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What is Organizational Culture?

What is Organizational Culture?

Organizational culture is the essence of what is important to the organization. For itself, it stipulates and proscribes undertakings, and it defines the “dos and don’ts” that oversee the behavior of its members.

An organization’s culture serves at least seven important functions:

  • Specifies what is of principal importance to the organization, the standards against which its successes and failures should be gaged.
  • Determines how the organization’s resources are to be used, and to what ends.
  • Establishes what the organization and its members can expect from each other.
  • Makes some methods of controlling behavior within the organization legitimate and makes others illegitimate—specifically, it defines where power lies within the organization and how it is to be used.
  • Selects the behaviors in which members should or should not engage and prescribes how these are to be rewarded and punished.
  • Sets the tone for how members should treat each other and how they should treat nonmembers: competitively, collaboratively, honestly, distantly, or hostilely.
  • Instructs organizational members about how to handle the external environment: aggressively, exploitatively, responsibly, or proactively.
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Learn How to Execute Effectively with Strategic Alignment

Learn How to Execute Effectively with Strategic Alignment

Aligning Strategies Throughout the Business

It is a familiar situation. Corporation A misses severely on its obligations several quarters in succession and the stock plummets. Consequently, the Board loses confidence, the CEO “resigns,” and a new CEO is chosen who declares a restructuring of the business.

In recent years, we have seen numerous such reports. Even where top-level executives display signs of “vision” and express what seems to be a sound business strategy on paper, results go amiss of expectations.

Strategy is often thought of as something that only top-tier executives can effect, and while it may be true that “top-down” strategy is most customary. We continue that individuals throughout the organization must both recognize the organization’s strategy and create an supplementary strategy for themselves—a supplemental strategy that directly impacts their respective areas of responsibility and braces the core of the business.

We have all been there. The leadership team spends long hours deciding on a strategy to improve performance. Management teams come up with supportive annual budgets. Bout teams settle long PowerPoint presentations and exhaustive spreadsheet files. Yet not much happens in terms of deliverables! Ambitious year-end targets are missed. Improvement curves keep being shifted to the right, and the reorganization begins.

Companies with obstructive cultures and meagre strategic alignment considerably underperform their competitors. Additionally, most executives recognize what’s at stake and what matters, even if their companies don’t always seem to get it right.

Questions arise as to why these events occur: What has gone wrong and why? Are the goals too assertive? Are the apparitions or strategies deficient? Are middle managers unable to execute? If the answer is yes to all these questions, then why is it so?

All are good questions; however, the key component is strategic alignment.

What is Strategic Alignment?

Strategic alignment is the connection between the goals of the business, which quantify the progress of the implementation of the strategy toward the vision, and the goals of each key contributor, including groups, divisions, business units, and departments.

Strategic alignment, then, is one and all rowing in the same direction. The tighter the linkage and the better the alignment, the likelihood of faultless execution becomes stronger.

Once implemented properly, strategic alignment delivers four major advantages:

  1. it allows an well-organized use of frequently scarce resources;
  2. it results in improved speed of execution;
  3. it encourages team efforts toward common goals; and
  4. it increases motivation by giving people a keener sense of contribution to the results of their groups and the corporation in total.

These are great results, but few corporations realize them. Since many corporations and their leadership teams try to gain strategic alignment, what barriers must be overpowered?

Strategic Alignment and a Culture That Supports Innovation

Two Key Components of Successful Strategic Alignment

Culture plays a critical role in this strategy. According to Fred Palensky of 3M Company, “for over 100 years, 3M has had a culture of interdependence, collaboration, even codependence. Our businesses are all interdependent and collaboratively connected to each other, across geographies, across businesses, and across industries. The key is culture.”

  1. Communicate broadly to help people understand the elements of the vision and of the key strategic directions. Repetition by the leadership and management teams at every opportunity—including sales meetings, company meetings, and operational business reviews—empowers each employee to understand vividly how he or she can contribute.
  2. Link the results of each employee’s job to the progress of the entire corporation strategy, and do it clearly and simply. This is best done by using simple measures of key performances (KBMs = key business metrics, or KPMs = key performance metrics) that can be connected to the employee’s annual performance review.

Strategic Alignment and a Culture That Supports Innovation

At our company, we use a cascading set of goals that determine the progress of the strategic implementation. This “waterfall effect” or “goal tree” starts at the top and cascades down. The objectives are assimilated into our annual performance targets and support the key goals of our leaders. This safeguards focus and alignment as employees deliver on their objectives. Objectives are rolled back up the “goal tree” in reviews of goals.

Implementing strategic alignment requires a robust promise from the top leadership and a focus on frequent communication using simple management principles of focus, clarity, and fortification. In the end, effective execution of strategic alignment is a leader’s top priority and ensures that goals are met and success achieved.

Purpose is what the business is trying to accomplish. Strategy is how the business will accomplish it. Purpose is durable—it is the north star towards which the company should point. Strategy comprises choices about what products and services to offer, which markets to serve, and how the company should best set itself apart from entrants for competitive advantage.

Keep corporate strategy at the heart of your organization’s culture by standing up a process to keep it front-and-center.

