Saturday, 31 January 2015

Five Ways Gratitude Will Change Your Life

gratitude“Thank you”
Saying “thank you” is something most of us learn at a young age. It’s something we teach to our children too. We all know that gratitude is important, which is why in many parts of the world, we have a day called Thanksgiving to remind us to be thankful.
It is unfortunate in many ways that we have such a day. Yes, it may remind us on that day to be thankful, grateful and appreciative – but the fact is that we will benefit greatly if we do it with much more regularity.
Regularly, like daily or even hourly.
I’ve had lots of times in my life when I was reminded why being grateful is so important. My reasons and situations don’t really matter. They just highlight this fact for me – and that my renewed insight comes at this season, leads me to write and share with you.
The behavior of being grateful goes beyond saying “thank you,” though that is one of the actions that should be included. More specifically what I mean is consciously and regularly looking for and acknowledging the things you are thankful for or appreciate. Some people choose to keep a gratitude journal, some make occasional lists and some make a mental note as they think about or become aware of such things.
The purpose of this article is not to suggest or advocate for any particular method, but rather to implore you to be grateful; for when you are, your life will be drastically altered for the better.
Before I share these five ways with you, let me make one thing very clear: the reasons to be grateful are many, but do not include a quid pro quo of “If I’m grateful, I’ll get these benefits.” Rather choose to be grateful, do the things that heighten your appreciation of the world around you and your circumstances, and rest assured these benefits will flow to you.

What we think about expands.
 This is the foundational principle for the other four ways that follow. Would you like more of the things you are grateful for in your life? When you think on those things and are grateful for their presence, you are already taking the first step towards expanding them in your life!
Reduce your stress. We add much stress to our lives by the things we think about, wonder about and worry about. If you are thinking appreciative, grateful thoughts, there is less room for the rest. When you are grateful for what you have, you will reduce your stress.
Change your focus. Being grateful in these ways changes your focus by definition. Our minds are built to literally allow us to see the things we are looking for. When you approach life from the perspective of thankfulness, your mind will literally notice more examples of things to be thankful for, and even help you do a better job of seeing the positive in any situation.
Improve your relationships. Do this exercise with me. Think of a person that is a challenge in your life – a person that makes something difficult for you; someone that frustrates you or with whom you argue with frequently. Write that person’s name at the top of a piece of paper and write down five admirable things about that person – five skills, abilities or characteristics about that person that you can appreciate. Once you have done that, commit to thinking about those attributes or characteristics the next time you are around or working with that person. As you think of those things you appreciate (even when you are frustrated or in disagreement), your thinking about the person and your attitude will change. By taking this step of gratitude and appreciation you are taking a huge step towards improving your relationship.
Improve your self-image. The more you think about the good things in your life, and the more you notice and observe what is working well in your life, and the better you will feel about yourself! And the even better news is that as your self-image improves, your focus and your relationships will continue to improve and your stress will (everything else being equal) continue to drop.
The benefits of gratitude go far beyond doing something because it’s the “right thing” to do. When you begin to notice and take inventory of all of the things you are thankful for, you recognize that even though your life may have challenges and you might be facing obstacles, you can build your future success on the blessings around you right now.
Everyone has a huge number of things, people and circumstances for which to be thankful. When you invest the time and focus to notice and acknowledge these things, you create space and energy to draw even more positive experiences and circumstances into your life.
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Friday, 30 January 2015


Young Leaders

The change of seasons brings to mind changes that we see in work and leadership. As seasons come and go in your work cycle, consider how older leaders shift into part-time roles in the organization and how younger leaders assume new levels of responsibility and leadership. 

While it’s a life process that naturally occurs in all industry sectors, the best leadership transitions occur with those young leaders that have been developed and equipped to assume their new roles.
With this in mind, it’s a good time to pause to think about think about the seasons ahead and grow your younger leaders.

