Sunday, February 14, 2016

Make Good Choices!


Have you given much thought to what guides your personal decision making?  Is it mostly “gut feel?”  Do you consistently use “consensus” to get buy-in?  Is emotion perhaps too often driving your decisions?  My guess is whatever you are doing is, for the most part, working for you.  Otherwise, you would not be where you are today.  Nonetheless, I invite you to reflect this week on how you might go to the next level in your decision making with some basic principles from this blog posting in the "Let's Grow Leaders" blog:  5 Secrets to Effective Decision Making.  I summarize the high points with my own thoughts below:
1.       Be crystal clear on your values.  This is why your personal leadership philosophy is so important and why it is always the foundation of all of our leadership programs.  Know what you believe and why, what you value, what are your priorities, etc.  In fact, knowing these things is step #1.  Writing them down and sharing them with others is step #2.  The all-important and critical step #3 is asking people to hold you accountable for living that philosophy.  We believe this step will help ensure you make good decisions and “walk the talk” as a leader!
2.       Insist that people on your team make decisions they should make.  Delegate…and don’t take it back!  Resist the temptation to solve problems you could do with ease and let others learn through their own decision making opportunities.  Hold them accountable and use those opportunities to help others learn from the outcome, whether good or bad.  Don’t use setbacks to pull back decision making authority.  Use them to learn key lessons, talk about risk and how to manage it, and set the conditions for future decision making success.
3.       Make low-risk decisions quickly.  Even better, see #2 above.  Quite likely, many of you don’t even need to be making some of the decisions you make.  Don’t clog the system, and your limited time and decision making capacity, with things that can either be decided and move on…or decided by others.  Whichever route you go, make it quick!
4.       Make decisions once.  I love the way Lencioni describes it in “The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team.”  Invite healthy debate.  Get everyone’s opinion on the table to shape the best possible decision.  Go around the room and let people know to “speak now or forever hold your peace,” that you are about to make a decision.  Then…make it.  “Here is my decision….”  Clarity and closure!  Done…move on.  Of course, if conditions change, that is always cause to look again.  But in most occasions, where the conditions are the same, don’t reopen that door!
5.       Include the right players.  Whenever possible, get alternative and diverse opinions around the table.  As in #4 above, encourage…no, demand healthy debate.  Doing so not only ensures buy-in going forward but…will generally lead to better decisions.  Yes, there is a time and place for a “command decision.”  But, take it from the “Colonel,” those are generally few and far between.  Most of our decisions are ripe for discussion.  Look for diversity around your decision making table.  Bring in your customers and those who will be impacted by the decision to have a vote, where appropriate.
OK.  Now, these aren’t Secrets anymore.  Get out there and, as our Moms used to tell us kids, “Make good choices!”  Let me know if I can help with any pending decisions (see #5 above) or with any of your leadership development needs!  Lead the Way.  That's Leader Business!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The "8% Club"


An interesting article here from HBR, “Only 8% of Leaders are Good at Strategy and Execution.”  Their survey, and subsequent research, identified 5 Acts that “help companies close the strategy-to-execution gap.”  As the article suggests, think of these 5 Acts as “a chance to create an engine of growth for you personally and for the company (with my editorial comments for your consideration):”

·        Commit to an Identity.  All of our leadership programs begin with some effort to know yourself.  As the adage goes, the first person you must be able to lead…is YOU!  We use a powerful assessment tool (Energize2Lead) to help leaders understand their wiring.  Rather than change it…own it!  We then work with leaders to write their personal leadership philosophy.  You are who you are.  Be that person – consistently.  Ask your team to hold you accountable when your actions do not match your words.  Be yourself (if you’ve read my book, you’ll know that is the first tenet of my own leadership philosophy!).

