Thursday, July 31, 2014

To Enhance Productivity, Stop Doing Something!

Guest post from Willy Steiner:
It was recently announced that the national unemployment rate went down to 6.1%. I was an Economics minor in college, many moons ago, and full employment was considered to be around 6%. By the time the Dot-com boom hit its peak in 2000, full employment was thought to be closer to 4%. I never got the memo as to when they made that change but it seemed to make sense given the hubris of the times and how wealthy many Internet startups made their founders.
Economists today say the full employment number is between 5 and 5.5%. Again, I missed the memo but the reason I bring this up is that we may be approaching a real tightness in the labor markets and finding ways to retain our employees will be critical to our future success.

“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials.” - Lin Yutang

Companies must continue to find ways to improve their productivity and during the last several years there have been significant investments in software and systems to assist in that. But what’s missing is an ongoing reevaluation of all the work that’s being done.

Who gives someone permission to stop doing something that is no longer needed? In today’s environment, it appears employees are fearful of speaking up about that. So I would encourage all managers to find a way to stop doing at least 5% of what’s currently being done to enhance productivity.

In a 40 hour work week, that means you’ll be finding two hours per week per employee to do things that are more important, to stay more organized, or to plan and prepare for new opportunities.
Here is a model for doing just that:

·        Announce that you are asking everyone to eliminate the bottom 5% of their tasks so they can focus on more important things.
·        Ask everyone to identify three tasks to eliminate, put it in writing, and bring it to a meeting to discuss it with the whole team. If your team is too large, you may have to break it up into groups but it will be important that everyone hear other ideas about what can be eliminated. It may encourage different or new thinking on the part of others when they hear these ideas. That’s called “piggybacking”.

·        Have each member of the team review their list out loud. Others may ask for them to clarify the task they have identified, but they are not allowed to argue with them about whether or not it can be eliminated at this point. Have each member of the team identify which of those three tasks they feel strongest about and would commit to. Do Not Debate – just get things on the table.

·        Now have each member of the team repeat the key task they want to eliminate and have the group rate it as follows:
o   “Duh!!!” - Of course we should stop doing that.
o   Probably no problem, but there may be a couple things to check on first.
o   Since there have been some concerns raised, let’s put that on the “to be considered list” for later.
o   NO, we can’t stop that - and here’s Why…
·        If a team member has a suggested task rejected based upon the collective wisdom of the team, have them go to the next task on their list.
·        Combine the list of the “Duhs” and “Probably no problem…” tasks and send that list to the entire team. Make a separate list of the “To be considered” tasks for later review. At this point everyone has committed to trying to eliminate the task they have identified.

·        The manager must reinforce that if anyone runs into a problem or an unintended consequence of stopping to do a certain task, they should inform the manager as soon as practical.

·        Have a brief meeting at the two-week mark to report in on any things that have been learned about stopping these tasks. Talk about the time that’s been freed up and any concerns that may exist.

·        At the one-month mark, review the status of each task that has been stopped and see if any adjustments may need to be made. Ask each member of the team what lessons have been learned from the exercise and record this.

Saving everybody two hours a week is a reasonable and modest effort that should free up time for more important tasks. It may also identify other process bottlenecks that exist and require further study. Once you feel this exercise has been productive, repeat as needed, but commit to doing so at least once a year.

Ask yourself:

1.     Do I really need anyone’s permission to do this with my team?
2.     Am I willing to follow-through on things once we’ve started?
3.     Can I get members of my team to help track progress?

I look forward to your suggestions and comments. 

About the author:
Willy Steiner is the President of Executive Coaching Concepts, an executive leadership firm dedicated to assisting senior executives in taking their individual and organizational performance "TO THE NEXT LEVEL". He has provided valuable counsel to executives and teams throughout his career with General Electric, RCA Corp., Galileo International and for hundreds of other clients in a wide variety of industries in the US, Canada, Europe and Asia.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

10 Magic Phrases That Will Make You a Better Leader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What would you add to the list?

Monday, July 28, 2014

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

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

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

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Leading Change – Lessons for New Leaders from Satya Nadella

Guest post from Randy Ottinger:

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

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

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

Know your destination and plot a clear course

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

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

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

Not just top down, but bottom up too

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

Engage the organization with quick wins

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

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

About the author:

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

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What Makes Successful Senior Executives Tick?

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

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

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

Monday, July 21, 2014

How to “Coach an Employee Out of a Job"

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

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

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

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Is Your Business's Digital Communication Culture Working?

Guest post from Daniel Patrick Forrester:

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

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

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

Step 1: Recognize the Relationship Between Immediacy & Reflection

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Top 2 Myths Leaders Have About Igniting Employee Passion

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

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


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Executive Presence – A 2-Sided Definition

Guest post By Karen Hough

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

40 Ways to Improve 360 Degree Assessment Discussions

Doing a 360 assessment is a great way for a leader to obtain feedback about his/her strengths and weaknesses.