Choosing Leaders in the Military

When speaking about my POW experience and the lessons learned there, a common question from the audience is how we chose our leaders in that situation. That’s a great question because the burden of leading in that cauldron was often painful, always unpredictable, and not a position that most people would want. Fortunately we didn’t have to compete or debate about who would take command; in remote situations like this, it’s clear military policy that the senior person (based on rank and date of promotion) takes charge and everyone else follows.
In normal conditions, the military is constantly training and grooming every person for higher leadership responsibilities.
The heavy turnover from reassignment, separations, and mandatory retirement at the twenty- to thirty-year window makes succession planning a vital part of normal military planning and operations.
But many civilian organizations don’t see a pressing need, and many don’t have a system in place for developing and evaluating leaders. Do you have a vision for developing leaders? Do you see the need and are you willing to invest the time and energy in this process?

Short and Long Term Benefits 

Developing leaders does take time and money, but it also has great short term benefits such as -
  • Having a built-in system for instilling the values and leadership principles that are important to you.
  • Building relationships in workshops and classes to enhance functional collaboration and break down silos.
  • Gaining better trained leaders at every level.
  • Creating higher morale and better retention among top performers.
Long term benefits are even more strategic because research shows that hiring from within is the way to go especially at higher levels. Developing your own pool of leaders from which to choose managers, directors and executives reduces your risks in several ways –
  • You’re maximizing “the known” and minimizing the “unknown” of hiring.
    • You know these folks and have seen them perform under stress.
  • They already know you and their working environment.
    • Corporate values and expectations
    • Organizational history
    • Customers, community, and competition
Granted, there are times when you may need to bring in an outsider to stir the pot or tap into a resource you don’t have on board. But when you do, the risks go up.
Hiring is one of the most difficult challenges leaders face.
If you search the web, you’ll see that the estimates for the cost of a bad hire run from 30% of the individual’s salary to three times their annual salary. In some cases, it could be much more when you consider the energy lost to the executive teams and the opportunity loss of not having the right person on board.

Intentional Leadership Development

Over the past fifteen years, I’ve been fortunate to work with some great organizations. The best ones usually put considerable effort and resources into developing their next generation of leaders at every level from first line supervisor to the executive level. What about your organization? Do you have a focus on growing your on leaders? What programs and processes do you have in place to make this happen? If so how will you evaluate it and if not, who will help you build and grow it?
Remember, you must be diligent in planning ahead to have the best leadership transition possible. This season of the year is a good time to be grateful for the energetic young leaders in your organization and plan ahead for equipping them for the future.
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Thursday, 29 January 2015

3 Ways Social Media Can Improve School Culture

I was having a great conversation the other day with a good friend, and she was sharing how many boards aren’t really worried about “social media” because they are needing to actually focus on improving their culture first.  I thought a lot about what she said, and to be honest, if you cannot have conversations with people in your own organization, Twitter is going to be the last thing in your mind.  That being said, I have seen a lot of school organizations use social media to actually improve their culture significantly.  It is not the only way, but if used in powerful ways, it definitely can have an overall impact on your school or district.
1.  Increased Visibility
In large boards (especially), it is tough for directors, superintendents, principals, etc., to actually physically be in all places at all times.  Visibility is an important part of leadership, and I love when I see leaders in schools or in classrooms, but social media actually allows you to not only see leaders in a different light, but also see their thought process.  Through tweets, blog posts, and more(Superintendent Chris Smeaton is a great example of this, although I could have chosen from a large lists of administrators), you get to see visible thinking of leaders, but also other aspects of their lives that make them more “human”.  If you are a superintendent, and you walked into one of your schools, and many of your teachers had no idea who you are, isn’t that kind of a problem?  Social media, used effectively, can help increase this visibility.
2.  Increased Accessibility
Now being more connected can have both a positive and negative impact on a person.  If you are connected to your device 24/7, that might be great for your school, but bad for your personal life (and health).  We have to be able to shut off.  That being said, when teachers can tap into one another and learn from each other,it not only improves learning, but it also builds relationships.  I have watched in my own school division, the difference in the past few years with the increased use of social media, a greater connection between staff from different schools when seeing each other in person, because the accessibility to one another online doesn’t replace face-to-face interactions, but can enhance them.  Teachers that connected online, have ended up meeting face-to-face to plan EdCamps, Innovation Week, and talk about a whole host of other things to help improve learning.  The accessibility to not only ideas, but one another, improves learning and relationships.  They are not mutually exclusive.
3. A Flattened Organization
I really believe in the idea in schools that everyone’s a teacher and everyone’s a learner, and that these roles are interchangeable throughout any and all days.  Watching great schools, I have seen superintendents learn from teachers, teachers learn from parents, principals learn from students, and any other combination you can think of within a school community.  As Chris Anderson would call this “crowd-accelerated innovation”, and it is so important to embrace this notion of learning from anyone and everyone, if we are going to improve the culture of our school’s.  When you work for an organization and you know that no matter what role you play, that your voice is valued, don’t you think that would have a significant impact on culture?
Concluding Thoughts
If you are looking at improve school culture, open learning is essential to our environments.  I don’t want to only know what the decisions are that are made, but about the people who are making them, and their thoughts behind these decisions.  That openness is crucial.  Only in an organization where voices are not only heard, but also valued, will you ever see significant improvements in school culture, and with the tools that we are provided in our world today, that pace of culture change can be significantly faster than it was without this same technology.
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Wednesday, 28 January 2015

