Room for doubt – The Sunday Snippet – [5.18.14]

The best leaders are humble leaders.

When it comes to successful leadership traits you naturally think of confidence, decisiveness and forcefulness – someone who tells people what to do and how to do it. That style can be useful, especially in time-sensitive, life-or-death situations like medical emergencies or combat. Sports competitions are another area for “tell and yell” leadership.teambuilding

Research shows that isn’t the most effective style for sustained success. As we’ve highlighted before, the best long-term leaders have high levels of humility and humble resolve.

The best companies – and their leaders – are recognizing this more and more and have built this screen into their hiring practices.

Google’s SVP of People Operations, Lazlo Bock, says humility is one of the traits he’s looking for in new hires. “Your end goal,” explained Bock, “is what can we do together to problem-solve. I’ve contributed my piece, and then I step back.” And it is not just humility in creating space for others to contribute, says Bock-it’s “intellectual humility. Without humility, you are unable to learn.”

There’s more insight on this from the folks at Catalyst Research Center for Advancing Leader Effectiveness:

To promote inclusion and reap its rewards, leaders should embrace a selfless leadership style. Here are some concrete ways to get started based on both our current research and our ongoing study of leadership development practices at one company, Rockwell Automation:

Share your mistakes as teachable moments. When leaders showcase their own personal growth, they legitimize the growth and learning of others; by admitting to their own imperfections, they make it okay for others to be fallible, too. We also tend to connect with people who share their imperfections and foibles-they appear more “human,” more like us.

Engage in dialogue, not debates. Another way to practice humility is to truly engage with different points of view. Too often leaders are focused on swaying others and “winning” arguments. Inclusive leaders are humble enough to suspend their own agendas and beliefs In so doing, they not only enhance their own learning but they validate followers’ unique perspectives.

Embrace uncertainty. Ambiguity and uncertainty are par for the course in today’s business environment. So why not embrace them? When leaders humbly admit that they don’t have all the answers, they create space for others to step forward and offer solutions. Followers understand that the best bet is to rely on each other to work through complex, ill-defined problems.

Role model being a “follower.” Inclusive leaders empower others to lead.  By reversing roles, leaders not only facilitate employees’ development but they model the act of taking a different perspective, something that is so critical to working effectively in diverse teams.

It takes real courage to be humble and admit uncertainty and doubt. But it can create an openness that people respond to and thrive in.

Have a great week.


Mom knows best – The Sunday Snippet – [5.11.14]

Ten things your mom told you that never go out of style.

It’s Mother’s Day and millions of moms around the country are no doubt enjoying some extra sleep, or perhaps a nice breakfast in bed. I wish all our moms a very happy day, and I give thanks for them and the opportunity to honor them.

Geoffrey James

Geoffrey James

Geoffrey James has put together a nice collection of sayings that we’ve probably all heard from our mothers, and he helps apply it to our professional lives:

1. Look both ways before crossing the street.

Taking risks is a big part of life, but it’s always a good idea to think twice before you take them.

2. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

Never badmouth your competitors, your customer’s competitors and especially your other customers.

3. Anything worthwhile takes effort.

While opportunities may drop in your lap, taking advantage of them always requires hard work.

4. Treat people the way you want to be treated.

Most workplace hassles are the result of people NOT following this simple but universal rule.

5. Eat your vegetables, they’re good for you.

What’s the point of having money if you don’t have your health? Eating healthy foods should be part of every success plan.

6. Go play outside! It’s a beautiful day!

Whenever possible, spend at least some of your workday out of your office and breathing the fresh air.

7. Turn off that light. Do you think we own the electric company?

It’s all too easy to ignore the small expenses that, when added up, can destroy your profitability.

8. Don’t sit so close to the TV, it’ll ruin your eyes.

Most of us spend WAY too much time glued to our computer screens, our tablets and our cell phones. Take a break!

9. Are you going out dressed like that?

Like it or not, people judge you by what you’re wearing and how you wear it. Be mindful of the effect you’re having.

10. Life isn’t fair.

The world does not owe you a living and you’ll have to play the cards that you get dealt, so make the most of it.

Have a great week!

Jack Welch

Legendary leadership lessons – The Sunday Snippet – [5.4.14]

Leadership Lessons From Jack Welch

Ten years ago, and for many years before that, you couldn’t pick up a business periodical without seeing Jack Welch, former CEO of GE,  on the front, in a quote, or being referenced in some way.

Jack Welch

     Jack Welch

Welch retired in 2004 but is credited with some of the most enlightened leadership practices of modern American business. He took GE from $13 billion to over $400 billion during his tenure and authored several books during this time on the secrets to his success.

Even though most of us run much smaller operations, his lessons are good ones for companies of all sizes. Here are a few:

What To Measure? 

