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Thursday, September 30, 2010

It's About Values

US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer was appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1994. He is known for his pragmatic approach to constitutional law and is generally associated with the more liberal side of the Court. He is the author of Making Our Democracy Work: A Judge's View. This is what he has to say on the Constitution:


Lack of Management Skills Hitting UK Competitiveness

The UK is suffering from a leadership and management skills deficit which is hitting the country’s competitiveness, according to the CIPD.

Responding to the government’s Skills for Sustainable Growth consultation, the institute said that much of the public spending on skills is failing to have the desired effect because of poor management is hitting employees’ motivation and engagement. On the other hand, good management could have a “skills multiplier effect” that would boost capability across the board.

Stephanie Bird, CIPD director of public policy and HR capability, said: ‘we are concerned that too much spending on skills – by government and employers alike – is being wasted because managers lack the skills to engage, motivate, coach and develop people in the workplace.’

Bird pointed out that the UK invests less in management development than its main international competitors and that its managers are rated less positively by employees.

“This is clearly a shared problem which requires action by both employers and government,” said Bird. “However, government can play a powerful role in ‘nudging’ investment in leadership and people management skills. Such investment is crucial if we are to unlock the wasted skills spending and individual potential that is holding Britain back in the productivity stakes.”


Don't Fear Failure


Fearing failure, you anticipate only positive outcomes. When the inevitable misstep takes place, you're caught without a quick plan to right the wrong.


Take a lesson from expert kayakers: flips are going to happen. Practice the rolls that put you back in control and avoid capsizing.


Team USA gets Inspiration from a True Patriot

Safe to say, Major Dan Rooney will have a more leisurely view of the 38th Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor than he had the last time the biennial event was staged. Two years ago as the U.S. faced off against Europe in Kentucky, Rooney, an F-16 fighter pilot with the Oklahoma Air National Guard, was in Baghdad, watching the event on the Armed Forces Network while taking a break from his tour of duty. This time around, he has travelled to Wales to watch in person as an invited guest of U.S. captain Corey Pavin. The captain even asked Rooney to talk to his team Tuesday night after dinner.

So what would a Ryder Cup golfer have in common with a man who spends part of his life piloting fighter jets? A lot, actually. When Rooney climbs into the cockpit of  a single-seat, single-engine F-16, he said there is not a more individualistic endeavour in the world. But in truth, every time he flies, he is a significant cog in a powerful team, with many others on the ground and in the air depending on him.

“You become one,” he says of his inherent mission. “When I’m up there in the black skies of Iraq delivering weapons to kids, they’re trusting their lives to me. A lot of accountability exists there.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Will an 'Integrity Executive' be enough to keep Daimler honest?

German automaker Daimler has appointed a new "integrity executive" tasked with ensuring that the company lives up to its ethical and legal responsibilities. 

The move is intended to ease lingering concerns about Daimler's culture, following the company's recent agreement to pay $185 million to settle a bribery case. 

Daimler "will continue to consistently prioritise integrity as a key element of our corporate culture," said CEO Dieter Zetsche. "No business in the world is worth violating applicable laws, regulations or ethical standards."


The Importance of Education

“The single most important step we can take is to make sure that every young person gets the best education possible, because countries that out-educate us today are going to out-compete us tomorrow.” 

President Obama, 27 September, 2010


How Sport Transforms Life and Career

Grete Ingeborg Nykkelmo of Norway knows success in athletics – she is a world champion in both cross country skiing and the biathlon. Grete has also proven to be successful in the business world – she currently is the Senior Vice President of Marketing for Statkraft, Europe’s largest renewable energy company.

Grete talked about how sport formed her life and business career during the IMD Biennial International Alumni Event this past weekend.

She described her sports background and talked about some of the keys to her achievements, which include a gold medal in women’s cross country skiing in 1985 at the World Championships as well as gold in the women’s biathlon at the World Championships six years later. She segued on to her corporate career at Statkraft and detailed the communications strategy that the company implemented. For Grete, there are many parallels between sport and business.

First, it taught her the value of setting goals and learning from experiences.
“There are always ups and downs – victories and setbacks,” she said. “Nobody has ever gone through life without setbacks. What is important is to always keep the final target in sight.”

After Grete quit cross country skiing in 1989, she seized on a new opportunity in the biathlon. “Most of us like security – we feel comfortable in situations we know,” she stated. “But there are many opportunities before us if we are open to new challenges and ideas.”

