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Managers Struggle to Cope Well with Rapid Change

Managers Struggle to Cope Well with Rapid Change Many managers grapple to cope well with swift change. Some must work longer. Now what matters most to companies are such traits as flexibility, adaptability to change, and problem-solving capability. These changes in expectancies require a 180-degree shift in thinking.

Leaders must change themselves before they can be effective at leading change by example. The initiative achieved initial cost savings but hesitated as employees began to question the leadership team’s vision and dedication. Here’s a 6F model to describe how people respond to change.

  • The Foggies. They either work in a comparatively stable environment or they simply choose to ignore change. They are in a “fog” so to speak. The challenge for leaders is to communicate scrupulously to help everyone understand the business realities. The challenge for individuals is to stay up-to-date with trends and to take responsibility for managing their own futures. Individuals in this state mostly contemplate what is right for them individually, and they have trouble seeing the larger picture of what is right for the organization.
  • Fakers pay lip service to change management The Fakers. This group tries to convince themselves and others that they are with the “change program,” even though they have no intention of changing. They pay lip service to management and hope they can get away with just “talk” and no action. The fakers may want to change but don’t know how and are afraid to admit it. They do not internalize the change message. They may be more comfortable taking small, easy steps when faced with a change situation—first articulating how they feel about the change and what they can and will do.
  • The Faultless. They see the changes, don’t like them, complain, and see themselves as victims. They may blame their leaders. The problem with attributing blame for others to “fix” is that it doesn’t change anything. They must move to a model of shared responsibility and accept that there is no one individual or group to blame. They must assess their own situation, how they are responding, and take personal responsibility for what is in their control to change.
  • The Fearful. Downsizings, scandals, terrorism, mergers, and acquisitions cause many people in a constant state of fear. The fearful may engage in self-protectionist, cautious, even paranoid behavior as they try to avoid an undesired fate. To address problems, ask: “About what am I most afraid? What are the odds of this happening?” Often, our fears are irrational. Some say fear is: False Evidence Appearing Real. Identify the fear, then decide what to do to handle the challenges of the situation.
  • The Fighters. Those who fight for the status quo are typically long-term employees who protect tradition; those who fight for change often act as vanguards and are seen as firebrands. Status-quo fighters might say: “We have always done it this way” or “We tried that 20 years ago and it did not work.” Sometimes they use a faker approach to lead others to believe they agree with the changes; but they work behind the scenes to thwart new plans.
  • The Futurists. The futurists are adaptable, flexible, global in their thinking, experimental, and career-resilient. They have a high self-concept and believe themselves to be in control of their destinies. Futurists are not fearful because they believe in themselves and have a plan B and C when the current situation does not work out. They are ready for the unanticipated.

When external consultants are hired to fast-track change, these change agents usually encounter a resistant culture. The more they fight for change, the more the resistance. Many change fighters either bow out or get pushed out of the system. Leaders need to coach fighters.

Everybody responds to change differently. Leaders help people get in touch with their natural response to change and cope with how to go with the flow in the wake of new realities. For change to cascade down throughout the organization, groups and individuals inside the organization whose behaviors previously symbolize the desired state must be involved in the change process.

Change is tough; transformation is tougher still Change is tough; transformation is tougher still, whether it comprises an individual or an entire organization. By encountering reality and helping employees appreciate the necessity for change, leaders were able to encourage the organization to follow the new direction at the heart of the largest rationalizing in the company’s history. Communications emerge in from the bottom and out from the top, and are directed to make available to employees the appropriate information at the right time and to ask for their input and comments.

Most leaders contemplating change know that people matter. Full transparency is required. Change will come only when the people at the top look down and start insisting that others’ resources be handled like the scarce resource it is. The warnings of the urgent significances we face seem to be arriving with greater incidence and in ever more pressing rhetoric, but utilitarian progress is more objective than actuality.

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Posted in Management and Leadership

John Paul Kotter and Psychological Contract

The celebrated leadership authority and educator John Paul Kotter argued in opposition to the anthropomorphizing of the organization, insisting that it was not organizations which embraced perceptions but rather individuals within those organizations.

'Leading Change' by John Kotter (ISBN 1422186431) Kotter discussed the psychological contract as a coordinating of expectations, where matched expectations lead to higher employee contentment and less turnover. He explained misaligned expectations in terms of a “psychological contract.” He described this as “an implicit contract between an individual and the organization which specifies what each expects to give and receive from each other in a relationship.”

The notion of the psychological contract refers to the perceptions of reciprocal obligations to each other held by the two parties in the employment relationship—the organization and the employee. Such discernments may be the result of proper contracts, or they may be suggested by the hopes and beliefs which each holds of the other and which are communicated in a variety of subtle or not-so-subtle ways.

Allstate Insurance’s Written ‘Psychological Contract’

Allstate Insurance's Psychological Contract for Employment Relationship Some employers, such as Allstate Insurance have created official statements delineating what employee and employer can expect from each other. They believe employee loyalty develops when the company and employees unambiguously know what is expected.

Terms of from Allstate’s Psychological Contract to the Employee

  • Offer work that is meaningful and challenging.
  • Promote an environment that encourages open and constructive dialogue.
  • Advise the employee of performance through regular feedback.
  • Create learning opportunities through education and job assignments.

Terms of from the Employee’s Psychological Contract to Allstate

  • Perform at levels that significantly increase the company’s ability to outperform the competition.
  • Take on assignments critical to meeting business objectives.
  • Willingly listen to and act upon feedback.
  • Take personal responsibility for each transaction with customers and for fostering their trust.

