Thursday, October 8, 2015

If Your Business isn’t Agile, You Won’t Have a Future. It’s That Simple

Guest post from Linda Holbeche:
The rulebooks of business are being rewritten. So rapid is the pace of new developments, and so diverse the forms of competition, that many large corporations struggle to be agile enough to compete. Tiny niche players can emerge from nowhere to take the market or make expensively researched products obsolete overnight. Not surprisingly, the need for organizational agility sits high on executive agendas everywhere. 

To compete effectively, speed, innovation and intense customer focus are of essence. To a very large extent, these are the product of the discretionary effort of clever people. Yet conventional silos, management practices and mindsets act as brakes on all of these. In today’s interconnected world, and with today’s multi-generational and multi-cultural global workforce, what people want and expect from work is changing and the old-style corporate “givens” are being challenged as no longer fit for purpose. So how do agile organizations square the circle – obtaining the speed, innovation and flexibility they want – while employees get the fair deal, at least in terms of development, flexibility and empowerment, they want? Is it possible to get the best of both worlds?

To build an agile organization requires a revolution in conventional management thinking and practice. For over 30 years business schools have taught managers the centrality of shareholder value and the “science” of top-down, linear planning, short-term thinking and “slash and burn” employment practices. Such approaches typically result in large gaps between strategic intent and implementation, loss of trust and a disenfranchised, insecure workforce. When employees are treated like disposable chattels, they are less likely to want to release their discretionary effort to benefit the business – everything becomes a transaction, and the intangible extra, employee goodwill, evaporates.

For agility the “art” of strategizing is needed. This is the process of involving employees in data-gathering and decisions that affect them and their organizations. This more inclusive approach tends to close the strategic implementation gap since people understand why change is needed and can contribute to finding solutions to business challenges. This is shared leadership in action and works on the principle of “I own what I help to create”. When they are involved, people tend to be more engaged, innovative and productive. As a result, the organization benefits from multiple marginal gains as well as major breakthroughs.

Such collaborative effort highlights the need for a new employment relationship built on mutual trust and the principal of win-win for the business and its employees. And it also means that a new approach to leadership and management is needed.

Agility requires leaders who are capable of multi-faceted thinking and learning agility; who can cope with ambiguity and complexity; who are genuine and can bring people with them on the continuous journey of change. And while agile leaders still have the challenge of keeping shareholders happy in the short-term, they must look longer-term, anticipate the major issues that could affect their organization, challenge shareholder primacy, use their influence to win support for building a more resilient and innovative organization that can create and sustain a new set of competitive advantages. They may also have to act as shield to enable greater experimentation and to protect their organization from the critics during the transition to something potentially more dynamically successful. This also presents business schools with the challenge of developing leaders who “get” the need for something different, when business schools have themselves helped to create the current orthodoxy.

Developing such agile leadership and shifting rigid mindsets is not easy. Some organizations are providing senior managers and leaders with opportunities to come together in variations on action learning groups, often involving peers from other sectors to consider common challenges. Others are setting up reflective spaces where leaders can come to terms with not having all the answers to complex, “wicked” problems. Coaching and mentoring can help, as long as they do not reinforce the “one-size-fits-all” solution approach. Benchmarking visits by groups of peer leaders to companies in other markets, to share issues and developments, are on the increase. So too is the participation of groups of CEOs in management, economic or psychology conferences where they can exchange notes on emerging ideas sparked by conference sessions. Increasingly leadership development is happening outside the conventional work boundaries and disciplines – it may involve leaders individually or collectively participating in community projects in different parts of the world.

While truly agile organizations are still in short supply, I believe the emerging orthodoxy of agility offers a potentially more adaptable, sustainable, ethical, equitable and resilient approach to doing business in today’s fast-changing context. And leaders who can “square the circle” will help redefine what success looks like in the 21st century. A worthy aim!

