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CEOs Want Executives Who Look, Act and Sound Like a Leader

A CEO’s job is to keep his people interested in staying, and working, and growing and prospering with this company.

Larry Bossidy, the retired CEO of AlliedSignal took this philosophy a step further and extended it to the people he moved into senior management positions. Bossidy said, “I want to find leaders who are human beings, and who have an interest in being successful for themselves and want to share that success with others. If I can get people like this, they’re easy to lead.”

Bossidy has said that he is looking for the following characteristics when filling up the executive ranks at his company:

  • Positive people, to begin with. CEOs like to see people with smiles on their faces. Business is difficult. It’s so much better to greet the world with a smile on your face. You can’t show me people with great accomplishments who are negative people.
  • CEOs like to see ambitious people who want to get something done.
  • 'Execution' by Larry Bossidy, Ram Charan (ISBN 0609610570) CEOs look to see if they can contain their ego. Do CEOs see a person who can work well with others? Do CEOs see a person who’s shown some interest in others? Are these the people who can share their knowledge with other people and do it gracefully and willingly? Or are they very self-centered, very ambitious, but not necessarily to the benefit of anybody else?

Under Bossidy, AlliedSignal purchased and became Honeywell. Honeywell is a prominent engineering services and aerospace systems company. Before AlliedSignal, Bossidy spent 30 years working his way up the executive ranks at General Electric, where he was a protege of Jack Welch.

Posted in Education and Career Mental Models and Psychology

If You Want to Inspire People, Build and Earn Their Trust

Interdependent relationships in which leadership and power are shared broadly

Most leaders agree that rigid hierarchy is dying because it runs on position power, instead of relationship power or people power.

Leaders are becoming increasingly divorced from formal authority because organizations are becoming decentralized webs instead of hierarchical entities and from power because the few people can coerce or control much of anything.

One reason for this major shift is a change in the way people are willing to be managed and led. Today’s employees want to have a voice and make a difference—they no longer want to follow blindly what the boss asks them to do.

We also see a new generation of leaders who operate on the relationship power and who believe that every individual counts and needs to be valued and treated as an unique person. We see more personal and professional relationships that are forged irrespective of positions. The public accomplishes now comes from the ability to develop trust and honesty, to build collaborative teams, and to empower every team member to participate fully.

For example, a generation ago, a father might have asked, “you’re lucky even to have a job, so stick with it and play by the rules.” Since no organization today provides guaranteed lifetime employment, doing what one is stored don’t pay off in complete security as it once did. Now with more options, people want to live by values and principles that they believe in, not just once but are imposed upon them.

The message we hear from leaders is this: if you want to inspire people, build and earn their trust, so they want to be with you and support you. But then people today, there is a desire to amount for something, to be one’s own person, to feel empowered, and to make a difference. Effectiveness and leadership can no longer be centered in positions within a rigid hierarchical structure, but must be centered in interdependent relationships in which leadership and power are shared broadly.

Posted in Management and Leadership

Process of Building a Personal Brand

You already have a personal brand. What do people feel when you walk into the room? And what do you want them to feel? With successful branding, your key audiences think about you the way you want them to think.

The branding process has four steps.

Consider the corporate brand

The more senior the executive, the closer the fit needs to be between corporate brand and personal brand. CEOs should consider themselves an extension or an embodiment of the corporate brand. What does your corporate brand stand for? How does your CEO’s brand fit within it? If the branding does not fit, the CEO’s tenure will likely be short. Successful branding does not mean that the CEO needs to layer another persona over his or her own. Nor does it mean that the CEO needs to be conventionally charismatic. The branding of many CEOs is modest, low key, and but their personal brand stands for something that key constituents relate to.

Some CEOs have star power and are extremely media-genie. In this case, the challenge is to ensure that the CEO’s personal brand contributes to the corporate brand rather than distracts from it. The spotlight is put on the mission of the company, rather than on the personality of the CEO.

Articulate your personal brand

How do you identify and articulate your personal brand? Consider using archetypes-themes that tell a story. All business communication involves the telling of stories. An annual report is a story. A press release is a story. Archetypes tell the maximum story with minimum effort. We have all certain archetypes within us. In personal branding, focus on one or two major archetypes that explain your core motivation and strategies. For example, President George W. Bush is most effective when he takes on the Regular Guy persona. Al Gore is a Sage brand. The ability to make each person feel heard is the hallmark of a Lover brand and Bill Clinton personifies this. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is a true Ruler brand-fully in control.

