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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Positive Leadership: The Role of Business

We have a fundamental belief that the role of business is to make the world a better place. 

Jim Stengel, former Chief Marketing Officer of Proctor & Gamble and the author of Grow uses the expression "improving the lives of the people a business serves.” He has teamed with data crunchers Millward Brown to produce the “Stengel 50” – a ranking of 50 companies that have exponentially improved their profits by dedicating themselves to improving the lives of customers. Win-Win. His top 50 have generated a traditional ROI of 400% better than S&P.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Positive Leadership: Being Average is No Use

In the past, workers with average skills, doing an average job, could earn an average lifestyle. But, today, average is officially over. Being average just won’t earn you what it used to. 

It can’t when so many more employers have so much more access to so much more above average cheap foreign labour, cheap robotics, cheap software, cheap automation and cheap genius. Therefore, everyone needs to find their extra — their unique value contribution that makes them stand out in whatever is their field of employment. Average is over.

There will always be change — new jobs, new products, new services. But the one thing we know for sure is that with each advance in globalisation and the I.T. revolution, the best jobs will require workers to have more and better education to make themselves above average. 

By way of illustration, here are the latest unemployment rates from the Bureau of Labour Statistics for Americans over 25 years old: those with less than a high school degree, 13.8 per cent; those with a high school degree and no college, 8.7 per cent; those with some college or associate degree, 7.7 per cent; and those with bachelor’s degree or higher, 4.1 per cent.

In a world where average is officially over, there are many things we need to do to buttress employment, but nothing would be more important than passing some kind of Recovery Act for the 21st century that ensures that every Briton has access to post-secondary school education.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Positive Leadership: Follow Your Instincts

This interview with Bill Kling, founder and president emeritus of the American Public Media Group, was conducted by The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/15/business/bill-kling-of-american-public-media-on-valuing-creativity.html ). 

Q. If you were teaching a class to business school students, what lessons would you impart to them?
A. Follow your instincts. If your instincts for the job are good, you will be successful. If your instincts are bad, it’s the wrong job and you should get out early and try something else. Textbook learning can take you only so far. It can give you tools that will help you analyse things. But don’t do it the way other C.E.O.’s that you read about have done it. Don’t follow the case studies if your instinct tells you otherwise.
The great leaders, I think, are people who were smart enough to gather all of the tools that they needed, all the information, all the peer mentoring that they could get and then just tucked that away somewhere as extra fuel and followed their instincts to do what they had a passion for, what they thought they knew how to do.
Too often, leaders fail because someone told them they can’t do it. If you don’t know what you can’t do, then you may well achieve it. That is so important. Look at our great companies. Almost all of them shouldn’t have succeeded the way they did. Often it’s accidental, opportunistic, it’s luck, it’s something else. But it’s being open to falling into that success. And you can see it in some of our most innovative companies.
As soon as you get overly tied to the lessons you were taught in business school or elsewhere, I think you’re going to start doing it the way it’s been done in the past. And then you’re going to have a company that’s like those that existed in the past. You’re not going to see that new technologies could offer possibilities that no one has even thought of. You have to be willing to go into a room and say, “Why can’t this happen?” And then have someone look at you and say, “That’s the dumbest question anybody ever asked.”
Even though you are the C.E.O., you have to allow and encourage that kind of feedback. Because you can sink a company if you come in with a load of ideas and innovation and creativity that’s bigger than the company can carry. So you’ve got to have people coming back and saying, “We know that,” or “We understand where you’re going with it, but it’s not something we can do at this point.”


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Positive Leadership: Good Strategic Choices v Bad Strategic Choices

Good strategy makes the link between the specific actions leaders take and the financial results of those actions. Assuming you can determine who belongs on your bus, someone still must pick a destination and make great choices along the way.

