Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How to Reach a Consensus Decision and Not Go Around in Circles Forever

Consensus building is hard work for a leader – it takes a willingness to “roll the dice” and be open to any alternative. Big egos need to be set aside. However, the time and work invested will yield not only higher quality decisions, but implementation will be faster and smoother because everyone will be committed to the outcome.

Read my recent post over at Management and Leadership to find out how to involve others in a consensus decision and not have it go around in circles forever.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

10 Magic Phrases That Will Make You a Better Leader

This post was recently appeared at SmartBlog on Leadership:
Want to be a better leader? Then try improving your vocabulary. No, I’m not talking adding the latest management and leadership buzzwords or jargon to your repertoire. If that’s what you’re looking for, try the Wall Street Journal’s Business Buzzwords Generator. You’ll be able to walk around uttering leadership gibberish such as Moving forward, it's time to act with strategic vector and transform our team bandwidth”, and “Looking forward to 2014, ideation will be key to our ability to impact the solutions holistically.”
I’m talking about adding some powerful phrases to your vocabulary that will engage and motivate, encourage people to come up with ideas, and inspire commitment.

It’s not an exhaustive list – just a collection I’ve picked up over the years – so please feel free to add your own in the comments section.
1. “How can I be a better leader?” Credit goes to Marshall Goldsmith for this one. Variations of the question include “How can I be a better parent”, “How can I be a better spouse”, and “How can I be a better child”. Just make sure to listen and say…..

2. “Thank-you.” Use these two powerful words as a response to constructive feedback (which should be seen as a gift), positive feedback, as a way to express gratitude for going the extra mile or a job well done, or when someone brings bad news or a problem to your attention.
3. “Nice Job.” Variations include “good work” and “way to go”. Giving positive reinforcement becomes even more powerful if when it’s specific, timely, and you can explain why (positive impact), but let’s not over-complicate it too much for now.

4. “What do you think?” Credit goes to Tom Peters for this one. Asking someone for their opinion or ideas is the ultimate demonstration of respect. And when you get those ideas, don’t forget to go back to #2.
5. “How can I help?” Often used as a way to express support during a development discussion, in problem solving, when someone is going through personal difficulties, or when problems or ideas are brought to your attention.

6. “What’s possible?” Credit goes to Jack and Carol Weber for teaching me the importance of “possibility thinking”. Instead of coming up with reasons why something won’t work, ask yourself and others “what’s possible”. And if they do come up with examples of how similar ideas have been tried in the past and have not worked, use the phrase “Up until now.”
7. “I don’t know.” Use this when you truly don’t know the answer to a question or solution to a problem – it demonstrates humility and authenticity. It goes well with “what do you think” as a follow-up.

8. “Why is that important to you?” This question demonstrates that you care, and you’ll learn a lot about the person’s motivation and values.
9. “Help me understand.” A much better way to understand someone’s logic, reasoning, feelings, etc… than “really?!”, or “seriously?!”, or “what the heck are you smoking?!”

10. “I believe in you.” I may have saved the best for last. What a way to express confidence in someone’s ability or potential!

What would you add to the list?

Monday, July 28, 2014

How to Reorganize in a Way That Won't Create Cynicism, Anxiety, and Complete Chaos

Reorganizations can be disruptive and fraught with challenges and risks. They should never be taken lightly, and should always have a shelf life of at least a few years.

Read my recent post at Management and Leadership to find out how to have a better chance of achieving your reorganization objectives and minimizing disruption, anxiety, and cynicism.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Leading Change – Lessons for New Leaders from Satya Nadella

Guest post from Randy Ottinger:

Today’s Microsoft is not the same company we saw a year ago when Steve Ballmer was at the helm. Since Ballmer’s successor, Satya Nadella, took over the CEO role in February of this year, change at Microsoft has come swiftly. Executives have been reshuffled, organizational priorities have shifted and the culture at the very top of the company has change. Many of these shifts, and the reasons behind them, are unveiled in Nadella’s recent open strategy memo to staff. While not all the changes are easy –see last week’s announcement the company would cut 18,000 jobs – they are plotting a bold new course for what has traditionally been a more conservative organization.

