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What Should Not Be Done

What Should Not Be Done

If I have to conform, how can I create? How can I innovate, if I have to play it safe? How can I discover new ideas in what I am doing?

Many frustrated people are seeking more meaningful work. They are bright and motivated to high achievement. Executives must rescue these talented people by finding ways to amplify their intelligence and motivation. Many high performance rewards await executives wise enough to capitalize on the yearning to create and innovate.

Innovative ideas are often found in paths we have yet to explore, and these paths are often revealed to us by people who ask us questions or give us directions. Questions and directions can be given in the form of what should be done or what should not be done. The form can either catalyze or kill creativity and innovation in people.

Consider questions and directions framed with the intent of advocating what should be. They are markers to assure safety—usually financial or physical—conformity to protocols and rules, and pursuit of wants and desires. Directives or questions emanating from this intent come as “this is what should be done or be happening;” or “what is the correct procedure—what should be done here?”

While “safety” and “security” are crucial to organizational well-being, these words are bipolar to words like creativity and innovation. If you have to conform, how can you create? If you are preoccupied with safety, how can you set sail in uncharted waters to innovate? Many executives confound their people by demanding creativity and innovation through questions and directions aimed at what should be. Executives need not abandon the “should be” form of questioning or directing in order to pursue paths to innovation and creativity. Such an action would excise critical markers needed for survival. The advocacy of an executive should be how to balance safety and security with innovation and creativity. This balance is achieved by using an alternate form of giving directions and asking questions.

Now consider questions and directions originating from what should not be. These directives or questions usually assume the form: “This is what should not be done” or “This is what should not happen.” When executives ask me: “Are you suggesting that I use negative questioning or direction giving as a management style?” I respond: “What could be more positive than avoiding that which should not be, and how can you avoid that which should not be if you don’t know what to avoid?”

Making visible what should not be can demand calling into action our own talents for innovation and creativity. For example, suppose I discover that you have a background in natural science when you and I are in Queensland, Australia, on a walkabout. All of a sudden you say to me: “About 15 feet ahead on the side of our path is a Taipan. If you continue walking in your current direction, you will encounter something that should not be.”

By issuing this warning, you gain my deep appreciation, as I am not interested in sustaining the painful bite of a poisonous reptile. You may also see how fast I can run or how high I can jump. If I try to catch and sell it, you may see what kind of an entrepreneur I am. By telling me with truth and fact what should not be, you cause my creative talents to emerge.

By managing your situation with truth and fact in terms of what should not be as opposed to managing on the basis of what should you be, you catalyze the attributes of innovation and creativity. People are then free to find their own best wave, knowing that are guarded from consequences of operating on the basis of what should not be. They also become confident in your role as one who would forewarn them about things that should not be.

Why are many executive directives I (even commandments of Deity) given in the form of “thou shalt not?” I believe the wisdom of the ages is rooted in a preference for freedom of action and an incentive for innovation and creativity.

Foster creativity and innovation

As I have tested this belief in managing projects and people, it has strengthened my resolve to illuminate, with truth and fact, that which should not be as the way to unleash latent creativity and innovation in people.

Any parent of teenagers knows that making visible hazards, obstacles, and things that should not be, will produce an astonishing array of creative ways around these restrictions. The creativity catalyzed by fear of parental consequences, from traveling restricted roads, somehow adds to their “thrill of the chase” and fuels competitive drive. These reactions are what executives seek.

There are other benefits to this approach. We can more readily agree on what we are about. Specificity in what should be is rarely obvious. Most admonitions are closely akin to “motherhood” statements leaving too many “hard to interpret” generalizations or mysteries for implementation.

When the boss specifies what should not be, we will find it easier to correctly interpret the intent. Things that executives should not do are more specifically set than those things that should be.

You must state what should be in order to promote safety and conformity in your pursuits. But, hopefully, you will add admonitions for behaving on the basis of what should not be. If these are entrenched in truth and fact regarding what should not be, you will foster creativity and innovation in your people.

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Posted in Management and Leadership

Engage in a Constructive Leadership Dialogue

Conduct Soul-searching Interviews with Outsiders

Engage in a Constructive Leadership Dialogue If you are a leader, what is your most important job? As stated by John Kotter, leaders groom organizations for transformation and help them manage as they struggle through it. That is their foremost job. However, how do they go about doing it? Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, once said: “My main job was developing talent. I was a gardener providing water and other nourishment to our top 750 people. Of course, I had to pull out some weeds, too.”

