Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Challenges of Choosing the Right Way to Grow your Company: Build, Borrow or Buy?

Guest post by Laurence Capron

The dangers of relying on one single growth strategy

How do you grow your company ? Whether we talk about entrepreneurial growth or renewing a mature company, the wrong move can break the firm. The problem is, most firms’ growth strategies emphasize just one type of growth — some focus on organic growth (BUILD), others on alliances (BORROW), and some on M&As (BUY). When these strategies falter, the common response is simply to try harder — but firms falling into this “implementation trap” usually end up losing out to a competitor whose approach is more inclusive.

The reliance on a single growth mode is misplaced. In a research I did with Professor Will Mitchell (Duke & Toronto University) on 150 telecom firms, I find that firms prepared to grow in diverse ways outperform the ones that narrowly focus on one single mode. Specifically, firms using multiple modes to obtain new resources and skills were 46 percent more likely to survive over a five-year period than those using only alliances, 26 percent more likely than those using only M&A, and 12 percent more likely than those using only internal development.

To succeed, therefore, managers have to learn to right way to grow their company – and also learn when and how to abandon the strategies they have grown up with. For instance, big pharma has slowly but surely made a break with their “Build” tradition as companies moved away from the old self-contained integrated model into far more open and flexible networked models. Their reliance on alliances and licenses has increased in both product development and marketing and they have become aggressive acquirers.

My aim in writing Build, Borrow or Buy: Solving the Growth Dilemma (HBR Press, 2012) is to help executives to build a powerful new business capability: the discipline of selecting the best pathways to follow when pursuing growth opportunities. From my research with W. Mitchell, I have developed a comprehensive framework for deciding whether—under what sets of circumstances and in what combinations—to BUILD, BORROW, or BUY your way to success. The three words that comprise the title of our book each express a point of view: 1. Build: We’ll do it ourselves! 2. Borrow: We need others to help us! 3. Buy: We’ll buy our way in!

Finding Your Resource Pathways

Four questions frame the selection of the different growth pathways of internal development (Build), contracts alliances (Borrow), and acquisitions (Buy). Those questions are summarized in the step-by-step Resource Pathway Framework depicted in Figure 1.

Figure 1: The Resource Pathways Framework as a decision tree

Source: Capron and Mitchell (2012).
1. Are you Internal Resources Relevant? Firms should start by assessing whether they can leverage their current resources to satisfy their new requirements for growth. Developing new resources internally is faster and more effective than obtaining them from external parties only if (i) the firm’s existing resources (including knowledge bases, processes, and incentive systems) are similar to what is needed and (ii) the firm can outshine its competitors in the targeted area. In such cases, internal resources are relevant to the development of targeted resources.

Thus, most companies do begin the resource search process by evaluating whether internal knowledge and organization are sufficient to develop the new resources needed. Yet many companies grossly underestimate the gap between that they have and what they need. Hence firms that are determined to develop resources internally often fail to recognize the difficulties of conducting such projects.

2. Are the Targeted Resources Tradable? Once a firm has established that it needs to look elsewhere for needed resources, it must consider which mode of external sourcing to use. The first option to consider is contracting, which amounts to “borrowing” resources that another firm has created. Contracts (e.g., licensing agreements) are often a simple way to obtain resources externally. The benefit of a good licensing strategy—compared with more complex interfirm combinations such as M&As and alliances—is that the firm can cherry-pick desirable resources from external partners without the costs of acquiring and integrating an entire organization or managing complex arrangements. Licensing strategy is more effective when coupled with the internal capacity to assess and absorb the new knowledge.

The firm must be able to recognize conditions that suit purchase contracts, which can save substantial managerial time and attention if more complicated interfirm combinations are thereby deemed unnecessary. This approach may fail, however, if the resources in question are not effectively tradable (Williamson, 1975). Determining such tradability requires a clear definition of the targeted resources and an understanding—based, in part, on trust in the relevant legal system—of how to protect their value.

3. How Close do you Need to be with your Resource Partner? When a basic, arm’s-length agreement is insufficient to meet resource needs, the firm must consider a more complex relationship with an external provider. Such strategic collaboration is a more active form of using a partner’s resources. Alliances usually involve licenses but often extend well beyond them; in a co-development alliance, for example, both partners engage in developing a resource such as intellectual property. Alliances can take many forms, which range from R&D and marketing partnerships to freestanding joint ventures. All alliances involve ongoing interactions in which independent actors commit resources to a joint activity.

Alliances can be effective tools for achieving growth—whether by obtaining new resources or achieving greater scale and visibility in targeted markets. Alliances are more likely to succeed when (i) the partners have a focused relationship with limited points of contact and (ii) they can align incentives (Gulati and Singh, 1998). However, if a high level of coordination is required (because many of the partners’ business units are involved) or if there are significant differences in partners’ strategic needs, then the costs and difficulties of collaboration usually outweigh the benefits. In that case, an acquisition might make more sense.