Professor Linda Holbeche is a developer, consultant, researcher and coach in the fields of leadership, strategy, HR development, change management and organization design and development. She is Adjunct Professor at Imperial College London and a Visiting Professor at City University’s Cass Business School, and a Fellow at Roffey Park. She is the author of two books for Kogan Page in 2015:
The Agile Organization, and – with Mee-Yan Cheung-Judge – Organization Development: A Practitioner's Guide for OD and HR 2nd Edition. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

A Manager’s Guide to Dealing with Offensive Office Etiquette

Swearing, body odor, bad breath, talking too loud, excessive farting, and too much perfume or cologne.
These are all examples of workplace etiquette that managers need to address. Read my latest post over at Management and Leadership to find out how.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Are You a Candid Leader? 4 Ways to Build Clarity, Trust, and Competitive Advantage

Guest post by Nancy K. Eberhardt:

Honest, purposeful, and respectful communication is one of the most effective leadership skills, yet CEOs who promote a culture of candor are still uncommon in business today. With an increased demand for transparency, building trust through authenticity is more critical than ever for individuals and organizations to keep their competitive edge. Here are four techniques that will help open the lines of communication with team members, and across your organization, to encourage valuable idea generation and information sharing:
1. Avoid the Feedback Sandwich - When giving a performance evaluation where development is needed, do you typically start with what your employee does well, followed by areas for improvement, and wrap up with what you like about their work? At best, this approach can be confusing, leaving your employee focused only on the positives and missing the areas to be developed altogether. For the best results, it’s always best to provide honest feedback with clear direction on expectations. Keep in mind, direct feedback should be respectful, without ridicule, demeaning, or humiliation.

2. Listen More – No Need to Get Defensive - As a leader, do you get defensive when someone disagrees with you, or are you open to other ideas and approaches? When communicating, listening is just as important as speaking, perhaps even more so. Information is king and by listening, you have the opportunity to gain valuable perspectives about what’s working and what’s not. It helps to have all of the facts to make the best decision possible.
3. Don’t Be a People Pleaser - We all want to be liked, but as the boss, we know that’s not always possible. Our job is to be respectful, yet also direct, clear, and purposeful. As a supervisor, if we try to “manage” other people’s feelings, we are not being effective. When you are honest with someone, you honor them. The key is to give honest feedback - both positive and negative - in a respectful manner. How it’s received is up to the recipient. Realize that we won’t please everyone all of the time, but being relied upon to be truthful with the company’s and your team’s best interest in mind will help to build trust and gain their respect.

4. Be Honest with Yourself - As a leader, we spend the majority of our time developing strategy and managing others. However, looking inward is just as important. Do you regularly consider your own performance? What can you do to be more effective? Do you ask for feedback on how to improve? Is everyone on board with a clear vision and specific objectives? By acknowledging your areas for growth, you encourage others to do the same.
To be an authentic leader, you must create a culture of candor—communicating with honesty, clarity, purpose, and respect—to heighten credibility, inspire, and engage.

Nancy K. Eberhardt, President and CEO, Pathwise Partners is a Gazelles™ certified Executive Coach and consultant for CEOs, entrepreneurs, and boards. She is an expert in fostering authentic conversation, mutual respect, and new possibilities for breakthrough results, and author of the recent book, Uncommon Candor: A Leader's Guide To Straight Talk. Uncommon Candor: A Leaders Guide to Straight Talk. To learn more about how communicating with candor can help you achieve greater results, visit Pathwise Partners or contact Nancy at

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Before you can Lead Others, you need to Manage Yourself.

This post recently appeared in SmartBlog on Leadership:

Before you can earn the right to lead others, you need to “manage” yourself.
I know I’m not the first to use that phrase. Steven Covey wrote about it, and it’s taught in our leadership program at the University of New Hampshire. 

It’s more than just another nice, pithy little leadership motto. It’s so true! But what exactly does it mean?
In plain language and practical application, it means that no one is going to follow or be inspired by someone who is an emotional train wreck, a red hot mess, and can’t punch themselves out of a paper bag without giving themselves a black eye.

In addition to the mixed metaphors, here’s what managing yourself means:
1. You know who you are and how you are perceived by others. We leadership development geeks call this “awareness of self”. It’s not as easy as it sounds - most people have “blind spots” as to how they are perceived by others. We overestimate our strengths and expect to be judged by our good intentions, not by how we are really behaving and if we have insulting the hell out of somebody.

In order to improve our self-awareness, we need to stand in the mirror and see ourselves as others see us, not as how we see ourselves or want to be seen. That can only happen with feedback. In order to get feedback, we need to seek it out, respond non-defensively and with gratitude, and then actually do something about it.

2. Develop your Emotional Intelligence. Daniel Goleman nailed it in his classic 1998 HRB article “What Makes a Leader”. When he examined the elements of emotional intelligence (self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill) he found a direct correlation with leadership effectiveness and business results.
I’d recommend taking an emotional intelligence (EI) self-assessment, or even better, an EI 360 assessment, where you ask others to rate your behaviors. The good news is, EI, unlike IQ, can be improved with understanding and practice.

