getting buy-in from your colleagues.

Here are three rules for successful public speaking that should help you:

The first rule is to ask the audience a lot of questions. Asking questions helps get the audience really thinking about the issues you're raising and your solutions. Now, if you are speaking to an audience of 3,000, it can't always be interactive. But you can still ask questions like, "When you are buying a car, why do you choose a Ford over a Toyota?" "What marketing campaigns do you think have failed, and why?" Those rhetorical questions help engage audiences and keep them away from their text messages and e-mails.

Similarly, try not to talk too much about yourself or your company at the beginning of a speech. Get right to what will matter to the audience. The first 30 seconds of a presentation are critical. That's when the audience decides whether to listen to you or surf for last night's football scores on its iPhones.

No one wants to hear about how big your company is or where you went to school. Just get right into the meat of your speech.

The key: Don't talk at the audience. Talk with it.

The second rule of successful public speaking is to tell stories to illustrate your points. Don't just tell people what you think; show them, with specific examples and tales.

The third rule is to go easy on the PowerPoint. It can be a useful tool for showing graphs or visual aids to complement important points, but too many people make it the focus of their presentations, in place of themselves and their actual message. Most audience members' minds go numb when they see too many slides or they're too densely packed with information. They tune out and start surfing the Web on their handhelds, especially when the animations and sound effects start.

More often than not, when someone has too many slides the audience will pay attention to what slide out of how many we are on instead of what the speaker's saying. Can we really be on slide 7 of 85? Desperation settles in.

How can you make PowerPoint effective? Be simple. Use short words and phrases to make large conceptual points, and never go longer than 20 slides. Get the audience to focus on you and your words, not the slides. When you have too many dense slides, the audience takes notes but doesn't really listen and comprehend what is going on. That is a waste. There is no better time than during a speech to make a business case for your point. Use PowerPoint as a tool to help get your ideas across.

Giving a speech is pointless if no one is paying attention. You need to grab your audience from the beginning by asking questions, telling stories and relying on your own speaking rather than a bunch of boring slides. If you can do those three things, then your battle is already half-won. 



Debriefing is a value of Positive Leadership.

‘Learning involves the gradual reduction of error, like a sniffer dog slowly feathering towards the scent we sniff out our goals.  This process involves recognising when we’re losing the scent, and adjusting our course to cater for this.  This process of continuously assessing, analysing, reflecting and learning is all based upon a single skill that various high performance organisations have implemented….that skill is continuous debriefing.’ Unknown

Here are some reference materials which speak to this value:


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Why Blog?


Failure Can Be A Step On The Road To Success

Not everyone who's on top today got there with success after success. More often than not, those who history best remembers were faced with numerous obstacles that forced them to work harder and show more determination than others. Next time you're feeling down about your failures in a career or in sport, keep these famous people in mind and remind yourself that sometimes failure is just the first step towards success.

Business Gurus

These businessmen and the companies they founded are today known around the world, but as these stories show, their beginnings weren't always smooth.

1.Henry Ford: While Ford is today known for his innovative assembly line and American-made cars, he wasn't an instant success. In fact, his early businesses failed and left him broke five times before he founded the successful Ford Motor Company.

2.R. H. Macy: Most people are familiar with this large department store chain, but Macy didn't always have it easy. Macy started seven failed business before finally hitting big with his store in New York City.

3.F. W. Woolworth: Some may not know this name today, but Woolworth was once one of the biggest names in department stores. Before starting his own business, young Woolworth worked at a dry goods store and was not allowed to wait on customers because his boss said he lacked the sense needed to do so.

4.Soichiro Honda: The billion-dollar business that is Honda began with a series of failures and fortunate turns of luck. Honda was turned down by Toyota Motor Corporation for a job after interviewing for a job as an engineer, leaving him jobless for quite some time. He started making scooters of his own at home, and spurred on by his neighbours, finally started his own business.

5.Akio Morita: You may not have heard of Morita but you've undoubtedly heard of his company, Sony. Sony's first product was a rice cooker that unfortunately didn't cook rice so much as burn it, selling less than 100 units. This first setback didn't stop Morita and his partners as they pushed forward to create a multi-billion dollar company.

6.Bill Gates: Gates didn't seem like a shoe-in for success after dropping out of Harvard and starting a failed first business with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen called Traf-O-Data. While this early idea didn't work, Gates' later work did, creating the global empire that is Microsoft.

7.Harland David Sanders: Perhaps better known as Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame, Sanders had a hard time selling his chicken at first. In fact, his famous secret chicken recipe was rejected 1,009 times before a restaurant accepted it.