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How Leaders Can Motivate People to Think and Act Differently

How Leaders Can Motivate People to Think and Act Differently Will the induction of new technology present any menace to traditionalists? Of course it will. Innovation, by definition, is a undermining force. That is why we will need real leaders to champion the innovations. Leaders motivate people to think and act differently. We need to make sure that we are on the winning side of new technologies.

We must choose anything that will bring greater urgency and velocity to the search for new products, or advancements of existing ones, that are truly innovative. We can find some clues on how to act by studying the history of innovation. Here are some lessons learned.

  1. The instinct to create or innovate can be encouraged. We can systemize innovation by encouraging bright people with a real diversity of talent to work together in teams.
  2. Nothing stimulates innovation more than the rapid exchange of information, knowledge, and ideas. Faster transmission begets greater discovery. We see this in e-commerce. Amazon.com may constitute the greatest innovation in the distribution of the written word since the printing press.
  3. There must be obvious financial incentives for successful innovations. Undoubtedly, financial incentives add fuel to the fire for high-tech companies in the business-related world. But there is still a dearth of attractive financial incentives in defense procurement. Many leading companies have turned their backs on military R&D and defense contracting as a result of poor profit margins and red tape.
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Speed with Balance: Towards a Balanced Leadership Framework

Speed with Balance: Towards a Balanced Leadership Framework

Speed is an Incredible Drug

Managers are under snowballing pressure to deliver ever faster and more expectable returns and to restrain riskier investments intended for meeting future needs and finding creative solutions to the problems confronting people around the world.

Just ask a Formula One driver, a day-trader, or the CEO of any startup trying to get to market first with the next great idea or technology. We are convinced faster is better; indeed, complacency could mean death in today’s markets. But what fuel is driving you? Is it high-octane intelligence or the fumes of fear-fear you’ll lose the race, be left behind, be dumped in the trash heap of what could have been?

The next challenge of leadership is not just to increase speed but to maximize the intelligence of people. Research has advanced our knowledge of human intelligence, opening up incredible new possibilities for creating more productive, resilient workplaces. Emotion plays a critical role in decision-making, innovative thinking, and effectiveness. Intelligence is distributed throughout the body-not just localized in the brain. The heart is an intelligent system profoundly affecting brain processing.

How can leaders balance these complex and often competing demands? The core question for modern leaders is to become more entirely human—to energetically develop a wider range of competences and to more deeply understand themselves.

Four leadership dynamics are crucial to creating a culture that honors the contributions of each person, while maintaining a clear vision and focus.

Leadership Dynamic #1: Manage Yourself

More than ever we have to see outside ourselves. The new economy is all about connecting, partnering, collaborating, and leveraging what we have through the strengths and talents of others. Many executives realize that the adaptability, creativity, and innovative intelligence within people is their only competitive advantage.

Three things are clear in this time of unprecedented change:

  1. Stress will increase because of pressure to grow, to learn, to adapt, to flex, to find and maintain balance among conflicting priorities.
  2. Understanding mental, emotional, and physical processes is essential to enhancing performance. Emotional mismanagement strains the heart. We can’t divorce personal or professional success from the everyday emotional pressures we face. Emotional turmoil causes poor health, weak morale, high turnover, and lost productivity.
  3. Identifying and plugging the leaks in your own system saves energy. A leak is caused by anything unresolved: a tough decision still unmade, a relationship that worries you, guilt over mishandling a project or relationship, or the gnawing anxiety that you are not doing work that fulfills your talent and potential.

We see a negative impact on clear thinking and decision-making when our emotions run amuck. Positive emotions—such as appreciation, care, and compassion—create an internal environment that neutralizes negative reactions and increases resilience.

Leadership Dynamic #2: Build Coherent Relationships

In a connected world, communication becomes more demanding. The speed of response is often critical. However, when you are rushing or frantic, incoherent thinking results. A balanced response, while appearing to take more time, actually saves time because of the added clarity. Coherent communication reduces internal noise while encouraging meaningful conversations among coworkers, customers, and constituents. You do this in four ways:

  1. achieve understanding first—don’t jump to conclusions or assume you know;
  2. listen nonjudgmentally—put your judgments aside to hear the views or concerns of staff;
  3. Listen for the essence—don’t react just to the words or tone or get lost sword-fighting over details. Listen for deeper meanings and patterns. Assume others have essential knowledge you need to succeed.
  4. Be authentic—Leaders soar in credibility and praise when delivering tough messages forthrightly. Leaders who cover up or sugar-coat are greeted with skepticism, cynicism, and apathy. Paralysis follows leaders afraid to take a stand with compassion.

As Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard, said: “Engage your heart, your gut, and your mind in every decision you make. Engage your whole self, and the journey will reveal itself with time.”

Leadership Dynamic #3: Create a Positive Climate

Leaders understand the necessity of a positive workplace climate for innovation and creativity. Anyone who has been through a merger knows first-hand just how dramatic a climate change can be and how devastating to productivity are people who are unhappy about their role, or the organization’s direction (or lack of direction). Dissension and antagonism act like a virus that infects an organization, weakening vitality and resilience as it spreads.