Evidently, setting a direction for the future is an important aspect of leadership. Telling what the organization should become in the long term and how it should get there becomes the foremost duty. Soon after taking the helm of IBM, Lou Gerstner announced, “The last thing IBM needs right now is a vision.” Some people nailed his hide to the wall for that statement. He explains that reporters dropped the words “right now” from his statement. Gerstner felt that IBM was long on vision statements, but short on getting the job done. Fixing the company was all about execution.

Creating a Culture of Leadership

Execution is nothing but aligning people, motivating them, and creating a culture of leadership. Kotter contrasts execution with equally important but managerial duties such as planning, budgeting, organizing, staffing, controlling, and problem solving. The value of a wonderful strategy is only achieved when it is carried out. And it is the people who make the grand vision a reality. That’s why, as Jack Welch points out, leaders need to make it a priority to plant and nourish talented people at every level.

If you lead a big organization like General Electric, you might have assets at your disposal like the GE John F. Welch Leadership Center at Crotonville, the world’s first major corporate business school. Here everyone from important customers and partners to present and future GE leaders come together to identify opportunities and debate issues. But few organizations have the resources to invest like GE. They can’t operate a dedicated leadership center.

Creating a Culture of Leadership The constraint of a smaller budget is hardly an excuse to not operate key levers that drive superior performance in people. Going back to Welch’s garden analogy, some aspects of cultivation are free, such as sunshine. But how you choose to orient your garden in relationship to the sun makes all the difference. If you place your garden under a large shade tree, you cut it off from necessary nourishment.

While a leader needs to have a strong sense of the direction, cultivating new culture by changing people’s frame of mind and behaviors is the hardest part. In doing so, they can follow the profit-at-any-price model by relying on fear, pressure, and greed, or they can follow a more sensible leadership model based on inspiration, motivation, and enthusiasm.

Four Bad Leadership Models

Even leaders who articulate a convincing vision, inspire followers, and display passion and courage to take on challenges can have wasteful traits that limit them. These tend to manifest themselves in four ways:

  • Know-it-alls: They start believing that they know and do this better than anybody, and believe that they don’t need others as much as others need them. So they tend to treat others as dispensable and tune them out.
  • Micromanagers: They get mired in minutiae and sometimes miss the forest for the trees. By measuring too much, they measure nothing.
  • Perfectionists: They spend too much time doing things right rather than doing the right things, thereby losing focus. They take any constructive feedback as a direct hit and return what they see as not-so-friendly fire.
  • Detached: They become emotionally distant and lose the intimacy and connection to other people. To any push-back, they respond: “Tough! If I can do it, so can you.”

When these behaviors occur, the results follow quickly: Any constructive confrontation within the executive team ends almost immediately. Honest exchange of ideas on options and their pros and cons ceases. What is happening on the ground to the foot soldiers becomes irrelevant. The pressure people feel becomes unbearable. The “guilt trip” that nobody else is pulling their weight becomes harder to take. Any semblance of work-life balance is lost. Conversations become one-way streets, and people feel like glorified order-takers. It seems like they have ceded all authority to the boss.

The leader is quickly surrounded by loyal sycophants in the inner circle who simply want to ride the coattails. Everyone else is in the outer circle-albeit with more self-esteem, yet fearful to say that the emperor has no clothes. Soon people start telling the leader what the leader wants to hear, lest their heads are chopped off. Collaboration comes to a grinding halt, and providing lip service becomes the politically correct thing to do. Everyone looks out for themselves, and any mutually shared goals, if they exist, take a back seat. Any sense of intimacy, camaraderie, and belonging on the team becomes non-existent.

Any concept of a team breaks down. Any sense of empowerment evaporates. The vision of the leader becomes a pipe dream. The strategic plan to get there suddenly has strong disbelievers. The short-term results, obtained through draconian measures, become harder to sustain. As Michael Maccoby notes: “Narcissistic leaders can self-destruct and lead their people astray.” So, there is plenty of leadership, but little followership.

Foster Competencies to Compete in the Future

Foster Competencies to Compete in the Future A key challenge for leaders competing for the future is to foster competencies that provide access to tomorrow’s opportunities. Further, as discussed by Gary Hamel and C. K. Prahalad in Competing for the Future, leaders need to find innovative applications of the current competencies. Leaders must objectively assess and proactively improve the caliber of the executive team and the organization as a whole.

However, before a leader can assess the caliber of the executive team, he must take stock of his own. Surveys—whether leadership or 360 degree—are popular and necessary, but rarely tell the leader the whole story. Objective, confidential, and focused interviews by an outsider with each individual on the executive team can deliver unvarnished truth-rich information about what’s really happening behind closed doors. Is there a true strategic alignment? How is the leadership style perceived? How much constructive confrontation occurs? Do people collaborate or simply provide lip service? Is everyone pulling in the same direction?

