Saturday, July 26, 2008

Perks, China, Top 10 Management Challenges, Asking Better Questions, and a Crazy Boss


I'll be on vacation for a week, so here's a week's worth of reading to tide you over. Be sure to check back next Saturday, for the next Leadership Development Carnival. I've got my work cut out for me - I've received over 40 submissions this time around, from some of the best leadership bloggers around!

So while I'm lying on the beach, be sure to keep coming back to Great Leadership. Don't try to read these all at once, it's way too much to absorb in one sitting, your head may explode.

Monday:
'Don't Touch My Perks': Companies that Eliminate Them Risk Employee Backlash
Published: July 23, 2008 in Knowledge@Wharton.

Earlier this summer, when employees first learned of a Google plan to upgrade and dramatically raise the price of its day care program, they wept. According to Wharton faculty and compensation experts, that reaction shouldn't come as a big surprise. Trying to eliminate any perk, they say, can cause feelings of betrayal and even retaliation against the company on the part of employees. With the current economic slump, more 'de-perking' could be on the way. Here's the full article.


Tuesday:
How to Nurture Managerial Talent in China
Generally speaking, finding talent for a business is a bit easier than finding capital or innovative ideas. But if you do business in China the opposite is true, according to McKinsey Quarterly in a new report.


Wednesday:
Today's Top 10 Talent-Management Challenges
Posted by Tammy Erickson on June 19, 2008, Harvard

I had the pleasure last week of moderating a panel of senior talent development officers representing three very different industries and diverse geographies: Deb Wheelock of Mercer (a high-end professional services firm, recruiting highly educated knowledge workers), Pamela Stroko of The Gap (a retailer faced with the classic industry challenges of creating a differentiating employee proposition and enhancing retention of its large workforce), and Sujaya Banerjee of the Essar Group (a diversified India-based enterprise participating in a variety of industrial sectors, including steel, energy, and communications).

Interestingly, even with this diversity of perspectives, we found our views on today’s top talent challenges to be surprisingly aligned. I thought you might like to see our list – and would love to hear your thoughts on things you’re wrestling with that we missed.

Here goes:

1. Attracting and retaining enough employees at all levels to meet the needs of organic and inorganic growth. All three companies are facing a talent crunch. Essar, for example, has grown from 20 thousand employees to a staggering 60 thousand in the past 3 years. Fifty-five percent of their employees have less than two years of tenure.

2. Creating a value proposition that appeals to multiple generations. With four generations in today’s workplace, most companies are struggling to create an employee experience that appeals to individuals with diverse needs, preferences and assumptions. The Gap, for example, has 153,000 people in its workforce. The stores have a high percentage of Gen Y employees, while corporate roles and leadership ranks are primarily made up of Gen X’ers and Boomers. How does one create a compelling employee value proposition for the organization?


Go here for the rest.


Thursday:
Asking Powerful Questions How better questions lead to better solutions
From CCL's July Leading Effectively Newsletter

Faced with too much information and not enough time, today's managers are pressed to make quick decisions. The downside to honing this skill, says CCL's Chuck Palus, is that people typically spend about 90 percent of their time solving a problem and only about 10 percent examining the problem and its context. "Often this means that they end up solving the wrong problem."
People take "mental shortcuts," acting on what we expect to see, says Palus, coauthor of The Leader's Edge: Six Creative Competencies for Navigating Complex Challenges. But we can learn to see past the façade or assumptions of an issue to examine the underlying situation. One way to do this is to become a master of asking powerful questions.

Read the rest.


Friday:

OK, it's Friday, take a break. Here's Will Ferrell's classic SNL Crazy Boss. Warning: not for the squeamish. It's a lesson on how not to manage.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3251217296998414395&q=angry+boss&ei=vwOLSO-cOIm24ALIs8WUCA&hl=en

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Summer Time is Carnival Time!


Kris Dunn over at The HR Capitalist (one of my favorite blogs) is hosting the 39th Carnival of HR. Check it out and take a look at posts from 36 HR bloggers from around the world. And make sure you bookmark or subscribe to HR Capitalist while you're at it to get the latest and greatest from Kris on a regular basis.

I'll be hosting my second monthly Carnival of Leadership Development right here at Great Leadership on August 2nd. The first Carnival has a big success, with posts from over 30 leadership and leadership development bloggers.

This next Carnival will be even better, as I've reached out to some of my favorite leadership bloggers and asked them for their best stuff.
If you'd like to be a contributor, please submit your post using the carnival submission form by July 26th.

Here are the submission rules:
- Posts must be related to leadership, management, and executive development, leadership, management, coaching, human resources, succession planning, and organizational development
- A “link back” is must to promote this carnival on the web. That is, in order to promote the carnival, it’s important that all contributors write a brief post on their site promoting the carnival and linking back to Carnival site. That way, we all help each other drive traffic to each others sites.
- Please submit one recent (last 2 weeks) post per Carnival, along with a brief (1 line) description

Enjoy the festivities!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Reader Question: Team or Individual Recognition?


A question from a reader:

I have a question for you, that has been bugging me for some time. I am a team leader of a student team that participates in competition.
At the end of competition, I am thinking about rewarding the team with some token gifts (it would be covered personally by me). What is the best rewarding policy? Should I reward everyone (since we are a team), no matter personal performance, or award only star performer or award based on merit.
There is one clear under performer in the team. On the other hand, I have another team mate, who always is on time, delivers solid performance and available when needed.

Ah, rewards and recognition. It's one of those things that as leaders, we know it's important, and that we should do it. However, I've seem so many examples of well intended R&R efforts blow up and come back to haunt the leader.