Psychological Contract and Open Communication

The psychological contract changes over time as the expectations of the employee and the organization change. With each change in expectations, open communication assists to keep both parties in alignment, or may lead to a common concurrence to renegotiate or break the contract.

The concept of the psychological contract has lately achieved significant notoriety in popular managerial texts in human resources discourse. This is for the reason that it offers an narrative of the reasons for the difficulties in the employment relationship presently being experienced by many organizations.

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Posted in Management and Leadership

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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Posted in Management and Leadership Uncategorized

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

Employees Must Have a Vested Interest in the Success of the Business

Robert Frost once said, “Isn’t it a shame that when we get up in the morning our minds work furiously—until we come to work.”

In the new economy, we need to equip people to think and act like owners. Everyone must come to work fully engaged and ready to make difference. A global revolution is under way, and it calls for gutsy leaders—people who can inspire knowledge workers idea merchants, and business innovator to exercise their own brand of leadership. The future belongs to those who use the power of culture to feed the entrepreneurial spirit.

Here are eight ways you can create a culture where people have a stake in the success of your business.

  • Employees Must Have a Vested Interest in the Success of the Business Recognize that ownership is more than a stock certificate. Ownership is a state of mind, a way of looking at the world and approaching work. Owners are people who step out from behind titles and job descriptions to act on behalf of the customer and the company. Non-owners hide behind position descriptions (“It’s not my job.”) and throw problems over functional walls (“Let me transfer you to…”) as an excuse for inaction. Owners cater to the purpose of the organization—its mission, vision, values, and strategy. Non-owners cater to the boss. Owners focus on the business results of their actions regardless of who is watching. Non-owners focus on the chain of command Owners ask the tough question: “How can we make it better?” Preoccupied with safety, non-owners gravitate toward the comfort of the status quo where things are more predictable and less disruptive.
  • Develop leaders who know how to liberate talent. Ownership is about giving people the freedom to act and removing the fears that cause lack of initiative. Unforgiving, zero-defect cultures foster cautious inactivity that kills the ownership mentality. People who don’t feel safe live under an umbrella of fear that makes them reluctant to make decisions, own problems, admit mistakes, take on projects, and act in ways that grow the business. When people cling to safety, they have no commitment to ownership; accountability vanishes, and self-preservation arises. Ownership is trusting that employees will operate with the company’s best interests in mind. Putting our trust in these people tells them that we think they are trustworthy. It suggests that we have faith in their character and competence. It boosts their self-confidence. Strengthen a person’s self-confidence and you strengthen his or her ability to think and act like an owner of the business. Herb Kelleher, Southwest’s chairman, says, “You build self-confidence when you give people the room to take risks and fail. You don’t condemn them when they fail. You just say, “We’ve just spent a good bit on your education; we hope to see you apply it in the future.”
  • Build a corporate culture of employee ownership Lay out the guiding principles. As a leader, you have to be confident that when the decisive moment comes, those who have assumed ownership will exercise common sense and good judgment. As the one assuming ownership, you have to be confident that what you are doing is the right thing because, after all, with ownership comes responsibility and accountability. Exercising good judgment and doing the right thing result from a clear understanding of the company’s guiding principles. Your firm’s business purpose and strategies, its mission, vision, values, and philosophy all define those principles. In essence, they create a set of helpful boundaries. When the boundaries are clear, employees have more freedom to step up, take action, and assume ownership for getting things done. When the boundaries are fuzzy, people get nervous and cautious. The result is a culture characterized by compliance instead of commitment.
  • Help people become business literate. When people understand how revenues and costs translate into profits, they become business literate. How many people on the front lines of your organization understand how the company makes money? How many of them are capable of reading a financial statement? If you asked them how much it costs to run their part of the business, could they tell you? How can we expect them to cut costs if they don’t know what those costs are to begin with? When people start asking cost questions, they are starting to think and act like owners of the business. The true experts are people at the point of action. Smart leaders open the books and equip these people with the financial information they need. When employees become business literate, they look for ways to drive costs down.
  • Make information relevant, fun, and interesting. The key to creating business literacy is getting people to internalize the information. If busy people do not see the information you put out as relevant, fun, and interesting, they are less likely to use it or be impacted by it. Information is relevant only when it is useful. If the salespeople at Sears knew that only three cents out of every dollar shows up as profit at the end of the day, they might be more passionate about watching costs and serving customers. Southwest Airlines’ annual profit-and-loss statement is written simply and illustrated with icons and cartoons, making it compelling to read and easy to understand.
  • 'The Truth About Employee Engagement' by Patrick Lencioni (ISBN 111923798X) Eliminate the “class” mentality. Leaders who are serious about leveraging the knowledge of every person must also eliminate the “class” mentality-socially prescribed or stereotypic boxes. This mentality undermines work in three ways. First, it strips the individual worker of his or her dignity and lowers morale. It essentially says, “We don’t believe in you enough to trust you with this information. It ensures that power resides at the top and widens the gap of inequality. Second, it doesn’t capitalize on people’s knowledge. The company pays for insight it never receives. Third, it crushes the entrepreneurial spirit. People stop caring, learning, and growing. When a financial statement is written so that only a CFO can understand it, forget about getting the frontline involved in a dialogue about cost containment. You breed compliance versus commitment. If your frontline people aren’t interested in reading a profit-and-loss statement, assess whether your information is too complicated or too mundane to capture their interest.
  • Show people how the business affects them personally. Most of the 18-year-old ramp agents at Southwest are business literate. They know that when they push a plane just 30 seconds late, that delay could translate into one hour and 45 minutes at the end of 11 flights in a day. Southwest would have to add 35 more planes at $30 million each to maintain its schedule. That could mean wage concessions, profit sharing, and lowered job security. They know how their job performance creates results, and how those results affect their lives. Southwest has made information relevant and interesting to its employees.
  • Give people a stake. Stock options and profit sharing can be powerful incentives to think and act like owners. However, just because people have stock options, they won’t necessarily think and act like owners. When you offer stock options and profit sharing without the culture to support these motivational tools it’s like putting new tires on a car that needs an alignment. When you add stock options and profit sharing to the rest of this list, you reward and reinforce people for behaving in ways that are consistent with an established culture. In doing so, you leverage the power of the incentive!