“If I had to run a company on three measures, those measures would be customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and cash flow.”

Build Confidence To Drive Simplicity 

“If you’re not simple, you can’t be fast. And, if you’re not fast, you’re dead. So, everything we do (at GE) focuses on building self-confidence in people so they can be simple.”

Set Your People Free

“You’ve got to balance freedom with some control, but you’ve got to have more freedom than you’ve ever dreamed of.”

Shout When You Win

“People feel guilty about stopping to celebrate a little victory … but it lets people know they’ve won. It’s so critical to an institution. It brings it alive, gives it character.”

Numbers Don’t Inspire, Vision Does 

“Numbers aren’t the vision. Numbers are the product. I never talk about numbers.”

Make People Share Good Ideas 

“What makes a company flourish is transferring ideas.” At quarterly meetings, Welch insisted that GE bring together the leaders of all of its businesses to share best practice ideas. “We take the best of diversity and use it,” said Welch.

Meet Customers More Often 

Welch made a point of personally meeting GE’s major customers in the spring and fall of every year. What he learned drove major company initiatives.

Don’t Dither. Jump!

“I’ve learned in a hundred ways that I rarely regretted acting but often regretted NOT acting fast enough.”

Have a great week.

Your Big Opportunity – The Sunday Snippet – [4.28.14]

Forget the giant strategy deck. There’s a shorter (and better) way.

Business strategy is notoriously difficult to articulate, absorb and execute. Strategy sessions often begin with 2-inch thick PowerPoint presentations and then devolve into foggy, multi-tangent discussions with a barely perceptible plan of action.

John Kotter

       John Kotter

Harvard Business School professor John Kotter and his colleagues at Kotter International, a firm that helps leaders accelerate strategy implementation, have found an alternative that is easier to communicate, more effectively aligns people, and generates and sustains energy. He calls it “The Big Opportunity.”

Here it is in a nutshell: a Big Opportunity articulates in language that is analytically accurate and emotionally compelling an opportunity that will move an organization forward in a substantial way. If you can capitalize on it, it will place you into a prosperous, winning future.

A written statement of a Big Opportunity can be a very useful tool. It is short, like a vision statement. “Short” usually means about half a page

Another is its tone. A Big Opportunity statement should have rational content (like any good strategy) and be emotionally compelling (like any good vision).

Here are some of the basic characteristics of an effective Big Opportunity statement:

Short. Less than a page.

Rational. What, why, why us, why now, and why bother?

Compelling. There is heart in it, and it speaks to the emotions of all relevant audiences.

Positive. It has a positive tone and “burning desire” urgency.

Authentic. It’s in plain English and sounds real.

Aligned. It fits with the future, or at the least, it is aware of any non-alignment and the stresses and strains that will create.

When opportunity knocks don’t over think it. Open the door and invite it in – for a short and simple discussion.

Have a great week.

Baby steps, big benefits – The Sunday Snippet – [4.20.14]

Caroline Arnold

Caroline Arnold

Implementing small changes can make big differences.

Baby steps can lead to bigger goals. That’s the whole idea behind Caroline Arnold’s book “Small Move, Big Change: Using Microresolutions to Transform Your Life Permanently.”

She suggests using “microresolutions” to kickstart change and higher productivity. Here are a few of her recommendations in her own words:

  1. Resolve to add new phone numbers to your contact list immediately. Unidentified contact numbers cause you to lose time, deplete your active initiative stores, and raise your stress level. If you resolve to add each new phone number to your contact list immediately, you’ll be able to find contacts quickly and sidestep calls you don’t want to take.
  2. Resolve to check your to-do list before checking email at your desk. Immediately answering your emails when you sit down to work may make you feel efficient and productive, but you may inadvertently be putting your most important work goals on the back burner. If you refer to your priority list every time before you dive into email at your desk, you won’t lose sight of what’s most important.
  3. Resolve to end one-hour meetings after 50 minutes. Standardizing meetings under your control to 50 minutes will keep you from running late, falling behind in small but important communications, and from having to stay an extra hour just to catch up.
  4. Resolve to elevate difficult conversations to the top of your to-do list. Whether it’s a phone call you dread making, anxiety over a decision outcome, or an uncomfortable discussion with an employee, deferring difficult conversations will depress your productivity all day. Getting that conversation behind you early (and when you’re freshest) will enhance your focus and output all day.
  5. Resolve not to engage in leisure computing after 11:00 p.m. Sleep is the greatest enhancer of productivity, and most people don’t get enough of it. One way to get more sleep is to avoid slipping mindlessly onto the Internet close to bedtime.

Arnold has done a nice job putting together a solid set of rules, models, and examples to help master the art of instant and sustainable self-improvement. You can learn more about how this English Lit major became a software innovator and managing director at Goldman Sachs by visiting her website.

Have a great week.