However, having the active involvement of the leader's manager in discussing the results and development plan will improve the ROI of the assessment process by at least 2X  - if it's done well.

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

Monday, July 7, 2014

Dealing with Workplace Drama

Most people can handle just about any amount and type of work that comes their way. It’s not the work that puts them over the edge – its conflict with coworkers!

Read my latest article over at Management and Leadership to find out how to manage workplace conflict, so that little problems don’t fester into BIG problems!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Should a Leader’s Spouse Stay Out of the Limelight?

Guest post from Richard Hytner:

Great leaders, the As who are ultimately accountable - surround themselves with a wide circle of Cs - counsellors, coaches, and consiglieri- and listen to their advice as if their lives might depend on it, as often it can. One of the most underrated sources of wisdom on which the A can depend is that of the spouse.

Spouses or partners have a unique ability to keep their leaders anchored in truth. But should they go beyond the role of silent witness at home and take a role close to centre stage? And, if they do, should they stay out of shot to the same extent as the leader’s other counsellors?

When spouses enter the fray, committed to the cause as well as wedded to the person, expect unintended consequences. The British public is currently being re-treated to an unsporting exchange of tweets between the spouses of Britain’s two most celebrated cyclists, Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome. Wiggin’s alleged lack of appreciation for Froome, the man who helped him win the Tour de France, is in stark contrast to Froome’s recognition of Richie Porte’s secondary role in his own win a year later. The unseemly spat between Mrs Wiggins and Froome’s girlfriend Michelle Cound, repeated in the wake of Froome’s recent book publication, should discourage partners from too swift an embrace of social media to air their dirty laundry.

Eleanor Roosevelt, an early archetype of active political participation for unelected spouses, arguably became the first First Lady to be in the frame. Dennis Thatcher had significantly less influence on his wife’s policy than Eleanor Roosevelt had on FDR’s. Raisa Gorbachev had more of an influence still on Mikhail Gorbachev’s thinking. Their intensely close partnership represented a total break with Soviet practice with Raisa accompanying Gorbachev everywhere – on visits both to the Russian provinces and on all his foreign trips. It caused a sensation in the Soviet Union when quite early in the perestroika period Gorbachev was interviewed on NBC and asked by Tom Brokaw what issues he discussed with his wife. Gorbachev’s answer, ‘We discuss everything’, was a great break with tradition and was broadcast on Soviet TV and radio and published in Pravda. Brokaw’s follow-up question and Gorbachev’s answer was too much for even the changing Soviet mass media and was not broadcast by them. Brokaw inquired ‘Including Soviet affairs, at the highest level?’ to which Gorbachev responded, ‘I think I have answered your question in toto. We discuss everything’.

Advisor Ira Magaziner’s recently released 1995 memo to President Bill Clinton about his ‘ultraliberal’ wife’s perceived influence on health-care reform hints at Hillary Clinton’s real influence as a spouse. She has since played an even greater role in shaping the deliberations of President Obama, and in acquitting herself of accountability for the State Department. Should she take up the role of ultimate A for the USA, not only could we assess her complete leadership – all leaders should be experience leadership as both an A and a C – but we could also study Bill Clinton’s ability to stay out of shot. Past leaders become more admired the longer they are removed from the leadership hot seat, but Mrs Clinton has no need for any further increase in her husband’s esteem. Her greater wish, should she run and win, will be that her husband can lose himself in the White House. Can he cease - ever- to be part of the story, and can our own appetite to see him centre stage ever be sated?

It is not just the spousal C that should leave the limelight to the A leader. Recently, Fiona Cunningham, special advisor to British Home Secretary Theresa May, overstepped the mark, published confidential cabinet documents and earned herself some unwelcome column inches in the continuing narrative of internecine strife between her boss at the Home Office and Michael Gove, Minister for Education. A brief moment in the fast lane for Miss Cunningham will now be followed by a lengthier spell on the hard shoulder.

On the other side of the English Channel, the end awaited another adviser. Jerome Lavrilleux, Mr Sarkozy’s former deputy campaign manager and loyal lieutenant of Jean-François Copé, leader of the Union for a Popular Movement, tearfully confessed that bills for the former president’s re-election campaign were false.

Both advisors paid the price not just for their gross misjudgement but for becoming an unwanted part of an unwelcome story. Just as most ultimately accountable decision-makers - A leaders – thrive in the limelight, most consiglieri who advise, coach and cajole them – C leaders – have an aversion to it. Those that do not should develop one fast.

Unless you are asked by your leader to be the front man or the spokeswoman, management’s elected mouthpiece for the media, you must reside in the shadows and your contribution should be largely anonymous. Could Thomas Cromwell or Cardinal Richelieu have operated as effectively in the dark if their spies had all been on LinkedIn? Our curiosity to glimpse behind the curtain is amplified by technology’s ability to circumvent even the most hawkish privacy–seekers. Anonymity is not as easy as it once was.