There are five prerequisites to getting the most from these interviews:

  1. Right reason. First, conduct the interviews for the right reason: improving leadership by eliminating unproductive behaviors. If the hidden agenda is to vilify non-performers or to find scapegoats, the approach backfires.
  2. Objectivity. You need an objective outsider to hold the mirror. This person must not be afraid to find out the truth and tell it like it is.
  3. Confidentiality. The interviews have to be treated as confidential, and the interviewer can’t make any direct attribution to a specific individual. Despite all the talk about openness, blackballing is still a common practice.
  4. Specificity. While recognizing that everyone’s reality is different, the interviews have to focus on direct observations, experiences, and involvement rather than hearsay.
  5. Commitment. There must be a commitment to develop an action plan at the individual and team level.

If these criteria are met, the insights gained from interviews can help create a high-performance culture. The honest feedback and recommendations can raise the candor and constructive dialogue.

Baseball manager Tommy Lasorda said leading people is like holding a dove in your hand. “If you hold it too tightly, you kill it; but if you hold it too loosely, you lose it.” Finding that delicate balance between providing nourishment and pulling weeds is the key to effective leadership. But it begins with looking in the mirror.

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Posted in Leaders and Innovators

Master the Principles of Four Arenas of Positive Power

Master the Principles of Four Arenas of Positive Power

Interpersonal influence (also identified as social influence) has transpired when the actions of one or more individuals influence the attitudes or behaviors of one or more other individuals. Relationships prosper or decline in relation to how well the partakers harmonize with one another about important decisions. Some agreements just fortuitously happen, but many of them are the result of the participants influencing one another. Recognizing the principles explained below will make one a better practitioner of influence and also more aware of how one is being influenced.

Successful managers apply each of these principles within four arenas:

  • Personal power. Managers must access the untapped capacity we, individually, have for personal power. Integrating our intellectual, emotional, and physical energies, the arena of personal power, is the groundwork.
  • Interpersonal influence. We can’t achieve organizational goals alone, regardless of how much personal power we have. Personal power does, however, enable us to achieve interpersonal influence. Influence is the impact we have on others simply because we are part of the same system. Such influence is too often undefined and undirected. Interpersonal influence connotes a specific focus of impact; that is, our ability to support others to willingly use their energy on behalf of our goals in ways that get rid of power struggles that waste energy. Instead, the focus is on improving the quality of our relationships to enhance interpersonal influence. This type of influence is pervasive and is necessary for survival. To not take cues from others would be to ignore much of the information that is available about the world.
  • Team synergy. A group is formed anytime people come together to accomplish something. We may call them departments, divisions, work units, teams, task forces, or committees. Meetings are a group activity. Groups must be turned into a source meaningful power. Team synergy, the most potent manifestation of group power, exists when the whole generates more power than the sum of its parts. Turning groups into high-performing, synergetic teams requires creating safe, conflict-competent, empowering groups that learn from differences and make good decisions. Teamwork has always been recognized as the backbone of leadership, but the stresses that team members now are experiencing might be one of the biggest challenges we will need to overcome to continue to think that way. Efficiency, cost-effectiveness, new technology and procedures, and multiple shifts in job responsibilities are permeating our environments during a time when teams are strained and sometimes broken.
  • 'The Infinite Organization' by Michael F. Broom (ISBN 0891061681) The infinite organization. The payoff occurs in final arena, The Infinite Organization. In this arena our skills of personal power, interpersonal influence, and team synergy are applied in three areas: leadership and the executive team, structures and policies, and management practices that have created the benefits of the infinite perspective of power and its related principles. The synergy that allows an organization to give information and material and to add value through processes that they each offer is a unique quality. The resulting outcome is far greater than one that any individual could offer independently.

With these tools, managers can create the positive and self-sustaining culture that characterizes an infinite organization. When all three areas are fully developed, aligned, and congruent, the focus, energy, and success of The Infinite Organization will be evident.

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Posted in Management and Leadership Mental Models and Psychology

Warren Buffett on Time Management: “All You Need Is … Time”

Warren Buffett on Time Management: Warren Buffett once said on time management, “The rich invest in time; the poor invest in money.”

Buffett is currently the fourth richest men in the world. He can buy practically anything he wants to, and more than nearly everyone else could ever dream of.

Nevertheless there’s one thing that even Warren Buffett cannot buy, and that is time.

Here’s a brief transcript from a Charlie Rose interview:

Warren Buffett: I mean I can buy anything I want basically, but I can’t buy time.