I've also seen organizations attempt to develop formal recognition programs. They often get bogged down in bureaucracy, minutia, and politics and end up never achieving the intended results.

I believe recognition is best when it's situational and personal. A good leader develops a relationship with his/her team, and gets to know what's important to them and how they like to be recognized. For new teams, leaders can just ask their teams; some even send recognition surveys. Recognition norms also vary by cultures, although I've found that appreciation for a job well done seems to be universal - it's just how you do it that matters.

When you're managing a project team, it's important to provide both individual and team recognition during the course of the project, vs. holding back and waiting until the end. This would be the best time to recognize - and reinforce - good individual performance. It's also the best time to address individual problems - like your under performer. Sometimes, an under performer needs to be replaced during the project, although I realize that may not have been an option for a school project team.

My advice to you at this point would be to hold an informal team celebration to recognize the team's collective achievement. It could involve serving the team ice cream sundaes, or some kind of special treat. A small gift is a good idea too, something that would serve as a positive memento of the project. I prefer not to single out individual performance during these kind of celebrations. You always run the risk of offending, excluding, or embarrassing someone. I know there's exceptions to this rule - sales comes to mind, where public individual competition and recognition are an expectation and part of the culture. But generally, and just my own personal preference, I usually single out individuals privately. Perhaps you could take your star performer aside (if you haven't already), and let them know how much you appreciate their extra effort. When it's sincere, specific, and timely, and comes from the leader's heart, that usually means more to someone than an award or bonus.

Now I'll tell you what really bugs me - when schools give the same grade to everyone on a student project team. This seems to be a trend lately, at least at some U.S. schools, and I hate it. I'm all for teaching students the importance of teamwork and collaboration, two critical workplace skills. But when it comes to grades - and bonuses - there needs to be consideration given for both team and individual performance.

Monday, July 21, 2008

HR and Training: Let’s Partner for Great Management Development Programs

HR topics, like progressive discipline, hiring, and performance appraisals are an important part of any management development program, especially training programs for new supervisors and managers. Most companies include these topics as a part of their curriculum, and often tap into their HR experts to deliver the content.

Makes perfect sense, right? Well, it’s been my experience, having managed these programs at three different companies, that the partnership between HR and training isn’t always as effective as it could be. It's more like dogs and cats. And when it doesn’t work as well as it should, our managers are the ones who suffer. Not to mention we come off looking like idiots – our credibility suffers.

Having been on both sides of the fence, I think I’m somewhat uniquely qualified to offer some “tough love” advice to HR and training. I’ll offer it as an olive branch for the next Carnival of HR, to be hosted by The HR Capitalist , and the new Learning and Development Carnival, to be hosted by Learn2develop. (Some might say this just being lazy… I like to think of it as being “efficient”).

Maybe this post will be used as the start of a discussion between HR and training? Go ahead, order a pizza or a platter of cookies, schedule a meeting, and give it a try. Your managers will appreciate it.

From the training department to HR: we need your help with our management development program:

1. First of all, stop whining about how busy you are and how hard it is for you to find time to help with our management development programs. Busy with what? Dealing with problems that managers have created that could have been prevented if they were properly trained in the first place? This is a great opportunity to introduce yourself and begin to build positive relationships with newly promoted managers. Please treat this as a high priority, and an opportunity – not as a nuisance!

2. Look, we know you are the “content owners” for topics like performance management and hiring. We get that. We know a little about the topics too, so please listen to our input. With that, please accept that we are the experts on how to design and deliver effective training. So if we tell you that managers can’t absorb 100 PowerPoint slides with small font in a 45 minute session, trust us, they can’t. Let us help you design an effective learning plan.

3. New managers need to learn a lot. Your topic, although the most important thing in your world, is only a small part of theirs. A manager may only hire one employee a year, or fire one employee every ten years. So don’t try to teach them everything about the topic – they won’t retain it. The best we can hope to accomplish is that when something comes up, they’ll remember that they probably need your help and will know who to call.

4. Show up to the session on time. Being late – or worse yet – canceling at the last minute is a slap in the face to our managers. Better yet, arrive early and stay late. Get to know the managers, have lunch with them.

5. Here’s some bad news for you: your participant evaluation scores are usually the lowest rated of any section of the program. You’re killing our managers. We know most of you are not professional trainers – you’re subject matter experts – but please, get some help with your facilitation skills! Take a class, or let us help you. While training might be the main part of your job, being able to stand up in front of a group of managers and effectively engage them will serve you well in your career.

6. Oh, and it’s not just your lack of presentation and facilitation skills that are killing them – it’s the way to talk to them and answer their questions. Come on, all of our managers are not morons, or lawsuits waiting to happen. When one of them works up the nerve to ask you a question, or share a challenge they are dealing with, don’t scold them and quote policy. Show respect for their abilities, and some empathy for what it’s like to be a manager. Be real – have a discussion, as a trusted partner.

From the HR department to training: we’d love to help with your management development program

1. Look, we know there’s limited time on the management training agenda. Lord knows we wouldn’t want to cut back on the three days you’ve devoted to “servant coaching”, or whatever the latest leadership fad is you’ve fallen in love with. But guess what – managers still need to hire, fire, do performance appraisals, deal with unions, and all of the other topics you seem to find so boring. So please, if you’re going to ask for our involvement to cover these topics (and you should), could you give us more than 30 minutes?