American teachers: As mediocre as American students?

Making a sustained effort to attract more talented teachers could help solve this problem.

It’s common knowledge that American students are mediocre when it comes to taking tests. Now we know that American teachers are too.
In a study published this week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Stanford Economist Eric Hanushek used new data from the Survey of Adult skills, conducted by the OECD, which seeks to help governments around the world understand the level and distribution of cognitive skills in their populations. Hanushek and his colleagues isolated elementary and secondary level teachers to find out how teacher’s cognitive abilities differ across countries.
He found a great degree of variance between the literacy and numeracy skills of teachers across the developed world. For instance, teacher skills in the worst-performing countries, like Italy and Russia, are on par with workers with just some college education in Canada, while teachers in the best-performing countries, like Japan and Finland, have skills on par with PhD graduates in Canada.
So, where do U.S. teachers fall on the spectrum? They are slightly above average in literacy skills, but below average in terms of numeracy. These results mirrorinternational assessments of student abilities, in which American students also rank below average in math skills compared to their peers in other developed countries. According to Hanushek, this shouldn’t surprise us. He finds that teacher cognitive ability correlates strongly with student abilities.
High-profile efforts like Teach for America were founded on the idea that if American schools can attract high-achieving, intelligent college graduates to the classroom, those schools would improve. Advocates of this strategy pointed to countries like Finland, South Korea, and Singapore, where students get high marks on international measures of student aptitude, and where teaching is a profession that attracts the best and the brightest.
As critics of Teach for America and similar programs have pointed out, these programs haven’t produced the results many imagined they would. Fordham University Professor Mark Naison, who writes that he was once “enthusiastic about the idea of recruiting my most idealistic and talented students for work in poor schools,” no longer allows TFA recruiters in his classroom because he thinks the training they receive is too limited and the commitment required of teachers is too short for enrollees to become effective teachers.
Of course, requiring longer training periods and commitments of TFA training recruits will cost more. In 2010, McKinsey & Company released a report that attempted to answer why America isn’t attracting the best and the brightest to the teaching profession, and it concluded that pay was a primary factor. In South Korea, for instance, the average starting salary for teachers is $55,000 with top salaries reaching $155,000. Compare that to an average starting salary in the U.S. of $39,000 which maxes out, on average, at $67,000.
Countries with the best education systems have very low birth rates, and a very small percentage of their populations are made up of children. About 20% of the U.S. population is under the age of 14, while only 15% of the South Korean population is in the same age range. Singapore and Finland are similarly aged societies, too. Fewer children means less of a need for teachers, and that means it’s easier for these countries to make the teaching profession both well paid and prestigious.
But if the United States is convinced that it wants to move up the rankings, simply offering new teachers higher pay and a pathway towards a salary that rivals more elite professional careers is likely the simplest approach. It won’t be cheap—McKinsey estimates that raising teacher pay to South Korea’s level would cost $30 billion per year, or 5% of what the U.S. already spends on K-12 education.
But doesn’t the U.S. already spend a ton on education, you ask? Yes, by some measures. The OECD estimates that America spends more per student, $15,171, each year than any other developed country. But that measure doesn’t focus just on government expenditure—25% of that figure takes into account what parents spend privately on education. Furthermore, the U.S. doles out its educational resources unevenly. Spending per student varies highly depending on the state and school district, while the U.S. is one of only three countries(along with Israel and Turkey) that devote more educational resources to more affluent students than it does to the disadvantaged.
Corporate America has identified the U.S. education system as one of the biggest obstacles in creating the sort of workforce it needs to stay competitive in a global economy. Some of this problem can be solved by improved cooperation between educators and employers, but part of the issue is simply that workers don’t have the core skills to accomplish tasks demanded by a modern economy. Making a sustained effort to attract more talented teachers could help solve this problem.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