Charlie Rose: And so to have time is the most precious thing you can have?

Warren Buffett: Yes, I better be careful with it. There is no way I will be able to buy more time.

Warren Buffett's Interview with Charlie Rose (Time Management) Charlie Rose: And living in Omaha makes that easy?

Warren Buffett: That makes it a lot easier. I, for 50 whatever, well for 54 years I spent five minutes going each way now. Just imagine that was a half an hour each way. You know. I know the words to a lot more songs and that’s about it.

Charlie Rose: It adds up. Doesn’t it?

Warren Buffett: It really adds up. Now if you’re doing an hour a day difference coming and going that’s two and a half percent of the person’s work week. That means 40 years you’re talking about a year.

An undisciplined mind will find every reason to do what should not be done and every excuse not to do what should be done. Warren Buffett once said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.”

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Posted in Business and Strategy Philosophy and Wisdom

Use the Theory of Constraints to Create a Viable Vision

Any complex system is based on inherent simplicity

Strategic Vision is Viable

Viable vision is the opportunity of a company to have, within four years, annual net profit equal to its current total sales. Any complex system is based on intrinsic simplicity. Capitalizing on the inherent simplicity empowers incredible improvements within a short time. The more data needed to designate fully a system, the more complex it is. Enumerating reductions in total systems costs that are often heart to the customer company is also difficult. Most companies, even small ones, are complex and accordingly challenging to manage. The few elements commanding the performance of the system are the restrictions or advantage points —the Theory of Constraints.

When I scrutinize a company, I am rather fulfilled only when I clearly see how it is possible to bring the company to have, within four years, annual net profit equal to its current total sales. That is what I mean by a “viable vision.” In emergent markets such as China and India, clients want decent quality products that are simple to install, use, and maintain.

I am careful when sharing this anticipation with the top management; I expose the reasons why I believe this vision is viable. I share my analysis of what is obstructive performance. Using logic, I deduce the steps that will eradicate that block. Then I detail the steps to take to capitalize on that breakthrough. In this way, the reaction of top managers is, “This is common sense. Why aren’t we doing it?”

Capitalizing on Strategic Simplicity

Any complex system is based on inherent simplicity. Capitalizing on the inherent simplicity enables implausible improvements within a short time.

The more data needed to describe fully a system, the more complex it is. These infringements come at a significant cost to the organization, since too much time spent on day-to-day details can endanger future growth.

How complex is the system you manage? How many pages are needed to describe every process and the relationships with each client? Most companies, even small ones, are complex and thus tough to manage.

We manage a complex system by dissecting it into subsystems that are less complex. However, this can lead to miss-synchronization, harmful local optima, and the silo mentality. Since our systems are compound, we might think that all we can do is to improve synchronization and nurture collaboration between the subsystems. Public corporations are required to maximize their return to shareholders—not to customers. If this is the only option we contemplate, we will believe that achieving a major jump in profit within a short time is a rarity. We will think that creating net profit equal to current total sales in less than four years is unrealistic.

Leaders of successful innovation exertions are gifted visionaries. To see the potential of a company, we need to realize that the thing that makes our system difficult to manage is that what is done in one place has complications in other places; the cause-and-effect relationships turn our system into a maze. Strategically central issues and opportunities can occur at any time, and they cannot always wait for the next planning cycle or off-site to roll around. However, that fact also provides the key to the solution. This model had served them well. However, they began conjecturing about their organization in the future. They began to wonder if the model would work when the commodity that was being passed around was information, not metal.

Examine a system and ask, what is the minimum number of points we must impact to impact the whole system? If the answer is “10 points,” this is a challenging system to manage because it has too many degrees of freedom. However, if the answer is “one point,” this system is easy to manage.

Theory of Strategic Constraints - Strategic Wisdom

Now, the more interdependence between the components of the system, the fewer degrees of freedom the system has. However, the realities and the consequences of how they actually use their time are often quite different. Bearing in mind the complexity of your system, only a few elements govern the entire system. The more composite the system, the more profound is its essential simplicity.

To capitalize on the inherent simplicity, we must identify those few elements that govern the system. In addition, if we clarify the cause-and-effect relationships among all elements of the system, we can manage the system to achieve higher performance.

Companies turn out to be too focused on executing today’s business model and stop thinking about the fact that business models are perishable. Because companies’ decision-making systems are designed to push investments to initiatives that offer the most perceptible and immediate returns, companies shortchange investments in initiatives that are imperative to their long-term strategies.

Theory of Strategic Constraints

The few elements dictating the performance of the system are the constraints or advantage points-the Theory of Constraints (TOC).