2. Our time is limited and valuable. We’re working 12 hour days dealing with bad stuff you never have to deal with. Yes, I know management training is important, and we want to be a part of it. But could please get your act together and schedule our involvement ahead of time so we can plan for it and make sure we’re available? And don’t change the schedule at the last minute and expect us to be able to drop everything and be available. Lastly – we often deal with real emergencies - stuff happens in our world. We’ll try to find a substitute, but it’s not always possible. When it does, don’t badmouth us.

3. Please treat us as respected partners, especially in front of our managers. Recognize how challenging it is for us to walk into one of your programs, after you’ve been with them all week bonding with all of your feel good training exercises and showering them with candy. Then we show up and have to talk about progressive discipline. Maybe you could help set us up for success? Instead of “OK, this afternoon we have to do the HR stuff, sorry, it’s mandatory, don’t eat a heavy lunch”, etc…

4. Recognize that we are subject matter experts for our topics. We deal with hundreds of these situations – we know our stuff. Don’t sit in the back of the room and roll your eyes, sigh, and please, don’t ever challenge us and disagree in front of our managers. We both end up looking like idiots. If you disagree, take it up with us outside of the classroom.

5. We know we get low evaluation scores and snide comments. Welcome to HR, it comes with the territory. First of all, we’re not professional facilitators. We’re not as good as you are when it comes to answering a stupid question in a way that makes a manager look brilliant. We have an obligation to give a straight an accurate answer, and it that ruffles a few feathers, then so be it. But if you have some tips on how we can be effective in the classroom, we’d be glad to listen.

6. Could you please not schedule us at the worst times, like after lunch, first thing Monday morning, or last think on Friday? Our topics are challenging enough, please don’t make it harder on us. We seem to get treated as “filler” for all of the garbage slots. And if you think of it, how about inviting us to stay for lunch, or join in on some of the other activities throughout the week? We not may be able to, but it sure would be nice to be invited.

So how about it? Managers, is this what you’re looking for? HR, training, is this fair? Would you add or challenge anything?

BTW, for the benefit of anyone from my company reading this….. we’ve got a great partnership between HR and training, really, we do! These examples are based on past experience. Although I’m sure there’s still room for improvement… I’ll buy the cookies.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

15 Tips for Leaders on How to Communicate During a Crisis


I had the unfortunate experience of working at a public utility during two significant events. The first was when a low level of radioactive steam was released from a nuclear steam generator. It was pretty minor, but happened right after the Three Mile Island incident, as well as the movie “China Syndrome, so it generated a state of panic.

The second was a major ice storm that knocked out power for a large part of the northeast. People were without power for weeks.

I saw how NOT TO communicate during a crisis.

So, here’s a list of do’s and don’ts for leaders on how to communicate during a crisis. It’s adapted from Norman R. Augustine’s "Managing the Crisis You Tried to Prevent" (Harvard Business Review, 1995). Having served as chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corporation; director of Black & Decker, Phillips Petroleum, and Procter & Gamble; and undersecretary for the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, Norm has years of experience managing in turbulent and uncertain times. He’s also the author of Augustine's Laws.

1. Don't speculate about what happened or about what could happen.

2. Don't cover up, lie, or hedge.

3. Don't qualify sympathy, as in "We're sorry this happened, but . . ."

4. Don't assign blame. The goal is to resolve the crisis. Finding fault, if necessary, will come later.

5. Don't promise anything that you can't deliver. It is wiser to underpromise and then deliver more, than to overpromise and come up short.

6. Don't walk into a press conference or any kind of presentation unprepared. (Or, at least, try not to.)

7. Do get the facts as quickly as you can, to the best of your ability.

8. Do show up in person. You are the leader, and people want to hear from you.

9. Do give the facts.

10. Do be honest about what you know and don't know.

11. Do acknowledge and show sympathy for human suffering.

12. Do accept responsibility for handling the crisis (not causing it).

13. Do give all the bad news at once. Leaking out bad news a little bit at a time exacerbates the crisis and undermines your credibility.

14. Do make a list of the five questions you would least like to be asked—be assured that someone will ask them—and be prepared to answer them.

15. Do set up a rumor control hotline or website if rampant speculation could fuel the crisis.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Real or Fake (Creative) Leadership Programs: The Answers



The results are in! A few days ago I asked readers if they could identify the three out of five real leadership programs from a list of "Creative" Leadership programs. The post generated a lot of hits, and a few good answers, so I decided to offer a prize for the first person to comment with the right answer.

Minutes after that 2nd post when up, I got this comment from Ask a Manager:
"My guess is that #2 (scared straight) and #4 (leadership gene) are fake. I am strangely over-confident about this."

There's no fooling this savvy manager. She's right! Congratulations, Alison. Send me an email with your address and I'll send you your prize (as soon as I'm done reading it).

(Sorry, HR Wench, no cookie for you, but thanks for playing.)

Here's the original list, with more information and my take on the real ones:

1. Space camp for leaders. You and your leadership team can go to a real space and rocket center and train like astronauts! Complete realistic space missions that require effective problem solving, communication, and teamwork - just like real astronauts! You can even bring your own company trainer to provide professional facilitation in order to reinforce the learning objectives on a more personal level. The sky is not the limit!

REAL. Yes, here it is. Forbes says the $11 billion dollar fantasy camp industry offers everything from shark diving, to fighter-plane dog fighting, even a parachute jump over Mount Everest. Some of the experiences can cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Space Camp, with over 500,000 graduates, offers children and adults alike the chance to train like an astronaut, ultimately carrying out a simulated space shuttle mission.

Sounds like fun, right? Sure, I'd love to try it. I'm all for adding activities to the agenda of a leadership team off-site for a little team building. (read a great Steve Roesler post on the difference between team building activities and real team development).