In business, Apple Computer is an Outlaw brand (” Think Different“), and its CEO Steve Jobs is a Creator/Outlaw brand. The close alignment between the company and its leader works well. Another Outlaw brand with a flavor of Warrior is Hong Kong entrepreneur Richard Li, whose career was built on taking risks and turning away from convention. Oracle Software is a Warrior brand, as is its CEO, Larry Ellison. Executives who work in healthcare often exemplify the Caregiver brand.

What archetype is dominant for you and your company? When coaching executives, we use assessments and questions to uncover an executive’s dominant archetype, the basis of his or her personal brand. To discover your archetype, ask yourself: What do I value above all else? What do I represent? What is unique about me? What is my call to action? What is my greatest fear? What story am I living?

Adjust your brand

Once you have articulated your brand, check for congruence. Ask others, “Does this brand evoke me?” You should get agreement from your audiences. Is your brand aligned with your actions and words? Are your actions aligned with your desired branding? Are there conflicts within your archetypes? For example, if you have a strong Regular Guy streak, you probably fear standing out. Does this prevent you from stepping into a Ruler role when your leadership calls for it? Or does the Lover aspect of your personality conflict with the Wnniors need to achieve? Finally, ask yourself: Is this really who I want to be? How can I aim even higher? What quirks of mine can I incorporate into my branding? Most of us spend our lives trying to conform. This is a chance to celebrate our uniqueness.

Live your brand

As you implement your brand, you will find that you have some clear strengths and liabilities. Your brand will alienate some people, and that’s okay. Strong brands don’t try to be all things to all people. Each archetype presents both opportunities and traps. A Warrior leader can be powerful, but may not create a nurturing work environment.

A Creator leader can be invigorating to follow, but may not be a structured thinker. Your strategy should be to mitigate your liabilities by flexing your behavior to meet the needs of the people and groups who are important to your business. For example, if you deal frequently with Ruler archetypes but are not a Ruler brand yourself, you will need to learn certain strategies and skills. By noticing your impact on your key audiences, and by stretching your skill set, you become a stronger, more flexible brand. Successful leaders who live their personal branding exercise a paradox. They are both deeply steeped in their own personal identities and deeply flexible toward their key audiences. Leaders who are good at both elements are authentic (true to themselves) and influential (powerful with others).

A Brand is A Promise

Remember: a brand is a promise, one that you make and fulfill, over and over. What promises are you and your company fulfilling? Fulfilling the business promise through effective communication yields a high Return on Communication.

Posted in Education and Career

Your One Chance to Break Free from the Cubicle

Break Free from the Cubicle

Almost everyone stuck in a cubicle dreams of starting his own business. Of course, starting a company while employed by another one can be tricky. Amongst thousands of books on pursuing your dreams and entrepreneurism, Ben Arment’s ‘Dream Year: Make the Leap from a Job You Hate to a Life You Love’ stands out above the crowd. Here’s some of Ben’s unique blend of insight, practical advice and inspiration.

  1. 'Dream Year: Make the Leap from a Job You Hate to a Life You Love' by Ben Arment (ISBN 159184729X) It will be scary, but you should leave your office career to launch your own company, “We are motivated by two conflicting fears in life: the fear of failure and the fear of insignificance.”
  2. Lack of time isn’t a valid excuse. “The truth is, you don’t have extra time to pursue your dream. No one does. We have to remove time from some other endeavor … sacrifice is painful but necessary.”
  3. You’ll need monetary help. “Don’t let rainmaking deter you …. Once you taste the sweet victory of a positive response, you’ll not only become more comfortable [with it], you might even enjoy it.”
  4. Be ready to lose sleep. “Work in the margins of your life—the late nights and early mornings—to make it a full-time reality …this is your one chance to break free from the cubicle.”
Posted in Education and Career