A healthy climate combats the virus through an inoculation of essential human values and behaviors, such as supporting initiatives, valuing individual contribution, encouraging self-expression, and providing recognition, role clarity, and challenge. Adaptability, shared core values, care, and appreciation are not only qualities of great places to work, they also nurture an innovative spirit that serves all interests and stakeholders.

Leadership Dynamic #4: Renew Yourself and Your Organization

Balance is essential in people and organizations. As speed increases, imbalance becomes more apparent and catastrophic. A living system, like a mechanical one, needs to be renewed, refreshed, rejuvenated, and balanced.

  1. Introduce methods to help you examine your individual interests, desires, and goals
  2. Understand your workplace’s priorities and culture, and offer tips for identifying where there’s either a match or a gap
  3. Prepare to move forward through the creation of a personalized strategic professional plan that addresses professional development, gaining additional experience, and other options for growth
  4. Share your skills and experience through mentorship

Every Person and Organization Needs Renewal

To meet the challenges of the new economy, speed is essential. Balance will guarantee we don’t spin out of control in the process.

The success of a leader has more to do with intrinsic motivation, skills, capabilities, and character than with whether his or her pay is tied to shareholder returns.

The ambition is not to find a perfect balance, but to build a harmonizing set of strengths, so that we can move elegantly along a spectrum of leadership qualities. Incorporating our own complexity makes us more wholly human and gives us added resources to manage ourselves and others in an gradually complex world.

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Seven Employee Engagement Practices

Seven Employee Engagement Practices

Use these seven engagement practices to engage or re-engage your people:

  1. Give realistic job previews to ensure the expectations of new hires match on-the-job reality. This involves giving a candid description of difficult challenges or conditions, touring the plant, allowing candidates to discuss job challenges with current employees, or portraying actual work situations.
  2. Take more time in hiring to avoid person-job mismatches. Analyze the critical success factors required for all jobs, screen candidates via personality assessments, ask behavior-based questions, use multiple interviewers, and check references. Don’t over-prescribe how jobs are to be done, but communicate clearly what results are expected.
  3. Provide managers with training in performance management and coaching. This should include the art of giving performance feedback and dealing with situations of potential conflict. Leaders of engaged workforces teach an adult-to-adult partnership model that allows more input from the employee in performance goal-setting, and features more frequent discussions.
  4. Provide self-assessment workshops and train managers how to be career coaches. Require all employees to complete an annual Individual Development Plan and update it with managers after six months. Some CEOs state that managers do not “own” the talent and that “talent-hoarding” won’t be tolerated. Employees will not be prevented from moving laterally when they are ready.
  5. Create a culture that acknowledges all improvements and contributions. Assure that people receive the message that they are valued. Request employee input about matters that impact them, keep them informed, provide the right resources at the right time, and discipline or fire managers who abuse and disrespect people. Hire great people and pay above-market wages.
  6. Maintain reasonable workloads. Help people to have a decent life outside work. Survey your people and find out what they need. Companies with many female workers with children might start flex-time and subsidized child care or trade some pay for increased vacation time.
  7. Gain and maintain the trust and confidence of employees. Convey a clear and compelling vision that inspires confidence and gives people hope that they can grow as the organization grows. Convince workers that you care as much about them as you care about shareholders and customers. Back up your words with actions and maintain high standards of ethics and integrity.
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How to Manage a Multi-Generational Workforce

How to Manage a Multi-Generational Workforce

The workforce is changing dramatically. For the first time in modern society, four generations—Millennials, Gen-Xers, Baby Boomers, and Matures—are working side-by-side. The fastest growing segment is comprised of employees age 27 and under. In the past four years, they became 21 percent of the workforce. About 50 percent of the workforce is age 40 and under. A larger proportion is past traditional retirement age as Baby Boomers continue to redefine retirement and Matures continue to work.

These generational differences can cause friction, mistrust, and communication breakdowns; prevent effective teamwork and collaboration; and impact job satisfaction, retention, and productivity.

To manage a multi-generational workforce, leaders must first understand each generation, and the common experiences that connect its members. This enables them to align all employees with goals and create an inclusive culture in which age differences are recognized and leveraged.

Multi-Generational Workforce: Where Are You Coming From?

Knowing more about each generation affords a better way for managing and motivating employees of all ages. The common experiences of a generation, along with age and life stage, drive the attitudes, behaviors, and lifestyles of its members. Each generation has a different perspective. Each brings unique attitudes and expectations to work, and each influences the manager-employee relationship. We need to understand other generations so we can build relationships that lead to cooperation and job satisfaction.

Millennials: Age 27 and Younger

Raised by Baby Boomer parents, Millennials want responsibility, recognition, and opportunities for high engagement. Many have a friend-friend relationship with their parents and expect to be treated as equals. At work, they are adaptable, open, and comfortable with ethnic diversity. To Millennials, a leader is a guide and mentor, not an autocrat. Their work style is independent, but they need feedback. Their solutions are often technology-oriented. They have a strong sense of social responsibility, and carefully select the organizations they work for. Millennials thrive on short-term goals and deadlines, and want frequent feedback and reinforcement.

