Somewhere between Salt Lake City and Grand Junction this January while climbing a scary mountain pass in a four wheel drive it came to us that a way to look at the CEO’s job is as follows:
To determine how much stress the balance sheet of the company and the people that work for it can handle at this time in the company's life.
You may have a different view of it, or a different way to say it that works for you and we would love to hear from you about how you see it, but humor us for a minute.
It appears at times that even at some pretty large companies that the only person who is really thinking about the future of the entire enterprise is the CEO. Everyone else is in their department looking for more resources, and hopefully in the words of Peter Drucker, focused on the next most important task.
What does this mean for you?
It means you need to be relentless in your pursuit of what is true from your direct reports because they may have an inherent bias to keep you on a consistent drip of flattery and fluff. It also means that having a board of directors that can help you think about the company from the outside is vital.
Questions a good board can help you wrestle with are:
• How much debt should we be working with now to grow the business?
• Where are your next threats coming from?
• What innovations are going to allow you to increase your margins?
• Where is your current leadership team in their own personal life cycles?
The rub is that building and maintaining a productive board of directors is a challenge. Too often it is such a hassle that you don’t even have one. CEO’s can often feel like the coach of a professional sports team. The players on the field are your employees, the fans in the stands are the customers, and up in the owner’s box sits the board of directors. Where does the coach stand? Sometimes they stand alone.
Ask yourself the following question: What is the company telling itself right now that we want to be true, that may not actually be true? Many department heads will be talking about growth because they know that is what everyone wants to hear. The challenge is that if the company doesn’t manage its balance sheet and time the growth correctly outside forces can end up owning the business. You may have a growth mandate, but try as we might most of us can’t make water go uphill, so back up your mandate with facts and processes you can trust and measure. This rigor and dialogue can save your business.
We have often been asked to help with this question: How does a company build a winning culture? In pursuing the answer to this question, we have noticed the stark cultural differences between a group and a team. If culture eats strategy for breakfast than a team eats a group’s lunch. What is a group, and what is a team? For definition purposes here are some of the fully researched differences between a group and a team:
Companies hire people from different walks of life, with different strengths and different personalities. These differences can be obvious and group dynamics can take over if the leadership doesn’t take an active role in helping people understand how they are aligned and the things they have in common. A great way to do this is the admiration exercise which takes about 60 minutes for a group of 15.
Don't worry, we have not picked up a new bad habit, a recent trip to the library had me opening up a new book, and the combination of the adhesives and paper gave off a smell that made me smile. If you can imagine that smell right now, then you might really enjoy this edition.
When it comes to reading, word of mouth seems important. We just don’t want to make a book purchase and end up with a dud. With that in mind we suggested for the past summer 12 book ideas for the 12 weeks of summer. We hope you find one of our selections interesting and that you find the time to read (or like many of us listen to the book).
We have divided up the recommendations into five categories:
Most of these books are not new but they all were worth the investment of time, money and enrichment a good book can bring. CLICK HERE TO SEE OUR SELECTIONS
Billy Graham died on February 21st, and we were struck by the breadth of personalities that weighed in on the impact of his teachings. One particular quote stood out and we decided to email it to a few people under the heading of “everyone needs some encouragement." It had to do with his response to a question he got at a conference later in his life. He was asked, “Who is the next Billy Graham?”
He replied. “You all are the next Billy Graham.”
We received a very high response rate in which people shared their own experiences and passed the encouragement back to us. We are hoping for a similar result in this newsletter.
Encouragement came up around another topic that is timely and has to do with inspiring women and girls to lead. It is speculated that confidence can sometimes be missing from the minds of women and especially pre-teen girls. Encouragement from others appears to be a key ingredient. Katy Kay and Claire Shipman’s recent book called “The Confidence Code” outlines it in detail. We highly recommend either the adult or children’s version. Of course as word geeks we like that in the midst of the EN and the MENT there is something we love…. A huge dollop of COURAGE.
Next read our post Trust Your Spider Sense!
Building off the great reaction we received from our post on productive solitude we started to notice that in our work conversations we were asking leaders how they were organizing their thinking and in what format. Were they using a computer, a phone, a note pad, or a bound notebook? When did they collect themselves and organize? Who did they share it with, and how did they share it?
The answers were all over the board, and many didn’t really have a system in place. They offered up that they are bouncing around trying whatever the newest form of technology has to offer. We also noticed that many leaders thought that the idea of sharing what their tasks was a big enabler for productivity. However, that wasn’t really playing out as they thought. It was leading to more emails and more confirmations on non-mission critical tasks. Does this sound familiar?