Insightful Life Lessons from Successful Business Executives

Insightful Life Lessons from Successful Business Executives

Posted in Education and Career

How Peak Performers Move Ahead and Pursue their Dreams

How Peak Performers Pursue their Dreams

I’m often asked, “How do I know if I’m a peak performer?” Frequently the people who ask seem afraid that the answer will be “You aren’t. You don’t measure up.” You begin answering the question by examining your current situation, “the horse you’re riding on.” You may have chosen wisely and well, knowing that loving your work and being inspired by its possibilities are critical to a life filled with challenge, rewards, and energy. You may have selected your job on those grounds. Still, amid job stress, internal politics, firefighting, and the craziness of daily life, your mission may be nearly forgotten: “I did love it once—or at least I knew I could love it. Now that sense of being in the right place, working at the heart of things, feels faraway.”

Anyone who feels that way will find it difficult to see his or her direction, values, and opportunities as part of a coherent mission. To paraphrase George Santayana, many of us redouble our efforts when we have lost our direction. The result is not necessarily failure. Several famous and wealthy people have mislaid their original missions. The result is, though, that their redoubled efforts often secure gratification not quite their own, at considerable cost to body and soul.

So they must ask another question: “Is my place to stand, in my current commitment, true to my real passions, or have I traded my passions for security or glory, and settled for gratifications hot quite my own?”

The key is to identify your current situation—candidly, with “ruthless compassion,” and then to act in your own behalf. Peak performers assess the degree to which their abilities, jobs, and work environment coincide to move forward their mission the degree to which their current stand gives them leverage to achieve those ends they feel destined to accomplish.

Many of us know the feeling of being close but not quite there, having the mission in sight but a bit out of focus. We adjust; we move elements around; we struggle, perhaps for years. We fail to see that we are having difficulty not with coping and adaptation but with growth and change. To others our struggle might seem puzzling. Those who know us well may feel that what is best for us is obvious. But, obsessed with the trials of daily life, we ignore the “real stuff” of our place to stand and the “right stuff” in ourselves.

“Will I ever discriminate between what really matters in work and life and what only seems to matter? Will I ever judge wisely and have the courage to act in my own behalf?” For the peak performers, the answer to these questions is yes.

Some of us have yet to find our place to stand. We have not taken our best stand, have not fully engaged our mission. But old missions—real ones don’t die easily. They may recede into the background, but they are still waiting there, ready to move to center stage. Like an unrequited love, a real mission lives on in the mind of its creator, awaiting its resolution: “It just didn’t work out. I got pulled away by different interests and responsibilities. The circumstances changed, and the passions cooled. It just wasn’t practical to go on. Besides, something more reasonable came along.”

How to Promote Peak Performance

Promote Peak Performance

Our reasoned, reasonable loves offer but shadows of the motivation and potential of our real ones. Austrian-Canadian endocrinologist Hans Selye once observed: “Realistic people with practical aims are rarely as realistic or practical in the long run of life, as the dreamers who pursue their dreams.” Peak performers know this distinction.

With work, as with people, there must be 50 ways to leave your lover. But if the love is real, its feelings bone-deep and wholehearted, the 50 ways serve only as rationalizations and excuses. Many of us have major responsibilities: equity positions, family obligations, our friends’ expectations, our familiarity with a place and a job. Instead of allowing themselves to be trapped in such situations, peak performers accept the risks and temporary discomforts of challenging themselves to better the situations. In spite of their fears and self-doubts, they exercise their courage and face the difficulties.

As they reflect on the journey, a memory, an award, or a picture may trigger associations with a face, a name, or an old life plan. With missions loved, as with people, come a torrent of images. There is a certain pathos to such reflection, taking its origin as William Wordsworth said poetry does: “from emotion recollected in tranquility” This emotion, not sadness, reconnects them with the source of their motivation. Peak performers move ahead and pursue their dreams.

Others might say: “I always wanted to be .. .I wonder what would have happened if .. .I never knew why it didn’t work. .. If only … If only … If only … ” Such normal feelings trigger further reflection for the peak performer: “What did I learn from that situation? How can I recapture those old dreams, perhaps in an altered or updated form? How can I act in my own behalf? And how can I ensure against being like those people who are unable or unwilling to learn from such reflection, who continue in their rut, riding the horse long after the race is over and the beast has died?”