There are also valuable lessons in terms of teamwork. Even though cross country skiing and the biathlon are individual sports, Grete explained that as part of the national team, everyone was happy for Norway’s success and used each others’ strengths to improve.

“With a team you get feedback on your performance. You can learn from others and get support in tough times. Team is important for individual success – and individual performance important for the team. So remember to wear your ‘uniform’ and get stronger together.”

She concluded by drawing one final correlation between sport and business – passion. “If you have passion, the amount of suffering you can endure is enormous. More importantly, it will bring you happiness and satisfaction.”


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Can Ed Be His Own Man?

Today Ed Miliband will have to show he is the leader who can take Labour to victory. His speech to his party conference must convince not only his party faithful, and faithless, but the country at large. This is the moment when he needs to prove that he possesses sufficient Ed cred to rally doubters and disciples to his side. Mr Miliband must show today that he has the vision, passion and ruthlessness to go it alone. It is imperative to demonstrate that he has a leader's rhetoric and a leader's steel. The line between being a unifier and political Plasticine is narrow. Flexibility, the new leader's signal strength, could also prove his greatest weakness. Enemies will be eager to caricature Red Ed as a man in thrall to the unions with a brother's blood on his hands. If Ed Miliband is to succeed, and it looks increasingly likely that he can, he must show that he is daunted by nothing and in thrall to no one. "I am my own man," he has said. Today he has to prove it.


The Role of Self-Esteem in the Workplace

Warranted high self-esteem, which has always been important psychologically, is a critical factor in economic well-being, too. 

A book called The Power of Self-Esteem: An Inspiring Look At Our Most Important Psychological Resource, by psychologist Nathaniel Branden, points out that a workforce lacking confidence in its ability to think and cope with life's challenges won't be very productive or competitive in a demanding global environment.

Branden reminds supervisors and managers to help employees stretch by supporting training and workshops, and to tolerate mistakes if people learn from them. He also counsels listening to employees as if they have something worthwhile to say and asking for their help as ways to stimulate new ideas, as well as building confidence by giving lots of sincere compliments and encouragement. Of course, there's more to it than that, and personal development training for managers as well as for those they manage is usually a wise investment.

In the final analysis, we can't have a workforce that's any more confident than the individuals who compose it. Let's embrace positive leadership and give each employee every chance we can to be the best he or she can be.


Monday, September 27, 2010

How Full is Your Leadership Pipeline?

Many companies are having trouble filling their senior leadership positions and planning their workforce needs for the future, according to a new global report by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and the World Federation of People Management Associations (WFPMA). The report, titled Creating People Advantage 2010: How Companies Can Adapt Their HR Practices for Volatile Times, is being released today.

Some 56 percent of the corporate executives surveyed by BCG cited a critical talent gap for senior managers' successors. Yet while it is generally easier and more effective for homegrown talent to step into leadership roles, companies fill more than half of their executive positions from outside, the survey found.

"Talent management needs are particularly critical at the leadership levels of the organisation," according to Ernesto Espinosa, president of the WFPMA and a coauthor of the report. "Succession planning needs to be integrated with leadership development programmes, and this practice has to be standardised. The challenge for HR is to bring talent management practices of executives to the next level in order to support business growth."

Two critical topics emerged from the research:

  • Managing talent -- identifying, attracting, and retaining the right people -- continues to be perceived as the most important topic for companies' futures. But corporate capabilities in this area have improved only slightly since BCG's 2008 global survey on HR topics.
  • Improving leadership development has risen in perceived importance over the past two years. As noted, 56 percent of survey respondents cited a critical talent gap for senior managers' successors. In volatile times, leaders who can convey the company's vision and motivate employees are invaluable. It is generally easier and more effective for homegrown talent to step into leadership roles. Yet companies fill more than half of their executive positions from outside, suggesting that internal leadership-development programmes, such as corporate "universities," need to be improved.
The report also shows that high-performing companies focus their efforts on fewer, more carefully chosen HR-related projects in areas such as recruiting and leadership development. 


Be the Best You Can Be

Throughout human history, reaching one’s potential has been the grand objective of life.

The most articulated value in ancient Greek culture was areté. Translated as “excellence” or "virtue," the word actually means something closer to "being the best you can be," or "reaching your highest human potential." This notion of excellence was ultimately bound up with the fulfillment of purpose or function: the act of living up to one's full potential.