How to Become the Most Compelling Person You Will Ever Know

As leaders, we all want to know that we're making a difference, but most of us have to work at overcoming the lesser instincts of the day-to-day.
Here are some things you can do today to begin living your most compelling life:

1. Be bold.

Dare to instigate! Take chances, create opportunities, make things happen. Risk greatness.

2. Find your unique self and wear it like a badge of honor.

Turn your back on conformity. Figure out what makes you different, and then embrace it. The world needs what you have.

3. Conquer the unknown.

Try something new, and don't cringe at fear. Leaving the safe and ordinary is the only way to get to the extraordinary.

4. Be inclusive.

The solitary hero is a myth; your allies are your greatest strength. Those who pride themselves on self-reliance have no safety net, and living a one-dimensional story is pretty limiting.

5. Be confident (but not arrogant).

Show your self-assurance. Confidence gives voice to your gifts.

6. Be generous with everyone you meet.

Generosity isn't just about money. Make introductions, teach what you know, reach out, send a text, share everything you can.

7. Never miss an opportunity to give a compliment.

A sincere compliment is among the greatest of gifts. If you admire someone, if someone does something extraordinary (or something ordinary very well), if something goes right, then say so--in public, if possible.

8. Say no so you can say yes.

Not everything that comes along is worthwhile, and not every opportunity is right for you. Say no to the things that drag you down to make room for what matters most to you.

9. Practice humility.

When you're sincerely humble in your heart and mind, the connections you make with others take on a different tone. Ask questions, listen, stay open, and remember you don't know everything.

10. Stand for something.

Leave no room for doubt about your passion for the people, places, and principles that are dear to you. A compelling purpose is a cause worth sharing.
Above all, to become the most compelling version of yourself, look within to find the heart of all that matters to you. Then go live it.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Business Leaders Should Not Avoid Competition

Red queen
The "Red Queen" effect is at work in businesses as competition evolves and intensifies. | Reuters/Sandy Huffaker
Do you send your children to the least demanding school you can find? Of course not. What kind of parent are you? You know that they need to measure up to a high standard in school if they are to do well in life.
Yet every day I hear business leaders claim that they want to avoid competition. Are you one of these leaders? What kind of leader are you?
Of course, when organizations compete, they make it difficult for each other to perform well. But this fact has led to a great misunderstanding. Many business leaders, especially those trained in business schools, infer from this fact that they should avoid competition. That conclusion is wrong.
Pressure from competition causes people to search for ways to improve their company’s performance. These improvements, in turn, make companies stronger competitors.
William P. Barnett
Pressure from competition causes people to search for ways to improve their company’s performance. These improvements, in turn, make companies stronger competitors. So now these improved firms put more pressure on their rivals, who must also find a way to improve. Once those rivals improve, they now are stronger competitors, starting the whole cycle over again. So it is that competition causes organizations to learn, which in turn intensifies competition in a self-accelerating process known as the “Red Queen” effect. This term was coined by the evolutionary theorist Van Valen in reference to Lewis Carroll’s Alice who remarks to the Red Queen: “Well, in our country, you’d generally get to somewhere else — if you ran very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.” To this the Red Queen responds: “A slow sort of country! Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.” Van Valen noted that biological evolution features such change. In my book, I demonstrate that in an ecology of learning organizations, relatively stable performance masks absolute development.
The Red Queen is at work around us all the time, triggering progress on many fronts. When the Korean steel firm Posco came up with the “finex” process, this innovation raised the bar for any firms wanting to compete in the global steel business. Those steel firms that kept pace are still competing today. Similarly, when Qualcomm revolutionized digital wireless transmission by making CDMA technology workable, this put pressure on every other firm in that space to respond. Apple, Samsung, Nokia, Ericsson, LG, and many other firms engaged in that competition for years. Some still are competing but only by remaining innovative.
The result? Well, to the firms involved it can feel like they are running in the same place since each is evaluated relative to the others. But for the rest of us, we’ve seen clunky wireless phones transform into sleek mobile devices.
As a consumer, you probably think of this amazing record of innovation as something that was inevitable. But this development did not have to happen. Each innovation along the way was carried out by a firm as it attempted to do a better job, in turn raising the bar for others. So perhaps for a while your device could not map correctly, but by now the problem has been fixed. Competition still thrives in the wireless industry, so each manufacturer keeps pressuring its rivals to do a better job.
Yet according to many, firms are supposed to find a way to avoid competition — to gain positional advantage or locate in “blue oceans” where rivalry is weak. Had Qualcomm, Apple, LG, Samsung, and the others taken this advice, how different the wireless industry would be. (Indeed, many experts on the telecommunications industry argued just a few years ago that it was a natural monopoly, where competition would be ruinous!) Avoiding competition would be more comfortable, for sure. But avoiding competition is just a way to shut down the engine that generates innovation.