As a peak performer, you recognize yourself as a person who was born not as a high achiever but as a life-long learner. With the capacity to grow, change, and reach for the highest possibilities of human nature, you regard yourself as a person in process. Not perfect, but a person who keeps asking: What more can I be? What else can I achieve that will benefit me and my company? That will contribute to my family, community, and society? And then answering for yourself.

Posted in Education and Career Leaders and Innovators Mental Models and Psychology

Why Leaders Fail

Recently Ralph Larsen, CEO of Johnson & Johnson, stated, “Leadership is the biggest single constraint to growth at Johnson & Johnson, and it is the most critical business issue we face.” This statement may be endorsed by many other CEOs, yet solutions to the “biggest single constraint” seem to be in short supply.

For example, consider these findings:

  • Over a 10-year period, at least 50 percent of executives fail in their jobs.
  • In hospital leadership, 60 percent of managers are considered incompetent.
  • In one major aerospace company, 50 percent of the leaders failed.
  • No matter where or when the survey is conducted or what occupation is studied, 60 to 70 percent of employees state that the most stressful aspect of their jobs is their immediate boss.

Why the Dismal Results?

What accounts for these dismal results? Here are four findings:

  1. We assume that people with strong educational background, technical skills, or individual peak performers are our best candidates for leaders. How are leaders typically chosen? Usually those individuals chosen for leadership positions either have an impressive degree (like a Harvard MBA), strong technical skills (like a topnotch engineer), or they are individual peak performers (like super salesmen). But there is no evidence whatsoever that people with these backgrounds make effective leaders.
  2. We allow an outside search firm or an inside search committee to select our leaders. The track record of individuals thus selected are no better.
  3. We aren’t clear on what constitutes a successful leader in our organization. Some clarity is emerging, like the need for conceptual and cognitive abilities, emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and long-range thinking capabilities,
  4. We rely on our own implicit beliefs or “theories” and preconceived notions about what a successful leader “looks like.” For example, we may think that a leader must be tall, intuitive, agreeable, conscientious, extrovertive, or visionary. But such characteristics as physical height, agreeableness, and having a vision are our selection criteria not qualities that predict success.

What Can Be Done to Improve Leadership Deficiencies

Here are five ways we can improve the odds of success in leadership:

  1. Make the selection criteria and process more rigorous. Rely more on psychological testing and assessment conducted by highly experienced professionals.
  2. Concentrate on “action learning” developmental activities. Concentrate much more on activities that combine learning about group dynamics and leadership with tasks to get real work done (work, like creative thinking and planning, that the company has needed done for some time, but for one reason or another has not been done).
  3. Use multirater feedback processes. These processes enhance the leader’s selfawareness, which correlates with high performance. If the practices on which one receives feedback are related to organizational goals (like culture change), then there can be a win-win payoff.
  4. Coach the leader. Such coaching should be conducted by highly experienced professionals. For multi-rater feedback to pay off for both the individual and the organization, coaching is necessary.
  5. Treat leadership assessment and development as a critical business issue. Ralph Larsen stated, “leadership is the biggest single constraint to growth” and “leadership is our most critical business issue.” I dare say the same could be said of your organization.
Posted in Management and Leadership

Exemplary Leaders Model the Way for Others

Exemplary Leaders Model the Way for Others

Some people see across the boundary of experience and into the future. They believe that dreams can become realities. They open our eyes and lift our spirits. They build our trust and strengthen our relationships. They stand firm against the winds of resistance and give us courage to continue the quest. We call these people leaders. They take us to places we have never been before.

Exemplary leaders engage in practices that stand the test of time, the first being that they model the way. Exemplary leaders clarify their personal values and then express those values in their own style and voice, in thought and action. They then set the example by aligning their personal actions with shared values.

Find your values and your voice

Exemplary leaders have strong beliefs about matters of principle. People expect their leaders to speak out on matters of values and conscience. Nevertheless, how can you speak out if you don’t know what’s important to you? How can you show you care if you don’t know what you care about? To earn and sustain personal credibility, you must find your voice by clarifying your personal values and expressing them in your own style. By finding your voice, you take the first step in the journey to becoming a leader. By asking yourself what value you bring to your constituents, you stay at the leading edge.

