Friday, May 30, 2014

15 Ways to Pee on a Brainstorming Session

“Brainstorming” is a meeting technique that is supposed to encourage a group on people to come up with lots innovative ideas.

Unfortunately, so many people think they know how to brainstorm, but end up doing more harm than good.

Read my new article over at Management and Leadership for 15 Ways to Rain on a Brainstorming Session.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Kicking Leadership Clichés

Guest post from Georg Vielmetter and Yvonne Sell:
In “Leadership 2030: The six megatrends you need to understand to lead your company into the future,” we outline the repercussions of the convergence of globalization 2.0, the environmental crisis, increased individualism and value pluralism, digitization, demographic change and technological convergence.

As these six megatrends develop in parallel, each feeds on and intensifies the others. The meaning of leadership is changing, as are the skills it requires. In this new era, old work clichés will no longer apply, and new ones will evolve in their places.
It’s no longer lonely at the top

The world has grown too complex for a single person to lead through it, and leadership can no longer be considered an individual effort. Growing individualism is diversifying stakeholders and shifting power away from leaders to employees. Further, an era of simultaneous global expansion and company consolidation is necessitating that leaders work alongside competitors, not against them.

In the era of big collaboration, the ethicization of business, and the complexity that comes with globalization 2.0, the top should be a crowded place. Leadership is, after all, a social practice, and 2030 leaders will recognize this.

The financial market already recognizes it: In an academic study of 30 public companies that announced co-CEO arrangements, the average stock return that could be attributed to the announcement was 2.58 percent. It’s not just co-CEO structures like those at Whole Foods and Chipotle that are getting attention: In late 2013, Zappos announced that it was abandoning hierarchy for “holacracy,” a flat structure without titles where leadership responsibilities ebb and flow among employees.

As stakeholders proliferate and new working practices erode leaders’ positional power and authority, we’ll see an increased need for leaders at all levels to engage with stakeholders and put customers and others at the heart of decisions. Doing so means not making decisions in isolation, and certainly not grabbing the spotlight. Great leaders will need to be great collaborators, guiding teams and companies forward by providing a long-term vision, creating group harmony, achieving consensus and generating new ideas. In this new era, leadership will fluctuate – employees and executives may find themselves leaders in one context, and followers in another. Indeed, Hay Group research has repeatedly noted that the best companies for leadership develop leaders at all levels.
It’s no longer lonely at the top. It can’t be. Going forward, it’ll be networks that get you noticed.

Old dogs need to learn new tricks
To be agile, leaders must accept new technologies they do not always understand and cannot control. The fastest-growing Twitter demographic, for example, is 55 to 64 years old, and the commercial value of nanotechnologies, bitcoin and data automation must be weighed even as executives are learning exactly what it is they’re putting on the scale. Though they may lack digital and technological expertise, executives will need to acquire digital and technological wisdom.

As technologies converge, entire disciplines will have to work together in new ways. Scientific convergence and big collaboration may create a new kind of ‘organizational convergence.’ Leaders will have to go much farther than their usual efforts to break down silos and create collaborative platforms, and they will be called on to manage vast knowledge pools and coordinate the skills of experts from myriad fields.

This demand for agility and adaptability – to “learn it or lose it” – will require humility and inner strength, especially for old dogs: Ego maturity, intellectual security and emotional openness will be hallmarks of “altrocentric” 2030 leaders who put others’ needs first. Egocentric personalities who cannot shift their mindsets – the dogs that don’t learn – will be left by the proverbial road side.

If you seek to be feared – or loved – you’re missing the point
Being feared is the last thing the leaders of 2030 should be. “Inc. Magazine” named democratization of the workplace a 2014 business trend to watch, and when people have the power, they are less willing to tolerate coercive leaders who follow Machiavelli’s 16th-century mantra. This is especially relevant now that the war for talent has become a global competition: Hay Group estimates that two-fifths of the global workforce plan to leave their jobs within five years.