3. “Control” your emotions. Another way of saying self-regulation. Controlling your emotions doesn’t mean not being emotional – it means not letting the limbic part of your brain take over the rest of you and cause you to go on psychotic rampages. For more on how to maintain your compose, see last month’s Brief.
4. Develop a set of guiding principles, or core values and walk the talk. Core values could include integrity, honesty, credibility, respect for others, and humility. Great leaders are crystal clear on their values and use their values guide their behaviors and decisions. With a clear and consistent set of values, or guiding principles, leaders demonstrate consistently in their behavior and others understand where they are coming from and why.

5. Balance. By balance, I don’t just mean “work and life balance”. I mean taking care of yourself – your health, practicing mindfulness, managing your stress levels, getting enough sleep and exercise, and building meaningful  relationships. We know this when we see it – we say “you know, that Cheryl really has her %$#& together.” When you are out of balance, it impacts your behavior, which impacts your ability to lead others.
So if you want to inspire, motivate, set direction, and make a difference in the lives of others – to lead – great! But you first need to get your own %&*$ together and learn to manage yourself.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

What You Need to Master Work/Life Balance

Guest post by Jeremie Kubicek 

You are a business owner. Your life is out-of-control, or that is how it feels at times. Some days you are connected with those you love and other days you feel so distant. Other days, you are so productive that you are amazed, while others you feel burned out because of over work. 

Does that sound familiar? That was my life for years. Driving hard, making things happening and trying to manage work/life balance. 

Get this. Work life balance is a farce. Others usually speak it to people, with the goal of getting them to work less and connect more. Again, that doesn’t work. And again, I know because I have both tried it and have been spoken to by these noble friends. 

Work life balance is primarily not about time. That is where most work life balance tools go wrong. They assume that if busy adults could simply manage their time then all will be well and everyone will enjoy them and vice versa. 

Business and life is actually more about mindset than time. For instance, I can schedule a lunch with my wife during the week because I want to feel good that I connected with her during the work day, but actually be very far away from her. My body may be at the lunch, but my mind might be very far away. The same can occur with time with kids or friends. 

How our mind goes, so goes our actions. Therefore, we have to master our minds in order to shift into the right gears at the right time. Time is not the issue, our mindset is. 

Here are the best ways to learn how to shift your mindset so that you can be both present and productive in a consistent way:

1. Pick a marker that triggers your mind to shift from task mode to connected mode. I currently use a bridge as my marker to shift my mind into the best gear to be present with my family on the way home. The results will be more connectivity with your family with greater peace in your personal life.

2. Use time to cause you to shift into the appropriate gear. The :58’s are good triggers to cause you to shift. If you have a meeting at 3PM, then use 2:58 to shift into thinking about your next meeting and the person specifically that you are going to meet. The results will be increased influence and more productivity as well.

3. Don’t look at email before breakfast if possible. When we choose to do so we let others set our agenda for the day based on their email or request. When you choose to wait then you can appropriately recharge and be energized for the day ahead.

I my new book, I take these concepts deeper by using a metaphor called the “5 Gears.” It is based on a manual stick-shift transmission, with each gear correlating to a corresponding behavior that people shift into at certain times and with certain people. Each gear has a purpose, and if you apply this driving analogy to the way you “drive” your life – aligning the right gear with the right speed and situation – it will allow for a smooth journey. The goal being to help busy adults become masters in emotional intelligence. 

If you have issues with being distracted or possibly with becoming overwhelmed by your work consistently, then your mind might be stuck in 4th or 5th gear. If you don’t shift appropriately then you will stay stuck in a gear that will eventually cause burnout, discontentment from loved ones and a disconnection from reality.  Most adults live in that space today. 

Learn how to shift your mind to be in the right gear at the right time and you will experience a work life balance based that leads to you being present and productive.

Bestselling author Jeremie Kubicek is co-author of 5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There Is Never Enough Time and co-founder of GiANT Worldwide, a global company dedicated to transforming and multiplying leaders and teams. Follow him on Twitter at @jeremiekubicek.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Are you Rewarding “the Right Stuff”?