Generation X: Ages 28 to 40

Gen-Xers were raised when many women worked outside the home, and so they learned to be self-reliant, resourceful, and independent. They bring work-life balance to the workplace. Gen-Xers are strategi, altruistic, tech-savvy, and impatient with Boomers’ emphasis on meetings and relationships. Though they are collaborative, they prefer to work independently with minimal supervision. They focus results and are masters at multi-tasking. With their focus on work-life balance, many Gen-X women are giving up high-powered careers or cutting back on work hours in order to raise their children. Finding ways to retain high-performing Gen-Xers as they start their families is a challenge. Gen-Xers are motivated by independence, growth opportunities, and managers who trust them.

Baby Boomers: Ages 41 to 59

Often called the “Me” generation, Boomers were raised in a time of economic prosperity and civil rights upheaval that fostered individualism and a sense of entitlement. Work is a high priority, which translates into 12-hour workdays and stressful lives. They are innovative, and tend to challenge the rules. As managers, Boomers pay attention to relationship building and expect others to work the same long hours. Boomers look for new challenges that leverage their experience, and recognition for their contribution.

Matures: Ages 60 to 80

Matures were influenced by the Great Depression and World War II. As children, they were “seen and not heard.” Their values of hard work, honesty, and dedication became America’s values. They respect authority and seniority, and prefer a formal relationship with their manager. Matures are comfortable with hierarchy and a top-down management style. Matures desire to contribute and want respect for their experience.

Multi-Generational Workforce: Aligning the Generations

You can manage all four generations by recognizing and valuing differences and by creating a culture of inclusion in which every employee can thrive.

We have developed three action steps for greater engagement:

  1. Understand your workforce. Develop a deep understanding of your workforce-demographics, skill sets, personality traits, and perspectives on the culture.
  2. Build and maintain a balanced workforce. This requires recruiting strategies that appeal to diverse ages. Online job boards may have more appeal for Millennials than Matures. In contrast, newspaper ads that feature employees with 20-plus years of experience connect with Matures. Each generation expects and needs something different from work, and retention strategies should be tailored to those needs. For example, Gen-Xers may value a flextime program, while Baby Boomers will want recognition.
  3. Create an accepting culture. A culture that accepts and values each person can make a positive difference for everyone involved. Incorporating multi-generational workforce management into business goals is one effective way to develop an accepting culture. Facilitate interaction by including development programs geared to managers, leaders, and employees at other levels; mentoring and reverse mentoring; participation on committees; and informal social activities. Foster relationships among employees of all ages.

Manage a Multi-Generational Workforce

A workforce comprised of all generations offers flexibility, a range of skill sets, different approaches to problem solving, and the ability to attract and retain high-performing people.

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Four Key Traits of Conscious Leaders

Four Key Traits of Conscious Leaders

Leaders who have an effect for good or ill hold three common attributes: vision, discipline, and passion. The differentiation is conscience. When conscience governs, leadership endures and changes the world for good. Moral authority prepares formal authority work. When conscience does not oversee, leadership does not prevail, nor do the institutions created by that leadership. Formal authority without moral authority collapses.

Leadership for good lifts and lasts. Mahatma Gandhi’s vision, discipline, and passion were driven by conscience, and he became a servant to the cause and the people. He had only moral authority, no formal authority, and yet he was the father of the second largest country in the world. When vision, discipline and passion are governed by formal authority void of conscience, it changes things for the worse. Rather than elevating, it rescinds; rather than last, it fails.

Key Traits of Conscious Leaders #1: Vision

Seeing a potential state with the mind’s eye is vision. It’s applied imagination. All things are created twice: first, a mental creation; second, a physical creation. Vision starts the process of reinvention. It signifies desire, dreams, hopes, goals, and plans. These dreams are not just whims—they are reality without physicality, like a building blueprint.

Most of us don’t envision or appreciate our potential, even though we all have the power, energy, and capacity to reinvent our lives. Memory is past. It is finite. Vision is future. It is infinite.

The most important vision is having a sense of self, a sense of your own destiny, mission, role, purpose and meaning. When testing your own personal vision, first ask: Does the vision tap into my voice, energy, and talent? Does it give me a sense of “calling,” a cause worthy of my obligation? Acquiring such meaning requires overwhelming personal reflection to rise above our autobiography, rise above our memory, and create a high-mindedness of spirit toward others.

We need to consider not only the vision of what’s possible “out there” but also the vision of what we see in other people, their unseen potential. Vision is about more than just getting things done; it is about unearthing and enlarging our view of others, affirming them, believing in them, and helping them discover their voice and realize their potential.

Seeing people through the lens of their potential and their best actions, rather than through the lens of their current behavior or weaknesses, produces positive energy. This affirming action is also a key to rebuilding broken relationships. There is great power in viewing people apart from their behavior and upholding their inherent worth. When we acknowledge the potential of others, we hold up a mirror to them, reflecting the best within them. This affirming vision unshackles them to become their best and frees us from reacting to bad behavior.

Key Traits of Conscious Leaders #2: Discipline

Discipline represents the second creation. It’s executing, making it happen, doing whatever it takes to realize that vision. Discipline is willpower personified. Peter Drucker noted that the first duty of a manager is to define realism. Discipline defines reality, acknowledges things as they are, and gets totally immersed in solutions. Without vision and hope, accepting reality may be discouraging. Happiness results from subordinating or foregoing immediate pleasure for a greater good.