Beyond behaving with integrity and above reproach, are there ways to stay out of the story? The best Cs remember that they are there to serve, they only ever act on the A’s authority, and they never to usurp it for themselves. Once the C thinks that he belongs even a millimetre over the boundary agreed with the A, he can start counting his days in post. Observing lane discipline preserves one’s tenure as a C.

Too often the C- assistant, special adviser or coach – is tempted into A territory: the caddie who claims even marginal responsibility for their golfer’s triumphs ends up in a bunker of his own making; the spin doctor so in thrall to his own mastery that, like the worst magician, he invites his audience to see how he performed his tricks.

During the World Cup, pay special attention to the coach who pumps the air as if his tactical genius alone accounted for his striker’s goal and watch out for the resentment this may deservedly breed in the midfielder responsible for the extraordinary ‘assist’. Hoovering up the credit is best left for the A.

If you wish to be more central to the published story, or even the story itself, own up and search for an A position. For his wife to succeed as President, Bill Clinton will have to learn to walk more than a few paces behind his wife and we will have to learn to stop looking out for him. Alternatively expect an unhappy ending.

About the author:

Richard Hytner is Adjunct Professor of Marketing, London Business School, and Deputy Chairman, Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide. His book, 
Consiglieri: Leading From The Shadows, is published on 4th June by Profile Books. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Bad Leadership & Management Advice You Should Run Away From

This post recently appeared in SmartBlog on Leadership:
There’s a LOT of advice out there on leadership and management – almost as much as you’ll find on dating, careers, and how to raise your kids.

Actually, most of its pretty good, or at least not bad. I rarely come across an article in my daily Smartbrief on Leadership newsletter and say to myself “Well, that sure is a crock full of hooey!”
However, I’d recommend running away as far as you can from the following pearls of leadership & management wisdom:

1. “Ignore your weaknesses and leverage your strengths.” Try Googling any variation of this advice, and you’ll find plenty of very credible sources telling you to ignore your strengths. This feel-good nonsense usually stems from a lazy misinterpretation of what’s referred to as the “strength-based leadership development” movement, made popular by Gallop, Marcus Buckingham, and countless other copycats. Gallop and Buckingham never said to IGNORE your weaknesses – the idea is to do whatever it takes to minimize your weaknesses (improvement, delegation, finding a different job, etc…). Ignoring a critical leadership weakness is a surefire path to leadership derailment.
2. “You need to know more than anyone who works under you.” I actually heard a senior vice-president give this advice to a group of new managers. I wanted to set my hair on fire! Believing that you could possibly know more than the sum of everyone who works for you is arrogance at its worst!

3. “It’s OK to be friends with your employees.” You can be friendly with your employees, but when you are in a position that requires you to objectively hire, promote, rewards, or discipline, the relationship needs to change. I wrote a post about this a while back and there were a few comments from managers who insisted that I was wrong and they were able to do it. Most, however, agreed. You live and learn.
4. If you can’t measure it, then you can’t manage it.” This is bull - in fact, most of what we do at work can’t and shouldn’t be measured. Managers that subscribe to this advice end up paying attention to the minutia that’s easily measured and ignoring what’s really important.

5. “Don’t pay attention to criticism; it’s not your job to make everyone happy.” Managers who turn a deaf ear to constructive feedback or dissent will miss opportunities to improve, solve problems, or build coalitions for change.
6. “Leaders are born and not made.” Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I still hear this myths perpetuated, often by self-proclaimed “experts”. Perhaps Warren Bennis said it best: “The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born-that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That's nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.”

7. “The best way to learn leadership is from successful business CEOs”. Sometimes – but not always. Steve Jobs was a visionary and incredibly successful businessman, but there are plenty of people who characterize him as one of the world’s worst leaders. I know of a CEO who handed out Job’s book to his executive team as a leadership tutorial. OMG, pity those poor employees!
8.  “No news is good news.” The higher up you go in an organization, the more likely it is that you’ll become isolated and shielded from bad news by your palace guard. Not hearing about it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist – it just means you have your head in the sand.

9. “You need to pull up their sleeves, pitch in and get your hands dirty.” While it’s good to do this once in a while, managers should not be doing the work of 1-2 levels below them on a regular basis. When they do, they do it at the expense of the unique and critical work that they should be doing as a manager, undermine their employee’s work, and end up micromanaging.
10. “First in, last out.” Meaning, you need to be the first one to work and the last to leave. Managers that work insanely long hours on a consistent basis are candidates for burn-out. You’ll be less effective in the long run and set a bad example for the rest of the organization. Besides – what if 1-2 of your employees are following the same career advice? It could turn into a rather absurd content to see who can be the first one to work in the morning.

What other bad leadership and management advice have you heard?