·        Translate the Strategic into the Every Day.  I like the perspective in the article that leaders need two kinds of perspectives – nearsighted and farsighted.  In “Leader Business,” I wrote about a military leader’s eyes while driving down a highway in Iraq, on the lookout for IEDs.  Their vision goes from looking far out (How does the road look ahead?) to right under the tires (Any telling signs of trouble along the shoulders, movement of dirt, etc.?).  Back & forth; near and far.  Yes, the higher up you go, the more time you spend with the far out (strategic).  But, you must be able to switch back to the tactical regularly, “get your hands into the mud,” and make sure nothing blows up under the tires.  But, make sure it is not at the expense of growing others, empowering them to do their jobs, and such that you only do the tactical and not the strategic!  Try driving and only look immediately in front of your vehicle.  You won’t make it far!

·        Put your Culture to Work.  I recently heard Jim Collins (Good to Great) describe culture as the sum of (1) The People Decisions you Make (hiring, firing, promotions, etc.) and (2) The Behavior of Leaders in Key Positions.  What are you role modelling for your organization to demonstrate your culture?  As the article suggests, you can’t do this from your office (or by email).  You need to be seen and heard.  That is your culture!

·        Cut Costs to Grow Stronger.  No resource is more important to you and your team than your personal time and attention.  Allocating enough to both strategy and execution, every day, will put you in what appears to be elite company.  Just look at the week ahead.  My guess is you’ve got plenty of activities planned for influencing execution (project reviews, metrics, meetings, etc.)  What about the bigger picture?  Where will you influence the strategic thinking of your organization?  Be deliberate about both.

·        Shape the Future.  This one is huge.  Leaders must seek ways to “build an extremely capable team, knowing that ultimately the future will depend on developing the next generation of leaders.”  What are you doing to grow your leaders – this week?  Challenge them, push them, grow them.  Look at what you have budgeted for leadership development at all tiers of your organization. 

It goes without saying that I am here to help with all of these “Acts,” especially the last one.  I want to help you and your leaders be a part of that apparently very elite club – the 8%!!  Let me know how I can help!  That's Leader Business

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Embrace Your "Work Family"

In our work with thousands of public sector leaders across the U.S., I come across many who argue that work is for work, home is for home…and never the two shall mix.  And we wonder why we struggle with such a low rate of employee engagement?

I work with a number of County-level leaders in San Bernardino County and in fact, was just a few blocks away with another San Bernardino County client during the tragic shooting event last week.  You can bet that there is no line there between the two this week.  They are embracing what it means to be a family – to cry, embrace one another, and help make sense of the senseless – together.  Leaders there are truly being challenged as they start this week to determine their priorities and lead through what will undoubtedly be a challenging next few days.

And what they will no doubt find is that family is what matters – at home and at work. 

 To the San Bernardino County leaders, you are in our prayers this week.  Be strong and know that we have your back!  The next few weeks will be exhausting, no doubt.  Keep up your energy, look people in the eye, be strong, be real, and don’t hesitate to ask when you need help!

To all of you leading wherever you are, prepare your team for whatever storm lies ahead by creating strong bonds of teamwork, family, love, pride, and joy.  Seek out ways this week to knock down barriers and create an organization that cares about people, has leaders who walk the talk and is filled with employees who all find a true sense of belongingness at work.  Hug like it matters. 

It does.  That's Leader Business!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Lead Change Through "Pain & Remedy"

A recent article from HBR highlights the importance of leaders providing context to facilitate change:  To Lead Change, Explain the Context.”

In our leadership programs, we talk about “Pain vs. Remedy.”  In other words, tell people the why before you talk about the change.  What is the pain?  Why do we need to change?  What if we don’t?  What are the good things that we are missing now, but that are possible in this new future?  How does this fit in the big picture?  Then, once you have their attention…go to the remedy.  What is the new way? 

No one likes pain!  Help them see it first before you introduce the solution!!  Provide context so the change of direction make sense!

Think about how you might highlight context this week for an important area of change in your team.  Talk about pain and remedy and see if you might “move the needle” a little more with people who more readily embrace the changes you seek!

P.S.  Leadership “Boot Camp” for Public Sector Leaders, 16-18 Dec 2015 in Los Angeles (San Pedro / Fort MacArthur).  A few seats still remain, with registration closing soon! .  Talk to me asap if interested.  Government pricing and cheap lodging on the base are absolutely possible but…you must act pretty quickly!  Registrations to date include leaders from public sector organizations at the city, county, and federal level.  Will be a very cool program!