The question that likely occurs to many observers of the shifts at Microsoft is to ask “What is Nadella’s vision for change?” How can new leaders at organizations large and small help stir things up in a positive way that produces new innovations, generates new energy and engages staff?

While no one formula fits all situations and contexts, I believe that there are a few key steps to achieve impactful change:

Know your destination and plot a clear course

Ambiguity can be a killer when a new leader comes on the scene – if not addressed immediately it can slow momentum, derail progress and lead to disengagement amongst staff. Under Ballmer’s tenure, Microsoft suffered from a lack of direction that, while not hurting the company financially, made the longer term future of the business murky at best. Nadella, by contrast, set a strong direction from day one, clearly laying out a destination in his focus on “mobile-first, cloud-first” technologies. It’s a clear, simple drumbeat that his team can rally around. Now, he’s tackling the second piece of the puzzle with his open memo on Microsoft’s strategy, where Nadella lays out the numerous tactical changes he has in mind to reach that destination.
Get the right team together

In any organization that needs to make a break with the past, the new leader will need to work quickly to ensure the team at the top shares a vision for the organization’s future. While this doesn’t necessarily mean wiping the slate clean, it’s important that the relied-upon employees are rallied around the same cause and focused on the same goals. In many cases, it may be necessary to make a few staffing changes to build the base of support critical to new leaders accomplishing their goals.

In Nadella’s case, within his first few months, in line with the future destination he had plotted for the business and his new focus on certain product classes, he adjusted staff within the marketing team and mixed up the leadership in the device and cloud divisions of the company.

Not just top down, but bottom up too

At the same time, as a new leader, it’s important to ensure your future vision takes into account a diversity of viewpoints, and that your course aligns with the character and capabilities of the organization. Nadella is known as a quiet listener and team player within Microsoft, but it’s this understated leadership style that has allowed him to sound out his ideas with colleagues, and learn from others at all levels within the company.  By seeking engagement from the organization as a whole, it’s possible to get the team, even those contributors at the lowest levels, focused on the destination. Nadella’s focus now on “productivity” rather than more traditional ‘consumer’ or ‘business’ technology segments may be a reflection of what he’s learned in his internal conversations – a departure from past siloed thinking, while still recognizing the character of Microsoft’s leading software and hardware products, which tend to blur the lines between work and consumer technology.

Engage the organization with quick wins

To fully cement the change you aim to accomplish as a new leader, quick wins are crucial for building momentum. Early successes back up your goals, can help persuade the non-committal within the organization, and encourage those already on board to push for more progress. For instance, Nadella drove home his mobile/cloud and productivity agenda early in his tenure with the release of Office for iPad, the elimination of licensing fees for Windows on smartphones and smaller tablets and the release of hybrid cloud management tools for Azure.

For new leaders, driving organizational change can be challenging at best – you need a team captain and cheerleader rolled into one. But the leaders who set a clear course, rally a team, ask for input and prove their case are the leaders most often successful in rejuvenating stolid organizations and re-energizing tired workforces. I predict this will be true for Nadella.

About the author:

Randy Ottinger is an Executive Vice President at Kotter International, a firm that helps leaders accelerate strategy implementation in their organizations. He previously spent more than 20 years as a high tech executive for companies like: IBM, McCaw Cellular (Claircom), and Captaris. In addition, Randy is an established author as well as a legacy leadership expert.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What Makes Successful Senior Executives Tick?

Over the last few weeks I’ve been spending time with quite a few successful senior executives and have been asking them a lot of questions about what makes them tick.

I’ve noticed they seem to have a lot in common in regards to the way they approach their careers and job.

Read my latest article over at Management and Leadership to find out the 20 Characteristics of Successful Senior Executives.