In this school of management, we are qualified never to bring forward problems without a recommended solution. The marketing and strategy of companies is in it’s not luck. They have to be streetwise but not necessarily wise in other ways. They need to be fledgling and without much need for sleep. If you read these books, you will agree that the conclusions are horse sense, even though they fly in the face of common practice. Moreover, if you put it into practice, you experience remarkable improvements in a short time.

Is a viable vision possible for your company? Is it feasible to have, within four years, yearly net profit equal to its current yearly sales? The complications are discouraging. For example, such profitability is impossible without a huge increase in sales, and this is doable only if you have a remarkable new offer accepted by your markets. Can such an offer exist? Can you produce on such an offer? What investments will be needed? In addition, is your team capable of implementing such a change?

You do not have to coin your own phrase, but if you can find a simple, clear concept at the core of your policy, and if you can get others to appreciate it, then you are on your way to forming nuggets of you of strategic wisdom. A winning, stupendous concept will keep a team positively focused and sustain it during the inescapable disappointments and trying times.

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Posted in Management and Leadership Uncategorized

Five Criteria by Which Customers Judge Service Quality

Five Criteria by Which Customers Judge Service Quality

  1. Reliability: Consistency in performance dependability. Examples: accuracy in billing, keeping records correctly, performing the service at the designated time.
  2. Tangibles: Physical evidence of the service. Examples: physical features, appearance of personnel, tools used to provide the service.
  3. Responsiveness: employees’willingness or readiness to provide service. Examples: mailing the transaction slip immediately, calling back the customer quickly, giving prompt service.
  4. 'Raving Fans' by Ken Blanchard (ISBN 0688123163) Assurance: employees’ knowledge and ability to convey trust and confidence. Examples: Knowledge and skill of contact personnel, company name or reputation, personal trait or contact personnel
  5. Empathy: caring and individualized attention to customers. Examples: learning customers’ specific requirements, consideration for the customers.

Read this popular book: Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles.

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Posted in Business and Strategy

How to Enfranchise Customers in the E-commerce Era

Putting customers back in the equation

How to Enfranchise Customers in the E-commerce Era The internet has dramatically advanced the ways business can deliver products and services, and meet customer needs. However, while e-business has succeeded at leveraging technology to enhance business productivity, it has done little to enfranchise customers. Countless web sites that aim to provide a seamless shopping experience simply are not designed for the needs of the user. Customers needing support often have to abandon their shopping carts to get their questions answered. Many end up turning to the phone to get the information they need, or they just give up. Most e-businesses lack the human touch.

Customer needs will continue to change as technology plays a greater role in our lives. To be successful in the future, businesses will have to add the customer viewpoint into the equation, and seek to satisfy unmet customer needs. Rather than concentrating on e-business, companies will need to reorganize as c-businesses, orienting their operations around customer need sets across all channels and touch points, from the perspective of all products and services, and for each customer group, whether on the consumer level, small businesses, or large enterprises.

Six Drivers of Change in eCommerce

Let’s examine these emerging customer need sets, the drivers of change, and how certain businesses are prospering in the new c-business age.

  1. Information overload. The Web has unleashed a plethora of information. The result of this easy access to information is that people are seeking knowledge in context. Presenting data in the context of the customer’s needs transforms it and makes it far more valuable. The financial services company USAA doesn’t inundate its clients with sales pitches and junk mail. It takes a highly targeted marketing approach based on major events in them customers’ lives. When you’re about to buy a house, have a baby, or send a child off to college, USAA will contact you with information about products and services tailored for these needs.
  2. Six Drivers of Change in eCommerce More choices. Today, there is a wider variety of goods and services than ever before. This surfeit of choices is leading people to demand more personalized service and customized goods. Look at cars. Henry Ford told his customers they could get a Model T “in any color you want, as long as it’s black.” The computer industry long took the same approach-only this time with beige. Apple changed the landscape with its iMac, providing consumers with true choice. But Mac enthusiasts still have a hard time getting options they want built right into their systems. Dell, on the other hand, customizes virtually every PC it sells to its customers’ specifications. As advances in technology and manufacturing make it easier for firms to tailor their offerings, customers will increasingly expect personalized service.
  3. Automation. It has become possible for businesses to automate nearly every aspect of the customer interaction. This increase in automation leaves most of us with a yen for the human touch. But for corporations to deliver quality, human scale service, customers will need to make concessions in terms of privacy. Smart e-businesses will prove to their customers that these sacrifices will be worth it. Already, enterprises with good “corporate memory” are succeeding. Consider FedEx, which provides a reassuring presence by putting kiosks in the offices of their best customers. FedEx also provides real value through its Web site by letting customers track deliveries.
  4. 'Ecommerce Evolved' by Tanner Larsson (ISBN 1534619348) Pervasiveness. The pervasiveness of information and services is another driver of change. Having the capability to get whatever you want, whenever you want it is driving a need for control and integration. For example, we can get email on wireless handhelds, and order groceries online. However, is anybody helping people remember what’s supposed to be on their grocery shopping list? Webvan has made inroads in this area, but they still must overcome entrenched shopping habits. As these platforms develop, they provide resources essential for national growth and reduce the market inefficiencies that slow the pace of development.
  5. New pricing models. A heightened awareness of value is the direct result of new pricing models and pressures. Customers don’t necessarily look for the best prices, but they do look for value. In the airline industry declines in service and fluid pricing models have made it difficult for people to determine what is and what isn’t a good deal. Companies that can clearly define their value proposition are having more success in meeting customer expectations and needs.
  6. New entrants in the marketplace. New entrants can now establish themselves in the marketplace with relative ease. Barriers to entry are so much lower now that business can expand into new sectors virtually overnight. For customers, this leads to increased choices, but it also raises questions of trust. Customers look for clues that they can rely on their provider, which is why companies need to build trust through their online and offline presences.