8.Walt Disney: Today Disney rakes in billions from merchandise, movies and theme parks around the world, but Walt Disney himself had a bit of a rough start. He was fired by a newspaper editor because, "he lacked imagination and had no good ideas." After that, Disney started a number of businesses that didn't last too long and ended with bankruptcy and failure. He kept plugging along, however, and eventually found a recipe for success that worked.


While some athletes rocket to fame, others endure a path fraught with a little more adversity, like those listed here.

1.Michael Jordan: Most people wouldn't believe that a man often lauded as the best basketball player of all time was actually cut from his high school basketball team. Luckily, Jordan didn't let this setback stop him from playing the game and he has stated, "I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

2. Stan Smith: This tennis player was rejected from even being a lowly ball boy for a Davis Cup tennis match because event organisers felt he was too clumsy and uncoordinated. Smith went on to prove them wrong, showcasing his not-so-clumsy skills by winning Wimbledon, the U. S. Open and eight Davis Cups.

3.Babe Ruth: You probably know Babe Ruth because of his baseball home run record (714 during his career), but along with all those home runs came a pretty hefty amount of strikeouts as well (1,330 in all). In fact, for decades he held the record for strikeouts. When asked about this he simply said, "Every strike brings me closer to the next home run."

4. Tom Landry: As the coach of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, Landry brought the team two Super Bowl victories, five NFC Championship victories and holds the records for the record for the most career wins. He also has the distinction of having one of the worst first seasons on record (winning no games) and winning five or fewer over the next four seasons.



Service is a value of Positive Leadership.

‘I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: The ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.’ Albert Schweitzer

Here are some reference materials which speak to this value:


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Managing in an Era of Mistrust

A new Maritz® Poll conducted by Maritz Research, a leader in employee satisfaction research, paints a dire outlook of American workforce attitudes toward employers.

US employees’ trust toward their workplace has taken a severe hit, with employees across all industry segments citing a lack of trust in not only senior leaders, but direct managers and co-workers as well. 

According to the poll, few (11 percent) employees strongly agree their managers show consistency between their words and actions. In addition, only seven percent of employees strongly agree they trust senior leaders to look out for their best interest, and only seven percent strongly agree they trust their co-workers to do so. Approximately one-fifth of respondents disagree that their company’s leader is completely honest and ethical, and one-quarter of respondents disagree that they trust management to make the right decisions in times of uncertainty. While workplace trust has been dwindling since the Enron, WorldCom, and Tyco scandals of the earlier part of the decade, threats of layoffs and downsizing have only exacerbated the problem.

For more, see - http://ow.ly/1yr6W


Leading in Rough Seas

Victor Fung of the Li and Fung Group (the Chinese multinational founded in Guangzhou in 1906) summed up well the sense of the kind of change we face today:

‘A lot of people say, hey, this is a once in a century type of problem. We haven’t had anything like this since the 1930s. You hear all these statements, and they seem to imply that this is once in a lifetime, after I get through this one, boy, am I glad I will never have to face this again. But I’m not so sure. I think we are seeing both the compression of cycle time – how quickly the cycles come and go – and also the amplitude of the swings getting more and more severe. The world has fundamentally changed.’

This type of change requires a special kind of leadership. In Leading in Turbulent Times (Financial Times Series), Kevin Kelly and Gary Hayes have collected the lessons learned from over thirty CEOs, Chairmen and other senior executives who are prevailing in spite of a challenging environment. It’s a valuable look at how some frontline leaders are finding the right balance between seizing the opportunities as they present themselves and managing the accompanying risk. 

Rather than typical conversations focused on financial matters, Kelly and Hayes found that three strong messages emerged from their interviews:

Passion Rules – these leaders are driven by a real passion for their business, their organisation and the people they work with.

Hard Times Call for a Mastery of Soft Skills - especially communication but also empathy, mentoring and coaching. (“This is a timely reminder that cost control is a business basic, but extracting great performance from people is always based on more complex and subtle motivational tools than pure fear.”) A CEO in Germany observed that whenever a leader talks about change, employees always expect the worse. Learning to motivate and engage people in spite of the crisis becomes critical.

Think Long Term – these leaders refuse to bow under immediate pressure. They use short-term pressures to harden their focus on long-term objectives.