Areté in ancient Greek culture was courage and strength in the face of adversity and it was to what all people aspired. In Homer’s poems, areté is frequently associated with bravery, but more often with effectiveness. The man or woman of areté is a person of the highest effectiveness; they use all their faculties: strength, bravery and wit to achieve real results.

Aspire for areté. Go for excellence. 


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Building a Leadership Brand

Companies build a leadership brand by developing leaders who enable employees to deliver the results expected by customers.


The Dangers of a Comfort Zone

Author and pastor C. Neil Strait (1934-2003) once wrote, “The convenient way is not always the best way. It may lead through an avenue of comfort that robs us of integrity. Or it may take us through the tunnel of compromise, where our courage is weakened. And, after all, convenience is such a fleeting thing, but integrity and courage are vital ingredients for living.”

Strait is right. Our comfort zone can compromise us. And if we are not careful, our comfort zone becomes our answer for everything because it becomes the mindset we operate from. Eventually it kills our curiosity, our creativity and our opportunities.

What are you doing for the sake of convenience—because it's easier—that is holding you in unhealthy patterns of behaviour and limiting your thinking?


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Preparing to Succeed

Benjamin Franklin knew the value of preparation. “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail”, the influential author, inventor and US Founding Father once said. Planning and preparation will give you a 10-times greater chance to achieve your goals. It will reduce wasted time and effort, while improving and maximising results.

Here are four ways to out-prepare your competition:

1. Study: While others are filling their time with entertainment and escapism, superachievers are studying and improving their craft. Having more knowledge, data, background and intelligence will always give you the upper hand in any situation.

2. Develop: Develop the skills necessary to achieve excellence in your game. Every skill you need to succeed is learnable. There is nothing you cannot learn and master to achieve anything you want in business and in life.

3. Practice: Sporting teams practice for games. Musicians practice for concerts. Busy professionals and entrepreneurs should practice the skills they need for success—public speaking, impactful writing and interpersonal communication. After all, practice makes perfect.

4. Play the Game in Your Head First: Before making a presentation, an important phone call or having an important meeting, play the event out in your head exactly as you want it to happen first. It is amazing how your posture, energy and expectation will change, and your performance will rise to meet it. Try it.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Don't Innovate Italian Soccer Style

In business as in sports, capabilities decline quietly and smoothly. If companies don't constantly invest in innovation, they will perform well for a while and then, suddenly, they will fail — as the Italian team did during the recent World Cup.


Being Terrible is Not All Bad

If tomorrow you were given the chance to be great at every single skill in your life — we are talking world-class level, in each of your various interests — would you do it?

For many of us, the answer comes easily: Yes. Being number one at everything is considered Life’s Big Goal. Accordingly, we spend a lot of our time fervently traveling toward the promised land — shoring up weaknesses, honing strengths, targeting where to excel.

But this way of thinking misses out on a potentially important point: that there are some real advantages to being terrible.  There’s an underrated beauty in clumsiness. 

At this point we would like to introduce the piece de resistance of bad, the great pyramid of terribleness: the golf swing of former NBA basketball star, Mr. Charles Barkley (see below). It is not just bad. It is an Everest of ineptitude.

Historically speaking, there are two ways of looking at being bad:

1) It’s bad. It’s to be ignored, avoided, and spoken of as little as possible.
2) It’s secretly kind of good, because it teaches important lessons we can’t learn anywhere else.

In this second way of thinking, being bad contains a potential silver lining: character development, teaching the invaluable skill of resilience. We see this all the time, not just in the work of psychologists like Albert Bandura, but also in the biographies of luminaries like Beethoven, Churchill, Darwin, Emily Dickinson, Harry Truman, and John Grisham — all of whom endured excruciating stretches of ineptitude before they got good.