I do have problems with this: First of all, please don't try to sell me this as a leadership development program - or a leadership team development program. It's not - it's a boondoggle.
Secondly, I would have a serious problem with this if my company was struggling, asking employees to tighten their belts and sacrifice, and I found out the leadership team was away playing astronaut. And under no circumstances would I want to see my tax dollars being wasted on government employees or elected officials going to fantasy camps.

2. Scared Straight for Leaders. This is a program started by reformed executives from Enron, Tyco, and Worldcom. Crooked CFOs are brought to an actual white collar penitentiary in an attempt to make them end their criminal ways by introducing them to actual convicts. A group of inmates known as the "lifers" berate, scream at, and terrify the executives and attempt to "scare them straight" by showing an ugly, harsh presentation of the realities of prison life. By the end of the program, executives decide that they don't want to end up in jail and vow to follow all Sarbanes-Oxley standards.

FAKE. Based on the 1978 documentary filmed at Rahway State Prison, about a group of cocky teenage juvenile delinquents and the attempts to make them end their criminal ways by introducing them to actual convicts. I watched it when I was 20 and it sure helped motivate me to stay out of trouble.

3. Business Astrology. "The Absolutely Essential PERSONAL BUSINESS PROFILE, including a year's worth of important business dates! What does astrology say about your business personality? Where are you likely to shine? Where do you tend to add value to an organization? What are you really thinking about on the job? All that, plus a year's worth of advice regarding key business dates! The Personal Business Profile is an amazing document that will have you and your colleagues (if you let them in on it) buzzing. Also makes an excellent recon tool if you can pry birth info out of a boss or competitor!

REAL. A few weeks ago, I received a very well written email from Steven Mark Weiss, Author of "Signs of Success: The Remarkable Power of Business Astrology" , published by AMACOM. He quoted me from one of my posts: "Open your mind to new ideas, even if they at first they seem absurd." - Dan McCarthy, 10 Tips for Creative Thinking . OK, so how could I not at least take a look? I did, and while I'm not ready to dive into astrology as a leadership development program, it's worth taking a look at. Who's to say it's any less helpful than some of the other assessments we love to use?

4. The Leadership Gene. Scientists from the Human Genome Project (HGP) have isolated a gene that is responsible for the ability to inspire others to follow. This trait, one of the hardest if not impossible leadership characteristics to learn, has always been suspected as being more of an innate, or natural ability. By isolating the gene, scientists have been able to use gene therapy to inject the plasma of inspirational leaders into uninspiring managers with dramatic results. The gene has been patented by the University of Southern California.

FAKE. But after reading Michael Critchen's Next, it wouldn't surprise me if it was true. Scary stuff.

5. Happiness Training. Scientists from the Positive Psychology Center have developed a series of e-learning programs that companies can purchase to make their employees happier. Happier employees mean more productive employees, which means better business results and and fat profits.

REAL. Yes, it's legit stuff! I met with representatives from The Positive Psychology Center, which is affiliated with Penn State, and came away very impressed. They've done extensive research that proves that you can learn optimism and resiliency, which in turn makes you more positive - and happy. They have an series of on-line modules - than can be purchased and offered to employees as part of a company wellness program. After hearing what they had to say and grilling them with questions, I was ready try it out myself. Hey, wouldn't we all rather work for a "happy" leader?

I had so much fun with this, I'm sure I'll do it again. I've already started a list of "strange but true" leadership development programs and products I've run across. If you know of any, please send me an email and I'll consider adding it to a future post.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

This is Why I Hate to Fly!

On my last business trip, I had to check bags. I hardly ever do - I take a lot of pride in my ability to stuff 2 weeks of stuff into a carry-on. This time, however, I decided to take my golf clubs, so I took a larger bag figuring I had to check anyways.

Big mistake! On my return flight, I waited in line at the American check-in for 45 minutes just to get a ticket so I could lug my bags over to "self bag drop off" and drop my bags on a conveyor belt. And for the privilege of using that remarkable service, I paid $40.00 extra! That's $80.00 round trip!

BTW, there was the usual lack of food, cramped seats, a screaming baby, delays, and no movie. I, and the rest of my travelers had to sprint through O'Hare to make my connection. I was one of the lucky (and faster) ones who made it.

I love this video - especially the phony empathy!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Deadline Extended for the "Real or Fake Leadership Programs" Contest


I'm going to wait a couple more days before I reveal the answers to Monday's "Creative Leadership Program" post. I've gotten some good picks from Breanne , HR Wench, and creativeenergyblog so far.

HR Wench asked if she could get a cookie if she's right. I'm too cheap to send cookies, but I am willing to send a copy of a new book, Epic Change: Leading Change in the Global Age (Wiley/Jossey-Bass 2008). The author, Tim Clark sent me a copy to review. I've just started reading it and it looks pretty good. You'll have to give me another week or so to finish.

I'll award the book (and bragging rights for having the best crap detector) to the FIRST person who leaves a comment correctly identifying the three real programs and two fake ones.

Oh, and try to keep an open mind. The answers - and my opinions may surprise you.

Monday, July 14, 2008

"Creative" Leadership Programs

I've run across some pretty creative, unusual, out-of-the-box, and downright wacky leadership programs. Throughout my career, I've gone though a series of judgemental phases when it comes to evaluating and considering these programs. When I was new, bright-eyed, and naive I'd try anything. I went from one fad to another, becoming an evangelist for the latest flavor of the month that a slick sales rep convinced me to buy.

Then, later on I became jaded and turned into a cynic. I was too quick to dismiss anything that wasn't tried and true and an established industry best practice.