Infosys CEO Kris Gopalakrishnan says, “We need to be much more flat, creating a collegial team-based leadership style so that you can leverage a lot more of people’s intellects and capabilities and make them participate in decision making.” This requires a level of social skills that hasn’t been demanded of leaders in the recent past and so this also necessitates a lot of learning-as-we-go. At the same time we have a more educated workforce that brings with it other issues that require fresh approaches. Henry Fernabdez, CEO of MSCI Barra observed, “They figure things out very quickly. They tend to be more open to change but, on the other hand, they’re smart and can become cynical and harder to change.” As a result, the job of leadership is changing.

Through revealing and personal interviews, Kelly and Hayes have analysed the current situation beginning with how to recognise the early signals, mobilising people to act, navigating a new course, preventing "mutinies" by engaging the resistors, and learning to be flexible in the face of the unpredictable.

To live in these turbulent conditions requires that you dig deep. Leaders need to develop and constantly improve; a deeper self-knowledge; new perspectives. As they note, this isn’t easy. “It is a bit like trying to get fit when you are in the middle of a title fight.” A positive mental attitude is critical says Mark Frissora of Hertz.


Confidence and Poise

Confidence and Poise are two values of Positive Leadership.

‘No man can make you feel inferior without your consent.’ Eleanor Roosevelt

‘Respect without fear, confident not cocky. May come from faith in yourself in knowing that you are prepared.’ John Wooden

‘Just being yourself; being at ease in any situation; never fighting yourself.’ John Wooden

Here is a reference material which speaks to these values:


Tuesday, April 20, 2010



Tom Peters


Leadership Parallels from the Marathon

Next Sunday sees the 30th staging of the London Marathon.

The running of a Marathon is an easy metaphor for business leadership and management: the leader keeps the organisation focused on the big goal - the finish line - and all the value that comes from reaching it. The business manager has to focus on the activity and workflow - the running itself - keeping the motivation up by focusing on smaller intermediate goals.

It turns out that this seems to be what many runners accomplish for themselves. The value of what completing the marathon means to them is the force that keeps them moving over the months and weeks of training. Whether these marathoners are running for health, for a cause or charity, for a loved one or for first or their 30th marathon, the meaning behind crossing the finish line is a vision that they hold to throughout not just the race, but before and after as well.

Business leadership conducts a parallel function. It is the leader’s job to create and communicate the organisational vision, mission and meaning. A strong leader keeps the value of the large goal in front of their organisational or team members. The leadership role often enthusiastically answers the "why?" of the overall organisation activity.

In the midst of the marathon, especially on a day where the body doesn’t seem to remember all that training, it is hard to cling to the value of the finish line as motivation. Many runners  speak about creating smaller goals or playing "mental tricks" on themselves.

Here are some: They convince themselves that they are starting a new run every five miles; or they pick the farthest telephone pole they can see and decide to run just that much further - and once reaching it, do it again; or they have friends place themselves at various points along the race and run to each friend, knowing they won’t be able to quit or someone will be disappointed.

Business managers don’t try to trick employees, but they do try to focus them on shorter-term, more immediate goals. One of the keys to this strategy of breaking down intermediate steps is for managers to reflect and celebrate the success of making the intermediate goals back to the team. Teams need to recognise the completion of sequential goals to keep their motivation up to reach the next one.

And then there is one more critical factor marathon runners thrive on: community. During training it may be their running partners or charity running team. Many run the race with a partner or mentor, or find a companion along the way to run with for at least part of the race.

These athletes inspire a larger community as well - the thousands of spectators who line the course, actively cheering and encouraging. Business leaders and managers who foster community build support and resilience into their organisations as well.


Mental Toughness

Mental Toughness is a value of Positive Leadership.

'Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It's a state of mind - you could call it character in action.’ Vince Lombardi

Here are some reference materials which speak to this value:


Monday, April 19, 2010

Do you know the difference between being an Innovator and an Idiot?

Warren Buffett was asked this question about the sub-prime mortgage fiasco; "Should wise people have known better?"

Of course, they should have, Buffett replied, but there's a "natural progression" to how good ideas go wrong.

He called this progression the "three I's." First come the innovators, who see opportunities that others don't. Then come the imitators, who copy what the innovators have done. And then come the idiots, whose avarice undoes the very innovations they are trying to use to get rich.

Can you distinguish between genuine creativity and mindless imitation? Are you prepared to walk away from ideas that promise to make money, even if they make no sense? Do you have the discipline to keep your head when so many around you are losing theirs? Those questions are something to think about. The answers may be the difference between being an innovator and an idiot.