Strategy is about making choices that lead to sustainably superior performance. Michael Porter's five tests of good strategy can help you to tell the difference between good choices and bad.
So what are good choices?
First, you must choose a distinctive value proposition. Which needs will you serve, which customers, at what relative price? Have you staked out a positioning that's different from rivals?
Second, and far less intuitive, you must choose to tailor your activities to that value proposition. Competitive advantage lies in the activities, in choosing to perform activities differently or to perform different activities than rivals. These ultimately are the choices that result in a company's ability to charge premium prices or to operate at lower cost. (Remember, we're talking about quantifiable performance.)
The third test of strategy, making trade-offs, may well be the hardest. It means accepting limits — saying no to some customers, for example, so that you can better serve others. Porter explains why trade-offs are an important source of profitability differences among rivals, and why trade-offs make it difficult for rivals to copy what you do without compromising their own strategies. The essence of strategy, says Porter, is choosing what not to do.
Fit is the fourth test. Great strategies are like complex systems in which all of the parts fit together seamlessly. Each thing you've chosen to do amplifies the value of the other things you do. That's how fit improves the bottom line. It also enhances sustainability. Says Porter, "Fit locks out imitators by creating a chain that is as strong as its strongest link."
Continuity is strategy's fifth test. While managers are often berated for changing too slowly and too little, it is also possible to change too much, and in the wrong ways. Faced with the latest ‘new thing’, managers must choose whether to embrace it or not. Continuity of strategy helps companies to make good choices about whether and how to change in the face of turbulence. Good choices will strengthen tailoring, sharpen trade-offs, and enhance fit.
So, is it great by choice...or making great choices? Academics tend to divide the world into two separate domains: people and numbers. There are the "soft" subjects like leadership and organisational behaviour, and the "hard" ones like finance, accounting, and operations. Of course this distinction only makes sense in the classroom. All great leaders know that the central challenge of performance is seamlessly integrating the two into a working whole. Good strategies do just that. 


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Positive Leadership: A Team of Rival Perspectives

One element that fosters creativity is the ability to see an issue from multiple angles. When leaders build mechanisms that give them these various perspectives, they are more likely to see creative solutions.

One fascinating example is that of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was the surprise winner of a hotly contested primary election that included personal attacks and attempted coup d’├ętats. Once he had secured the nomination, and later the presidency of the United States, Lincoln assembled his cabinet primarily of the very men he quarrelled with for the nomination. This “team of rivals” was able to provide a variety of perspectives and create a tension over the solutions that avoided the traditional, yes-man saturated groupthink sessions that marked so many other presidents’ cabinets.

What is important is for the leader of such diverse rivalries to sustain the right amount of creative friction, taking care to produce the tension needed to refine new ideas and challenge old assumptions while ensuring that the tension doesn’t get overbearing and melt the team. While there was a team of rivals in Lincoln’s cabinet, we suspect it was always certain who that needed leader was.
We tend to think of creatives as artists, musicians and writers. However, Lincoln’s deliberate attempt to leverage tension provided him with a style of creativity he found quite useful in navigating America through an equally tumultuous feud.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Positive Leadership: What's Your Influencing Style?

Effective leadership today relies more than ever on influencing others — impacting their ideas, opinions, and actions.

While influence has always been a valuable managerial skill, today's highly collaborative organisations make it essential. Consider how often you have to influence people who don't even report to you in order to accomplish your objectives. Success depends on your ability to effectively influence both your direct reports and the people over whom you have no direct authority.