Leaders are clear about the values and motivations that drive them. Values serve as guides. By identifying your values, you find your voice. The clearer you are about your values, the easier it is for you to stay on the path you have chosen. Values inform your decisions about what to do, when to say “yes” and when to say “no,” and why you make those decisions.

Learn to express your values in a way that is genuinely and authentically you. You must authentically communicate your beliefs in ways that uniquely represent who you are. You must interpret the lyrics and shape them into your own presentation so that others recognize that you’re the one who’s singing.

Set the example

Clarity about personal values is part of modeling the way for others. If you stand for some personal set of values, then the only person you’ll be leading will be yourself. When you lead a group or organization, you have to move from “what I believe” to “what we believe.”

We can’t impose values from the top. It either leads to compliance or rebellion. Values cannot be forced. They must be forged. Being clear about personal values allows us to detect where there are shared values in the community.

Discovering values that can be shared is the foundation for building productivity and genuine working relationships. Although leaders honor the diversity of their constituencies, they also stress their common values. Leaders build on agreement. They don’t worry about getting everyone to be in accord.

Tremendous energy is generated when individual, group, and institutional values are aligned. Commitment, enthusiasm, and drive are intensified, as people have reasons for caring about their work. When we care about what we are doing, we are more effective and satisfied. We experience less stress. Shared values are the internal compasses that enable us to act independently and interdependently—simultaneously.

Align personal actions with shared values

Align personal actions with shared values

The most powerful thing a leader can do to mobilize others is to set the example by aligning personal actions with shared values. Leaders show up, pay attention, and participate directly in getting extraordinary things done. They show others by their own example that they are deeply committed to the values and aspirations they espouse. Leaders are measured by the consistency of their deeds and words—by walking the talk. Leading by example is how leaders make visions and values tangible. It is how they provide the evidence that they are committed and competent.

Leaders enact the meaning of the organization in every decision they make and in every step they take. Leaders understand that they bring shared values to life in a variety of settings—in staff meetings, one-on-one conferences, telephone calls, e-mails, sermons, and in visits with colleagues and constituents.

Show people what’s important by how you spend your time

How you spend your time is the single clearest indicator, especially to other people, about what’s important to you. Critical incidents chance occurrences, particularly at a time of stress and challenge, offer significant moments of learning for leaders. They are often the most dramatic sources of moral lessons about what we should value and how we should behave. They become stories that are passed down in the workplace.

Therefore, you might use an organizer or journal to assess your alignment with your principles. Every evening, ask, “What have I done today to demonstrates that this value is near and dear to me? What have I done inadvertently to demonstrate this is not a value for me? What do I need to do to more fully express my values?”

By daily clarifying and reaffirming your values, you strengthen your resolve to contribute.

Posted in Management and Leadership

Accelerate Leadership Performance in The First 100 Days

Accelerate Leadership Performance in The First 100 Days

Disciplined leaders engage in enterprise-wide conversations that trigger vital instincts, tapping deep wisdom, strong commitment, rich relationships, real insight, innovative creativity, and earned trust—all necessary to drive cultural success. We-centric leaders share their inner thoughts. They help transform deep thoughts and feelings into dialogue that directs people toward bold action.

As relationship circles build among colleagues, customers, vendors and resource partners, a web of interconnectivity forms. Using a common language and story-telling process, the organization becomes a dynamic system of positive transformation. Egocentricity (I-centric behaviors) gives way to humility, and we-centric engagement fills the space. The collective will for action becomes a driving force, moving the brand and organization forward faster. The energy of action is not reactivity, which leads to territorial behavior (I-centric), but generativity and co-creativity, which leads to synchronous behavior and action (we-centric).