I think my latest phase is about possibilities. I'm really trying to be more open-minded - to listen and consider the possibilities - before I evaluate and form an opinion.

How about you? Are you willing to consider some rather unusual approaches to leadership or leadership development? How open-minded are you? Or, how gullible are you?

I'm going to describe five programs. Three of them are for real. Two I've made up. See if you can tell which is which. Can you make a convincing case for how each of them could really be for real and effective? Perhaps you've tried one of them and can offer a real or made-up testimonial? Which ones would you never, ever, even consider?

I'll publish the answers in a couple days.

1. Space camp for leaders. You and your leadership team can go to a real space and rocket center and train like astronauts! Complete realistic space missions that require effective problem solving, communication, and teamwork - just like real astronauts! You can even bring your own company trainer to provide professional facilitation in order to reinforce the learning objectives on a more personal level. The sky is not the limit!

2. Scared Straight for Leaders. This is a program started by reformed executives from Enron, Tyco, and Worldcom. Crooked CFOs are brought to an actual white collar penitentiary in an attempt to make them end their criminal ways by introducing them to actual convicts. A group of inmates known as the "lifers" berate, scream at, and terrify the executives and attempt to "scare them straight" by showing an ugly, harsh presentation of the realities of prison life. By the end of the program, executives decide that they don't want to end up in jail and vow to follow all Sarbanes-Oxley standards.

3. Business Astrology. "The Absolutely Essential PERSONAL BUSINESS PROFILE, including a year's worth of important business dates! What does astrology say about your business personality? Where are you likely to shine? Where do you tend to add value to an organization? What are you really thinking about on the job? All that, plus a year's worth of advice regarding key business dates! The Personal Business Profile is an amazing document that will have you and your colleagues (if you let them in on it) buzzing. Also makes an excellent recon tool if you can pry birth info out of a boss or competitor!

4. The Leadership Gene. Scientists from the Human Genome Project (HGP) have isolated a gene that is responsible for the ability to inspire others to follow. This trait, one of the hardest if not impossible leadership characteristics to learn, has always been suspected as being more of an innate, or natural ability. By isolating the gene, scientists have been able to use gene therapy to inject the plasma of inspirational leaders into uninspiring managers with dramatic results. The gene has been patented by the University of Southern California.

5. Happiness Training. Scientists from the Positive Psychology Center have developed a series of e-learning programs that companies can purchase to make their employees happier. Happier employees mean more productive employees, which means better business results and and fat profits.

Come back in a couple days for the answers!!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

All Dogs Go To Heaven


Since I’ve started this blog, I’ve always tried to keep my personal life out it. My mission for writing this blog is to provide a professional development resource for leaders and leadership development practitioners, not to share the mundane details of my life.

As most bloggers soon discover, after a while, the personal starts to creep into the professional. You can’t help it. You begin to get more opinionated, you begin to develop relationships with your readers and fellow bloggers, and the “real you” begins to come out from behind the curtain.

For those of you that have been reading this blog for a while, you know that Annie is kind of the official mascot for Great Leadership. She’s a part of my blog, LinkedIn, & HR Bloggers profiles, and I’ve often used pictures of her or other dogs in my posts. She’s been one of the most popular parts of this blog - one of my very first reader comments was “My, you have a lovely dog”. (That was for a post that took me two hours to write.)

So with that, I’ve decided to write a long overdue tribute to Annie.

This past May, right before the Memorial Day weekend, we had to put Annie down. It was an agonizing decision, one that my family had been grappling with for over a year. Annie was well into her 15th year, past the average life expectancy for a lab. She had arthritis in her hips, had trouble standing and walking, and was having accidents on the rug more and more frequently.

They say you always wonder how you’ll know when the time is right. You can question yourself – did we do it too soon or too late? We had no regrets with Annie – it was time. If she could talk, I think she would have told us herself. You can see it in the eyes.

We had done everything we could to extend her life comfortably, having built a ramp for her to get out, giving her a daily dose of aspirin, changing her food, and making sure we were around to take her out more frequently. And with no resentment – after all, she had given us so much over the years. When the kids got older and no longer ran to greet me at the door, she still pulled herself off the floor and staggered over to greet me. Even in the final days, when she was just too tired to get up, I still got a tail wag and “the look”.

I think I knew it was time when I was in my favorite chair and opened a bag of chips – and Annie just lifted her head and put it back down. She always was at my side when the snacks appeared. When she was younger, she could snatch a chip out of the air with amazing speed and precision. I then realized that she could no longer do the things that used to give her pleasure in life. Life was getting too hard on her – and she knew she was letting us down when she couldn’t make it outside.

So my wife and I took her to the vet, and held her, and said goodbye. They say all dogs go to heaven – I know Annie did, and she’s up there running full speed, snatching treats out of the sir, causing trouble, and happy again.

So, in the spirit of Great Leadership, here are the 9 things I learned about leadership from Annie:

1. How to be a good listener. Annie was the family therapist – there was no better example of empathetic, non-judgmental, selfless listening. I’m sure she took a lot of family secrets with her.

2. When you see something that turns you on, go for it and don’t let go. Our good friends would come over every year for a holiday get-together, and Annie had a mad crush on my friend’s leg. No matter how hard he shook, Annie would hang on.

3. How to resolve conflict. Whenever there was a family argument, Annie would slinker over insert herself in the middle of things, with her ears down and tail between her leg. Soon the anger would dissolve into giggles.

4. Have a s sense of humor, don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s hard to stay serious – or fight- when your dog is licking herself.