Build a corporate culture of employee ownership.

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Six Attitudes of Change

To let an old identity die requires clarity about what has to change, candor about the need for change, and courage to make the change happen. When people internalize a new change, they take ownership for it. It becomes part of who they are. To make the shift from actions to patterns, from actions to individuality, or from checklists to leadership transformation, you need to learn and apply six attitudes:

  1. Focus,
  2. Explore,
  3. Claim,
  4. Decide,
  5. Act, and
  6. Learn.

Leaders observe events, see patterns, think critically and creatively about problems, are self-aware about strengths and weaknesses, try new things, and adjust and improve what they do and how they do it. These six leadership attitudes help you move from the tyranny of to-do lists, events, and programs to the absorption of a new identity.

Culture’s Critical Role in Change Management

Culture's Critical Role in Change Management In recent years, I have lost a lot of weight. People ask me how. Most assume that the weight loss, or change, is tied to a diet and that I will return to my former size. In addition, it means choosing to embark on an enormously costly venture, before a crisis makes it necessary.

Most changes, even those that we know are good and right, do not endure. Best intentions to change performance fall short when diets or programs that we depend on to cause change are not assimilated. Persistent change requires a new identity.

Leaders bow to an innumerable of short-term pressures: intense demands for quarterly earnings, risk aversion, discomfort with ambiguity, and resistance to change, linear extrapolation from experience, and leadership unwillingness to cannibalize established businesses.

We need to change the way we think about change. Sustained change may begin with actions, checklists, and tools, but must evolve to adopting a different identity and assimilating a new way of thinking and acting. Assimilation requires a shift in thoughts and behaving. It becomes a new identity where being and acting occur without thinking.

Making change, an identity shift is simple but not easy. It is simple to say “we have to lose weight” and we need to eat less, eat right, and exercise more. However, it is not easy to do it. To assure sustained change, weight loss must come from a change in identity-letting go of an old identity, admitting personal ownership for the new identity, and turning the actions into patterns, routines, and habits.

To let an old identity die requires leadership clarity about what has to change, candor about the need for change, and courage to make the change happen. When people internalize a new change, they take ownership for it. It becomes part of who they are. Identity shift means that we internalize new attitudes and associated practices so that actions come naturally. Back in 2009, Jim Collins warned in How the Mighty Fall that the greatest risk to companies was no longer complacency but overreach; frenetic, undisciplined change that goes beyond what leaders can manage effectively.

To make the shift from events to patterns, from actions to identity, or from checklists to leadership transformation, you need to learn and apply six attitudes. Each one aligns with a question you need to ask of yourself and your team:

Attitude #1: Focus—Question 1: What do I want?

Focus on Change Management Focus on the desired new identity. A focus sorts, prioritizes, and highlights what matters most. In change, not everything worth doing is worth doing well. Some things that are important to do may simply not be priorities. Some things are so important to do they are worth doing poorly. Having a focus requires that a leader may only have limited priorities that they personally champion; they can sponsor others, but can only own one or two. The key is training. The key understands how to think and look for solutions. It is better to do a few things well than try to do too many things and do them poorly. Good is the enemy of great. Leaders need to address conundrums; they will not always make hard decisions correctly. Moving up in leadership denotes moving on, trusting others to do the detail leadership work, culling the right priorities, and fixating on what distributes the most value.

To determine the focus or priority, ask the simple question, “What do I want?” Knowing what is wanted requires reflecting on what could be done, but then getting clear about what is wanted in the situation. You pass the focus test by reflecting on these questions: Do I know what matters most to: investors, customers, and employees? Can I define what matters most to me? Do I communicate the same priorities in leadership public presentations and my private conversations? Do the agendas I follow for meetings reflect those priorities? Am I clear about what I can do that no one else can do? Am I clear about what I want to be known for? What percent of my time do I spend on things that matter most? Am I easily distracted? Without focus, you try to be all things to all people. Then what matters most happens least.

Attitude #2: Explore—Question #2: What are my options?

Once you know what is wanted, you need to figure out options to get it done. Exploring options means looking for alternatives; seeking people who have counter-intuitive ideas; having forums for dialogue, innovation, and breakthrough thinking; not being locked into conventional ways; exploring what others have done; and investigating with new ideas and learning from those experiments.

Adopt the mantra: Cerebrate sizably voluminous, start minuscule, fail expeditious, learn always. Explore the options for engendering that incipient leadership identity and examining each option.

These questions will help you to explore options: Have I looked inside and outside my industry for best practices and new ideas? Have I tapped into the expertise to accomplish what I desire? Have I assigned creative and talented people to explore leadership options that might work and given them resources and support to generate ideas?