4. Can you Integrate the Target Firm? Acquisition is the mode of last resort – reserved for cased that don’t suit any other path. However, that doesn’t mean that you must undertake an acquisition simply because you have rejected the other modes. The key question is: Can the acquiring firm integrate the target sufficiently and within a reasonable time? Integration may transpire soon after an acquisition or be phased in over time. Creating value from an acquisition requires resource creation that draws on the skills of the combined firm, as explained more fully in the section that follows. Without integration that creates new resources, the acquired firm is merely an expensive target that continues to operate as before—much as if your purchase of its shares were a passive investment in the stock market.

If the firm decides that proper integration of a target is not feasible, then it should reconsider the less complex options. These include alliances, partial acquisitions, and creation of an experimental internal unit to pursue new resources whose development is not easily integrated into the organization’s mainstream processes. In the end, a firm that has exhausted its options vis-à-vis resources should consider redefining its strategic road map.

About the author:
Laurence Capron is the Paul Desmarais Chaired Professor of Partnership and Active Ownership at INSEAD, France and director of the INSEAD executive education program on M&As and corporate strategy. She is currently a visiting professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. She is the coauthor of Build, Borrow or Buy: Solving the Growth Dilemma (with Will Mitchell).

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Managing Remote Employees: Lessons from Ancient Rome and Today

The Colosseum
This post was recently published as a guest post on SmartBlog on Leadership:

Question: What do these five “established” jobs:

- Call Center Representative

- Salesperson

- Truck Driver

- Writers

- Consultants

……have in common with these five jobs that didn’t exist 10 years ago?:

- Virtual Assistant

- Social Media Manager

- Telework Manager or Coordinator

- Search Engine Optimization Specialist

- Online Advertising Manager

Answer: They are staffed by employees that can do their work while their managers are in a different location. And if you’re a manager or aspiring manager, chances are at least one of them is going to work for you.

Telecommuting, distributed teams, outsourcing, and virtual teams are not new. They’ve all been around since the Roman Empire was managing 25% of the world’s population spread out over 6,500,000 square kilometers.

Consider this from the management classic In Search of Excellence:

"One reason the Roman empire grew so large and survived so long - a prodigious feat of management - is that there was no railway, airplane, car, radio, telephone. Above all, no telephone. And therefore you could not maintain any illusion of direct control over a general or provincial governor, you could not feel at the back of your mind that you could ring him up, or he could ring you, if a situation cropped up which was too much for him, or that you could fly over and sort things out if they started to get into a mess. You appointed him, you watched his chariot and baggage train disappear over the hill in a cloud of dust and that was that ... There was, therefore, no question of appointing a man who was not fully trained, or not quite up to the job: you knew that everything depended on his being the best man for the job before he set off. And so you took great care in selecting him; but more than that you made sure that he knew all about Rome and Roman government and the Roman army before he went out."

Imagine that. Somehow the Romans were able to manage remote employees without all of the methods written about when ISOE was published in 1982, as well as Skype, texting, social media, IPhones, Sharepoint, WebEx, and a host of other technologies.

So when it comes to managing remote employees, what can we learn from the ancient Romans, as well as today’s companies that are ranked the best for flexible jobs? Here are 10 timeless tips:

1. Manage for results.
Many traditional managers are accustomed to managing activities by observation and not necessarily by results. Again, this is not a new concept - the management guru Peter Ducker wrote about it back in the 1950s in his book Management by Objectives. Unfortunately, his ideas were ruined by management consultants who turned “MBO” into a bureaucratic mess.

2. A shared purpose, goals, and value system.
Every employee needs to be clear and aligned on the organizations purpose, goals, and shared values. Once the why and the what are clear, employees should be allowed to exercise judgment and creativity in how things are done.

3. Hire great employees.
Then train them and empower them do their jobs. Great employees don’t need to be babysat, monitored, checked on, micromanaged, and shouldn’t need to fill out daily and weekly activity reports. Great employees thrive with autonomy and trust.

BTW, some of the research says extroverts actually thrive more than introverts when working remotely. But I wouldn’t start issuing MBTI’s as a part of your selection process.

4. Agree on boundaries.
With technology and zone differences, it’s important for managers and employees discuss and agree when it’s OK and not OK to contact each other. For some, the expectation might be “24/7”. Or, it might be “Mon-Fri between the hours of 8-5 EDT”.

5. Establish regular communications.
Smart managers know the importance of keeping a regular schedule of one-on-one meetings with their employees. With remote employees, it’s even more critical not to miss one of these meetings. Unlike co-located employees, who are bound to run into their managers in the hallways and break room, remote employees don’t have that advantage (or disadvantage, depending how you look at it).

Also agree on what method will be used for “do you have a minute” communications (i.e., texting, IM, or appointments only).

6. Team development.
In addition to hiring great employees, great managers understand the benefits of building great teams. Make sure all remote employees are included in regular virtual team meetings (this is where we have a leg up on the Romans). Remember that it takes 2-3 times as long to prepare for an effective virtual meeting. Finally, have at least one f2f team meeting per year. Yes, it’s expensive, but well worth the investment in relationship building and teamwork.