Enter in the concept of a template as a way to create boxes waiting to be filled with answers that challenge you to prioritize your thinking. An individual benefits by working with a task allocation template like the one above. The act of not just writing down your tasks, but prioritizing them, and then...
Having a trusted friendship with some person years older or younger than you is a true gift. We often refer to these non-familial connections as mentors or mentees. The roots of the word go back to ancient Greece when Mentor who was a friend of Odysseus was entrusted with the education of Odysseus' son Telemachus.
Relationships that are strong have certain elements that help them build. Affinity, time, and shared experiences are all ingredients. One of the outcomes from a strong cross generational relationship is that it can allow the subtle gift of wisdom to present itself. When wisdom arrives, it means the mentor has built up enough trust with the younger party to share their best insights and perspective. Often times this can be life changing for the mentee.
Yet for all its benefits, great mentors are in short supply. Why is this? It may have something to do with the all-important shared experiences. The generations don’t always do things together, and thus it is...
It was front page news in 1982 when IBM announced it was laying off employees, the security of lifetime employment with Big Blue was in doubt. The undertone to others was this meant that almost no private sector employee was safe. From moments like that 35 years ago to today, the idea of a personal brand and its cultivation have been forming. You, the individual, have the ability to create what the brand marketers will define as a 'promise wrapped up in an experience' and LinkedIn has been building a platform for your brand since its founding in 2002.
In the last five years LinkedIn has not only been a great place to store all your contacts, it is a great place to share your thoughts and perspectives. In a business world where almost all employment contracts are “at-will” (which means you are working week to week at the whim of your boss), it is increasingly important to have a place to share what you have to offer an industry or marketplace.
There are several key actions to consider when it comes to publishing on LinkedIn. The first is to share what others have posted and add your comments. This is easy lifting and benefits the person who created the original content. The second is to....
What framework or structure have you set up for thinking? Where do you think best? Many people don’t know off hand, but after a minute or two might share that they think best when alone. We recently stumbled across a book on leading yourself, and have been enthralled from the very beginning. “Lead Yourself First” by Ray Kethledge and Mike Erwin is a qualitative study of how past leaders have used productive solitude to make key decisions.
We are now 10 years into the era of having a super computer that is in your pocket. 1.2 billion Apple iPhones have been purchased, and our new behaviors around them are only just becoming understood. It could be stated that one of the outcomes we all feel is some sort of attachment to the devices. Just as the washing machine replaced the scrub board and freed up hours of our week, so has the super computer in our pocket made our lives easier. Amidst the ease might be......
How fast can you tell the mood of a room? How is it that in an instant we can pick up the buzz or the tone? Something in our make-up affords us this capacity, yet for decades managers have dismissed the productivity benefits of person-to-person energy transfer when it comes to getting things done. Often times the grumpiest person seems to be able to reign over all, and decide that smiling might hurt the bottom line. Culture-oriented advocates will run up against the dreaded “it is more about the return on investment” and seldom have any real proof behind their soft skills training.
Recently Wayne Baker of the Michigan School of Business wrote a short piece for the Harvard Business Review titled “The More you energize your coworkers, the better everyone performs.” It proves that attitudes matter and can increase worker productivity. Baker writes about concepts like a reciprocity ring and mapping relational energy, which have been effectively proven to increase the productivity of teams. We encourage everyone to click through the different studies they have completed as you look to develop your own teams.
Colin Powell himself has stated that “perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” If you are trying to get the team across finish line it doesn’t hurt to re-read the Little Engine That Could. Attitudes ARE contagious.
Take your great attitude and read about mentoring in our Allowing Wisdom to Rise post.
Eggs Anyone? What does Dr. Seuss have to do with your ability to use a constraint to improve your performance? Well, it turns out most of us only have so much resolve to repeat a task over and over, and there is a point of diminishing returns with the "rinse, repeat" strategy of human learning. This is where the concept of adding a constraint to your practice enters our field of view. Most of us have acquired some level of skill in order to meet our consumption needs, and if we are really fortunate we enjoy the tasks we are paid to perform. Yet the forces of creative destruction are high, and it pays to keep improving and adapting (anyone reading this on a blackberry??)
A recent study showed that when participants were given a constraint to their practice, their output increased over the average. A living example of this......
Recent sociological research has started to notice that our ability to perform well in a role as an individual or as a member of a team can be traced back to three quotients. The first relates to your IQ and speaks to your ability to cognitively handle the tasks required. Knowing your strengths and then training to improve on them is vital. There are very few roles in today’s economy for people performing out of their strength. Be sure you can articulate your capabilities and the contribution you can make.