Nor is being loved an appropriate goal, though old-style egocentric executives may seek love as often as they seek fear to feed their own narcissism. Love can also hint that not all stakeholder viewpoints – many of which are conflicting – are receiving due attention.
Rather than aiming for love or fear, the emotionally mature, altrocentric leader who puts others’ needs first strives instead for developing shared meaning, an understanding of purpose, and strong values. Leadership, then, becomes about trust – both earning it and exercising it.

Future leaders recognize that to sow trust is to reap loyalty, to play a proverb into a new cliché. But trust cannot be demanded – few statements are so perverse as the “trust me!” declared without context or supportive action to an audience of strangers. Altrocentric leaders understand the need to take the first step by trusting others to deliver. They are willing and able to delegate authority, creating the conditions for others to act with purpose and meaning within clear boundaries that create direction and set necessary limits. This “bounded autonomy” is both the greatest weapon in the war for talent and the greatest accelerant of strategy and innovation.
What other leadership clichés do you see falling by the wayside as our world grows smaller and faster?

Georg Vielmetter, Ph.D., is the European regional director of Hay Group’s Leadership and Talent practice, where he works with executives and top teams on leadership transformation at both the organizational and the employee level. Reach him at or @GVielmetter. Yvonne Sell, Ph.D., is Hay Group’s Director of Leadership and Talent for the United Kingdom and Ireland. She researches emotional intelligence and has considerable experience helping leaders improve results by implementing competency systems and creating processes to identify, manage and develop talent. Reach her at

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

10 Things Your Company Won’t Tell You About Succession Planning

This post recently appeared in SmartBlog on Leadership:

I’ve managed formal succession planning systems for a number of large companies and consulted with quite a few smaller companies. I network with others that do the same, and keep up with the latest succession planning current practices, trends, and challenges.

I’m a bona fide succession planning insider, and I know what goes on behind the scenes.
Here are 10 things your company probably isn’t telling you about succession planning:

1. You’re on “the list”. While “transparency” is the buzzword in succession planning best practices, the reality is that most companies are still pretty secretive when it comes to sharing their succession plans. You might get hints that you are considered “high potential”, or even told that you are in a high potential program, but you probably won’t be told if you are on a formal succession plan or whose plan you may be on.
2. You may be on your bosses’ list, but you didn’t make the cut for the final list. Here’s how this happens: your boss is asked for a list of either succession plan candidates for his/her position, or a list of high potentials. Other bosses are also asked for their lists. Those lists get sent up the chain of command are compared and calibrated in talent review meetings, and usually names are dropped or added. Your boss is never informed of the changes, and assumes you’re on the list and tells you. You mistakenly think you’re being groomed for the next level and end up being disappointed when you are not considered as a candidate for that big opportunity.

3. You’re no longer on “the list”. While some companies do a decent job of informing their star employees that they are “in the program”, they do a lousy job telling them 1-2 years later that they got dropped from the program. High potential lists change from year to year – just because you on considered hipo one year doesn’t mean you are anointed for life.
4. You are under the microscope and always being sized up. Once you are identified as having high potential, you’ll be under a raised level of scrutiny. That “stretch assignment” you’ve been offered for your development? It’s a test, so don’t screw it up. That “safe learning environment” they told you about in the high potential training program? You’re being watched – don’t make an ass of yourself.

5. We expect you to be committed. Organizations consider “commitment” as an important element of what it means to be high potential. That means being willing to put in long hours, relocate, and bleed the company colors. If you are not – well, that’s OK, you still may be considered a valued employee, but it may take you off a few succession lists.
6. Development moves are risky, with a high rate of failure. Job changes to new and unfamiliar territory (new function, new country, new line of business) are considered to be the best and highest payoff type of development, hands down. And no doubt, they are.  However, after about 6 months, everybody soon forgets that this was supposed to be a “developmental assignment” for you and will start getting impatient if you are not performing at a high level. No matter what you were told, you’ll be expected to perform and get results sooner than later.