7. Feedback.
Make sure your remote employees are getting regular feedback – not just from the manager, but from clients and team members.

8. Keep them connected.
Partner your remote employees up with other team members to collaborate on projects. In addition to promoting interdependency and cross-training, shared goals gives remote employees an opportunity to build trust and relationships with their team members, and provides an opportunity for virtual water cooler chit chat.

9. Learn from others.
It’s great that you’re reading this blog post, good for you! Now go find at least three other managers who have had success managing remote employees and pick their brains.

10. Technology.
I’m thinking if the Romans had access to Skype they probably would have loved it. While technology is not THE answer or a substitute for all of the points above, it can help. As long as it’s used to enhance communications, not to snoop and micro-manage.

In the spirit of learning from others, please share a remote management best practice that’s worked for you in the comments section.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Empowerment is Not Enough

Guest post by David Marquet:

When I took command of the USS Santa Fe I thought I would be a leader who empowered his subordinates. The nuclear powered submarine was not performing well. People were doing what they were told, initiative was non-existent and fear of making mistakes paralyzed most decision makers into inaction. Plagued with poor morale and operational problems, almost every sailor who could was leaving the navy. Retention was at the bottom of the fleet. Based upon my Naval Academy leadership training, I set about inspiring and empowering my men, upholding high standards of professionalism and exhorting the benefits of teamwork.

Shortly after taking command I did what no captain of a nuclear submarine should ever do – I made a mistake. I suggested to the Officer of the Deck, the watch officer who actually orders the submarine’s speed and depth that he order something that was not possible at the time. The startling thing was that he immediately ordered it. He later told me that he knew it wasn’t executable but ordered it anyway because I “told him to.” I realized that we had a crew that was trained for compliance, not critical thinking.

The officers and I gathered in the wardroom to discuss how we were going to survive the next three years. We decided that we’d flip the typical leadership paradigm. Instead of “taking control, making followers” I would “give control, create leaders.”

We found dozens of examples where the way we did business sent the signal that people were supposed to do what they were told, and absolved them of true responsibility. It turns out that if your leadership is based on the belief that there are leaders and there are followers, empowerment is just a band aid for the fact that I’ve turned you into a follower. Once treated like a follower, people act like followers. It saps their passion and initiative.

For example, the briefings we did where we briefed an event before it happened. A brief is an active event for the briefer but passive for everyone else. They “are briefed.” In other words, show up, we’ll tell you what to do. We eliminated all briefs and replaced them with certifications where the junior officers and sailors reported their anticipated actions to a senior officer. that senior officer weighed the depth of the responses and decided whether or not the team was ready to conduct the event.

Officers were encouraged to “check out” with their boss. Typically these checkouts consisted of asking if there was anything else the boss had for them. We eliminated these as well because this again sends the signal that it’s the boss that is responsible for determining what needs to be done in your job, not you. The same is true with the elaborate tracking and “to-do” systems we had so we eliminated those as well.

These, and dozens of other mechanisms shifted the culture on the boat from “you tell me what to do and I’ll do it” to “I’ll figure out what needs to be done, and get it done.”

We learned a tremendous amount as we gave more and more decision making authority to the crew. (we called this control.) We learned that control by itself is not enough, just as empowering people to make decisions is not enough. Control needed to be coupled with higher levels of technical competence and higher levels of organizational clarity in order to align the decision making of the crew. The full story is in the book, Turn the Ship Around! which contains the stories, lessons, and many mechanisms we used.

Santa Fe performed superbly while I served as its captain. The release of intellectual power, distributed decision making, and passion were overwhelming. We went from worst to first in most operational measures including retention. What was special, however, was that the leadership structure embedded the “goodness” of what we did in the people and practices of the submarine which continued to do well long after my departure. Only 10 years later can we assess the true success of that work—with Santa Fe’s continued operational excellence and the implausibly high promotion rates for its officers and crew. This is the legacy of giving control, creating leaders.

About the Author
David Marquet graduated with distinction from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1981, and led a distinguished 28 year career in the United States Navy's Submarine Force, serving on submarines in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. As commander of the nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine USS Santa Fe (SSN 763), stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, David captained a crew that went from being "worst to first." The USS Santa Fe earned numerous awards, including the Arleigh Burke Award for being the most improved ship in the Pacific, as well as the Battle "E" award for most combat effective ship in Submarine Squadron Seven, and for retention excellence. David is also the founder and President of the consulting firm Turn the Ship Around LLC, and creator of the blog Leader - Leader.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

How to be a Leader in a Crappy Culture

It’s easy to be a great leader in a company that values leadership, develops leaders, and is full of role model leaders to earn from.

You’ve seen the lists:

2011 Top Companies for Leaders

The Top 20 Best Companies for Leaders

40 Best Companies for Leaders 2012

25 Top Companies for Leaders

These companies, while not perfect, tend to have great hiring and promotional practices, and invest in succession planning and leadership development. If you somehow slipped through the dragnet and got hired or promoted as a lousy manager, the cultural antibodies would eventually find and dispose of you.