Most people associate discipline with an absence of freedom, with coercion or duty. In fact, only the disciplined are truly free. The undisciplined are slaves to moods, appetites, and passions. What about the freedom to forgive, to ask forgiveness, to love unreservedly, to be a light, not a judge—a model, not a critic? Discipline comes from being “discipled” to a person or a cause, often subduing an impulse in obedience to a principle or sacrificing present for future good. Successful people may not like doing things that failures don’t like to do, but their hate is subordinated by the strength of their purpose.

Key Traits of Conscious Leaders #3: Passion

Passion comes from the heart and is discernible as optimism, excitement, emotional connection, and determination. It fires remorseless drive. Enthusiasm is deeply rooted in the power of choice rather than circumstance. Enthusiasts believe that the best way to foresee the future is to create it. In fact, enthusiasm becomes a moral imperative, making the person part of the solution rather than part of the problem of feeling hopeless and helpless.

Aristotle said, “Where talents and the needs of the world cross, therein lies your vocation.” I say, “Therein lies your passion, your voice, your energy, your drive. It keeps you at it when everything else may say “quit.” When life, work, play, and love all revolve around the same thing, you’ve got passion! The secret to creating passion is finding your unique talents and your special role and purpose.

Courage is the crux of passion, and is, as Harold B. Lee once said, “the quality of every virtue and acting at its highest testing point.”

Skills are not talents. Talents, however, require skills. People can have skills and knowledge in areas where their talents do not lie. If they have a job that requires their skills but not their talents, they’ll never tap into their passion. They’ll go through the motions, but need external supervision and motivation.

If you can hire people whose passion intersects with the job, they will manage themselves better than anyone could ever manage them. Their fire comes from within. Their motivation is internal.

When you can give yourself to work that brings together a need, your talent, passion, and power will be unlocked.

Key Traits of Conscious Leaders #4: Conscience

Conscience, this moral sense, this inner light, is universal and independent of religion, culture, geography, nationality, or race. All major traditions are unified when it comes to basic underlying principles or values.

The thesis developed by authors Eric Klein and John Izzo in Awakening Corporate Soul begins to explain how leadership and working with conscience, compassion, and commitment are relevant to individuals. They write,

There is, at this time, both a crisis and a longing that permeates organizations across North America. We call one the commitment crisis, the struggle of organizations and their leaders to discover ways to ignite commitment and performance in a rapidly changing insecure climate. The other is an awakening that is slowly occurring within traditional businesses—the awakening of the Corporate Soul. It is a nascent movement that seeks to reclaim the spiritual impulse that is at the heart of work. It is about people wanting work to have meaning and even more, to engage more of them at the deepest levels of their capacity and desire.

  • Conscience is the moral law within—the voice of God to his children. Hence, there is an innate sense of fairness and justice, of right and wrong, of what contributes and what detracts, of what beautifies and what destroys, of what is true and what is false. Culture translates this basic moral sense into different practices and words, but this translation does not negate the underlying sense of right and wrong. There is a set of values, a sense of fairness, honesty, respect and contribution that transcends culture—something that is timeless, which transcends the ages and is also self-evident. Conscience is the still, small voice within. It is quiet and peaceful.
  • Conscience is sacrifice—the subordinating of one’s self or ego to a higher purpose, cause or principle. Sacrifice means giving up something good for something better. Sacrifice can take many forms: making physical and economic sacrifices (the body); cultivating an open, inquisitive mind and purging oneself of prejudices (the mind); showing deep respect and love to others (the heart); and subordinating one’s own will to a higher will for the greater good (the spirit). In business, you know those who are honest with you and who keep their promises and commitments. You also know those who are duplicitous, deceitful, and dishonest. Even when you reach a legal agreement with those who are dishonest, do you trust they’ll come through and keep their word?
  • Conscience tells us the value of both ends and means. Ego tells us that the end justifies the means, unaware that a worthy end can never be achieved with unworthy means. It may appear that it can be, but unintended consequences that are not seen or evident at first will eventually destroy the end.
  • Conscience transforms passion into compassion. It engenders sincere caring—a combination of sympathy and empathy where one’s pain is snared and received.

People who do not live by their conscience will not experience this internal integrity and peace of mind. Their ego will try to control relationships. Even though they might pretend or feign kindness and empathy, they will use subtle forms of manipulation.

The private victory of integrity is the foundation for the public victories of establishing a common vision, discipline and passion. Leadership becomes an interdependent work rather than an immature interplay between strong, independent, ego-driven rulers and compliant, dependent followers.

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10 Leadership Lessons from JFK

10 Leadership Lessons from JFK

John F. Kennedy remains a popular president. He was one of those rare presidents who became more popular during his time in office. In the last Gallup poll before his assassination, Kennedy’s approval rating stood at 70 percent!

Some pundits have dismissed Kennedy as “all profile and no courage.” But a closer look reveals that behind the charisma, smile and bold rhetoric, lay courage aplenty, plus vision and substance.