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Leaders Listen!


Recently, I had the opportunity to work with a group of leaders negotiating a series of physical obstacles.  After each one, we conducted a quick “After Action Review” and then rotated leadership roles so that all participants had a chance to be the leader.

In one of the groups, the designated leader said, “Okay team, here is what I think,” and then proceeded to explain his proposed solution.  Afterwards, he asked, “What do you all think?”  The response:  Insert cricket noise!  Not a single word and certainly not anything to counter the “leader’s” suggested way ahead.

After rotating roles, a subsequent team lead began with, “Okay team, what do you think?”  That’s right, before she said anything about her thoughts, she asked for input from the rest of her team.  The result:  All sorts of great ideas, one of which ended up being the way they ultimately decided to go.

How and when we ask others for input matters greatly.  Those who go first with their own ideas must know that proposal, 99 times out of 100, will be the way.  THE way.  Asking others what they think, without “poisoning the well” with our own solutions, truly makes a difference.  Listen, understand, probe with questions, debate.  Then…maybe…give your ideas!

That’s how you get over most obstacles – physical or otherwise.  Try talking less and listening more to be a great communicator…and leader! Leader Business!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

What Your Habits Say About You

Michael McKinney’s “Leading Blog” has a great post from last month on “20 Habits to Build Your Leadership On.”  McKinney says that, “Most of the actions we take during the day are habits. So, we must be intentional about what habits we develop and why.”  His list of 20 habits fall into 3 categories:  Who am I?  (Be Humble)  Where Do I Want to Go?  (Be Hungry)  How Will I Get There? (Be Ready to Hustle). 

It is the habits that result when we put the answers to those questions into ACTION that define who we are or, as McKinney says, they “create the playbook for your leadership journey.”

Mike Reuter in the “Three Minute Leadership” blog sums it up this way:

Aristotle wrote: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Warren Buffet said: “Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” John Dryden tell us: “We first make our habits, then our habits make us.” And beautifully Frank Outlaw wrote:

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

In all of my leadership programs, we call the written accounting of these habits, your “Personal Leadership Philosophy (PLP).”  Writing your PLP helps you understand your habits and why they are important to you, putting your thoughts into words.  Sharing it with your team allows people to have insight into your character and hold you accountable to “walk the talk,” making sure your actions / habits match your words.  It is a powerful exercise, to which I know many of you can attest! 

For those who have a written PLP, pull it out today and make sure you are meeting the mark, that your habits are taking you where you want to go.  If you need a little course correction, let this be it.  And if you don’t have that written account of your “habits,” let’s work on this together.  Read the “20 Habits” article and put a few things in writing.  I am here to help!

That's Leader Business!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Avoid "GroupThink"


A couple of thoughts on the fiasco at Volkswagen.  If you somehow missed it last week, here is a summary.  Yes, the CEO has apologized and been fired.  Massive fines, criminal investigations, and a worldwide recall for diesel engine vehicles only hints at the trouble ahead for the company.  What a mess. 

The issue to consider here is…how does a leadership team allow this practice to take hold?  Surely people knew.  This scandal was too complex, too massive to be hidden from VW’s entire leadership team.  They had to have known. 

“Groupthink,” in which teams stop challenging decisions, stop asking questions, go along to get along, despite what should be obvious signals is probably more common than we’d like.  When present, “Groupthink” causes teams to miss obvious signals, to accept what is clearly inappropriate, or avoid conflict because of things like charisma or charm.  “Groupthink” is the cause of many inadequate decisions and, as we will see in the days ahead with VW, can be the source of long term pain, even death, of organizations.

Think your team might be prone to “Group think?”  Here’s a short article which addresses 4 great questions to ask your leadership team at your “Monday meeting” this week:

  1. Do we have varied viewpoints and voices in our group/team?
  2. Are we open to dissent — or do we tend to shut it down?
  3. Are we insular? Do you we put up walls?
  4. Have we shared our plan with members of the organization, that can offer another perspective?
Make quality, values-based, decisions.  Avoid “Groupthink.”  Lead the Way!

That's Leader Business!

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