5. Protect your team from danger. Annie didn’t have a mean bone in her body – she was the gentlest dog I’ve ever seen. But when the doorbell rang – or a squirrel wandered into the back yard – she could work herself up into a barking frenzy that would scare…. Well, a squirrel. Whenever a stranger came in, all they had to do was put their hand out and she would run over and sit next to them. Go ahead, take the silverware, just pet me.

6. OK, for those of you with a weak stomach – skip this one – I’m warning you, it’s gross! Always clean up your own mess. You dog owners will understand. Believe me, we tried everything! In the end, we gave up and just resigned ourselves to following her around with a shovel.

7. Give back more than you take. Yes, Annie was a lot of work, but she gave back 10X in return in devotion, protection, fun, comfort, and love.

8. It’s what’s inside that matters. Annie didn’t care about what you look like or how much money you had. As long as your butt smelled OK.

9. Live for the moment. Life is too short, especially in dog years. We often get caught up in the "I will be happy when…" syndrome. You know the symptoms. You start thinking: I will be happy when I get that…lake house…that promotion…that status…that money. The only way to cure the disease is to find happiness and meaning now. Go outside and play – chase a ball – be silly – show your affection – enjoy your food – and look forward to seeing and spending time with your family and loved ones like there’s no tomorrow.

I won’t be changing my profile picture – for a while anyway. It was such a challenge getting her to pose that day – if you look closely; I’ve practically got her in a headlock. She never did pose well for pictures. Neither do I.

If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for reading, and sharing a few memories of Annie with me.

Friday, July 11, 2008

10 Ways to Inspire Trust as a Leader


Most leaders would like to see themselves as basically trustworthy. To find out that people don’t trust us or question our integrity can be devastating and difficult to accept. If you’ve gotten this feedback, or suspect people do not trust you, here are some relatively simple things you can do to inspire trust:

1. Don’t over commit and do keep your promises. Don’t promise or commit to something unless you know you can honor the commitment. Then, follow through. Do what you say you’re going to do.

2. Keep confidences. However, don’t promise confidentiality if you aren’t sure if you can or should keep the information from others (i.e., performance, legal, ethical issues).

3. Admit your mistakes. Don’t look for someone else to blame. Give others an early head’s up. Learn from your mistake, don’t dwell on it, and move on.

4. Share credit and acknowledge the contributions of others. Be an advocate for other’s ideas, especially your peers.

5. Don’t do anything that you would not feel comfortable reading about in the newspaper the next day.

6. Don’t talk about others behind their backs, unless it’s something positive. If you do, others will assume you’re doing the same to them. And if you say something positive, you can assume it will get back to them.

7. Share information. Leaders often keep people the dark about where they are going or what they are planning. In the absence of good information, people draw their own conclusions. Guesswork is a shaky foundation of trust. Give people consistent updates, status reports, and explain the reasons for your decisions.

8. Get to know people, develop relationships. If you take the time to get to know others and share information about yourself, people will be less likely to question your motives and will give you the benefits of the doubt.

9. Make sure your message is consistent. Don’t say different things to different audiences, in an attempt to please everyone. And if you change your mind about something, explain why your opinion has changed.

10. When asked a question, give a complete, direct answer – no smoke and mirrors. If you don’t have the answer, don’t fake it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The HR Carnival #38


The HR Carnival #38 is up and running, this time hosted by Natalie Cooper, from Changeboard.

This edition of the Carnival has a corporate social responsibility (CSR) and social justice theme to it. Natalie's taking a leadership role in bringing this issue to our attention. It's a well written and provocative essay, in which she's weaved in articles from an all star line-up of HR bloggers.

Here's her introduction:

I’m currently attending a five month emerging leadership training programme (RealEdge) through an international organisation called Common Purpose and I keep hearing the message from visionary and inspirational leaders who present to us on the course that: 'one person really can make a difference'.
In fact, Nina Simosko, global chief operating officer for the worldwide SAP Education organization (who is involved in a variety of industry associations including the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and Executives, the Professional Area Network for Women, and the Alliance of Technology and Women, United States), summarises after writing her posting: actively managing careers, that: "To truly achieve success, one must actively manage their career and take ownership and responsibility for their personal 'brand'. And leaders must demonstrate their desire to help their employees succeed by assisting in their growth and development."
This is true. My employer's investment in allowing me to attend the RealEdge course has got me thinking about how I can 'help to make a difference'. What’s important to me? What can I do to grow myself as a person and how can I lead change in order to achieve success?
What defines a great leader?
The founder of Common Purpose, chief executive Julia Middleton, believes that leadership is about being able to 'lead beyond authority' while Dan McCarthy, manager of Leadership and Management Development at a Fortune 500 company - a "Great Place to Work" and "Training Top 125" company (United States), in his posting: defining leadership - go ahead, try it, I dare you attempts to define leadership as: "Leadership is the ability to enable people and organizations to achieve extraordinary results". In his posting, Dan encourages you to define leadership yourself and offers some other leadership definitions including:
Roosevelt and Churchill - "they made people believe that the sun would come up the next morning."
and Rudy Giuliani - "what he did for 18 hours on 9/11, and changed the perception of millions of people and the perception of him. That’s what it is all about."
How about Warren Bennis's: "The capacity to create a compelling vision and translate it into action and sustain it. Successful leaders have a vision that other people believe in and treat as their own."
How do I expect to lead change?
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) and social justice are currently hot topics and should be issues at the forefront of every HR professional’s mind across the globe. If I can challenge the mindsets, spread the word, open people up to the idea of CSR & social justice, or even encourage one HR professional or any other individual to embed CSR & social justice as part of its organisation's DNA then I will have helped to have 'made that difference'.
Hope that whet your appetite for more, be sure to read the rest!!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

CEO Interview: Johnson & Johnson's William Weldon

Knowledge @ Wharton recently interviewed Johnson & Johnson's CEO William Weldon. Weldon made the comments at a Wharton School leadership conference and a video and transcript of his comments is available here.

