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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Preparing for the New Year

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

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

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

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

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

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


How to Lead (part 2)

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


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How to Lead (part 1)

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


14 Ways to Keep Your Team Engaged

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

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


Monday, December 27, 2010

The 200 yard Gong Shot


Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders

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


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas!


The Path to Peak Performance

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


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What Makes Leaders Tick?

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


Monday, December 20, 2010

Young Women in Leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Developing Great Leaders

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

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

Monday, December 13, 2010

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

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


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Positive Leadership

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


Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Winner's Dream!


The Capacities of Great Leaders

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

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

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

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


Friday, December 10, 2010

Excellence & Success

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

Joe Paterno, Head Football Coach at Penn State University


Thursday, December 09, 2010

Performance and Fulfillment

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

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

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

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

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

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

In leadership, you need both together.


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Change the Process, Change the Result

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


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Projecting a Leadership Presence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, December 06, 2010

Decision Making at GE

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

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

Jeff Immelt, CEO, General Electric


Decision Making in a Crisis

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

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

1. Get as much information as you can

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

2. Plan your decision

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

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

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

4. Keep the big picture in mind

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

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

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

6. Take time out to make a decision

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

7. Sleep on it

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

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

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

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

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

10. Follow your intuition

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


Sunday, December 05, 2010

How to Treat People

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Snowstorm Study: A Classic Study of Employee Commitment

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

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

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


Chinese, Indian Workers Give Bosses Top Marks

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

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

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


Friday, December 03, 2010

Making Choices

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, December 02, 2010

Keep Your Team Smiling

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

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

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


Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Winning Breeds Winning

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