Have you ever thought about how you influence others? The tactics you use? We are all aware that people use different influencing tactics, but did you realise that we each naturally default to the same tactics every time? Or that the tactics we default to are also the ones to which we are most receptive when being influenced?
It is these preferred tactics that define our influencing style. Analysing the different influencing tactics, researchers have identified up to nine primary influencing tactics. In our quest to further understand personal influencing styles, we did additional research to build on the existing knowledge base. From our research, we've identified five distinct influencing styles: rationalising, asserting, negotiating, inspiring, and bridging.
You may have an idea what your style is just from hearing these labels, but the most accurate way to identify your style is with an influence style indicator — a self-scoring assessment that classifies your style based on answers to questions about preferred influencing tactics. But even without the indicator, here are some questions you can ask yourself to begin to understand your style:
Rationalising: Do you use logic, facts, and reasoning to present your ideas? Do you leverage your facts, logic, expertise, and experience to persuade others?
Asserting: Do you rely on your personal confidence, rules, law, and authority to influence others? Do you insist that your ideas are heard and considered, even when others disagree? Do you challenge the ideas of others when they don't agree with yours? Do you debate with or pressure others to get them to see your point of view?
Negotiating: Do you look for compromises and make concessions in order to reach an outcome that satisfies your greater interest? Do you make trade-offs and exchanges in order to meet your larger interests? If necessary, will you delay the discussion until a more opportune time?
Inspiring: Do you encourage others toward your position by communicating a sense of shared mission and exciting possibility? Do you use inspirational appeals, stories, and metaphors to encourage a shared sense of purpose?
Bridging: Do you attempt to influence outcomes by uniting or connecting with others? Do you rely on reciprocity, engaging superior support, consultation, building coalitions, and using personal relationships to get people to agree with your position?
While answering these questions, take your style a step further. How often does it work for you? Are you more successful with certain types of people? Have you ever wondered why? Since there are five different influencing styles, using only your preferred style has the potential to undermine your influence with as many as four out of five people.
Gaining awareness about our own influencing style and those of others is especially critical in light of todays fast-paced and stressful work environments, and here's why: When we are operating unconsciously out of a preference (our style) and not seeing the results we expect, we actually have the tendency to intensify our preferred behaviour — even when it's not working!
If your individual success depends on gaining the cooperation of people over whom you have no direct authority, this should concern you. The way to begin to increase your odds of influencing more people is to learn to recognise and use each of the five styles.
Becoming aware that there are influencing styles other than yours is a good start. To further increase your influence, you must learn what each style sounds like when it's being used effectively and ineffectively. Gaining this awareness will help you recognise when the style you're using isn't working and how to determine one that will.
What's your influencing style? And what are you going to do about it?


Monday, January 23, 2012

Positive Leadership: Courage?

‘Courage is a virtue and heroism is admirable, but do we have a right to demand them? Which of us cannot look back on his or her own life and remember decisions, or compromises made, or silences kept because of cowardice, even when the penalties for courage were negligible?

If we are cowardly in small things, shall we be brave in large? Have we the right to point the finger until we have been tested ourselves? When we read of the seemingly lamentable conduct of the captain of the Costa Concordia, Francesco Schettino, who left his passengers to their fate, do we say, “There but for the grace of God go I”?

Of course, leadership entails an obligation to be courageous – morally, physically or both. It is the price of leadership; it is why leaders are more highly regarded and rewarded than the rest of us. But even subordinates in certain professions have the duty to be brave, as the rest of us do not. A soldier is expected unquestioningly to put himself in the way of bullets as a civilian is not……….

What, then, might Captain Schettino say in his defence? Let us, for the sake of argument, leave aside the possibility that the whole disaster was an error of his seamanship, and suppose instead that it was what some people call “one of those things”.

In a world used to the utilitarian zeitgeist, he might say that if he had stayed on board and gone down with his ship, nobody who died would have been spared. We imagine a captain on his deck, as he slips under the waves, but this is quixotic romanticism if in fact no one is saved. A captain’s life is worth as much as anyone else’s; nobody’s interest is served by his needless death.

Can we be sure that if Captain Schettino had kept calm and carried on, fewer people would have died? Can it be wholly his fault if the crew were not properly trained and members of it were not even able to communicate with each other, let alone with all the passengers? He could, of course, have refused his command: but how many of us resign our jobs on a matter of principle? If we were to do so, the unemployment rate would be nearly 100 per cent…………………………….

Could he have known in advance that he was not up to the mark, that no man was less fitted than he for such an emergency? I hope it is not taken for lack of sympathy for the victims and their relations to say that, on the scale of human monstrosity, the captain does not climb very high. His place on the scale of human weakness is another matter.’


Friday, January 20, 2012

Positive Leadership: What Makes Stanford University a Unique Environment

This video gives a good overview of what makes Silicon Valley a unique environment for economic growth. It is something which should be looked at closely by those wishing to stimulate new business here in Scotland.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Positive Leadership: Improve Productivity to Find Resources

Big companies have lots of money tied up in inefficient programmes that could be used to create differentiation and neutralise competition, says Geoffrey Moore, Author and Venture Partner, Mohr Davidow Ventures. In this video, he discusses how massive waste and sloppy business practices hinder a company's ability to create power through innovation.


Positive Leadership: 40,000 page views

The Positive Leadership Blog has now had over 40,000 page views. Thanks to all those who have taken an interest in our writings about leadership.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Positive Leadership: Cultivate a Culture of Confidence

'One difference between winners and losers is how they handle losing.