However….what about the rest of us? What about those aspiring wannbe leaders that happen to work at one of the other organizations that don’t make the leadership honor role? Is it impossible to develop into a great leader, and to BE a leader, in a bad company with a crappy culture?

I’d say difficult, yes, but impossible, absolutely not!

I’ve been conducting and managing leadership training programs for over 20 years. In classes where participants are all from the same organizations, it’s inevitable at some point in the program the group gets into a pity party about how their managers, division, or company doesn’t model or support what they are learning.

When I would track the performance of participants after the program, there’s always a handful that somehow manage to implement the new behaviors or skills and achieve positive results, despite having to overcome all of the exact same barriers as the rest of their peers.

Somehow, these outliers are able to establish their own little bubbles of leadership excellence within a culture that doesn’t value and support great leadership.

When I ask these outliers how they manage to do it, their answers are always consistent.

So - other than updating your LinkedIn profile and finding a new company, here are a few things a manager can do to be a leader in a company with a crappy culture:

1. Clarify your non-negotiable leadership principles and stick with them no matter what.
In a tough economy, more and more employees find themselves dug into a position or company that they just can’t afford to leave (at least for now). If you’re in a situation like this, you have to ask yourself how much are you willing to sacrifice when it comes to your leadership principles and values? If you’re not sure, chances are, like a frog in a pot of boiling water, at some point, you’ll end up violating every one of them until you wake up one day, look in the mirror, and not recognize yourself.

If you haven’t already, take the time to develop your own list of leadership principles, values, or rules. Then, given your current culture, ask yourself “which ones am I willing to be fired over?”

It’s not as scary or risky as it sounds. Everybody has a line they won’t cross – yours just happens to be your leadership principles.

2. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” - Mahatma Gandhi
When it comes to developing and encouraging leadership, actions speak louder than words. Be a safe haven for other aspiring leaders to come out of the closet. In a crappy leadership culture, role model leaders are few and far between. If you’re being a leader, people will be lining up at your door looking for advice, coaching, and mentoring.

3. Keep a positive attitude.
In a crappy work environment, complaining becomes the norm because there’s so much to complain about. Without going overboard and coming across as out-of-touch or not caring, try to avoid the sarcasm, cynicism, finger pointing, and complaining. They’re all toxic behaviors that will suck the life out of yourself and those around you.

4. Protect your employees.
In a crappy culture, bullies think it’s OK to disrespect and abuse people. After all, that’s the way they were treated. Don’t let it happen to your employees. Let the bullies know that your employees are off limits, and if you need to, pick the biggest bully and give them a bloody nose. Metaphorically, of course. (-:

5. Be an advocate for your peers.
Leadership isn’t just about standing up for your own employees – it’s about standing up for your peers as well. In an environment where people are used to being routinely stabbed in the back, having someone stand up for them will be like a breadth of fresh air. Once they realize you’re sincere and have no political agenda, you’ll begin to establish productive relationships and plant the seeds for their own development as leaders.

6. Establish and maintain your own standards of performance and behavior.
Sure, the company may have set the bar so low that any warm body can meet expectations. High performers can give up and poor performers can settle in. That doesn’t mean your standards can’t be higher – much higher. Assess your team using a performance and potential grid and put a plan in place to develop those with potential and gradually weed out the bad apples.

7. Do what’s doable and within your control.
Regardless of company culture, a manager still can control how often and well he/she:

- listens

- shows respect

- praises

- involves others

- celebrates success

- shows appreciation

- develops others

None of these require approval from top management or HR and don’t cost a dime.

Still think it can’t be done? Stay tuned for this week’s guest post, from David Marquet, who captained a Navy submarine crew and took them from “worst to first”.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Importance of Succession Planning and Talent Management: A CEO’s Perspective

Guest post by Irv Rothman:

When considering the characteristics of an excellent leader, what are the key elements? Is it the ability to develop a clear and inspiring vision? Is it the ability to make a decision even without perfect information? Is it the ability to recognize sources of sustainable competitive advantage? And then, drive execution accordingly? Is it the ability to make tough choices? Does the leader rightfully stand on the moral high ground?

If you answered all of the above and believe that’s not nearly an all-inclusive list, you’d probably be right. However, I firmly believe that, at least as important as what’s on the above (or your) list, is the leader’s diligence in ensuring that he/she can be readily replaced. In other words, having a successor/succession plan.

How many times have we seen this happen recently? The guy at Yahoo gets axed for falsifying his academic records. The guy at Best Buy gets kicked out for misconduct and misuse of his office. The guy at HP is let go because he was a bad fit to begin with and made too many bad choices.

And what ensued after each one of these examples (and I’m sure you can cite others), nothing less than turmoil and its subsequent consequence; i.e., plummeting stock prices. In none of the cases I mentioned, was there a successor or a succession plan. And stuff like this happens all the time! CEO’s don’t only get fired for poor performance, and you can usually see it coming, thus providing ample opportunity to consider succession choices. To be unprepared is inexcusable.