I've always admired J&J's approach to leadership development. Because of their highly decentralized structure consisting of over 200 operating companies, they have the ability to leverage job assignments for development. Here's a quote from Weldon on this topic:

"I think the other thing that decentralization does is that it gives you a tremendous opportunity to develop people. You give them a lot of opportunity to work in different areas, to work in smaller companies, to make mistakes and to ultimately move to larger companies. I also think that the benefit of the cultural side that you asked about is that you do have local people running the businesses. The men and women who run our businesses around the world usually are people who grew up in those markets, understand those markets and develop themselves in those markets. They can relate to the needs of the customer, whoever that customer may be.
The challenge really... I see it as a great benefit, rather than a challenge. This is because the problem with centralization is if one person makes one mistake, it can cripple the whole organization. This way, you've got wonderful people running businesses. You have to have confidence in them, but you let them run it -- and you don't have to worry about making that one big mistake."


Here's the full 17 minute video:

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Leadership Development Carnival #1


Welcome to the first edition of the Leadership Development Carnival!!

Each month we'll ask for the best damn leadership and leadership development information and advice there is, gather them up, and present them all here at the Carnival. We had over 30 submissions for this inaugural July edition.

So step right up and get ready to lead. If you like what you see, add the site to your favorites or subscribe to it. And btw, it's OK to read and share this on company time.... this is serious leadership development, and should be part of every leader's individual development plan (IDP)!

To start us off, Andres Acosta presents On leadership: knowledge & wisdom posted at Totally Consumed.

Nina Simosko presents Maintaining The Momentum in Tough Times posted at NinaSimosko.com.

Wally Bock presents Don't worry about the young people posted at Three Star Leadership Blog.

Mark Stelzner presents Seven Tips for Managing Today's Employee Population posted at Inflexion Advisors.

David Cassell presents Keeping Your Study Skills Razor Sharp posted at selectcoursesblog.com.

Karl Goldfield presents Ask the Coach and a book review: Is .9999 repeating the sames as 1? startup sales mentor posted at Karl Goldfield.

Roger Smith presents MLM Leadership -Why Your Upline Will Always Fail You No Matter What. posted at Magnetic Leadership Marketing.

Rich Maltzman, PMP presents Are they M&Ms, or little circular windows into our inner being? posted at Scope crêpe.

Jose DeJesus MD presents Creating Incentives and Recognizing Excellence in Your Employees posted at Physician Entrepreneur.

Shawn Driscoll presents Designing your success ladder posted at Shawn Driscoll.

Mark Runta presents IT Management & Global Sourcing: Should You Keep Your Manager in the Dark? posted at Career Progression, Management & Global Sourcing.

Lorraine Cohen presents Do You Have The Courage To Be An Extraordinary Leader? posted at Powerfull Living.

Phil for Humanity presents Bored at Work « Phil for Humanity posted at Phil for Humanity.

Taylor Coburn presents What To Do When You Are Stuck posted at Internet Business at ProcessToProfits.

GreatManagement presents Managers Build Trust And Respect By Letting Go posted at The GreatManagement Blog.

Anya presents Will improving my memory boost sales success? posted at Gavin Ingham.

Alvaro Fernandez presents Why Smart Brains Make Stupid Decisions posted at SharpBrains: Your Window into the Brain Fitness Revolution.

Carole DeJarnatt presents Your Choices Make A Difference posted at Tips from the Biz World of Alliance Advisors, Inc..

Erek Ostrowski presents Becoming a Smooth Operator (Documenting Operational Protocols for Your Small Business) posted at Verve Coaching.

Jack Yoest presents The Four Speeches Every Speaker Delivers posted at Yoest.com.

Andrew Heath presents People Forgive Mistakes, Not Personalities posted at Rants of a Gay Lunatic.

Dereck presents How to become what you want to become, in about two days posted at I Will Not Die.

Phil presents Good Leaders Learn From the Best posted at The Happy Manager.

The Speakers Group presents Pete Luongo Presents 10 Simple Truths About Leadership posted at TSG Speakers Bureau Blog.

Ralph Jean-Paul presents How to Network Like a Pro posted at Potential 2 Success.

Mike King presents Promoting Employee Engagement in the Workplace posted at Learn This.

Alik presents Is Becoming A Leader Actionable And Attainable For All? posted at Practice This.

John Phillips presents CEOs Solve Economy?s Woes posted at The Word On Employment Law.

Dr. Joe Capista presents Success Involves An Attitude of Service posted at The Success Triangle.

Mike Myatt presents Character Matters posted at n2growth.

These remaining are more plugs for products rather than articles, but I wanted to be inclusive for this first edition and not do much screening. I did check them out, and they all look legit and worth taking a look at:

Sheila Danzig presents Distance Learning Online: Educational Degree Programs that Benefit You posted at Degree Talk Blog.

Patricia Milton presents Just Released: Little Book of Big Change posted at Interaction Associates - Thought leadership and practical tools for collaboration..

Ellesse presents Free Career, Business & Trade Magazines for Your Career & Economic Goals posted at Goal Setting College.

Fiona King presents The Manager's Handbook: 80+ Open Courseware Collections to Help You Be a Better Leader posted at JobProfiles.org - Job Descriptions and Online Schools to Start Your Career.