With focus and exploration, you know what you want and explore alternative paths to make it happen.

Attitude #3: Claim—Question #3: What do I think?

Some leaders get lost in the options game. They can see so many ways to do a project that they never get around to doing it. They do not claim a choice or decide on a solution. At some point, leaders need to claim the option that will achieve the focus. Leaders stake, claim, own, and are accountable for their culls. They agnize things that could be done, but claim the unique amalgamation that works best. They take a stand and become kenned for something. The way inhibiting credences kept sales clerks in one industry from engendering incipient leads. They talk publicly and privately about the direction they are headed and the path to get there; they put energy and passion into these paths; they monitor leadership progress; and they gain or lose credibility by the extent to which they accomplish their claim. With a focus, options, and ownership, leaders pass a calendar test of their time, an emotional test of their passion and energy, and a resource test of the investments required to deliver on the option.

To pass these tests, leaders should ensure that the option is congruent with personal values. They must explain not only why the company wants to do something, but also why they personally want to do it.

To claim an option requires personalizing the change and answering the question, “What do I think?” This leadership question internalizes an identity. It makes the identity something that the leader petitions and claims. Ponder these questions: Am I dear about the path I will take to reach my goals? Have I passed the calendar test? Have I dedicated 20 percent of my time in the next 90 days on the option I have chosen? Have I passed the rhetoric test? In every speech, do I find ways to talk about the option and imbue the message with new metaphors, symbols, and images? Have I passed the passion test? Do I put my energy into the path I have chosen? Is my leadership direction and path consistent with what I believe? Do I feel passion for it?

When leaders assert their desires with a focus, explore their options with insight, and claim their path with boldness, they lead. They set an agenda, define a path, and engage others. They forge a new identity for themselves and their organization.

Attitude #4: Decide—Question #4: What decisions do I need to make?

Clarity of Decisions The leader must now decide to make things happen. Clarity of decisions leads to lucent actions, while ambiguity leads to delayed or random acts.

In the absence of decision, clarity, and rigor, actions may be delayed or misguided. A pattern of decisions shapes an identity. A leader chooses how to spend time, who to spend time with, what information to process, what meetings to hold, and what issues to address. Through this pattern of decisions, she creates an identity.

Being clear about decisions and protocols enables leaders to shape an identity. Decisions protocols also turn a direction and path into a set of choices. Just as leadership is a choice, so is the identity that follows from what and how leaders make decisions.

Not all the transmutation that you estimated turned out to be great—meaning every vicissitude did not result in an ecstatic ending. Thoughtful bellwethers ask four questions:

  1. What decisions do I need to make? Leaders focus on the few key decisions they need to make.
  2. Who will make the decision—and who is accountable for the decision?
  3. When will the decision be made? Work expands to fill the time provided. Deadlines generate commitment to action.
  4. How will we make a good decision? This involves knowing the quality level the decision requires, accessing the right information, asking the right people for input, finding out what others have done, testing alternatives, and involving key people.

When people feel heard, they more likely accept the decision. When people know the why they accept the what. However, most other changes later in life had external dependencies. Discretion is an imperative.

As you follow this protocol, you pass the decisiveness and decision test. You not only know what you want, you know the options, which leadership option works best, and the key decisions that will move the change along and shape a new pattern or identity.

Attitude #5: Act—Question #5: What actions do I need to take?

An incipient identity requires incipient actions. We often judge ourselves by our intent, but others judge our identity by our actions. Make actions part of the new identity.

  • Start small. Seek small, first steps. Look for lead customers who might engage in a new project. Look for early adopters of a new idea. Seek many people making small changes.
  • Let go. New identity requires letting go of old actions consistent with an old identity. As old actions are replaced with new ones, others begin to expect the new identity and its actions. As actions accumulate, they become patterns, and a new identity is forged.
  • Involve others. Change requires a social support network. Leaders who act to sustain change will need to surround themselves with those who model the desired changes.

Sustained Change Takes Time

Sustained Change Takes Time Once new directions and opportunities make sense, have the team participate in creating or revising their vision, goals, and milestones, so everyone knows how they connect to the mission. Try this “four 3s” methodology:

  1. 3 hours: What can I do in the next three hours to make progress?
  2. 3 days: What can I do in the next three days to make progress?
  3. 3 weeks: What can I do in the next three weeks to sustain progress?
  4. 3 months: What can I do in the next three months to show progress?

In three months, old patterns may be replaced by new patterns.

Attitude #6: Learn—Question #6: How will I know and grow?

Sustained change requires follow-up, monitoring, and learning. Without indicators to track progress, learning cannot occur. You must weigh in and figure out what helps or hinders your goal. In change, you should probe for early denotements of prosperity by identifying lead designators of what is or is not working. The tracking indicators should lead to insights, improvements, and upgrades.

Leaders observe events, see patterns, think critically and creatively about problems, are self-aware about strengths and weaknesses, try new things, and adapt and improve what they do and how they do it.

Thorough cultural diagnostics can assess organizational readiness to change, bring major problems to the surface, identify conflicts, and define factors that can recognize and influence sources of leadership and resistance.

Six Attitudes of Change

Six Attitudes of Change Management These six attitudes and questions help you move from the tyranny of to-do lists, events, and programs to the leadership assimilation of a new identity.

Trying to execute faster and struggling with the reality that change takes time. Our techniques are too often informed by what worked in the engineering age. We treat humans like machines and expect things to work properly if we just engineer the change properly. The problem, of course, is that people are not machines. More of what you have suggested is necessary for helping people move through the very human process of change.