I don’t want to spend too much time on who’s at fault; I would rather provide you with some thoughts on how to avoid such developments. And I will. But, briefly, in every instance, start with the Board of Directors. Failure to have a CEO succession plan is nothing short of dereliction of duty. Then look to the CEO, some of whom, fearing competition, don’t even want to deal with the notion of a succession plan.

From my perspective, succession planning and its sister initiative, talent management, must both be ingrained in a corporate culture. Sure, you need to be concerned about CEO succession, but, it should not be limited to that one role. Rather, succession planning and talent management must pertain to all leadership levels. Without talent management at all leadership levels, it is virtually impossible to have a meaningful succession plan.

So, how is it done? Well, organizations take their cue from the top. It starts with a commitment from the top. It starts with a commitment from the CEO and his or her leadership to create a talent management program that has structure and discipline. And, further, to conduct regular periodic reviews so as to assess progress or lack thereof and make changes, additions or upgrades.

Sounds good, right? Simple, right? It isn’t. Many senior leadership teams like to focus on strategy, financial results, products, customers, and the competition. Going through a talent management review, moving people around? Maybe not so much.

That’s why I observed that leadership development must be ingrained in a corporate culture. Accomplishing leadership development begins with a successful talent management program. Start with identifying which leadership characteristics are most important to your company. “Technical expertise” is a given, but I’m referring to an individual’s makeup or behavioral characteristics. Is the individual a collaborator or a lone wolf? A team builder or a dictator? A risk taker or an ultra-conservative? Willing to take responsibility for results, good or bad? Relocatable? Communicator? Capable of considering broad, cross company implications or only concerned with his or her little patch? A systemic thinker?

Create your own list and once you’ve done so, individually assess people against it, beginning with the CEO’s own direct reports and cascading out to all leadership levels throughout your organization. Keep in mind that all leaders are not alike, typically there are broad differences as to development stage. Assess that as well and you’ll come up with a subset list of people with the most potential, another subset list of those who still have work to do to get there, etc.

It is absolutely worth it to take that high potential list and to customize a development plan for each person. Furthermore, it is extremely useful to have an open and honest conversation about what openings or opportunities may be upcoming and to slot people in accordingly. A leadership team that can accomplish this truly demonstrates commitment to leadership development. A team that squabbles, with team members unwilling to “give up” their high potential talent, is only paying lip service and eventually will be the poorer for it.

All of this requires time, typically in short supply, and discipline. You can’t build a leadership cadre with outside hires. While external perspective can be useful, it is expensive with a 50/50 success ratio. Are you willing to bet the future on 50/50? If not, put in the effort, I’m confident you’ll be pleased with the results and it has the added benefit of sending a tremendous message of encouragement to all your employees.

Irv Rothman Bio:

Irv Rothman is the President and CEO of HP Financial Services, a wholly own subsidiary of Hewlett-Packard Company. In his latest book Out-Executing the Competition: Building and Growing a Financial Services Company (Wiley; July 31, 2012), Rothman takes you behind the scenes of his remarkable experiences leading some of the most important—and profitable—financial services businesses in recent memory. With over forty years on the front lines, Rothman has seen firsthand what makes a great leader, and in Out-Executing the Competition, he explains how the lessons he's learned—an unwavering commitment to core principles coupled with open-minded adaptability and a passion for innovation—have informed his career.
All royalties from the sales of OUT-EXECUTING THE COMPETITION are being donated to Room to Read, an international charitable organization dedicated to promoting children's literacy with a particular focus on undeveloped and disadvantaged countries.
More information about Irv Rothman and OUT-EXECUTING THE COMPETITION can be found at Follow Irv on Twitter:

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

45 Executive Development Program Tools and Techniques

A great executive development program should be more than lots of lectures and a few case studies. Participants need to be engaged through a variety of creative approaches.

Dr. Elizabeth Weldon, a leading expert in executive development, recently conducted research for UNICON on what it takes to be effective in designing and conducting executive education programs.

In one of the reports, she included the most comprehensive list of tools and techniques that an instructor could use that I’ve ever come across.

The list below is reprinted with permission from Dr. Weldon. See how many of them you are familiar with. For the full report with details, and other free research reports, go to the UNICON website and look under the “research” tab.

1. Analogically situated experience

2. Service learning.

3. Arts-based learning.

4. Case analysis.

5. Learning journals.

6. Reflection papers.

7. Reflection session.

8. Managerial exchange.

9. Organization assessment questionnaires.

10. Individual assessment tools.

11. Personal coaching.

12. Team coaching.

13. Action learning projects.

14. Study trips.

15. Simulations and role plays.

16. Peer consulting on a personal case.

17. Stories.

18. Guided visualization.

19. Imagining the future leadership self.

20. 50-50 rule.

21. Five Tricks card game.

22. SEWA Beats drumming.

23. Round Robin.

24. DeepDive.

25. Participant led sessions.

26. Participant experts.

27. Volunteer intervention.

28. How to be a curious learner.

29. Social networking tools.

30. Program website.

31. Need to know groups.

32. Goal setting.

33.Alumni presentations.