Rewards systems reinforce what management values.
Are you rewarding “the right stuff”?
Read Michael G. Winston’s guest post over at Management and Leadership to learn about the importance of rewarding “the right stuff” and the consequences of not doing so.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Why You Need an Executive Coach

Guest post by Bonnie Marcus:

I earned my certification as an executive coach in 2006. At that time most people still assumed that coaching was done primarily in sports not business. Coaching for executives was a relatively unknown field and untapped resource. When companies hired a coach for an executive then, it was primarily because that executive needed some assistance to improve their leadership and management skills; that they weren’t meeting the expectations of their position. Coaching, therefore, had a stigma and was not considered a coveted asset.
Now, almost a decade later, there has been a shift in perception and subsequent use of executive coaches. Most individuals and companies hire coaches to improve performance, but also to provide executives with the guidance and support to take their leadership to the next level. Executive coaching gives individuals a distinct advantage in a competitive ever-changing environment by helping them increase their influence and effectiveness as leaders; enhance their political savvy.
Executive coaches assist leaders with gaining a better understanding of their strengths to build influence across the organization.  Betsy Myers, founding director of the Center for Women and Business at Bentley University, writes in her book, Take the Lead, that “Leadership isn’t something you can put on like a suit of clothes or generate by copying someone else. Leadership is about who you genuinely are. Successful leaders are those who are conscious of their behavior and the impact it has on the people around them.” Leveraging authenticity through self-awareness not only nurtures confidence, it also reinforces credibility with key stakeholders and sets an example for everyone in the organization to follow. This self-awareness is a reality check that is not easily accomplished without the honest, objective feedback of a good coach.
Coaches contribute an objective perspective on the political landscape of the corporate culture which is essential for the survival and success of any executive. In order to be an effective leader, it is critical to understand the dynamics and to stay tuned to the fluctuations in the workplace. It’s easy to lose focus on the politics in order to accomplish the necessary tasks for one’s job. A coach provides a road map to navigate the complexities of the organization and to establish the accountability required to stay focused on the politics and relationship building.  This ongoing attention to the work environment protects executives from potential power plays that can rob them of their power or position. The information gathered with a coach from a regular assessment of the politics helps to identify potential allies to champion important initiatives as well as to determine possible barriers to success.
Consistent with nurturing political savvy, a coach partners with the executive to manage their reputation internally and across the industry. Understanding how best to position and advocate for their leadership, their team, their organization, and their mission is a political skill. Communicating their vision and motivating others to take action is essential for effective leadership, and a coach will help craft the right message and delivery.
Finally having a coach as a career partner helps executives cope with ongoing stress. Today’s frenetic business environment requires its leaders to be resilient. The fast pace and constant pressure of workplace culture calls for the ability to not only make quick decisions but change direction with a minute’s notice. That culture, along with the desire to maintain some balance in life despite constant distractions and requirements of the job, creates a pressure cooker of stress. An executive’s energy can easily be depleted, their effectiveness challenged especially when their stress is not managed. The coach is there to advise their client of potential stress triggers as well as the optimal method to manage the pressure of their position.
In summary, executive coaching today goes beyond the traditional approach of performance improvement. A coach provides a great advantage to an individual seeking to improve their influence and effectiveness. By hiring executive coaches for support, an organization benefits from having leadership that is well positioned to move the organization forward and be competitive in today’s marketplace.
Bonnie Marcus, M.Ed., is the President of Women’s Success Coaching, where she helps professional women advance their careers. She is the author of THE POLITICS OF PROMOTION: How High-Achieving Women Get Ahead and Stay Ahead (Wiley).  You can connect with her at

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

12 Flavors of Feedback

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”
-           Ken Blanchard

Yes, feedback can be motivational and developmental. But it can also be a cold, harsh slap in the face. It all depends on the delivery.

Read my latest post over at Management and Leadership for 12 positive and negative examples of how to provide employee feedback.

Monday, September 14, 2015

What are YOU Looking At?

Author and consultant Bill Treasurer writes about the importance of coaching someone to focus on what they need to do, not what they should avoid.

Read about it over at Management and Leadership. But whatever you do, don’t go near that rock!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

5 Ways to Manage Conflict

When it comes to managing conflict, there is more than one way to skin a cat. Or for you cat lovers, there's more than one way to bake a cake. In fact, there are five ways to manage conflict, or five conflict management styles.

Read my latest post over at Leadership and Management development to learn about each of the five styles and when to use them.