A worthwhile challenge can be prodigiously incentivizing, as long as it is a veracious description of the leadership situation.

Make use of management techniques that have been shown to reduce threats during tough times, when boardroom conflicts are more likely to arise because of differing perspectives.

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Customer Feedback Systems to Go Beyond Customer Expectations

Customer Feedback Systems to Go Beyond Customer Expectations

There used to be a sofa in Microsoft’s telephone customer support center called “the Mail Merge couch”—named for a feature in Microsoft’s word-processing program that lets users customize form letters. The early version of Mail Merge was so complicated that whenever a customer called for help, Microsoft’s representative would lie down on the couch, knowing the conversation was likely to take a long time.

Clearly, something was wrong with that feature. Microsoft fixed the problem in the next generation of Word (and eliminated the need for the couch), but the story illustrates just how important customer feedback can be.

Most business managers understand that using customer feedback to guide the development and improvement of products and services is critical to success. However, some companies and individual managers are better than others are at collecting feedback and using it to make strategy decisions.

Nine Customer Feedback Rules for Managers

Managers who want to help their companies be customer-driven might observe the following nine rules.

  1. Create a system for effectively soliciting customer feedback, and then put that system to work. Boeing uses extensive customer involvement when developing new jetliner models. United Airlines influenced the design of both the 767 and the 777, and British Airways and Eastern Airlines participated in developing of the 757. As a result, the airlines were able to tailor the planes to their specific needs and preferences.
  2. Make sure your feedback system provides reliable information from a cross-section of customers. When a company has thousands or millions of customers, it can’t involve many of them in the product design, but it can involve a representative sample of customers.
  3. Make it easy for customers to provide feedback. Some companies offer a customer-feedback phone number. Surveys are another system for gathering feedback, but many people, including me, are not willing to spend much time answering them. Observing customers while they are using existing products and services is habitually the only way to identify hidden frustrations that they may not even be deliberately conscious of.
  4. Microsoft's Nine Customer Feedback Rules for Managers Send e-mail surveys to customers and offer incentives to fill them out and return them. The incentive may be a little digital money or coupons to buy products at a discount. The electronic survey will be immensely efficient for the company, because the survey results will be in electronic form, making results easier to compile and analyze. Some companies already use the Internet in this way. Encyclopedia Britannica recently e-mailed people who had accepted a free seven-day trial of the company’s online reference, offering another free week to those willing to fill out an online survey about their reactions to the product and its price.
  5. Use focus group and customer councils. Getting a few customers together to discuss their reactions to current and new products or services is another good way to collect customer feedback, although these groups and councils, too, have their limitations.
  6. Go beyond what market research tells you. The transition to graphical computing is an example of an instance where Microsoft needed to go beyond what Microsoft’s market research was telling us. Most software customers who were surveyed did not know they would prefer graphical computing because they had not tried it. Microsoft believed that customers would prefer the new way of interacting with their computers, even though Microsoft’s market research was not very positive. Microsoft’s gamble proved right.
  7. Log and evaluate all service requests, customer suggestions, and product complaints. Microsoft logs and evaluates hundreds of thousands of calls made to Microsoft’s support technicians every year. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Observe them using products and watch for frustrations they may not even notice.
  8. Require that the software engineers who develop products spend some time listening to calls from customers. These engineers need to get firsthand feedback. To get the attention of Microsoft’s group managers, Microsoft charges their departments for the cost of providing technical support to customers who use their products.
  9. Request, receive, and act on input from your salespeople. Microsoft seeks and use input for the people who are out in the field with customers. In this industry, customers are eager to share their ideas, frustrations, and enthusiasm. Microsoft is also lucky to be in an industry where products are so adaptable. Whereas it might take an automobile company five years to retool a car model to adapt to customer preferences, software companies can—and do—update their products constantly in response to customer input.

Beyond Customer Feedback

Customer feedback is critical to success of a business No system of market research is foolproof, of course. Even companies that do a good job of listening to customers can make mistakes. Business partners are relying on questionable information to make customer-related decisions. Our new understanding of customer-related decision making should be the starting point for a research approach that has impact on a greater proportion of high-value customer-related decisions.

I am a strong believer that heeding customer feedback is critical to success in any business, especially a dynamic, fast-moving industry such as ours. Despite Microsoft’s willingness to look beyond customer input, 80 percent of the improvements in products like Windows result from customer feedback. Experience has taught us that it is also important to trust your instincts, to take risks, and to provide leadership, even when the customer is not demanding that you do so.

Apply these rules to your business and use the feedback to make improvements. Companies often make the blunder of organizing customer feedback systems around one structure—say lines of business or channel—and employee feedback systems around another—say geography or function. In the end, well-designed feedback loops facilitate employees to be more empowered and companies to be more approachable, creating the competitive edge companies need to adapt and thrive.

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Best Practices for Onboarding New Employees: Maximizing Success

Benefits of Employee Retention Strategies

Guide to Employee Onboarding Best Practices

Often new hires leave too early for an organization to enjoy a return on its recruiting investment. The relationship between manager and new hire is critical to retention and performance. Managers can unleash the energy of their new hires by engaging them in a series of structured, powerful conversations over the first few weeks. By focusing these conversations on six sources of power, managers can connect early and cultivate more productive, motivated, and committed workers. These are: power from relationships, passion, challenges, focus, balance, and intention.