  • Craft a compelling vision. By 1960, a new generation of “Baby Boomers” was coming of age. What was to be their challenge? In his Inaugural Address, Kennedy gave them one: “Now the trumpet summons us again-not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are-but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation-a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself. Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that effort?” He dared young Americans to take on the status quo and to push themselves to the limit.
  • Face adversity with a smile. John F. Kennedy was born with an unstable back, which he aggravated further in sports and in the PT-109 incident. Also, he nearly died of scarlet fever as an infant, was mistakenly diagnosed with leukemia as a teenager, developed Addison’s Disease, which could be controlled only with painful cortisone treatments, suffered from allergies, bad eyesight, slight deafness in one ear, and much else besides. Born into a wealthy family, yet cursed with a sickly body, Kennedy could have given in to self-pity and sat on the sidelines. He refused, facing his maladies with a smile and joke. He was thus well-prepared to deal with the frustrations of political life.
  • Don’t follow the crowd. John F. Kennedy set his own course in life, always wary of being seen as anybody’s “man.” As a young man, he spent much time in Europe watching his father make blunder after blunder as U.S. ambassador to Great Britain, and young Kennedy resolved not to repeat them. He rejected his father’s crabbed isolationism in favor of a robust internationalism personified by Kennedy’s hero, Winston Churchill. He and his brother Bobby investigated corruption in U.S. labor unions, particularly the Teamsters. He also took on the American Legion, the House Democratic leadership, the Pentagon top brass.
  • Educate yourself. A passion for self-education might be one of the most reliable markers of leadership: Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan were mostly self-taught. Jack Kennedy became a reader during his childhood illnesses as he lay flat on his back in hospitals. History, biography, and historical fiction, such as Churchill’s History of the First World War and King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, were among his favorites. Before becoming president, Kennedy traveled the globe, visiting places few Americans had ever been, such as Vietnam. The contrast he witnessed between pre-war and post-war Berlin demonstrated vividly the possible consequences of world war, especially if it became nuclear.
  • Learn to communicate. Kennedy was a poor public speaker at the start of his career. He spoke too fast, failed to pause for audience reaction, tended to speak from the larynx rather than the diaphragm and so wore out his voice quickly. He spoke with a pronounced regional accent. He dealt with this by keeping his talks short, and leaving time for questions. But he worked hard to improve himself, hiring voice coaches and a speechwriter, Theodore C. Sorensen, who helped him craft memorable phrases and imagery. Kennedy was also one of the first politicians to receive media training. His live press conferences became a White House tradition. He cultivated reporters who wrote favorable stories about him and his family and declined to write about his affairs and illnesses. He used his communication skills to rally the nation to fight the Cold War, soothe its fears, inspire unity, and achieve its highest aspirations.
  • Don’t let crises manage you. Perhaps the most important quality a leader can possess is the ability to manage a crisis without letting the crisis manage the leader. Kennedy projected a calm confidence that communicated to those around him and to the country. For example, during the Cuban missile crisis (October 1962), Kennedy remained calm and refused to retaliate. To prevent future miscommunications, Kennedy and Khrushchev agreed to establish a “hotline” between the White House and Kremlin.
  • Build a team and find your “Bobby.” No one gets to the top alone. To reach and hold a major leadership position, you need to build a team. Kennedy learned early how to get along with people from all walks of life. He could charm European aristocrats as well as bell hops and cab drivers with equal felicity. His intensity and purpose proved irresistible, and most people who worked for him remained devoted to him (no member of the Kennedy circle ever wrote even a remotely hostile memoir.) When Jack’s first Senate campaign manager proved incompetent, he turned to his brother Bobby, who impressed Jack with his organizational abilities. Bobby took charge, firing those who failed to perform and promoting those who showed drive and determination. He became indispensable to his brother, who defied the charges of nepotism to name him attorney general. Everyone at the top needs someone whose advice he can trust implicitly.
  • Add a touch of showmanship. When Kennedy became president, the presidential aircraft was painted in an orange-white-and-black paint scheme with the phrase “Military Air Transport Command” stenciled on the side. For the New Frontier, this simply wouldn’t do. So Kennedy called in Raymond Loewy, a great industrial designer. Loewy came up with the pale blue and white paint scheme and the words “United States of America” stenciled on the fuselage. Kennedy also discovered the aircraft had a codename: Air Force One. That was too good a name to keep secret, and Kennedy began using it publicly.
  • Learn from mistakes. When Cuban exiles invaded that country with U.S. support early in his administration in an effort to overthrow Fidel Castro, the effort collapsed ignominiously. Kennedy did not blame the previous administration, whose idea it was. Instead, he accepted full responsibility, saying, “Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.” Still, there were consequences. The director and deputy director of the CIA were both sacked. The Joint Chiefs of Staff were required to give their opinions to him in writing. Never again would Kennedy simply trust anyone’s word. Instead, he questioned his advisers to ensure all options were explored.
  • Do what’s right. Courage is a leitmotif running through Kennedy’s life. He possessed enormous physical courage, playing rough sports like football and starring on the Harvard swimming team despite his fragile frame. Before the United States entered World War II in 1941, Jack enlisted in the navy. After the PT-109 was sunk by a Japanese destroyer, he joked with his men to keep their spirits up. His best-known book is called Profiles in Courage, which chronicles the stories of United States senators who risked their careers by supporting unpopular causes.