34. Reflection session.

35. Reports to coworkers.

36. Impact diaries.

37. Provocation.

38. Team teaching.

39. Buzz groups.

40. Buzz boards.

41. Breakout/learning groups.

42. Build all possible connections among participants.

43. Move people around.

44. Be animated.

45. Move around the room.

Did you know them all? I sure didn't.

Can you think of anything that's missing? If so, please add to the list in the comments section.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Stop Bad Email, But Not All Email

Guest post by David Grossman. My favorite email pet peeve? People who don't know the difference between when to use "reply" vs. "reply all". (-:

Email was designed as a tool to help us communicate more efficiently. Ironically, our use of email – the most common communication tool in organizations today – makes us less efficient and in many cases makes our communication less effective.

Email overload is a reality in today’s business world. As leaders, we see the impacts first hand: employee stress, inefficiency in the workplace, work-life balance concerns and the list goes on.

From a big picture perspective, the facts on email tell quite a story:

• In 2010, roughly 107 trillion emails were sent – 294 billion emails every day (

• The average user reaches information overload when their inbox hits 50 emails (Harris Interactive)

The sheer amount of email is causing stress in organizations. So the $64,000 question is – as a leader, what can you specifically do to address it?

Some organizations have taken a dramatic approach in an attempt to correct email overload, instituting no email days at work or simply eliminating email as a communication tool. Our recently released research, the 2012 Work-related Email Perception Study, provides unique insight into the workers’ perception of these strategies across role and function.

Simply put, employees want problem email behaviors addressed and reigned in, but they do not want their ability to use email eliminated or limited.

The data we collected tells quite a story:

Email is seen as an effective and necessary communication tool by more than three-quarters of all audiences (executives – 84 percent; middle managers – 83 percent; employees – 77 percent)

Limiting email outside normal business hours is seen very effective by few (executives – 11 percent; middle managers – 20 percent; employees – 13 percent)

Limiting email during normal business hours carries even less support (executives – 8 percent; middle managers – 15 percent; employees – 11 percent)

What are employees looking for when it comes to email overload? They want guidelines that address the seemingly endless amount of irrelevant email that hits their inbox each day. While just about everyone with an email account is feeling the pain, middle managers are particularly affected by irrelevant email.

Our study revealed an average middle manager spends 6,000 minutes (100 hours) on irrelevant email over the course of a year. Additionally, irrelevant email costs an average supervisor 5,250 minutes (87.5 hours) and an average employee 4,250 minutes (71 hours) every year.

Regardless of the size of your organization, those hours add up fast.

Here are four steps to help you understand the effect of email stress in your organization and move toward a solution:

1. Generate a baseline understanding of email overload in your organization. Know what problem email behaviors are impacting your employees, causing stress and limiting productivity.

2. Create email guidelines consistent with your culture. Align your organization around the best uses of email as a communication tool. Agree on when – and how quickly – responses are required.

3. Practice what you preach. As a leader, all eyes are on you. Ensure that you’re following the same behaviors you expect to see from others in your organization.

4. Train employees on email use, and help them self-identify the behaviors they need to correct. No one wants to be singled out as the cause of a problem – particularly one that affects people so deeply. With a little humor, you can embed the right email behaviors in your organization in a non-threatening way.

Problem email behaviors can be addressed. Remember, everyone has skin in this game.

With a clear approach you can build understanding throughout your organization on how email can be used the way it was intended – to make individuals and organizations more efficient in their communications. In doing so, you’ll elevate the overall level of communications in your organization and help everyone remember the value of face-to-face and voice-to-voice communications.

For more information and resources related to the 2012 Work-related Email Perception Study visit

About David Grossman and The Grossman Group
A leading consultant, speaker and author, David Grossman is one of America's foremost authorities on communication inside organizations and is founder and CEO of The Grossman Group (, an award-winning Chicago-based communications consultancy focusing on organizational consulting, strategic leadership development and internal communications for Fortune 500 clients. David is often quoted in media and provides expert commentary and analysis on employee and leadership issues.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Succession Planning Basics: the Template

I’ve written posts on how to do succession planning, why do succession planning, why not to do succession planning, how to achieve better gender balance through succession planning, and a boatload of other posts on the topic.

However, one thing I have not shared with readers of Great Leadership is what an actual succession plan looks like.

When someone refers to a “succession plan”, they are usually talking about one of three things:

1. A concept, idea, prediction, or hope, with nothing actually documented.

2. A comprehensive set of documents, often used in formal Board of Director or senior leadership meetings, that include replacement charts for key positions, position profiles, performance and potential grids, development plans, executive profiles, competency models, company and talent management strategy, and other various documents. While smart companies have done their best to streamline these documents down to the essential few, many companies still refer to this ten pound stack of documents as “the book”.