New hires often come fully charged, excited about their new adventure, and filled with energy and potential. By tapping into that energy, knowledge and wisdom right from the start, you can maximize the new hire’s potential, extend the handshake, and fuel that energy well past the beginning of the employment cycle.

While recruitment continues to be one of the most costly human resource processes, its longer-term effectiveness is being eroded by high attrition. Hiring doesn’t stop with the job offer. Today re-recruiting your best people is as critical as hiring them in the first place.

Often new hires leave too early for an organization to enjoy a return on its recruiting investment. And if they stay, are they productive, engaged, loyal, and committed? Have they simply “checked in” or are they “tuned in” and “turned on” as well?

The relationship between manager and new hire is critical to retention and performance. To increase retention and build loyalty during that critical first year, start by building the relationship between new hires and their managers.

Unleashing the Energy: New Employee Onboarding

Unleashing the Energy: New Employee Onboarding Improving first-year retention, decreasing time-to-productivity, and building loyalty and commitment are directly related to how quickly managers develop quality relationships with new hires.

Managers can unleash the energy of their new hires by engaging them in a series of structured, powerful conversations over the first few weeks. By focusing these conversations on six sources of power, managers can connect early and cultivate more productive, motivated, and committed workers.

  • Power from Relationship. There is no greater predictor of retention and engagement than the quality of the relationship between new hires and their managers and colleagues. The closer these bonds, the more new hires trust management, the more they feel cared for and valued, and the greater their focus, productivity, and satisfaction.
  • Power from Passion. People are more passionate about their work when they use their talents and skills to work on tasks and projects that interest them in environments that are consistent with the ways they prefer to work. Managers need to recognize their new hires’ skills, honor their interests, and leverage their strengths.
  • Power from Challenge. People get excited about their jobs (and stay excited) when they learn and grow in ways that have meaning for them. Managers need to become better talent scouts, and recognize potential when they see it. They need to provide for continued development and challenge.
  • Power from Focus. People are more committed when they know what the organization is trying to achieve, and how they can contribute to those outcomes. Managers must help new hires learn to navigate; understand the purpose, mission, and objectives; and appreciate how their efforts serve those goals.
  • Power from Balance. People’s lives extend well beyond the workplace. They have families, friends, lovers, and children to care for. They have finances to manage and households to maintain. They want to stay vibrant and healthy. They want to play and have time for themselves. Managers must make room for new hires and their whole lives.
  • Power from Intention. Managers and their new hires must follow through to earn the commitment and loyalty they both want: What new skills will they develop the first year, and how? What new areas will they explore, and how? What relationships are important to establish? How will the manager or new hire flex to make the relationship work best? What results will new hires be responsible for? How will they be rewarded? What support will the manager provide? It takes more than talk-new hires need to see tangible progress.

Benefits of Employee Retention Strategies

Best Practices for Onboarding New Employees: Maximizing Success What does the organization get in return? Here are a few bottom-line results:

  • Improved first-year retention rates. Engaging new employees early in shaping their jobs, designing their development, and building relationships can decrease first-year attrition.
  • Decreased time-to-productivity. Encouraging managers to be clear about what exactly is expected, and discuss how well new employees are learning their responsibilities can decrease the time required for new hires to get “up to speed.” They will contribute more, and do so more rapidly.
  • Reduced recruiting costs. Convincing new hires that they made the right choice can result in an increase in recruits referred by recent hires. Some organizations attract 70 percent of their new hires from recent hire referrals, reducing recruiting costs significantly.
  • Increased productivity. Making it possible for people to do what they do best, allowing them to pursue their interests, and building meaningful relationships can lead to higher productivity, increased customer satisfaction, and enhanced profitability.
  • Brand development. The more your become known as a great place to work, as an organization that cares about its employees, the more easily you attract the best and the brightest.
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Leadership Lessons from President Dwight Eisenhower

Leadership Lessons from President Dwight Eisenhower

President Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower, a graduate of the US Military Academy Class of 1915, set the benchmark for “Supreme Command” in coalition operations; the standards he articulated and personified in the 1940s continue to pilot senior military commanders. Even more profound than Eisenhower’s intelligence as a coalition commander was his impression in shaping state-of-the-art leadership principles for officers in militaries of a democracy.

One simple solution for surpassing limiting beliefs and making headway toward significant goals in our lives. Eisenhower knew what it took to lead soldiers and build cohesive units at the tactical level; he was passionate about leadership and leader development. Unity of Command was his simple establishing principle, but he knew that placing a single person in charge was insufficient to ensure unity. Today, leader advancement is the core mission component of the Academy.

Goals are about growing. A good goal causes us to grow and mature. That’s because every goal is about the journey as much as—even more than—the destination. And that’s exactly why setting goals outside the comfort zone is so imperative.

We gathered frequently in the dining room of Quarters 100—the elegant residence for 200 years of the Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point—for spirited conversation on history, politics, and leadership. As the Academy Superintendent in the late 90s, we relished this give-and-take. We brought to the Academy some of the best thinkers on leadership; the supper conversation reflected the energy of the participants. A recurrent question was this: “Whom do you regard as West Point’s most distinguished graduate?”

Dwight Eisenhower: History, Politics, and Leadership

The menu of alumni was a rich one: Grant, Lee, MacArthur, Goethals, Groves, Pershing, Bradley, Patton, and Eisenhower, among others. The agreement seemed always to focus on one graduate: Dwight D. Eisenhower, USMA Class of 1915, for his intense command of allied forces in the European theater during WWII. Eisenhower set the standard for “Supreme Command” in coalition campaigns; the principles he expressed and personified in the 1940s continue to channel senior military commanders.