7. That “special developmental project”? You’ll be expected to do that, plus your regular job. High potentials are expected to step up and find a way. No one is going to do your regular work for you.
8. Your status is tied to your boss’s ability to represent you and advocate for you. “C player” bosses have no credibility when it comes to nominating their own employees for high potential programs. Also, some bosses do a better job “selling” their employees to their peers and boss than others do. You’ll help yourself by helping your boss be successful and making sure he/she is aware of your accomplishments.

9 Your status is also tied to what others think of you. It’s not just your bosses’ opinion of your performance and potential that carries weight. Again, these decisions are usually made in “talent review” meetings, where everyone (your boss’s peers) gets to have a say. So don’t tick off your boss’s peers, their perceptions matter!
10. You’re responsible for your own development. While you might be lucky enough to work for a progressive company that actually invests in the development of their high potentials (they don’t just make up lists), unfortunately, most don’t. And even if you did, you’re better off not leaving your development up to someone else.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

How to Get Your Team Marching Towards a Shared Vision

A key element of leadership is the ability to come up with a “vision” – an inspirational description of where the leader would like to take the organization – and then get others to follow that vision.

“Alignment” is getting everyone on the same page and marching in the same direction.

Read my new article over at Management and Leadership for a very detailed, step-by-step guide on How to Align Your Team Around a Shared Vision.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Optimal Margin of Illusion

Guest post from Robert Bruce Shaw:

Research into the psychology of leadership highlights the benefit of being more confident than you should be. That is, it helps to believe you're better than you are, and be more optimistic about your company and business, than an entirely objective analysis would warrant. This kind of positive bias is useful because it increases your motivation to move forward in risky situations, and to persevere when you're faced with difficulties. Overconfidence, all things being equal, tends to make you -- and those around you -- behave in ways that are more likely to result in a positive outcome.
There is a danger, of course, when confidence becomes too detached from reality, and results in certain blindspots -- that is, unrecognized weaknesses or threats that have the potential to undermine your success. It's important to be aware of these blindspots because they expose you and your company to a variety of risks. The challenge, then, is to strike a productive balance between the confidence you need to be successful and the doubt you need to identify and address the weaknesses that matter. When you strike the right balance, you have developed what some call the "Optimal Margin of Illusion."

Sustaining this balance is not easy as you can easily fall off in one direction or the other -- either having too much or too little confidence, too much or too little doubt. The key to success is developing techniques that enable you to recognize and address your blindspots without eroding your confidence. Approaches for identifying and overcoming blindspots include the following:
·        See It for Yourself. One of the pitfalls leaders in large organizations face is losing touch with their customers and employees as they move up in their companies. As a result, they can easily make inaccurate assumptions simply because of the distance between their day–to-day experiences and what is really going on in their firms. For that reason, you should strive to have regular, ongoing, direct contact with your customers, your front-line employees, and even your competitors.
·        Seek Out Disconfirming Data. Leaders will sometimes seek out data that confirms their own beliefs and discount or ignore contradictory information. In order to avoid this, you should establish metrics for assessing your assumptions about what is occurring around you. You also need metrics and review processes that provide you with accurate data and keep you from being overly optimistic or biased in your perceptions.
·        Develop Peripheral Vision. Savvy leaders have the ability to recognize subtle signs of potential problems and understand which are worthy of their attention and follow-up. To do so, you have to learn how to "read between the lines" of what people say, or don't say, in meetings, and be able to see wherever there are gaps, or hidden issues, in the data presented by those who report to you. Developing an understanding of what questions to ask and when to ask them is an important skill for leaders seeking to avoid blindspots. 
·        Rely on Trusted Advisors. Recognizing our own blindspots sometimes requires us to get feedback from others who have insights that we may lack. In order to accomplish this, it's advisable for you to develop a trusted cohort of people who will offer you specific and honest feedback in targeted areas. For example, you may need someone who can challenge your thinking in regard to your firm's strategy or a different person who does the same in regard to talent within your organization. You don't necessarily have to act on the feedback, but it's important that you understand the views of others in support or opposition to your own thinking.
·        Promote Productive Fights. The British philosopher David Hume once wrote that "Truth springs from arguments among friends." As a leader, then, it is to your advantage to have a team of individuals with whom you can test your ideas and discuss potential problems. In developing this team, however, it is essential that you make sure it's comprised of individuals who respect each other but are also willing to disagree in order to achieve the best outcomes for the organization. It is equally important that the members of the group have diverse views, because when everyone thinks alike there are few areas for disagreement and debate, and the potential benefits of having a team are thus diminished.
The above approaches will help you identify and manage the blindspots that all of us have. The goal is to find the "Optimal Margin of Illusion", which enables you to strike the right balance between confidence and doubt. That is, it will provide you with enough illusion to create hope and sustain confidence, in yourself as well as in your team, without blinding you to the reality of the risks and challenges you must face every day.