10 Steps in 100 Days of New Leadership

To build your team in 100 days, follow these 10 steps:

  1. Build your executive team. Decide who will be on the team. Gain alignment with the key executives and develop productive relationships with them. If there are issues with relationships, philosophy, history, misunderstandings, clear them up; don’t allow them to fester. Have one-on-ones with your key people regularly. Clarify the roles of each executive.
  2. Unveil your visions and strategy as a shared vision. Project your strategic thinking clearly. Share the details; have forums for dialogue to create an enterprise-wide vision. You clarify your message every time you say it. People need to hear it, and you need to speak it consistently.
  3. 100 Days of New Leadership Build momentum and energy from top to bottom. Each executive, not just the CEO, must hold the vision. Every one-on-one helps clarify the picture. Make sure you and your team sees the same view. They need to be onboard with you and build the vision with you.
  4. Appreciate the value each person brings. Ensure that people feel valued, solicit their points of view, and note their contributions. Discuss where the business is going and how they can contribute to its success.
  5. Communicate intimately and globally. Every conversation is a chance to build trust and respect and strengthen relationships. To build trust, give people a chance to be heard. Circle back more than once during the conversation. And let them get to know you.
  6. Set priorities for 30, 60, and 90 days. Select key priorities that show actions are being taken and decisions made and engage your top team in building the 30-60-90 day agenda.
  7. Communicate the small wins. Communicate the small wins toward achieving transformational goals.
  8. Celebrate success. Every success is important; so, celebrate when it counts.
  9. Capture symbols of change. Capture cultural symbols of change as they emerge and make them explicit.
  10. Make requests, promises, and commitments. Ask for what you want. Keep your promises. And build a commitment culture by walking the talk.

Leadership is being redefined from power-over others to power-with others. Executives are awakening to new beliefs about what drives people to be productive and what it takes to engage their energy, commitment, and creativity.

Leaders turn fear into hope, caution into courage, and resistance into a powerful energy for creating the future.

Posted in Education and Career Management and Leadership

Empower Leaders by Addressing the What and the Why

Leadership Empowerment

Personally, I don’t think leadership is all that complicated. In fact, I summarize the leadership process in one page. While the process is simple, leaders invariably face an initial dilemma and two breakdowns.

Many leaders struggle with the paradox of when to exert “strong leadership” in team decisions versus when to empower their team to make decisions. Exert too much direction, and you are accused of being domineering or micro-managing. Empower too much and you run the risk of being indecisive.

The process I suggest is simple and intuitive, providing teams both the direction they need (leadership) and the boundaries.

For any worthy project, you need to answer six basic questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? Answering these questions in a 1-2-3 sequence will help you know where and when to step in:

  1. You provide leadership by first addressing what and why for the group. What do we need to accomplish and why is it important that we do so?
  2. You clarify with the team the real boundaries they are dealing with: “Who” needs to be involved, “When” it needs to be done, and “Where” it needs to occur.
  3. You empower the team by leaving the “How” up to them. Sounds simple, and it is, but being disciplined about it is not so simple.

The process usually breaks down in one of two places.

Empower Leaders

Breakdown #1 in Leadership Empowerment: The missing Why

We usually have the What, but we often don’t have a Why. I hear this complaint consistently, and it’s troubling. I feel obliged to give any group I ask to do something a compelling reason why. A compelling why means you ask people to do something because it’s going to help you do one of four things:

  • Better satisfy customers and ultimately increase revenues
  • Become more efficient and effective in your processes and drive productivity
  • Improve your cash flow position, or
  • Improve your relationship and image in the community

These qualify as compelling reasons. Leaders should give their team such reasons when asking them to do something. As a leader, if you can’t make a connection between what you’re asking your team to do and one of these compelling reasons, your people have the right to ignore you. Leaders often use such lame reasons as: “Do it because: I said so.” “Thats your job!” “It’s one of my performance objectives,” or “My boss said we had to do it.” When people don’t have a compelling why, they won’t sustain their effort. As employees, we are frustrated when we’re asked to do something and not given a compelling why. At the same time, we must recognize our responsibility for seeking one out. Before we let a leader walk away without providing a compelling why, we need to push back until we get one.

Breakdown #2 in Leadership Empowerment: The Prescribed How

The other place the process tends to break down is at Step 3, as people are often told how. This is a hard one for new leaders to work through. Many of them were promoted mostly because of their ability to deliver on the “how.” Yet it is the first thing they need to let go when they move into a leadership position. Easier said than done.

Nevertheless, the process is simple. You provide leadership by offering a clear “what” and a compelling “why.” You define the real boundaries for action and leave the “how” up to the team. If you stay disciplined, your people will want to work with you and you’ll build a team structure that’s more flexible, independent, and sustainable.

Posted in Management and Leadership