Dwight D Eisenhower: History, Politics, and Leadership Lessons Even more profound than Eisenhower’s brilliance as a coalition commander was his influence in shaping modern leadership principles for officers in armies of a democracy. The strength of a memory is also determined by the emotional state that accompanied the original event. Without question, Eisenhower had no equal in stroking, cajoling, and managing prickly alliance personalities like Churchill, Montgomery, de Gaulle, Admiral Darlan, and Italian Marshall Badoglio—to say nothing of his challenges with George Patton. He was the consummate Supreme Commander.

The eloquent text above is simply for your benefit. It’s not actually part of the template. These beings are kenned by the adepts to be magnetized toward certain quarters of the heavens by something of the same abstruse property which makes the magnetic needle turn toward the north, and convinced plants to comply with the same magnetization. In such a way there is impermanent meaning and true meaning.

Fear usually plays a part in the decisions we make. Probably the biggest fear that you will have to face when making a decision is that of failure. Obviously, the bigger the decision, the greater the downside if it doesn’t pan out. Eisenhower also knew what it took to lead soldiers and build cohesive units at the tactical level; he was passionate about leadership and leader development. As a result of his submissions to Army leaders, Eisenhower influenced not only the formal leadership program of the U.S. Military Academy, but also the leadership ethic for young officers commissioned after 1945. Likewise, feelings, recognitions, volitions and consciousness are empty.

Dwight D Eisenhower: Situational Leadership

Dwight D Eisenhower Situational Leadership

Dwight Eisenhower’s leadership was is often a value judgment that varies from person to person and for one person from situation to situation. We call it situational leadership:

  1. Be mellow in manner, tough in deed: Eisenhower had a paperweight conspicuously exhibited on his desk with a Latin engraving meaning “gently in manner, strong in deed.” These are known as secret or insight activities. This reflected his philosophy and style. He was not full of bluster. He never threatened. This is the way of insight.
  2. Be a guide, not an initiator: Eisenhower once expressed leadership as “the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” This is the field of merit of beings. By vigilant organization and a premeditated crafting of words to hit the right note. When practicing, it is sufficient to just keep your mind on the method. He knew the importance of words— specifically those spoken by the person in charge—to motivate and persuade. There is another problem with the first cause argument. He believed in planning. He thought it was dangerous for a leader to shoot from the hip. We should take this to heart.
  3. Don’t talk too much: Even with no infirmities, the life of beings is passing. Some people just can’t help themselves and simply start prattling (luckily this didn’t happen to me). Either they’re nervous about figuring out the right thing to say, or they’re panicky about saying the wrong thing. And this full clarity is beyond inner and outer. But, when you talk too much the anguished person will sometimes begin to feel that they must take care of you.
  4. Know what you don’t know: Eisenhower cherished that his completest resource was not his own brilliance but the talent of his team. It frees a tremendous energy. He once wrote this piece of advice: “Always try to associate yourself with and learn as much as you can from those who know more than you do, who do better than you, who see more clearly than you.” And he understood that autonomy can be defined as the ability to make choices according to one’s own free will. He was a collaborator; and if no such challenge developed in that time, he would presume to be there by right, even though he might not have any life story.
  5. Don’t let success go to your head: Eisenhower never considered himself to be a hero when compared with the men who landed at Normandy and met the enemy on the bloodstained fields of battle. Soon after the war, he called on General Douglas MacArthur, his old boss, in Japan. MacArthur, impelled up about their success, crowed that as vanquishers either one of them could surely be elected president. It was reported that Eisenhower left that meeting red-faced and angry. He loathed the hero label. When years later he did become president, he was repeatedly disapproved for not being personally dynamic or out in front. He was lavish about letting those around him take the recognition for his ideas. This approach paid off in allegiance and execution. And many made great sacrifices to attend, frequently working his way through military.

In both arenas—supreme command and officer leadership—Eisenhower was a revolutionary. Before him, no U.S. commander had been entrusted with coalition command. General Pershing fought to maintain the integrity of U.S. forces as commander of the American Expeditionary Force in WWI, but he was subordinate to the French Commander-in-Chief; Eisenhower led allied forces from fall 1942, and by war’s end, had over four million men from five nations under his command. His approach to combined command complemented a sophisticated coalition leadership model—a model employed to this day.

Dwight Eisenhower: Unity of Command

Unity of Command was his simple organizing principle, but he knew that placing a single person in charge was disappointing to ensure unity. This had to be exercised through “earnest cooperation,” earned through “patience, tolerance, frankness, and honesty.”

Unity of Command: Leadership Lessons from Dwight Eisenhower Commanders in the 1990s, General George Joulwan in Bosnia and General Wesley Clark in Kosovo, achieved coalition success despite intra-alliance arguments by sticking to Eisenhower’s maxims. Similarly, two Central Command combatant commanders, Generals Norman Schwarzkopf and John Abizaid, profited from the trailblazing experiences of Eisenhower. Schwarzkopf exhibited a knowledge of alliance understandings and alliance politics by deftly managing more than 30 combination partners in Desert Storm. He clearly personified unity of command. But he knew this could never be effectively exercised unless he had consent of those he led, particularly his Arab partners, and most visibly, the Saudis. Again, Eisenhower’s coalition leadership principles proved decisive—and enduring. And they are reflected in the leadership exercised in 2005 by the Coalition Commander in Iraq, General John Abizaid, a student of the leadership of Eisenhower. After his discussion, his wish got him thinking about which of the three ways we die is actually best.