Author Bio:
Robert Bruce Shaw
, author of Leadership Blindspots: How Successful Leaders Identify and Overcome the Weaknesses That Matter, works with senior executives on the management of strategic organizational change and leadership development. His clients span a variety of industries including pharmaceuticals, animal health, financial services, telecommunications, industrial products, defense, power utilities, technology and consumer goods. Robert holds a Ph.D. degree in organizational behavior from Yale University. More about Robert, his work, and his new book can be found at

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Read this Before You Hire an Executive Coach!

Beth Armknecht Miller has the opportunity to coach 100s of executives over the years. She knows when she's walking into a no-win coaching engagement.

Read Beth's new post over at my About Management & Leadership site called When is Coaching a Bad Idea?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Learning from your Worst Bosses

I get a lot of emails from readers telling me about their horrible bosses and asking for advice on how to fix them. Unfortunately, the advice and coaching that I’ve been offering for over 20 years is for managers that want to become better leaders. There’s not a lot you can do to fix a bad boss that isn’t interested in improving.

But – the good news is that we can still learn from those horrible bosses.

Read my new article at About Management & Leadership: 10 Leadership Lessons from Horrible Bosses.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Leadership That Gets Results

Guest post from David Bradford:

As I have labored in industry for 40 years, I have worked for some remarkable leaders from Eric Schmidt to Ray Noorda.
I have also observed up close and personal the leadership styles of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Scott McNealy, Mitt Romney and a number of others.  Here are three ways I have seen leadership demonstrated powerfully- the type of leadership that gets results.  A great leader has: 

1. Compassion

2. Transparency

3. With Great People Surrounding Them

The art of leadership begins and ends with true compassion. The greatest leaders for whom I have worked showed true caring and concern for their employees. Breaking down the walls between "management and the average employees take thought and skill. At Hirevue, we call our employees our team members. That's from top to bottom. We want everyone feeling valued in the organization. When people feel valued, a feeling of trust infuses itself throughout an organization. And when trust exists, business accelerates.  People aren't wondering if they are going to be fired. Instead, they are trying to find ways to advance the organization. According to one study done several years ago in Australia, 77 companies were studied and researchers saw a direct correlation between compassion and productivity. Compassion separates the good leader from the great leader. Mark Newman, the current CEO of Hirevue, never misses flowers on executive assistant's day; notes of caring when someone loses a loved one or making sure everyone in the organization feels cared for. 

Another way to break down walls and engender trust is by being transparent.  Let them know what the board of directors is saying. Let them know about your financial goals.  Ray Noorda, the father of computer networking, demonstrated this every day, every week, every month. He would hold a regular global monthly meeting known affectionately as "ray's members' meeting."  The PowerPoint would be pulled up and a careful discussion of the company's goals and our failure to reach those goals or our achievement thereof was regularly scrutinized.  Then the meeting was open up to questions. That was the longest part of each monthly meeting and probably the most useful. There was a clear transparency on the numbers as well as on ray's answers to questions.