When African-Americans were agitating for their civil rights, Kennedy at first hesitated to embrace their cause, fearing it would damage him politically. But on June 11, 1963, he did so wholeheartedly. Kennedy was the first president to call for equal rights for all Americans. And his words could not be taken back once he had spoken them. In addition to his physical courage, he had inner courage as well.

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Ten Ways to Lead With Honor

  • Ten Ways to Lead With Honor Serve Others. Whatever you do, should benefit others. This includes every product you help make, every service you help provide and every decision you make that impacts others. Not surprisingly, leaders are only leaders if they are followed. Effective and successful leadership depends on a leader’s capacity to inspire, influence, and mobilize followers toward their personal and their organization’s goals.
  • Lead with Integrity. Never… ever… lie, cheat or embezzle. All leaders, when faced with unsatisfactory poll numbers, comfort themselves with the idea that unpopularity is a measure of their boldness. Acting with integrity and moral purpose is not accomplished merely by adhering to a prescribed system of checks and balances; it’s a far more involved process of honoring personal and organizational values while allowing for the far-reaching consequences and implications of actions.
  • Show Respect to Everyone. Everyone desires admiration. Everyone. In spite of of your position or power, ensure you show everyone respect. President Theodore Roosevelt made a reputation of caring for everyone he met. He knew all the White House staff by name and made it a point to make them feel important.
  • Agree to Disagree… Without Being Unlikable. We all disagree. As leaders we all have our own thoughts and agendas. If you disagree with someone, just remember to do it agreeably. Our politicians should take note of this one. To act otherwise is childish. But the greatest benefit of disagreeing well is not just that it will make conversations better, but that it will make the people who have them happier.
  • Take All Things to Account, Before Making a Decision. As leaders, we often have conflicting roles and responsibilities. We must lead organizations, provide value to stakeholders or the public, yet also care for our employees and staff. You cannot take a position that only values one party. As a leader, you must learn to take all things into account, and make balanced decisions.
  • Listen More. Talk Less. Leaders can only make good decisions, if they understand what is going around them. The last time I looked, you mouth isn’t necessary for comprehension, but you ears certainly are. Listening is the oldest, the most used, and the most important element of interpersonal communication. Listening is a skill. It can be improved through training and practice, just as can reading, writing, and speaking.
  • Reward and Discipline as Necessary. Ensure that those who deserve to be rewarded are recognized and that those that are poor performers get help. The best managers have an internal locus of control—they believe they can mend whatever’s wrong.
  • Treat Everyone Fairly. Again, everyone wants to be treated fairly. You can make a profit or get a promotion, while not taking advantage of someone else. Treating people with respect and dealing with everyone in a fair-minded and open matter are just two indispensable requirements for success as a manager.
  • Become an Expert at What You Do. You cannot lead, if you don’t know what you’re doing. Whatever you do, become the best at it. Life is too brief for you to make a bunch of mistakes or to accumulate enough experiences and learn from them; the true cost of your mistakes and experiences is your time—your life.
  • Lead a Balanced Life. We cannot lead, if we are unbalanced. Ensure that your family, spiritual and personal lives don’t take a back seat to your career. Incorporate the fact that neither you nor your job and/or life will ever be perfect.
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Change Leadership: Many Start but Few Finish Well

Organizational Change Management Strategies

Planning and Execution of Change

Most organizations have a leadership deficit because they ignore leadership potential and do not offer training or relevant role models.

When time is restrained and rewards are high, the most effective leaders count on their ranks to do what they do best. These leaders galvanize people to use their proficiency to solve problems and achieve goals.

Great leaders get others to move in a direction that is sensible for themselves, the business, and community. Today, we need more leaders who can help groups come up with visions that are not self-serving—visions that serve the entire enterprise.

Historically, great leaders are self-confident people who have extraordinary capacity to make decisions when others crumble. They are confident, but not arrogant. In fact, great leaders are often described as having humility and vulnerability. I am often struck by the extraordinary arrogance of some leaders—an arrogance that says, “I’m above the game. I am smart and accomplished. Therefore, I know what is best, yet I have to put up with stupid rules set by small-minded people. It’s only natural that I maneuver around those rules.” You do not find that same arrogance in great leaders.

For change to be good, it has to be in a positive direction. Initial stages of transformation are usually positive, but the change effort is perverted as it becomes successful and as executives become more arrogant. Change is not the issue; arrogance is. As some leaders start running into problems, in their arrogance they say, “No problem. We can handle all this. We can cut corners and make our own rules.”

Companies need to be able to exercise sound leadership when responding to a crisis. But what if you didn’t need to be eager to execute this style of strategic leadership?

In organizations with a strong brand, if you do not have senior leaders who are humble and vigilant, you develop an arrogant culture. The single biggest challenge in managing change is not strategy, structure, or culture, but just getting people to change their behavior. One reason why that is so challenging is that we rely on giving logical reasons for change but fail to present people an emotionally compelling case. People change their behavior only when they are motivated to do so, and that happens when you speak to their feelings.