What’s more, we can take this idea even farther.  Because the advantages of being terrible go well beyond the necessary benefits of resilience and character. Being terrible can be useful because:

  • It gives us freedom to experiment. Maintaining greatness is a narrow pursuit — you are essentially playing defense, vigilantly guarding against erosion. Being terrible, on the other hand, is a license to try new things. It permits a looseness and a creativity, since there is very little to lose.
  • It connects us to other people. It’s interesting to see the contrast between the way people treat the ever-smiling Barkley and the ever-grim Tiger Woods.  People admire greatness. But they relate to Barkley’s awfulness because we’ve all been there.
  • It lets us practice the vastly underrated skill of knowing when to quit. In this overprogrammed world, it’s all too easy (especially for parents and kids) to say yes to tennis, music, golf, theatre, everything. But to get really good at anything, you can’t say yes to everything. Knowing when and how to quit is not just handy — it’s a survival skill.
  • It keeps us humble and grounded. Lives built on the relentless pursuit of perfection tend to be relentlessly narrow. Witness some of the indefensible behaviour we’ve seen lately from perfectionists in the City, Whitehall and in the sports arena.  Being terrible is a reminder that we’re like everybody else — vulnerable, human, prone to error. It tilts us toward a learning mindset.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Building The Team That Could Save Your Life

Mountaineer Chris Warner on teambuilding, the dangers of K2 and why in climbing the ties that bind make the difference between life and death: 


Preparing for Peak Performance

People are finally starting to realise that "the right stuff" isn't something you have to be born with. The fact that we can learn to tap previously unexplored potential has been quickest, perhaps, to take hold in the world of professional sports. However, the principles involved will work just as well outside this elevated world.

One of the best-known techniques, for what sports psychologists and counselors call "performance enhancement," is visualisation. Now, visualisation is simply a form of mental practice. It's doing your sport over and over again in your mind, with all the right moves and the desired end result. You can do this with your eyes closed in a quiet room, riding the bus, in the shower, while you're waiting to see the dentist – virtually any time.

All that's required is that you see yourself performing. It doesn't matter what the action is, as long as you are doing it perfectly. This is because your subconscious doesn't know the difference between a vividly imagined picture and the actual event. And while mental practice can't replace the discipline and hard work of physical practice, in some ways it's even better. It guarantees that you are practicing perfection, and when you practice perfection, you are far more likely to perform perfectly.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Frustration is a feeling all of us experience from time to time.....but how do we go about overcoming it?

One of the roadblocks on the path to success is frustration. Everyone feels it from time to time. It's kind of like anxiety with a little anger thrown in, isn't it? You feel like a tiger in a cage, filled with tension and negative energy but accomplishing nothing. And that tension and negative energy represent both the danger and the opportunity in frustration.

The danger is the tension and the negativity, because negativity blocks all the positive feelings you need in order to keep going and solve the problems at hand – and you just can't be very creative in a tension-filled environment. The opportunity is the energy, because you can use it to overcome whatever obstacle you're facing, as soon as you get the negative thinking under control. “Ah-ha,” you may be saying, “there's the catch. If I could do that, I wouldn't be frustrated.” Well, you can do it.

Cognitive psychologists teach people to do it, too. It's simply a question of knowing how. If you'd like to learn how, pick up a copy of Dr. Martin Seligman's book, Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. It will give you a simple technique you can use to minimise negative thoughts and substitute positive ones. It's quite simple to master and it will make a big difference in your frustration level and the time you spend spinning your wheels.


Why Great Leaders Are Always Destined to Fail

The traditional autocratic style of leadership is dead in both politics and business, according to psychology research published recently that argues leaders succeed only by responding closely to their followers.

A group of psychologists distilled the results of their research at the 2010 British Science Festival in Birmingham. 

“The fundamental point is that effective leadership is not about ‘me’ but about ‘us’,” said Alex Haslam, psychology professor at Exeter University.

The research analysed 85 recent books about leadership and studying public attitudes to leaders. “The patterns that emerge challenge traditional models of leadership which suggest that this is simply about the character of the people at the top,” said Prof Haslam. “Instead they suggest that leadership is always bound up with followership, and that groups work best when leaders and followers perceive themselves to share a common sense of identity.”

The problem is that this art of being ordinary usually starts to break down at the height of your powers as success sets you apart from your peers.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Can Exercise Help Develop Intelligence?

In an experiment published last month, researchers recruited schoolchildren, ages 9 and 10, who lived near the Champaign-Urbana campus of the University of Illinois and asked them to run on a treadmill. The researchers were hoping to learn more about how fitness affects the immature human brain.

The results of this and other recent research are clear: exercise is good for the intelligence of young people. 


Monday, September 20, 2010

Make Leadership Positive, Rational and Information-focused

In his book, Business @ the Speed of Thought: Succeeding in the Digital Economy, Bill Gates writes admiringly of General Motors’ legendary leader Alfred P. Sloan, who is considered one of the pioneers of modern management.