3. A replacement chart, or template.

I’ve written about and provided examples of most of the other pieces, but have never described the actual replacement chart. I guess that’s because it just seemed too obvious, but if you’ve never done it before, it helps to have a few examples. In fact, I’ve found that when it comes to explaining to executives how to complete a succession plan, they’ll ignore any detailed verbal or written instructions you give them and just intuitively fill out whatever form you provide them. 90% of the time they get it roughly right, the rest will call you with questions.

When I did a Google search for “succession plan templates”, most of what I found was, IMHO, not very useful. Granted, a good succession plan should be more than a few names scrawled on the back of a napkin, but in practical reality, that's often all you need to make most decisions.

It doesn’t matter if you’re designing a software system or using forms, here are the “data elements” that should always be included, along with instructions. Use them to create your own unique form:

1. Position: this is the position you’re planning to replace some day – usually just a handful of mission-critical positions., often "C level".

2. Incumbent: the person occupying the position today.

3. Candidates: names of individuals that have the potential to step into the position. There’s no magic number, but typically about 3. They are usually internal, but could be external as well.

4. Readiness rating for each candidate: some indicator of how ready the candidate is to step into the role, i.e., “immediately, within 1-2 years, within 2-5 years”, or a rating, like “high, medium, and low”, or “green, yellow, and red”, or “when #$%& freezes over”. (-:

That’s really about it. Organizations will sometimes include pictures of the incumbent and candidates and present them on an organization chart - a good HR software package will do this for you.

Sure, there are other fields you could include, but just make sure the information is absolutely essential. The details can be included in supporting documents. For example, additional information about the candidates can be included in position profiles and development plans.

Here are some other elements you might want to include:

1. Top 3 development needs for each candidates

2. Top 3 development actions for each candidate

3. Demographic information for each candidate, i.e., age, gender, EEO category, location, current position, wage grade, etc…

4. Performance and potential rating for each candidate, i.e., “3A, “1B”, etc…

5. Assessment information (performance ratings, potential assessments, behavioral assessments, etc…)

6. Retention risk (for incumbent and candidates)

7. Relocatability for candidates (willingness to move)

I’m sure there’s more, but again, more isn’t always better. I’m a big believer in the K.I.S.S. method of succession planning. As my friend Alex always used to tell me, "just because we can collect the information doesn’t mean we should".

Can you think of anything else than an organization might want to include? Please leave a comment if you know of any.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The August 2012 Leadership Developmen​t Carnival

The August 2012 Leadership Developmen​t Carnival is hosting this month by Sharlyn Lauby over at her HR Bartender blog.

You can read it right here.

Sharlyn has once again done an awesome job collecting, screening, and organizing this month's collection of leadership & leadership development posts from many of my favorite bloggers.

As a bonus, she's asked each contributor to share what's on their summer reading list and included a twitter list so that you can easily follow each blog.

Thanks Sharlyn!

The Carnival returns here to Great Leadership next month, 9/2/2012. If you would like to submit a recent post, email it to me at danmccarth at gmail dot com, no later than 9/1. Include your name, name of the author (if different than yours), name of your blog and the title of your post (with links to both).

I can't guarantee it will be published, but if it is, you'll be sure to grab some attention and new readers. Of course, we also ask that you do your share to promote the Carnival with a mention on your blog and your other social media outlets.

Happy summer reading!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Rembrandt and Leadership

Guest post by William F. Baker & Evan Leatherwood:
In addition to being a great painting, Rembrandt’s “Head of Christ,” reveals two traits that great leaders and great artists share: the willingness to persist past the initial round of success and failure in life, and the courage to find a true mission and serve it.

Rembrandt painted the “Head of Christ” in about 1649, in the middle of the most prolific and also the most brutal period of his life. From 1635 to 1660, he endured the death of his wife and three sons, and a long slow descent from wealth to poverty. But as his sufferings became greater, so did his paintings. The works of Rembrandt’s final quarter century, made in terrible adversity, are universally considered the best of his career.

Rembrandt’s genius came only with maturity. It was not until he was in his late 30s that he even started painting in a style different from his peers. He had long been known as the most technically skilled painter of his generation, but it was only after being seasoned by success and (perhaps more important) failure that his full talent emerged. When he painted the “Head of Christ,” Rembrandt was forty-three, already an old man by the standards of the 1600s. Had he allowed himself to coast on his previous success, or be crippled by his private suffering, he would never have had the chance to do his best work.

Like great artists, great leaders change and mature over time. As students of leadership, we find that the most powerful lessons come from mature leaders. They have learned how to cope with both failure and success. Their experience with employees is long and deep. And they have at some point understood that no leader emerges from youth with a perfect record.

The “Head of Christ” embodies another quality great leaders and great artists share: authenticity. Rather than depict Jesus with an idealized northern European face, as his contemporaries did, Rembrandt found a young Sephardic Jew from an Amsterdam ghetto and used him as a model.

Truly effective leadership is built on this kind of authenticity. If you strive only for commercial success, you are not striving for enough. In fact, you are probably holding yourself back.