Terry Dean presents Goal Setting Worksheets posted at Internet Business Coaching by Terry Dean.

Jimmy Sansi presents Do You Test? Yes! Why? posted at The Kaizen Business.

Michael Miles presents The Silva Mind Control Method posted at Effortless Wealth and Abundance.
I'll wrap it up with one of my own, Ethics and Leadership, a recent post from my colleague Andrea Brown, that got over 1000 hits.

The next Leadership Development Carnival will be August 2nd, please submit your posts using the carnival submission form by July 26th. As a reminder, here are the submission rules:

The Leadership Development Carnival accepts posts related to leadership, management, and executive development, leadership, management, coaching, human resources, succession planning, and organizational development. Irrelevant posts will be automatically rejected. A link back is must to promote this carnival on the web. Please submit one recent (last 2 weeks) post along with a brief (1 line) description.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Defining Leadership - Go Ahead, Try it, I Dare You

I recently looked at a Tom Peters video on the definition of leadership. It's good, and what's not to like about Tom... but I did find it interesting, having played it and then reading the transcript, that he never really gave his own definition of leadership. In fact, I read he once asked his readers for a definition and received 287 different definitions!

He cites Robert Altman's lifetime achievement Oscar acceptance speech: "The director allows an actor to become more than they've ever dreamed of being."

He mentions Robert Greenleaf, who 25 years ago, wrote "Servant Leadership": The essence of the leader is to induce people to grow. "When you look at a football team—a coach and a quarterback—when you look at a ballet company—the choreographer and the dancer—the magic is when the dancer or the quarterback is shocked by how much they have grown as we worked together. And I, the leader, am shocked at how much they have grown."


He then goes on to describe what leadership is "about", with references to:

Napoleon - "said it better than me, no surprise. He said, "A leader is a dealer in hope."

Roosevelt and Churchill - "they made people believe that the sun would come up the next morning."

and Rudy Giuliani - "what he did for 18 hours on 9/11, and changed the perception of millions of people and the perception of him. That’s what it is all about."

So OK, great examples of what leadership is "all about"..... but what exactly is "leadership"? I'm not talking about examples of leadership, or characteristics of leadership.... but what is the actual definition of "leadership"?

Here's the Merriam Webster definition:
1. the office or position of a leader ; 2 : capacity to lead; 3 : the act or an instance of leading

That sure doesn't help.

How about Warren Bennis's: "The capacity to create a compelling vision and translate it into action and sustain it. Successful leaders have a vision that other people believe in and treat as their own."

Not bad.

Or Scott Adams: "'I believe that all leaders are evil, and I mean that in the best possible sense. After all, I am a capitalist. A leader has to be somebody who's getting people to do things which don't seem to make sense to them or are not in their best interest -- like convincing people that they should work 14 hours a day so that someone else can make more money.''

Naw, too cynical for me.

Although it's almost exactly the sames as Harry Truman's definition: "My definition of a leader . . . is a man who can persuade people to do what they don't want to do, or do what they're too lazy to do, and like it."

And OMG, Here's over 50 more definitions!

Maybe this one sums it up best?:
"[There are] almost as many definitions of leadership as there are persons who have attempted to define the concept." Stogdill (1974, p.259)

At the risk of adding to the confusion, here's my humble attempt:

"Leadership is the ability to enable people and organizations to achieve extraordinary results".
- McCarthy

How about you - how would you define leadership? Go ahead, take a shot at it!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Great Quotes from Great Leaders for the 4th of July


To celebrate the 4th of July, here’s some inspiration from from Mac Anderson’s Simple Truths, called Great Quotes from Great Leaders.

Turn up your speakers to enjoy some beautiful music, great photographs, and the wisdom of some of the leaders that have helped to shape our history.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

McKinsey’s Four Biases of Failure

According to a new McKinsey Quarterly study, faced with a failing product or division, companies tend to hang on too long. Common psychological biases help explain why executives downplay evidence of failure and put off the tough decision to bail out. Executives can learn to identify those biases and to understand when they are likely to hinder an objective evaluation of the prospects of a product, a business unit, or even an entire industry.

A few examples:

Smitten by the popularity of small Japanese cars in the 1980s, General Motors launched Saturn as a “new kind of car company.” Sales peaked in 1994, but GM held on, sinking billions into the brand that has yet to turn a profit.

Brewers of Schlitz beer decided to use a cheaper process in making the beer in the early 1970s. Schlitz had been the No. 3 brands in the U.S., but its loyal beer-drinking fans hated the new taste. Schlitz went into declined and was bought by Stroh.

Polaroid had been an extremely popular brand since its cameras produced nearly-instant images. Then the digital camera came along in the 1980s as management stubbornly stuck to its technology and business plan. Polaroid went bankrupt in 2001.

Authors John T. Horn, Dan P. Lovallo and S. Patrick Viguerie say that four biases affected bad decisions such as these. The biases are:

The confirmation bias. Companies fail to confirm that a new product or strategy is actually working and meeting goals.

The sunk-cost fallacy. Once an idea is not living up to expectations, management doesn’t want to consider dumping it arguing that they put too much money in developing it.

The escalation of commitment. If a product is a bummer, management holds on to it, thinking that someday it will be profitable.

The anchoring and adjustment bias: If the company does decide to exit a product, it has to make savvy decisions about how to get rid of it, such as finding the right new owner and at the right sales price.

I've seem management give up on a product or business too soon and hang on too long; these four biases may help explain why it's so hard to admit defeat and retreat.