Gates writes, “It’s inspiring to see in Sloan’s account of his career how positive, rational, information-focused leadership can lead to extraordinary success.” 

Clearly, Gates has adopted these same qualities of being positive, rational, and information-focused in his approach to leadership, both in Microsoft and in his foundation, and achieved with it extraordinary success.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Leaders We Need For Tomorrow

Through Imagining the Future of Leadership, a symposium at the Harvard Business School and accompanying blog series, expert thinkers gathered to investigate what is necessary today to develop the leaders we need for tomorrow.

Andrew Pettigrew, Professor, Sïad Business School, University of Oxford
Bob Johansen, Distinguished Fellow, Institute for the Future
Barbara Kellerman, Lecturer in Public Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School
Deborah Ancona, Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Daisy Wademan Dowling, Executive Director, Leadership Development at Morgan Stanley
Dr. Ellen Langer, Professor, Harvard University
Evan Wittenberg, Head of Global Leadership Development, Google, Inc.
Gianpiero Petriglieri, Affiliate Professor of Organizational Behavior, INSEAD
Marshall Ganz, Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School
Scott Snook, Associate Professor, Harvard Business School and retired Colonel, US Army Corps of Engineers


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Five Keys to Good Leadership

1. Be aware. Understand yourself and your context. Know your own strengths, limitations, and development needs. If you don't have time to build your skills, bring people into your team who will complement you. Be aware of the organisation and the people you are leading.

2. Have a plan. Know where you are going. One great definition of leadership is to have followers. If you cannot create a sense of the future, no one can follow you.

3. Build relationships. Give more of yourself. A leader has to get things done through others, so people skills are critical. Take time to get to know your peers, bosses, and subordinates. Talk less, listen more, and remember the details of what people say. Investing time to understand the roles, ideas, and personalities of those around you will yield a strong network, corporate allies, motivated staff, and personal goodwill.

4. Deliver. Get things done. Whatever your line of business, you need to show the results of your leadership. So whether it's a better product, an improved service, a higher profit or share price, make sure you deliver.

5. Have integrity. Get your values right. Your values define who you are and why others should work for you. The important point here is that values should be lived, not written down or occasionally talked about. Show by your own example that honesty, truth, transparency, respect, and sustainability matter. 


Friday, September 17, 2010

More Tomorrow than Today

When you can see yourself, not as you are, but as you can become, you stimulate incredible growth and previously unbelievable change. People who find life exciting and who continue to grow and expand their accomplishments are people who have an expanding self-image.

Now this doesn't mean that you go around completely out of touch with reality. But it does mean that you have a vision of reality that includes not just the past and the present, but also the future. It also means that your primary focus is not on what you are today, but what you can be tomorrow. It is this technique, this ability that motivates people to grow, to surpass themselves, to break records, to change in positive, exciting ways.

After all, if you can't see it, how can you be it? This is what you want to do for your children, friends, relatives and colleagues – indeed, all whom your life touches. Keep painting a vivid mental picture for them of all that they can be and do. Let them know you believe in their abilities, and watch them move towards that picture. Help them be more today than they were yesterday, and on their way to a greater tomorrow.


Building A Team That Loves What They Do

Global Business School Network president Guy Pfeffermann talks about the importance of building a team that loves what they do. 


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Presentation Advice

Presentations go wrong for numerous reasons, but the most common reason is poor preparation. 

Follow these two rules to make sure you're ready before you step up to the podium:

  1. Know your audience. Speeches are about the audience, not the presenter. Before you write anything down, be sure you know who you're addressing. The size, attitudes, and emotional state of your audience should affect the length, style, and content of your presentation.
  2. Tell them one thing. The sad truth is that audience members remember very little of what they hear. Keep it simple. Focus on one idea and eliminate everything that doesn't support that idea.


Think Like a Golfer

The amazing thing about golf is that at the end of the day golfers don't remember the poor shots they made. All they remember is their one great shot and this memory inspires them to come back again and again in an attempt to make another great shot. It’s no wonder that golf is so addicting.

Compare this thought process to how many of us approach work and life. Instead of focusing on the one good thing that happened to us each day we often think about the 100 things that went wrong. Instead of thinking about our successes we replay our failures over and over again in our mind. No wonder so many of us retreat from life and work instead of getting addicted to it.