I have a dear friend who played in the NFL for a number of years - Chad Lewis.  Chad wrote a book with this exact title. It really resonates. Prior to becoming a CEO myself, the title of chief executive officer held some form of mystical power. You would think that the CEO was the incarnated aggregation of every great quality and skill set. What I discovered when I became a CEO is that all CEO's have their faults, their downsides, and blindspots. The great CEO's are those who surround themselves with great people who can augment and supplement where needed. I have observed Bill Gates management style for years- a couple of times up close and personal but mostly from afar.  We batted head to head in the marketplace with Novell and Microsoft.  But what I always admired about Bill was the quality of people he hired.  They were smart with a capital S

David Bradford, “The Bottlecap Kid”, is Executive Chairman and former CEO of HireVue, former CEO of Fusion-io, and a member of the Utah Technology Council Hall of Fame. David is known for accelerating the growth and performance of game-changing organizations by utilizing his “UP Principles” which he outlines in his new book, UP YOUR GAME: 6 Timeless Principles for Networking Your Way to the Top. His last two companies, HireVue and Fusion-io are two of the fastest growing tech businesses in the U.S. Learn more about David and UP YOUR GAME at

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

70 Awesome Coaching Questions Using the GROW Model

There are two secrets to learning how to be a great coach:
1. You need a framework, or a model;

2. You need to ask great questions.
My new article over at About Management & Leadership gives you both. Please check it out and share it with others!


Monday, May 12, 2014

10 Really Lame Excuses for Not Developing Your Employees

“I’m too beat. I’m too slow. Too big. I ate too much for breakfast. I got a headache. It’s raining. My dog is sick. I can’t right now. I’m not inspired. It makes me smell bad. I’m allergic to stuff. I’m fat. I’m thin.

It’s too hot. I’m not right. I’ve got shin splits. A Headache. I’m distracted. I’m exerting myself too much. I’d love to really but I can’t, I just can’t. My favorite show is on. I’ve got a case of the Mondays.
The Tuesdays. The Wednesdays. I don’t want to do this; I want to do something else. After New Years. Next week. I might make a mistake. I got home and I feel bloated. I have gas. I got a hot date. My coach hates me. My mom won’t let me. I bruise easily. It’s too dark. It’s too cold. My blister hurts.

This is dangerous. Ahhh sorry, I don’t have a bike. I didn’t get enough sleep. My tummy hurts. It’s not in my genes. I don’t want to look all tired out. I need a better coach. I don’t like getting tackled. I have a stomach ache. I’m not the athletic type. I don’t want to get sweaty. I have better things to do. I don’t want to slow you down. Do I have to do this? As soon as I get a promotion. I think I’ll sit this one out.
Man, my feet hurt.”

What’s your lame excuse for not investing in your employee’s development? Read my new article over at About Management & Leadership for the top 10.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

What Your Boss Really Wants From You

Guest post from Steve Arneson:

As an executive coach, I’ve worked with hundreds of people in all types of organizations. Each person has their own story, of course – a unique narrative that includes their skills, experience, strengths, weaknesses, and relationships.  While every engagement is different, these people all have one thing in common; their boss always plays a central role in the story.  That’s why my first coaching question is “what does your boss really want from you?” 

Now, some of my clients have great bosses, so we discuss the relationship briefly and move on.  However, a lot of my clients don’t work for a great boss.  They’re not clear about his views, or don’t understand what she really wants… and all of this is impacting their engagement, performance, and happiness.  

The Unexpected Solution

I’m talking about the unknown expectations; those hidden motives that may drive your boss’s behavior - the real reasons behind her agenda.  If you don’t understand what the boss wants from you, you’ll likely be worried, frustrated, and disengaged; you certainly won’t be delivering your best work. 

I wish there was an easy solution to this problem. The first thing my clients want to know is: “how do I change my boss?”  Do you know what I tell them?  Forget about changing him.  That’s right, the hard truth is that all of your efforts to improve, fix, or convert your boss won’t work.  The solution is changing your own approach to interacting with the boss; the transformation has to be one you undergo… in your awareness, attitude, and behaviors.