Why Integrity, Honesty and Character are foundation values of Positive Leadership

The scene was the 1925 U.S. Open at Worcester Country Club in Worcester, Massachusetts, and Bobby Jones was in the hunt for his second major championship.

As Jones prepared to hit a shot out of the rough late in the tournament, he noticed that his ball had moved ever so slightly during address. His playing competitor, Walter Hagen, never saw the incident. The same went for his caddy and the spectators watching his round. The pressure was placed squarely on Jones to make the right call.

Unlike other sports where a referee makes the final decision on a penalty or foul, golf lives by a different set of rules. These rules include putting the onus of calling a penalty on yourself. The ability to live or die with that decision is one that makes golf such an honourable sport.

Instead of living hiding the penalty and going on with his round, Jones decided to do the right thing and call a 1-stroke penalty on himself. That one shot ended up costing him the tournament in regulation, as well as the championship, as he went on to lose a 36-hole playoff to Willie Macfarlane.

Famed sportswriter, O.B. Keeler, lauded Jones for his decision, one that ultimately cost him one of the most prestigious trophies in golf. Instead of taking the honour and recognition for his decision, Jones pleaded with Keeler to not write about the incident.

“You might as well praise me for not robbing banks,” Jones said.

Brian Davis probably felt the same way after last Sunday's final round of the Verizon Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links.

Davis and Bobby Jones might not have a lot on the common on the surface (one is a golf legend; the other is a journeyman tour pro) but it became very clear on Sunday that both are cut from the same cloth that preaches honour before accolades.

After making a miraculous birdie on the 72nd hole of the championship to force a playoff with Jim Furyk, Davis found himself in a very interesting predicament on the first playoff hole.

After watching his approach shot draw left of the green on 18 and into a water hazard, Davis was left with the difficult shot of getting his ball up and down from beside a bunch of reeds and twigs. During his takeaway on the shot, Davis noticed a reed had moved during his backswing.

Davis immediately called over rules official Slugger White to tell him the news. The violation of rule 13.4 (which prohibits moving a loose impediment in a hazard during a takeaway) went unseen by everyone but Davis. After watching the incident on television replay it was confirmed that Davis did in fact brush the reed with his club. Davis called a two-stroke penalty on himself and went on to lose the playoff to Furyk. As much fun as it was to see Furyk finally put on the plaid jacket at Harbour Town, there was definitely a bitter-sweet taste to the victory.

Davis’ decision, one that cost him $400,000 and a trip to the SBS Championship next year in Hawaii, was probably the toughest decision of his life. 

But if ever there was a decision that made you proud to be a fan of the sport, this was certainly one of them.

In a sports world where steroids and cutting corners is an accepted practice, Davis’ decision to call a penalty on himself speaks volumes about not only Brian Davis as a person, but the integrity of the sport of golf.

“That [decision to call a penalty] will come back to him spades, tenfold,” White said afterwards.

After calling a penalty on himself during the 1925 U.S. Open, Jones went on to win the U.S. Open the following year. We can only hope Davis gets the same kind of karma in the near future for his honourable decision. 


Why Leaders need to talk about Honesty and Integrity in the Work Environment

Employees will go to great lengths to support a leader they believe in; one they see as having high standards of honesty and integrity. Conversely, they lack commitment for managers whose approach is "Do as I say, not as I do". 

It is a mistake to assume that everyone on your team would define honesty and integrity in the same way. That's why you need to talk about it with your team: an open discussion where team members can contribute ideas for, and share their opinions on, a collective set of values for your team. By doing this you can develop standards of honesty and integrity that everyone can abide by. 

This means, of course, that you need to set the example and operate by these standards at all times. Encourage all team members to hold each other mutually accountable for operating by these shared values. If they see anyone, including you, failing to meet the agreed standards of honesty and integrity it is up to them to reinforce the standards and remind the individual of her or his responsibility to the rest of the team and to the organisation.

To recap, here are the steps you can take to develop a set of shared values of honesty and integrity in your team:

  1. Take time out to reflect on what you believe is right and wrong; what are your own personal standards of honesty and integrity?
  2. Ask the team what they believe is right and wrong behaviour:
       a. What is an honest day's work?
       b. What is honest communication?
       c. What is an honest product or service?
  3. If the team does not come up with something that is important to you, share your beliefs with the team and ask for feedback.
  4. Agree on a set of behavioural guidelines for operating with honesty and integrity that you can all abide by.



Self-discipline is a value of Positive Leadership.