The key is to think like a golfer and remember the one great conversation, the one energising meeting, the one act of kindness, the one meaningful accomplishment or the one special moment that made you smile, laugh and cheer.

No matter how difficult our days are, there’s always a positive moment we can choose to focus on. The key is to remember them, focus on them and get addicted to them. Let them inspire you to wake up and take on each day just as you would a golf course. You'll go through life learning from your mistakes but remembering and focusing on your successes.

Sure, there will be days that make you want to give up but the memory of your successes and positive experiences will motivate you to come back again and again. You'll forget the 100 things that went wrong and you'll remember the one thing that went right. You’ll get addicted to the moments that make life the greatest game in the universe and you’ll intoxicate yourself with positive energy, happiness, joy and success! 


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Redefining Success in a Recession Economy

A recession is a great reminder that all of us need to learn, as Samuel Beckett said, to “fail better” - http://www.newsweek.com/video/2010/09/13/the-power-of-failure.html


Monday, September 13, 2010

Positive Leadership partners with Scotland rugby head coach Andy Robinson

Positive Leadership is delighted to be partnering with Scotland rugby head coach, Andy Robinson, to bring the lessons of sports leadership into the boardroom. 

In an event organised by the IOD entitled; ‘Living Your Leadership Values – Even Under Pressure – To Achieve Desired Results: Lessons from the Six Nations’ you can hear from Graham Watson and Gavin Hastings of Positive Leadership and Andy Robinson how values play a hugely significant role in delivering high performance on a consistent basis. 

Details of the event, which is being held on 28 September 2010 in Edinburgh, can be obtained at http://www.iodscotland.com/local or by contacting the event organiser, Gillian Rose at Gillian@cognito-events.com .

For a chance to win a free seat at the event, please email;  graham.watson@positiveleadership.co.uk 


Managing Clashing Leadership Styles

If everyone had the same management style as you, life at work would be easier, wouldn't it? Not necessarily. While managing the tension can be challenging, working with someone who has a different approach than you can often yield innovation and creativity. 

Here are three ways to make the most of differing styles:

  1. Unpeel the onion. On the surface, you may seem to have little in common with your colleague. But if you look deeper, you are likely to see shared values or a mutual goal. Focus on what you have in common, not on what you don't.
  2. Manage your expectations. Recognise that you and your colleagues are going to have different expectations about how things should be done. Communicate about these disparities and be open to doing something another way.
  3. Push for innovation. The true value of diversity is a richer end product. Use your relationship to find innovation and benefit in the work you do together.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Character Counts

Surveys suggest that worker satisfaction is more profoundly affected by perceptions of top management than by their immediate supervisor. What lessons can top leaders glean from this?

One of the key lessons is that the leader's character has a profound effect on the development and maintenance of an organisation's culture. 

Those at the top are presumed to merit their positions because of competence, but their character also matters. What differentiates the most effective leaders, no matter where they reside in the hierarchy, is the combination of these two attributes. These are the leaders with integrity; they have a high degree of congruence between their values and their actions. They engender trust and commitment, evoke a comforting, non-stagnant predictability, and cultivate confidence in the long term viability of their organisations. 

This combination of competence and character provides meaning and inspires hope to those whose dreams may be dimmed by middle management's tendency to divide the work force into leaders and losers. In top-down bureaucracies where status and title matter most, the individual at the top of the pyramid is always accorded formal authority and power. Whether they are authorised to lead or not is actually determined by who they are and what they do. The most effective leaders understand this; they know that leadership by title is insufficient and superficial without the legitimisation of those being led.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Why Some Executives Fail

Here are some common executive ‘derailers’ :

- Lack of ethics and values
- Overly ambitious
- Arrogance
- Blocked personal learner
- Defensiveness
- Insensitive to others
- Non-strategic
- Failure to build a team
- Lack of composure
- Unable to adapt to differences.


What is Talent?

Talent can be found in extraordinary and ordinary places if we choose to be completely open about what talent actually 'is'.

So, what does it mean to be “talented” or “gifted” or a “genius”?

According to David Shenk, the author of  The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You've Been Told About Genetics, Talent, and IQ Is Wrong, the traditional view of talent as a “gift” that is somehow given to us through our genes is both simplistic and outdated. 

Genes mean very little, considering that, as Shenk points out, “genes are constantly activated and deactivated by environmental stimuli, nutrition, hormones, nerve impulses and other genes.” In other words, our genes don’t guarantee anything.

