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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

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 - 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!