Determine How You Can Deliver Better Attention, Choice, and Value in E-commerce

E-business may have radically changed the ways companies and people buy goods and services, but the essential elements of the buyer/seller equation are timeless. Customers want personal attention, they want choice, and they want good value. Solving the marketer’s dilemma will not be easy.

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Posted in Business and Strategy

How to Build Trust in a New Job

How to Build Trust in a New Job

Many leaders in transition often do things that damage their career success. Leaders are most vulnerable during this time because they are developing new relationships, trying to affect change, and feeling pressure to meet the high expectations of others.

To put these principles into action, leaders need a six-point agenda:

  • Get an early start. Before starting a new position, learn about the company’s history, culture, strategy, competitors, and learn the names and responsibilities of colleagues.
  • Meet and greet. Meet as many people as possible, especially the informal leaders or influencers. Tools such as email, voice mail, or the company newsletter are helpful, but should not replace face-to-face meetings. Many leaders get too caught up in pleasing the boss, or in solving problems, at the expense of those who will execute the changes. Making time to listen to even the most disgruntled employees will pay off in more trust and connection.
  • Learn the critical success factors. Identify areas where the most impact or improvement can be made. Focus on one or two, ask a lot of questions, get input from key opinion-makers, and when make recommendations, back them up. Also learn what is going well, and how to leverage those areas by building continuity from the old to the new.

Learn the critical success factors.

  • Set clear priorities. At the start of any new role, you need to decipher what is important, and what is not. And then constantly reassess the message. In developing your top priorities and vision, you will gain a dear focus, demonstrate credibility, and establish a clear cause for people below to rally behind. Make sure to involve key people, as they will offer more support for what they helped create.
  • Secure early wins. During the first 100 days, a leader wants people to feel that something is different, something good is happening. Celebrate some early successes to gain the confidence of followers. To secure early wins, first identify problems that can be tackled and solved quickly, and whose solutions will yield highly visible results. These few small wins will also demonstrate competence and consistency that provides the trust for larger initiatives.
  • Plant seeds for the future. The momentum that began with small wins must be leveraged to support your longer-range vision of the future. Small change is easy, but transformational change will require coalitions of support. By including a few key individuals in your planning, you will build “referent trust” that will cascade to a broader audience as you move forward.

Sure distrust is high, leaders need to build trust early in their tenure.

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Posted in Education and Career

Why You Need a Mentor & How to Make the Most of a Mentorship Experience

Mentorship Experience: Bill Gates and Warren Buffett A mentor can be an important catalyst for career development. It’s important, therefore, to take the initiative and seek a mentor, either within or outside one’s workplace. Mentoring refers to a developmental relationship between two people where the more experienced person, or the mentor, acts as a teacher, coach and guide to the mentee, who is seeking to move ahead in education, career or life in general. Let’s take a look at what can be gained from having a mentor at this stage in your career:

  1. Perspective and Experience. A mentor can give you the benefit of his or her perspective and experience. He or she can help you assimilate to a new position and give you an insider’s view on how to get things done.
  2. Think Outside the Box. A mentor can help you look at situations in new ways. He or she can ask hard questions and help you solve problems.
  3. Define and Reach Long-Term Goals. A mentor can help you define your career path and ensure that you don’t lose focus and continue down that road even when you become distracted by day-to-day pressures.
  4. Accountability. When you know you are meeting with your mentor, you ensure that all the tasks you discussed in your last meeting are completed.
  5. Set Realistic Expectations. Idealism can be very detrimental to teachers. Think of a mentor whom you consider great. Seasoned professionals can share their failings and consequent learnings with their mentees. This will provide a foundation for accepting failures as inevitable and recoverable. Growth and learning are uncomfortable. Feeling that way is normal and expected. If you let them know it is going to happen, then it reduces fear.
  6. Trusted Colleague to Discuss Issues. A mentor can be a great sounding board for all issues—whether you are having difficulty with your immediate supervisor, an ethical dilemma, or need advice on how to tackle a new project or ask for a raise.
  7. Champion and Ally. A mentor who knows you well can be a strong champion of your positive attributes and an ally during any bumpy spots in your career. You get the insights and hindsight perspective that comes with first-hand knowledge.
  8. Expand Your Contacts and Network. A mentor can help expand your network of contacts and business acquaintances.
  9. Open Doors. A mentor can open doors within your company, in other companies, or onto a board.
  10. Inspire. A mentor whose work you admire can be a strong inspiration. A good mentor will positively impact your morale and engagement, leading to increased effectiveness in your current role.
  11. Work Better. With the help of a good mentor, you can work more efficiently with a clearer view of the future you are trying to achieve. This helps you feel more confident in your job, which leads to better job performance and more success along your chosen road.

Making the Most of the Mentorship Experience

How to Make the Most of a Mentorship Experience

  • Don’t just settle down for instructional mentoring. Instead, work on building fuller developmental relationships with mentors who help you build confidence and credibility within the workplace.
  • Don’t mistake mentoring and coaching with friendship. When selecting a mentor, choose someone you really respect and has the respect of the company you’re in.
  • When investigating new job options, talk to current employees and look at the company’s record of accomplishment in mentoring. Critically important is choosing the right environment.
  • Don’t be afraid to discuss race, ethnicity, and gender issues with your mentor, as these may significantly impact assignments, promotions, and perceptions about you within the workplace. Engaging your mentor in honest discussions can strengthen your lines of communication over the long-term.
  • Signal to the mentor that you’re willing to work around your weaknesses, that you don’t want to just be acceptable but exceptional.
  • Challenge your mentor to challenge you. If you’re stuck in a professional rut, seek your mentor’s guidance on opportunities that stretch your current talents and skills.

Realize that your development is ultimately your responsibility, whether or not your company offers formalized mentoring programs. But mentors will help you stretch yourself in ways that you might not have tried without their encouragement.

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Thinking Outside the Box Frustrates Leaders

Innovate with Less

Do you want to innovate with less, to see and play with patterns to achieve extraordinary results? Then stop thinking outside the box and get back into the box of your discipline, organization, and life. Rearrange what you have.

No one is going to give you more resources until you prove yourself. And the greatest outside-the-box (OTB) thinking will get you fired, discredited, and maybe killed if you can’t solve an immediate problem-now.

Everyone wants to think outside the box. But where’s the practical side of OTB problem-solving? It creates tension between innovative “outside” learning and the everyday constraints of a real job. Thinking OTB frustrates leaders who have to solve problems back inside the box of their work. OTB thinking denies our vital problem-solving capacity.

So I start in the toybox. I adapt lessons from how kids play to help adults at work. Play unleashes our performance innovation potential.

Unfortunately, our workplaces and our world also isolate innovators. So, thinking OTB doesn’t work for what many people need. When people return after an off-site retreat, they encounter unfinished work and resentful colleagues. Result: increased dissatisfaction with themselves, their work, and the innovation process.

We must innovate with less at work in order to see and play with patterns across multiple arenas of our lives, to achieve goals with what we have now, within the day-to-day realities.

Inside the Box: A System of Creativity

Inside the Box: A System of Creativity

To think inside the box, choose the right box and start playing your best game. Try taking these seven steps:

  1. See Mud, Find Grid. We work in mess. And the mess holds the key to improving our performance. If we can see and play with patterns we uncover in the mess of work, we can make decisions that will provide solid business value. No more indecision. We have to wade in the mud to grab the grid within. We have to find new ways to see and dig into our workplace mess. We must unearth powerful patterns that we can change. And we have to do it cheaply, quickly, and safely. But how? You guessed it: Think inside the box.
  2. Accept Your Messy Box. Welcome to work in our supposedly sparkly clean and tidy “knowledge economy.” Don’t spill on your computer. Print that spreadsheet. Get your feet off the desk! Work hasn’t always been so orderly. Our modern workplaces hide our messes behind reports, delicately presented in slick slide-shows by fashionable professionals. Thus, we miss the mess. Deal with the fact that you have to work inside a messy box filled to the brim with the murky politics, limited resources, pain, and pressure that come with earning a living and making a life through work. Now use your skills, talents, expertise, and creativity within the constraints of your workplace-your box-to innovate and excel.
  3. 'Inside the Box' by Drew Boyd (ISBN 1451659296) Name Your Mess. Mess is unfamiliar complexity. Today, leaders face more complex and unfamiliar challenges. Mess fills the gap between where we are and where we want to be. Define your stakeholders’ environment, resources, barriers, and opportunities into patterns for change, and you simplify their mess and maximize your effectiveness. Mess is unfamiliar, so fear it, right? Try again. We can’t think right when we sense fear. Innovative problemsolving inside the box defuses fear. You manage mess in a safe, familiar, dynamic, and respectful environment. Mess can be found and managed in three areas of performance: 1) internal dynamics-team-building, office politics, workplace communications, language, and culture; 2) external trends and influences-market forces, social norms, popular media; and 3) constant environmental change-restructuring, disintermediation, cultural diversity. Inbox thinking helps people change complex messes into defined barriers to excellence. With less stress, leaders identify next steps to solve messes just in time.
  4. Find Your Crystal Question. Want some change? You gotta ask. Define a critical question (related to issues, value, urgency, and meaning) to answer for your innovation springboard. Sometimes it’s easy to do; sometimes you’ll need help. I call this the “crystal question.” Find it. Here’s how: Summarize critical needs. Prioritize. Identify a change objective in language that has meaning for you. Reframe as a question. No off-site retreat necessary. Grab some paper. Start writing it down now.
  5. Use Only Four Words. You don’t have a lot of time. Find four key words that will crack open your box, unleash the mud, and reveal the grid. Use these four words to frame positive change in the first seven seconds of your call to action with your staff, boss, spouse, or others. An example: For one session, I wanted participants to see their creative power. The four words? “I am a poet.” The word POET then became an acronym for four activities. Whether the four words are a full sentence or four categories of change, you can use this to clarify your strategic innovation plan. The four words also help you make your message consistent when using different media (handouts, spoken word, slides, activities).
  6. 'The Art of Invention' by Steven Paley (ISBN 1616142235) Play More. You’re in the box. You’re in the mess. You have some tools to clear things up. Now you get to work.. .right? Wrong. Now you play. Before you go cleaning up the grid, first play with the mess. If you ignore the mess, the fear remains, more mess will build, and no change will stick. But people hate mess! No one wants to talk about it, much less play. Be creative. Defuse the fear. Find a safe harbor that can stand in for the mess-as simple as a cartoon you use to “hook” your audience or as complex as a structured series of activities around a relevant metaphor. Remember the key: Ground what you use in your crystal question. Above all, practice! You must play with the mess yourself, and then try it with trusted others. Make mistakes and learn from them. Many baskets, many eggs. Find many patterns for change, and activities to purse, since some workers may not respond. Trust your gut instincts and watch your audience. If it isn’t working, do something different. Also, be aware of your own patterns and habits-they can be part of the mess.
  7. Share Your Mess. See learning shift as your participants explore and manage the mess. In-box thinking allows people to use cognitive skills they may not use to solve problemsskills we use when we play.

Model Enthusiasm for Creativity, Support Success

Model Enthusiasm for Creativity, Support Success

Model learning through appreciation. Create respect. Openly express new insights. Praise ideas and new ways to think. Build excitement and commitment. Discover another way to interpret mess: “Model Enthusiasm, Support Success!” Process your mess. Devote time to debrief. Get people to apply their new clarity and ideas at work. Document and prioritize tasks, then act. Co-create responsibility. Hold each other accountable to make the patterns change after you in-box think. Here are some tips for playing in the box:

  • Participants will change your mess.
  • Be open. You can’t predict results.
  • Allow yourself to learn together.
  • Use simple, cheap, accessible stuff-pads and paper, markers, and toys.
  • Your passion can make it work.

Evaluate, celebrate, improve. Get feedback-formal (evaluation forms) and informal (hearsay)-on the change process. Reward yourself and your team for effort.

Congrats. You’re out of the box. Now get back in. Take the lessons you learn to make a better mess next time! The patterns you see, the ways you play, and the successes you stimulate may differ from one change effort to another. The principle remains the same: Use play to think inside your box to see patterns and options in new ways.

Our workplaces, our world, and our future depend on our ability to see and play with patterns in new ways. Luckily, we’re all experts. And, while it’s hard work, it can be a lot of fun.

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Posted in Management and Leadership Mental Models and Psychology