He also goes into great detail about the hard work and focus that some of the most talented people in history – including Mozart and Michael Jordan – put into developing their skills. His finding is that talent has less to do with the “gifts” that nature has endowed us with as it does with environmental and behavioural factors. That is, most of us aren’t destined to be talented or untalented. It’s something that happens over time, due to conscious effort and environmental stimuli.

The inspirational upshot of Shenk’s research is that “few of us know our true limits and that the vast majority of us have not even come close to tapping what scientists call our ‘unactualised potential.’”

This is exciting news, and hopefully it will inspire many of us to work harder at developing our skills. Too often we hear people label themselves as “not gifted at math” or “not artistic” or “not creative.” According to the research cited in Shenk’s book, we can’t let ourselves off that easy.

If we broaden our understanding of talent, we’ll start seeing it in unexpected places. The truth is, we’ve all got unbelievable potential. it’s just up to us, our mentors and our leaders to tap into it and put it to good use. A tall order, to be sure, but one that’s definitely worth the work. 


Friday, September 10, 2010


The two key elements of all leadership are simply: 1) to connect everyone to the mission, and 2) to each other. Other aspects of leadership may be critical, but not as indispensable as these two. Connecting everyone to the mission takes identifying that mission. Only top leaders can do that. Only they can set the whole organisation's direction, and give it meaning.

The larger, the more important the mission, the more satisfaction people have in pursuing it. As Shakespeare says:

'O, the blood more stirs
To rouse a lion than
To start a hare.' (Henry IV, I)

People get more satisfaction from coping with a big challenge, like rousing a lion, than going after small tasks, like chasing a rabbit. It's the responsibility of top leadership to explain how and why their whole organisation is pursuing a big, important mission. Supervisors can repeat their message, and specify their unit's role in that mission.

Both elements, connecting folks to the mission, and to each other come together magnificently when Shakespeare's Henry V inspires the "we few, we happy few, we band of brothers" at the Battle of Agincourt on October 25, 1415.

His St. Crispin Day's Speech (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9fa3HFR02E) is the greatest motivational speech ever made. That's why Sir Winston Churchill adapted its approach and beauty to his powerful speeches during the British Empire's darkest days of 1940.


Thursday, September 09, 2010

The Secrets of Resilient Leadership: When Failure is Not an Option

When faced with adversity, leaders can get caught up trying to manage their own stress. In the worst cases, such as the demise of Enron or the fiasco after Hurricane Katrina, they become so concerned for their own position that they jeopardise the entire operation.

The authors of The Secrets of Resilient Leadership: When Failure Is Not an Option.Six Essential Characteristics for Leading in Adversity remind us of a simple fact -

Resilient leadership is not only about how well you survive, it is about helping others rebound. The true test of leadership, they point out, is how well others follow.

“Although a leader may have the vision and courage to lead, he must do so in a way that followers respond to”, they say. The prerequisites for this are trust and devotion. Leaders must act with “bold and decisive action built on honour and honesty.”

These are basic qualities that most leaders are already aware of, even if they do not always exhibit them. The strength in this book is in the authors’ ability to break down these abstract concepts into concrete, achievable steps. 

The book is structured on their top six components of resilient leadership:

(1) Acting with integrity. Bold, decisive action is not enough; it must come from integrity. Integrity inspires trust, trust enhances a sense of safety, and safety helps fulfil the most fundamental need—survival.

(2) Communicating effectively and honestly. There is no such thing as an information vacuum—if you don’t talk, others will.

(3) Using the power of decisiveness, optimism, and self-fulfilling prophecies. Optimism has been shown to influence outcomes: Your thoughts define and create reality as much, or possibly more, than vice versa. Leaders must not only see opportunity in adversity, they must model it, convey and create optimism in others.

(4) Persevering and taking responsibility for actions. Perseverance is what provides strength, and responsibility generates honour. To your employer, your first duty is to earn your income; to others, it is understanding and respect; to your community, consideration and appreciation; and to those you lead it is to protect, act in their best interest, and teach.

(5) Building a resilient culture.  Fostering a group identity, or sense of belonging, combined with group cohesion—the degree of interpersonal affinity, commitment or attraction that members share—are keys to cultural resilience. The tenet “No one left behind” creates the sense of safety without which followers won’t follow.