‘Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.’ Lao Tzu

Here are some reference materials which speak to this value:


Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

If you've not studied Emotional Intelligence you should, especially if you want to be a top leader. Here are two powerful reasons back up that statement. First, research shows that the overwhelming difference between top performers and average performers is higher levels of Emotional Intelligence. The second reason? Emotional Intelligence is totally learnable.

Emotional Intelligence (what many call "EQ") is a type of skill or intelligence that enables you to perceive and assess the emotions, desires, and tendencies of yourself as well as of those around you, and make the best decision for all concerned that moves everyone in the direction of a common goal.

Four-fifths of the difference between top and average performers is higher EQ. Contrary to popular belief, it's a relatively simple undertaking. Also, since more than two thirds of the difference between top performers and average performers is EQ, it's practically a no-brainer to study it if you want to be a top performer.

By the way, if you're in a top leadership position, the reason to study is even stronger: in senior positions, four-fifths of the difference between top and average performers is higher EQ.

 What follows are ten essential understandings about relationship management that some say ought to be common sense. If your work involves dealing with people (most jobs do), and you want a foundation upon which you can build your emotional intelligence skills, here are a few things to know:

1. In the realm of personality styles, we should drop the ideas of "good" and "bad." People are just different.

2. People often equate "different" with "difficult." In reality, different is difficult only because people haven't learned to work effectively with the differences.

3. In the same way that a stick has two ends, people have strengths and weaknesses. All strengths have an associated weakness, and all weaknesses have an associated strength. You choose which end of the stick will receive your attention.

4. All personality styles add to team strength; it's just a matter of focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses. By focusing on strengths you'll get stronger. By focusing on weaknesses, you'll get weaker.

5. Seeking the strengths in differing styles does not come naturally — it takes constant effort.

6. We cannot be effective if we expect everyone else to meet us on "our turf."

7. We cannot assume we know another person's definition of "win." We may have a general idea, but to truly be effective we must ask.

8. If we place personal goals over those of others, the team, and/or the organisation's vision and mission, we create divisions. This severely weakens our ability to maximise results.

9. Effectiveness has to with doing the right thing, efficiency has to do with getting things done fast. When working with people, effectiveness is rarely efficient. The best results usually come when we take the necessary time in our relationships to do things right.

10. It's one thing to understand these things, it's another thing to do them. The longest road can be the 18 inches between your head and your heart.


Openness and Communication

Openness and Communication are two values of Positive Leadership.

‘It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.’ Aristotle

‘The day soldiers stop bring you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them.’ General Colin Powell

‘Having the confidence to adapt quickly to any situation, use honesty, humility and humour in the conversation, and interact as a positive force in the community.’ Steve Shenbaum

Here are some reference materials which speak to these values:


Saturday, April 17, 2010

UK General Election 2010: Nice Nick Clegg can't believe his luck

From Simon Heffer’s column in today’s Daily Telegraph:

‘As Dave, in particular, has learned in the past 36 hours or so, the big problem with the "historic" leaders' television debate was that it was preceded by expectations. Gordon Brown, who I thought was mad to agree to take part, had everything to lose, and jolly nearly lost it after a wooden, aggressive, boring performance; Dave was expected to wipe the floor with him; and as for Nick Clegg, who was he, other than Vince Cable's valet de chambre?

We now know exactly who Nick Clegg is: he is Mr Integrity, the nation's sweetheart, the only honest man in politics. I had thought the public were a bit brighter than that, and would see through his pious, sanctimonious, oleaginous, not-me-guv display of cynical self-righteousness: but they didn't. And for that we can only blame the two inadequates with whom he had the good fortune to go in front of the cameras: for they were shocking.......

Mr Brown's impersonation of a robot, and his projection of all the charm of a caravan site in February, were pretty predictable: but the place where hair was really being torn out yesterday was around poor old Dave. The attempt by this trust-funded Old Etonian (and Old Bullingdonian) to come over as Mr Ordinary was rather tragic: if we have to hear much more about his children's state school and his family's experience of the NHS, some of us will need medical attention of our own......

It is a long haul from winning a beauty contest to winning a general election, and one imagines Nice Nick won't do that. But Dave now goes into next week's bout as the underdog. Mr Brown can't really get any worse, and has few expectations riding upon him: but if Dave underperforms again, he will be in very serious trouble. To land five years in No 10, he does not just need to squash an already imploding Labour Party: he needs to win a pile of seats from the Lib Dems. On last night's show, that is going to be a tall order: and if he fouls up again, the Lib Dems might even start winning seats from him. Still, it could have been worse: just imagine if he had had to debate with Ukip, too, about the real meaning of conservatism.’