You need something visual that produces the emotions that motivate people to move toward the vision. Great leaders tell stories that create pictures in our minds and have emotional impact. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream, not a strategy or goal, and he shoved us his dream, his picture of the future. People change when they see something visual (the vision) that touches their feelings, challenges their thinking, and incites actions. People may realize the need for change, but not do anything differently because they lack the passion to break out of routines or habit patterns. The momentum of “how we’ve done things” tends to make our future look like our past.

Principles and Theories of Organizational Change

Overcoming complacency—so vital at the start of change initiatives—often requires a bit of surprise, something that grabs attention at an emotional and intellectual level. You need to surprise people and disrupt their view that everything is perfect. Successful change leaders show people what the problems are and how to resolve the problems. They use images that people can see, hear, or touch. This may mean showing a video of an angry customer rather than a report of a customer survey. Change leaders make their points in ways that are emotionally engaging and compelling. They tell and retell vivid stories. You do not have to spend a million dollars and six months to prepare for a change effort. You do have to touch people emotionally.

The ability to move people emotionally is a special gift. Few of us are born with it, but we can learn it. In writing The Heart of Change, we found many people who had learned this skill. Some did not look like leaders, but somewhere along the way, they learned to speak to people’s feelings. One story involves people who realized that they had to start changing their own behavior. Many managers skip this part and start with, “Here’s how you need to change” because it is easier to tell other people that they are acting incorrectly than to admit that you are not perfect. Executives, as they become more successful, get less feedback or information showing how they are a part of the problem. Many of them have never learned the principle, always start with yourself first—and then go from there. It is a great rule of thumb.

Personal example is a powerful method of influence that can affect feelings and facilitate change. However, when leaders do not examine their own actions, they might give the wrong example, something that is inconsistent with what they are saying to people. People pay attention to deeds more than words.

All of us, deep in our hearts, want to be heroes, at least to our children or team members. Today we need heroes at every level. More people need to step up and provide change leadership. Most of this leadership will be modest. It might be a young sales rep who sees a new business opportunity or puts together a vivid demonstration of a problem. The sum of all these heroic actions—large and small—enables organizations to change in big ways.

Change Leadership: Many Start but Few Finish Well

Organizational Change Management Strategies

People need more positive examples of what works. In stories of what works, I never find a theme of self-preservation. Change leaders are not self-centered people. When focused only on yourself, you will not stick your neck out, lead the team to new glory, or create a shared win. You need a larger vision beyond saving your own skin. Several change proposals seem to presume that people will begin to shift their behaviors once formal elements like commands and encouragements get underway. People who work together on cross-functional teams will commence cooperating because the lines on the chart show they are intended to do so. Managers will become clear communicators because they have a mandate to deliver a message about the new strategy.

If you are frustrated and powerful, you tend to fall back on fear to motivate people. You say, “I know the right thing to do here, and you’ll either do it or be fired.” While using fear may be natural, it is usually ineffective. The only lesson your people learn is that you have power, and they need to fear being fired. They learn nothing about the enterprise, its challenges, and the need to do things differently. Fearful people do not listen carefully to customers. They hide or come up with schemes to protect themselves. Fear cannot drive transformation. However, fear may be used effectively as a surprise element. It is the “hit them upside the head with a board” approach to get attention. Then you have to quickly convert it into something positive or you get the drawbacks of fear.

Even if people are motivated to change, they are often blocked by a feeling or belief that they cannot change. Pessimism creates an emotional block to change. Effective change leaders use inspirational stories to bring out the natural optimism in everybody. They know how to inspire confidence, even in tough circumstances where people are depressed. They paint a hopeful picture in such a credible way that it soothes people and lead them to get out of the trenches to do something.

Managing Organizational Change

The change has to seep into the culture. The new behavior must maintain itself for a few weeks and show that it works. Then, the culture must support the change. For the new way of doing things to take hold, one change agent or leader cannot support it all. People need to see the right behavior producing the right results. Too often leaders assume that once they start the change effort, they are done. They must make it part of the culture; otherwise, when they leave, the old way creeps back in.

How can people stay focused long enough to create short-term wins and change the culture? This is where vision helps. If you have clarity in your mind and heartfelt commitment to a vision, you stay focused. Again, the vision has to be something you can see clearly—not some blur or list of unrelated items. So many strategies and statements of values, visions, and goals boil down to lists of unrelated items, making it hard to stay focused. Your focus bounces from one item to another because you lack a framework to guide you. You might let something else that is not on the list blow over you and push you in another direction.

You might carefully select two areas where you can achieve short-term successes and have one team focus on one item and another team focus on the other. People need to see that the changes are not oddball ideas being pushed by the boss. They need to see short-term wins that validate the change vision. If the win is clear, visible, and valuable to people, then they will likely make change happen.

To use this emotive energy, leaders must look for the constituents of the culture that are affiliated to the change, bring them to the foreground, and fascinate the attention of the people who will be affected by the change.

Communicating strategic intent empowers leaders to determine direction and noticeably defined goals. Leaders renounce from nit-picking the specific execution of the intent, but still hold their team members or subordinates answerable for change management.

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