Monday, July 21, 2014

How to “Coach an Employee Out of a Job"

There is an alternative way to address an employee performance problem without having to go through a long, drawn out formal disciplinary process, and avoids the stigma of having been fired from a job.

It’s called “coaching someone out of a job”.

Read my latest article at Management and Leadership to find out how.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Is Your Business's Digital Communication Culture Working?

Guest post from Daniel Patrick Forrester:

Too often leaders of companies fail to recognize the Pavlovian habits of constant connection and the opportunity cost of think time and ingenuity that it creates.
Recently in Davos, Marissa Meyer, CEO of Yahoo  smiled and shared that she checks her mobile device over a hundred and fifty times a day -- as though that many interruptions (within a work day) in her leadership rhythm and ability to focus were some badge of honor. Innovation never comes from chaotic interruption.

As a strategy consultant, I've worked with the top leaders of organizations across the landscape of American life and commerce. Within most organizations, I see a cultural communication hierarchy that is often broken. The dysfunction is directly related to technology and our perceived human need to "respond." Business leaders need to address the hierarchy of communication within their organizations by examining and questioning the culture that exists.

Here are two simple ways to begin to regain control and reflection:

Step 1: Recognize the Relationship Between Immediacy & Reflection

CEOs and Leadership Teams must take the time to consider and debate the institutional relationship between immediacy and reflection. Technology provides us with immediacy. Reflection provides us think time. I would urge leaders to strengthen their company cultures by welcoming time for reflection instead of defaulting to constant connectedness. Creating this distance between immediacy and reflection makes room for ingenuity, creativity, and thoughtful controlled responding. It alleviates burnout, anxiety, and institutionalized communication confusion. Have the debate now and declare a new future and social contract. To paraphrase Henry David Thoreau, an unexamined organization is not worth leading.

Step 2: Determine What's Lurking Within Your Digital Culture

Your company already has a digital culture. The most powerful digital tools for most organizations are e-mail and texting. Leaders must study and see trends of usage within e-mail and observe what's happening through instant messaging habits. How much has asynchronous digital conversation subsumed thoughtful dialogue? It's had a greater impact than you can imagine. Rich human dialogues and having difficult conversations are what make businesses unique; email and instant messaging/texting is likely destroying high contact human connection and suppressing the debates that matter the most.

Ultimately, technology provides us with such immediacy that we have become a global generation of humans who "respond" rather than a generation of humans who "think, reflect" and then "respond." Businesses leaders need to look within their organizations and address the need for a new working digital communication culture. A culture that is wildly self-aware and that embraces the power of reflection before responding.

Author Bio:
Daniel Patrick Forrester 
is the Founder and CEO of THRUUE. As an author, strategist, and navigator of organizational and cultural change, Daniel regularly challenges leaders and their boards to be guided by "big ideas" and act purposefully to realize intended impact. The drive and ideas behind THRUUE come directly from his book, Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking in Your Organization, which is informed by decades of reflective thinking and strategy consulting with for-profit and non-profit organizations.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Top 2 Myths Leaders Have About Igniting Employee Passion

There is a lot of information out there about employee passion - and some of it's not so good!

Regular guest contributor Beth Armknecht Miller debunks the Top 2 Myths Leaders Have About Igniting Employee Passion over at my Management and Leadership.


Monday, July 14, 2014

10 Models for Leading Change

Change, change and more change. What's a leader to do? Try using a change model to give you a framework for organizational and individual change.

Read my latest article at Management and Leadership for an overview of 10 popular change models.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Executive Presence – A 2-Sided Definition

Guest post By Karen Hough

When I ask people to define executive presence, they pause, and usually hold out their arms as they search for words. Eventually, after throwing out a few words like “strong,” “smart” or “gravitas,” they give me an example.

“You know, like President Kennedy.”
“…like Oprah.”
“…like my dad.”
“…like Sheryl Sandberg.”
“…like Rocky Balboa.” – believe it or not, I’m not kidding about that one.