That these practices are connected with the proper kinds of beings and times is important. Besides transfiguring the doctrine of collective command at senior levels, Eisenhower was zealous about leadership development for junior officers. What he observed in the behavior of many U.S. officers in the European theater disturbed him greatly. Too many officers never identified with their soldiers; they were too eradicated from the needs of their troops. Further, Eisenhower was appalled by the behavior of officers who substituted screaming, even physical abuse of subordinates, for positive leadership. Eisenhower said, “You don’t lead by hitting people over the head; that’s assault, not leadership.” Life cannot be real if relationships are not real.

West Point Curriculum: Practical and Applied Psychology

Eisenhower felt that the West Point curriculum should include coursework in practical and applied psychology to “awaken the cadets to the necessity of handling human problems on a human basis,” and thereby improve leadership in the Army.

Eisenhower’s suggestion was soon followed by the establishment at the Academy of the Department of Behavioral Psychology and Leadership. For more than 50 years, it has instilled in cadets the principles of small unit leadership.

Instead of ignoring parts of the orchestra, a symphonic life of Dwight Eisenhower consists of five habits that ensure harmony:

  1. Anyone who has the self-control to steep his noetic conceptions in them may be sure that in a shorter or longer time they will lead him to personal vision.
  2. If your culture supports open dialogue and learning from mistakes, public commitments and public results can fire up morale.
  3. Contrary to the popular exhortation, people do judge books by their covers. That’s why it’s important we select the right one for this book.
  4. The moments of break-through where real change happens aren’t typically instant and extraordinary. They usually happen gradually in the ordinary course of our lives.
  5. One of the most obvious things about the future is that we are not there yet. The question for us as we start a small unit leadership is whether to drift or direct our lives where we want them to go.

U.S. Military Academy at West Point Today, leadership development is the core mission component of the Academy. The emphasis is on values, inspiration, and imagination. Eisenhower knew these could not be created in the cerebral equivalent of a strait jacket, with rote, mechanical instruction disconnected from the human problems of the individual soldier. In other words, we need to think about what we want to be true of us when it’s all said and done. Once that picture is in mind, we review the steps that journey requires and live them forward. Then comes the hard part.

The Supreme Commander who associated with his troops shaped the leadership ethic of my generation. Eisenhower took the time to write to parents of his soldiers, to talk to 101st Airborne Division paratroopers prior to their DDay jump, to prescribe leadership doctrine while he commanded millions. He was, in short, encouraging. And he personified the essential bond—trust. His soldiers trusted him because he exuded the values of integrity and respect—values that remain the core of our Army’s leadership principle.

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Turn Conflict to Collaboration

Turn Conflict to Collaboration

I’m often asked to perform a quick fix on two or more people who are not getting along. Usually, I’m summoned to help them work out their differences. As a conflict mediator, I happy to help resolve disputes; however, I find that happy endings are rare. Often the conflicts that arise are symptomatic of bigger problems, system errors, things like poor leadership, dysfunctional work groups, inadequate performance management, and a lack of soft skills training and resources.

It is a mistake to limit the scope of conflict mediation to the immediate players in the dispute. You also need to look at the system. Without such an assessment, managers can easily get into the habit of treating the symptom while ignoring the problem.

Four Checkpoints

To assess the system factors that add to conflicts, I use four checkpoints:

  • Checkpoint 1: Is leadership being demonstrated? First check the leader to assess whether the conflict is a symptom of a bigger problem. Look for efforts made by the leader to address the conflict. Is the leader modeling effective conflict resolution skills? What has the leader done to create a supportive environment? Does the leader address conflicts? Is the leader held accountable for resolving conflicts? Are effective conflict resolution skills being practiced? If leaders are ineffective in handling conflict, are they are receiving any coaching or guidance?
  • Checkpoint 2: Do co-workers or team members foster a supportive environment for conflict resolution? Coworkers and team members (including those involved in the conflict) share responsibility for the interpersonal dynamics within their group. Look for group norms around conflict, who is impacted by the conflict, what isn’t happening that needs to happen to resolve conflict, how the group sees the role of the leader, what guidance and support does the group need from the leader.

Accountability that supports teamwork and communication skills

  • Checkpoint 3: Is there an accountability that supports teamwork and communication skills? Define appropriate behaviors. What gets reinforced is the behavior that gets exhibited. Are conflict resolution skills part of the criteria in performance reviews? Are core values reflected in the review process? Are team norms identified around conflict resolution and followed consistently? Is peer input part of the performance review process? Is the disciplinary process ever used for employees who exhibit poor communication or cooperation skills? The performance review process must reflect the desired skill sets required for effective conflict resolution. These include teaming skills, communication and problem-solving, collaborative and listening skills. Create accountability around these skills to foster effective communication and conflict resolution.
  • Checkpoint 4: Is the organization providing skill training and resources to maintain effective working relationships? It takes a proactive philosophy when it comes to effective communication and conflict resolution skills. Proficiency in the soft skills area requires time, effort and practice. By helping their people to grow in these areas, managers can’t empower them to resolve their own conflicts.

If any one of these four “checkpoints” are suspect, the conflicts that arise will likely be of a system error. If two or more of the are lacking, the system is faulty.

So, the next time there is a conflict, investigate whether or not the conflict is an isolated event or a system error. You might be surprised by what you find.

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