Leaders that make their companies great are driven by an authentic sense of mission, not just a demand for mere competence. There are many missions that can drive a company: providing the best customer service, guarding the safety of consumers, offering reliable news and information, making the best hot dog—take your pick. The gravity of the mission doesn’t matter. For a leader, the most important thing is to share a company’s mission with the employees. Malaise, lack of focus, and all the other chronic problems that make being a manager so hard can be swept away by a sense of mission, held authentically and shared effectively.

So even if your work is not what is traditionally called creative, lifelong persistence and an authentic sense of mission can help turn your company or your career into a masterpiece.

About the authors:
William F. Baker is President Emeritus of WNET-Thirteen, New York’s PBS station, and co-author of Every Leader is an Artist, out this month from McGraw-Hill. Evan Leatherwood is a freelance writer.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Employee Engagement: Energizing and Mobilizing People

Guest post by by Dr. George H. Labovitz and Victor Rosansky:

Rapid realignment is only possible when employees are energized to move the organization in a new and better direction. Energizing the system from top to bottom is a key task of leadership. But rapid realignment needs energy that is focused, that drives continuous improvement and works to achieve the organization's purpose. This energy comes when an employee is engaged, so let's take a look at what engagement is all about.

In its workplace studies, Gallup, Inc. reports that the typical world-class company has a high percentage of engaged employees (67 percent), a smaller cadre of "not engaged" people (25 percent), and a tiny group (7 percent) of what it calls "actively disengaged" personnel. By comparison, in companies with average performance, only 33 percent are engaged, 49 percent are not engaged, and disturbingly high 18 percentage of employees are actively disengaged -- coasting along and picking up their pay checks, gaming the system, and sucking the energy out everyone around them.

Engaged Versus Aligned

Engaged and aligned are two different things, and they don't always travel together. Research by the Corporate Executive Board has found that 40 percent of "engaged" employees do not align their behavior with organizational goals. Overall, it concludes that only one in 10 employees is both engaged and aligned with strategy. Clearly, many managers are failing to connect people with the strategies they are emotionally prepared to support with their daily work. This represents a huge lost opportunity.

Employee engagement, and the participative management practices that go with it, are not a panacea for every business problem. But we've seen them pay off time and again. For example, an employee engagement program at a Warner-Lambert plant led to a 21 percent increase in production and a 10 percent decrease in costs over a one-year period. A Canadian firm that engaged its employees in office space planning attributed a 15 percent productivity increase to that program.

How Leaders Encourage Engagement

If you agree that engaged employee improve results, then you're probably wondering what you can do to make it happen. We recommend that you do three things: listen, create a common purpose, and give people greater ownership of their work. Let's consider them in order.


The motto of Dartmouth College is vox clamantis in deserto: A voice crying out in the wilderness. In our experience, we've heard those voices many times. We've found that managers and employees usually want to participate and to influence the design of processes and systems that affect them. They want to make things better. And they usually do so when given opportunities to engage and share what they know.

Create a Common Purpose

Help people to understand what must be accomplished, why their work is worthwhile, and how they can accomplish their goals. We recommend the following:

1. Keep people continually connected to the environment in which they operate. They must understand what is at stake.

2. Help people think holistically. People can't make good decisions if they cannot see the big picture.

3. Always keep people connected to The Main Thing of the entire enterprise.

4. Reward and recognize people for working toward The Main Thing.

5. Use the review process to carry the message to employees.

6. Create opportunities for people to communicate and interact.

Give People Greater Ownership of Their Work

Good bosses understand the value of giving their subordinates a long leash. Over the years, we have asked thousands of managers and workers to think of the best boss they ever had. We then ask: "What did that person do to qualify as your best boss?" We almost always get the same responses:

- My best boss listened!

- My best boss backed me up.

- My best boss trusted me and respected me.

- My best boss gave me feedback

- My best boss left me alone.

When asked, "Were you engaged? Did you work hard for your best boss? Come in early, stay late?" The response was always an enthusiastic "Yes!" Those "best boss" behaviors are the building blocks of participative management. Participative management is the foundation of quality and process improvement programs and the key to employee engagement.

- When should you consider using a participative management approach? We suggest the best times are when:

- You don't know the answer either.

- You want input and buy in

- You are managing change

© 2012 Dr. George H. Labovitz and Victor Rosansky, authors of Rapid Realignment: How to Quickly Integrate People, Processes, and Strategy for Unbeatable Performance

Author Bios:
Dr. George H. Labovitz, co-author of Rapid Realignment: How to Quickly Integrate People, Processes, and Strategy for Unbeatable Performance, is the founder and CEO of ODI, an international management training and consulting company, and professor of management and organizational behavior at the Boston University Graduate School of Management.

Victor Rosansky, co-author of Rapid Realignment: How to Quickly Integrate People, Processes, and Strategy for Unbeatable Performance, is co-founder and president of LHR International, Inc. He has more than 25 years of experience as a consultant, helping Fortune 500 clients to drive rapid strategy deployment and alignment.

For more information about the book please visit and Amazon.