It becomes this indefinable, yet critically important thing. HR leaders lay awake at night wondering how they can get that wonderfully smart, high-potential associate to come across a bit differently so that they can promote her. But her reviews keep coming back that she’s missing….something.

Why is finding executive presence so stressful right now? Succession! Long-time leaders are looking over their shoulders and wondering, “Who is going to fill my shoes if I move up or on?” The U.S. is also one of the last nations to turn to diverse populations for leadership, such as women and minorities, and organizations and individuals need to deal with their discomfort around a “different” kind of leader. Great leaders don’t have to look or act like the leaders of the last century to be highly effective. If we’re going to fill the gaps, improve profitability and become global, we need to see executive presence in a very large way.

In working with highly capable executives over 14 years, I believe real executive presence can be defined. And it should also be entirely unique and authentic based on the individual, not based on a standard set by someone else. Here’s the definition:

Executive Presence is the ability to engender trust in people, through confidence, consistency and calm in chaos.

In turn, that presence will inspire people so that they are loyal, engaged and willing to give discretionary effort.

The key to executive presence is trust. Can people trust you? Whether the situation is bad or good, are you fair, effective and worth following? The answer to that question all depends on behavior. You may have heard that actions speak louder than words – well, trust is built on every small action you do or don’t take for your whole life. Your team watches and works based on the level of trust they have in you.

How do leaders create trust? The first section of the definition describes the attributes that are consistently present in leaders who are considered to have executive presence, no matter what their style or personality:

-    Confident – People want to see confidence in their leaders. It doesn’t have to come across as braggadocio or arrogance, it can be quiet confidence, but we want to know that our leaders believe in and are aware of their strengths and capabilities. One who is aware of him/herself can also be aware of others – praising, developing and lending strength to a team. We want to know there is someone who will stand in the front and help us see the vision. For showing confidence: consider these three tips.
-    Consistency – We need to know what to expect! Clear guidelines, consistent behavior, and trustworthy action and reaction are critical to keeping a team on-track. Even when things go wrong, we want to know we can count on someone who is predictable and fair. Consistency in emotional behavior is also important. It’s not that we have to have boring leaders – executive presence can also encompass passion, anger and exuberance. But your team needs to have a pretty good idea of when those emotions will show up, and that there are good reasons why they do.

-    Calm in Chaos - Almost anybody can lead when times are good, but it is those who are calm, thoughtful and action-oriented during crises who embody executive presence. Whether they are losing a big client or facing a natural disaster, those who keep their wits and take action are the exemplary leaders we turn to when everything calms down. Have you monitored how you react to the unexpected? If you freak out and have to end up apologizing afterwards, you may want to consider ways to manage your nerves so that you can be in control of yourself, even when everything else is going haywire.

The second part of the definition “In turn, that presence will inspire people so that they are loyal, engaged and willing to give discretionary effort” describes the effect you create as a leader. Do people turn to you, trust that you will be fair, and feel calm and secure when you lead? If so, they will give back: creative ideas, energy, engagement, and discretionary effort.

And engagement is the holy grail of organizations. Keeping that talent, whether it be a workforce of 20 or 200,000, engaged and energized. That’s why your executive presence is a key part of your career. Don’t give HR an indefinable reason to hold you back. Show up confident, act consistently, and figure out if you can be calm in chaos. If you can do that – authentically and with your own style – you will have executive presence.

Karen Hough is the Founder and CEO of ImprovEdge, an Amazon #1 bestselling author and contributor to the Huffington Post. Her second book published by Berrett-Koehler, “Be the Best Bad Presenter Ever: Break the Rules, Make Mistakes and Win Them Over” is now available. She is the recipient of the Stevie International Silver Award for Most Innovative Company of the Year and the Athena PowerLink Award for outstanding woman-owned business. She is a Yale graduate and international speaker.