Your performance will be enhanced when you show the ability to understand how your contributions can blend with others for your joint benefit. Central to this concept is acquiring empathetic traits and building your emotional quotient, EQ. The force multiplier of working well with others sky rockets when the team sees the goal through everyone’s eyes and then seeks to achieve for their mutual benefit. Yet being smart and caring, doesn't appear to be enough these days. It turns out that your ability to be resilient and adaptable in the face of change, both as an individual and as a teammate are game changers.
Click on the links for Ted talks from Amanda Lee Duckworth at Penn and Carol Dweck at Stanford, who are both actively researching how to add some grit to your life to help you improve your resiliency quotient, RQ. The next time you hear the phrase “Mind your P’s and Q’s” we hope you will not only remember to say please and thank you, but you will also think about combining your wit, your heart, and your gut to be the most complete contributor possible.
Try our post The RE Exercise For Self-Improvement next!
Sanders, can’t you just give me the three quick steps to take to get my team on point?" This is something we hear quite often from managers who don’t have time for long drawn out explanations and philosophy. Your world is impacted for time and it has to be simple for it to transfer through a human system. With that in mind, here are the three steps you and your team might consider. We call it the “RE” exercise.
You start by REflecting, go back in your mind 18 months and take a look at what has transpired. The key action here is to “ponder.” Get to the side of your life river and look back up stream and ask yourself, “what did I learn, and what does it mean?”
The second step is to REcreate by putting yourself in a fresh environment. Recreation is often associated with long trips away and those trips are very impactful, but watch what happens to you when...
Do you have a team member that is killing your "Swing?"
The book “The Weekly Coaching Conversation” by Brian Souza touched on this very issue. Business schools such as Harvard have shown a real focus in the area of career development and the term “coach” is evolving within corporations. Souza recommends a regular check-in session with your direct report to asses not only their performance, but also review softer metrics as well. We would like to add to this article with some of our own findings and offer a few tools for you to use with your team.
Whether your check-in meeting is quarterly, monthly, or weekly, having a template to work with as you are getting started can be a big in facilitating dialog. It will also allow the direct report to be speaking more than the boss, which is of particular importance if the boss is an extrovert and the direct report is not.
Our experiences have shown that a regular check-in on areas such as your team members Soul, Fuel, Work, Fun, and Community Service will quickly identify the area that is distracting them. A simple listening exercise along with a specific question on what steps they will take to remedy the concern can go a long way. We have been amazed at how well these templates work when it comes to getting what is in a person’s head out in the open, proving once again that “your head is a horrible place for a discussion”. Here is one of our templates from our book The Next Gen Almanac. Let us know how it goes.
You might like next our post "Does Competition Fuel You or Drain You?"
In 1999 Peter Drucker wrote an essay for the Harvard Business Review titled “Managing Oneself.” We use it with almost all our clients, regardless of engagement. In 'John Wooden' speak it is at the base of our Pyramid of Success. Drucker asks a series of questions of the reader related to feedback analysis such as: "What are my strengths and values? Where do I belong? How do I work? What can I contribute?" One would expect that the motivated worker would be compelled to implement what they have learned and share with others their answer. Drucker’s logical explanation is sound, well written, and his authority as a leading thinker is beyond reproach. So why doesn't it work? Because it doesn't feel good, and it might not be safe…
Drucker’s logical argument sits right in your teammate’s brain and waits. it waits for an emotion to kick it into gear. This emotion accounts for up to 60% of the missing engagement reserves that plague our workplace today. Managers are responsible for creating the secret sauce, for having insight into what makes their people tick, and then making it safe for the worker to implement Drucker’s insights to strive and reach.
In looking to study this on a first hand basis and because we have the right age children we have volunteered as a youth sport coach for over 250 hours this year. In both recreational and....
The Leader's Compass: What do you use to navigate the storms and the seas that come with organizing and working with others? Our research is showing it is part head, part gut, part eyes, and part heart. In looking for an image that we thought would convey all of these the compass came to mind, that little device that helps you stay on track when visibility is low and the future uncertain. You can add more detail to the action phrases associated with the different directional points as it fits your needs and thoughts, and we welcome your feedback on how you Coach, Teach, Manage, and Lead.
Of note is that half of the compass requires silence from the leader. This maybe your strength or your greatest challenge. Regardless, make sure you have a trusted colleague who can give you “true” perspective on whether you need to speak up, or be silent.
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Drew Sanders Blog
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