The Power of Insight

I believe the secret ingredient to improving your boss relationship is insight.  Insight allows you to understand what makes your boss tick – his underlying motives.  To help you recognize his motives, I’ve developed 10 questions that will give you the insight you need to figure out where your boss is coming from; I call this first step in the process “study your boss”.  The resulting insights will help you explain his work style, behaviors and motives.

Next, you must look objectively at the relationship from the boss’s vantage point; I call this step “consider the boss’s perspective”.  In this step, I’ve created five questions for you to answer… does the boss view you as an asset or a liability?  Finally, you have to turn all of this insight into self-awareness and behavior change.  In short, you have to take responsibility for the relationship.  If the first two steps are about gaining awareness, this step is about turning those insights into action.  In this final step, you have to adjust your attitude, commit to modifying your boss story, and adopt new behaviors designed to improve your relationship with the boss.  

Your Most Important Work Relationship

Look, your relationship with your boss matters – a lot.  It’s the most critical factor in your engagement and enjoyment of the job.  If you have a great boss, he’s motivating you to work hard, develop your skills, and thrive in the role.  However, if you have a bad boss, he’s likely the cause of your frustration, disengagement and stress, and he probably isn’t getting the best out of you.   

I believe you need to be the catalyst for improving this relationship. You don’t have to be a victim – you can proactively change your attitude and behaviors.  Start by studying your boss to really understand his motives. Next, take an honest look at how she sees you, and be prepared to incorporate that perspective into your plans for change.  Then, armed with these reflections, rewrite your story and adjust your attitude.  Try new behaviors, and stop destructive ones. The point is to figure out what your boss really wants from you, and try harder to make it all work.  
You can do this; you can change your relationship with your boss.  But you have to make it happen.  I know you want the boss to change, but I wouldn’t sit around waiting for that miracle.  He’s not going to change or adapt to your style; you need to adjust to his.  You must look at this relationship differently, and take responsibility for improving it.  You can make a more enjoyable work experience for yourself, one where you’re working more productively with the boss.  But you have to put in the work, and really take ownership of the relationship.  If you follow this simple process, I’m confident you can a build a better relationship with your boss!

About the author:

In What Your Boss Really Wants From You, author Steve Arneson shows readers how to find the answers to fifteen essential questions that will help to understand their boss’s motives. The first part, “Study Your Boss,” features ten questions that will help readers figure out their boss’s leadership style, goals, work relationships, and other factors that drive his or her behavior. Given that understanding, readers move on to five questions that reveal “How Your Boss Sees You.” Finally, readers bring it all together and develop a plan to “Take Responsibility for the Relationship.” Vivid real-world examples demonstrate Arneson’s advice in action and show clearly how this process can help readers to gain a more meaningful, productive, and enjoyable work life.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Are you a Pinocchio Leader?

A solid foundation of trust is critical to any healthy and productive relationship. Trust is the biggest and most important building block of teams, marriages, friendships, and the relationship between a leader and his/her employees.

What if you're a Leader and you discover that your employees don't trust you?

Read my new article over at Management & Leadership to find out what to do to build or rebuild trust as a leader:

12 Ways for Leaders to Build a Solid Foundation of Trust with their Employees


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

10 Things Your Employees May Not be Telling You

Remember the movie "What Women Want", with Mel Gibson as the title character (Nick Marshall) who suddenly acquires the ability to hear the inner thoughts of all of the women in his life? It was an eye-opening experience, to say the least, and it ended up improving Nick's relationships with his employees, daughter, and the woman he ended up loving.

What if as a manager, you could read the thoughts of each of your employees? While that may be a scary thought, there are some things they may be thinking that you really DO want to know.

Read my new post over at Management & Leadership to find out more:

10 Things Your Employees May Not be Telling You