Even for the best companies and most-accomplished professionals, long track records of success are punctuated by slips, slides, and mini-turnarounds. Even the team that wins the game might make mistakes, fumble, and lag behind for part of it. That’s why the ability to recover quickly and get back on course is so important.
Troubles are ubiquitous. Surprises can fall from the sky like volcanic ash and appear to change everything. New ventures can begin with great promise and still face unexpected obstacles, unanticipated delays, and critics that pop up at the wrong moment. That’s why I coined Kanter’s Law: “Anything can look like a failure in the middle.”
Nothing succeeds for long without considerable effort and constant vigilance. Winning streaks end for predictable reasons: Strategies run their course. New competition emerges to take on the industry leader. Ideas get dusty. Technology marches on. Complacency sets in, making people feel entitled to success rather than motivated to work for it.
Thus, a key factor in high achievement is bouncing back from the low points. Long-term winners often face the same problems as long-term losers, but they respond differently, as I found in the research for my book Confidence. I compared companies and sports teams with long winning streaks and long losing streaks, and then looked at how leaders led turnarounds from low to high performance.
Consider first the pathologies of losing. Losing produces temptations to behave in ways that make it hard to recover fast enough—and could even make the situation worse. For example, panicking and throwing out the game plan. Scrambling for self-protection and abandoning the rest of the group. Hiding the facts and hoping that things will get better by themselves before anyone notices. Denying that there is anything to learn or change. Using decline as an excuse to let facilities or investments deteriorate.
The culture and support system that surrounds high performers helps them avoid these temptations. They can put troubles in perspective because they are ready for them. They rehearse through diligent practice and preparation; they remain disciplined and professional. Their leaders put facts on the table and review what went right or wrong in the last round, in order to shore up strengths and pinpoint weaknesses and to encourage personal responsibility for actions. They stress collaboration and teamwork—common goals; commitment to a joint vision; respect and support for team members, so when someone drops the ball, someone else is there to pick it up—and responsibility for mentoring, so the best performers lift everyone’s capabilities. They seek creative ideas for improvement and innovation, favouring widespread dialogue and brainstorming.
Resilience is not simply an individual characteristic or a psychological phenomenon. It is helped or hindered by the surrounding system. Teams that are immersed in a culture of accountability, collaboration, and initiative are more likely to believe that they can weather any storm. Self-confidence, combined with confidence in one another and in the organisation, motivates winners to make the extra push that can provide the margin of victory.
The lesson for leaders is clear: Build the cornerstones of confidence—accountability, collaboration, and initiative—when times are good and achievement comes easily. Maintain a culture of confidence as insurance against the inevitable downturns. And while no one should deliberately seek failure, remember that performance under pressure—the ability to stay calm, learn, adapt, and keep on going—separates winners from losers.'
This post was written by Rosabeth Moss Kanter, who holds Harvard Business School’s Arbuckle Professorship and specialises in strategy, innovation, and leadership. Her latest book is SuperCorp.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Positive Leadership: Celebrating Freedom

"Change does not roll in on the wheels of  inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent."  Martin Luther King, Jr.


Positive Leadership: Be Positive!

Here are some things that don't exist: A bad day, a boring book, a demeaning job, and an ugly dress.

Now why do we say that there is no such thing as a bad day or an ugly dress? Shakespeare had this idea in mind when he said, "Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so." You see, if the dress was truly ugly, every single person we asked would say, "Yes, that is ugly." But what are the chances of that happening?

And if the day was truly bad, then no one could possibly be having a good day on that date, could they? And even if two people share the very same experience on the same day, one of them may call it bad and the other one may say, "Now wait a minute. There is another way to look at it."

And that is exactly the point. There is always another way of looking at things. So, why in the world would you voluntarily choose a way that is negative, devaluing or that makes you feel badly? You have the ability to control your thoughts and your emotions.

The first step is believing that not only is it possible, but it is possible for you. And when you feel you can do it, then you try. And the more you try, the better you get at it. Negative feelings that once dominated you can be made to go away, and the time it takes you to banish them will grow shorter and shorter. Until one day you may surprise yourself by saying, "You know, I cannot remember the last time I really felt angry or depressed!"


Sunday, January 01, 2012

Positive Leadership: Happy New Year!