(6) Developing physical and psychological health as a competitive advantage. Overwhelm, frustration, fatigue and illness will undermine any effort towards resilience. To combat this, leaders need to follow, model, and promote common sense rules for physical and mental health.


Wednesday, September 08, 2010

See Direction as a Result of Process?


Value Creation and Sport

Over the last two decades, professional sport has grown to be one of the biggest and most influential industries in the world.

There is a great deal that managers and business leaders can learn from examining the unique role sport plays in the global economy – and specifically by analysing what makes certain franchises economically successful. And yet, there’s a real shortage of research on this topic. Few people are thinking and writing about it intelligently.

Enter Sandalio Gómez, Kimio Kase and Ignacio Urrutia. Their new book, Value Creation and Sport Management proposes an insightful and academically rigorous framework for understanding the growth of the sport industry over the last few decades. 

As they point out, “twenty years ago Real Madrid football team had a budget of less than €60 million; today, it is €400 million.” Something is going on here, and these three authors do a superb job of getting to the bottom of it.

Sport taps into the deepest emotional feelings of the world’s population, regardless of geography age or demographics. This is territory that today’s business leaders need to be deeply knowledgeable about, especially as it is in the arena of experiences (rather than products) where optimum value is being created. Emotional experiences like the ones provoked by sport that will be at the core of the successful businesses of tomorrow, which is why it is important to study the underlying forces that govern this vibrant, unique industry.

Gómez, Kase and Urrutia have hit upon an important and overlooked research project, and hopefully their work sparks a firestorm of academic investigation into the inner workings of sports franchises.


Creating Value from Values

In companies that are innovative, profitable, and responsible, widespread dialogue about the interpretation and application of values enhances accountability, collaboration, and initiative.

Here are ten essential ingredients that make values work to produce organisational value:

·         Values are a priority for leaders, invoked often in their messages and on the agenda for management discussions.
·         The entire work force can enter the conversation; employees are invited to discuss or interpret values and principles in conjunction with their peers, who help ensure alignment.
·         Principles are codified, made explicit, transmitted in writing in many media, and reviewed regularly to make sure people understand and remember them.
·         Statements about values and principles invoke a higher purpose, a purpose beyond current tasks that indicates service to society. This purpose can become part of the company's brand and a source of competitive differentiation.
·         The words become a basis for on-going dialogue that guides debate when there is controversy or initial disagreement. Decisions are supported by reference to particular values or principles.
·         Principles guide choices, in terms of business opportunities to pursue or reject, or in terms of investments with a longer time horizon that might seem uneconomic today.
·         As they become internalised by employees, values and principles can substitute for more impersonal or coercive rules. They can serve as a control system against violations, excesses, or veering off course.
·         Actions reflecting values and principles — especially difficult choices — become the basis for iconic stories that are easy to remember and retell, reinforcing to employees and the world what the company stands for.
·         Values are aspirational, signalling long-term intentions that guide thinking about the future.
·         Principles, purpose, and values are discussed with suppliers, distributors, and other business partners, to promote consistent high standards everywhere.

In short, it's not the words that make a difference; it's the conversation. Frequent discussion about organisational values can be engaging and empowering. The organisation becomes a community united by shared purpose, which reinforces teamwork and collaboration. People can be more readily relied on to do the right thing, and to guide their colleagues to do the same, once they buy into and internalise core principles. People can become more aware of the drivers and impact of their behaviour. Active consideration of core values and purpose can unlock creative potential.


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Power of Positive Deviance

Think of the toughest problems in your organisation or community. What if they'd already been solved and you didn't even know it?

In The Power of Positive Deviance: How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World's Toughest Problems, the authors present a counterintuitive new approach to problem-solving. Their advice? Leverage positive deviants - the few individuals in a group who find unique ways to look at, and overcome, seemingly insoluble difficulties. By seeing solutions where others don't, positive deviants spread and sustain needed change.

With vivid, firsthand stories of how positive deviance has alleviated some of the world's toughest problems (malnutrition in Vietnam, staph infections in hospitals), the authors illuminate its core practices, including:

  • Mobilising communities to discover "invisible" solutions in their midst
  • Using innovative designs to "act" your way into a new way of thinking instead of thinking your way into a new way of acting
  • Confounding the organisational "immune response" seeking to sustain the status quo
Inspiring and insightful, The Power of Positive Deviance: How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World's Toughest Problems unveils a potent new way to tackle the thorniest challenges in your own company and community.