The red queen effect
But, you might say, surely competition is bad for an organization’s performance. Don’t monopolists outperform other firms? Isn’t that why so many companies are trying to dominate their markets? Well, yes, in the short run a monopolist performs better than a firm facing rivalry (other things equal). But over time, that monopolist gets lazy. Meanwhile, firms facing competition continue improving. If fact, I estimated the statistical effects of Red Queen competition on hundreds of firms over many, many years, and found a pattern.
Comparing inexperienced firms, the monopolist performs better. But over time experience makes the firms facing rivalry improve, eventually becoming better performers than had they found a way to be a monopolist. That is the Red Queen effect. As a firm competes, it becomes more capable, and so performs better. Even though its rivals also perform better, the net effect turns out to be beneficial in time. Highly competitive markets, over time, feature some of the world’s most capable and innovative companies.
Reflect on your role as a business leader. Is your job to shield your company from competition? Not if you want it to learn and improve. Shortsighted business leaders hide their companies from competition. Great leaders do just the opposite: They understand that competition teaches.
So what kind of leader are you?
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Sunday, 25 January 2015

Creating a Culture of Success


Charles O'Reilly explains why companies with strong cultural norms of adaptability perform better over the long-run, and how managers can help create an adaptive corporate culture within their own organizations. O'Reilly is the Frank E. Buck professor of management at Stanford Graduate School of Business. Read more tips from O'Reilly on creating a corporate culture that drives growth.
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Saturday, 24 January 2015

Personal Performance Questions

An early career mentor offered this comment and it has been with me in one form or another throughout my career: “If you’re sleeping through the night, you’re not thinking hard enough about your job and career and you’re definitely not asking yourself the tough questions.”
While I encourage a full night’s rest…we all need quality sleep to perform at our best, the second half of his advice on asking (and answering) the tough questions of ourselves is spot on. From CEOs to smart functional managers and senior leaders, we often get sucked into the operational vortex of our jobs and we forestall asking and answering the big questions on direction, people and about our own personal/professional well-being.
There are convenient excuses we use to keep from attacking all three of those categories.
  • People issues are sticky and they involve emotions, and when the emotions might be negative, we tend to move in the other direction.
  • Issues of direction…a change in strategy, investing in new offerings or changing long-standing processes, are by nature ambiguous and therefore perceived by us as risky. Too many managers are taught to avoid risk, and by habit, we move towards the status quo as a safe haven.
  • And issues of well-being…physical and mental health and career satisfaction are things we plan on getting to later. They take a backseat to the urgent daily activities.
Yet, no three topics are more important in helping create value (profits, market-share, efficiencies, engagement) for our firms than the decisions and actions we make and take on people, direction and on the development and maintenance of our own physical and mental well-being.
Here are just a few of the questions effective leaders hold themselves accountable to asking and answering.
At Least 11 Must Ask and Answer Questions for Leaders at All Levels:
Fair warning…compound questions ahead.
1. How am I truly doing as a leader? Am I getting the frank feedback I need from my team members and peers to help me strengthen my effectiveness? If not, how might I get this feedback?
2. Am I taking accountability for the team that I’ve put on the field? Is the best team with the right people in the right positions, or, are there clear gaps that only I can fix? Do I have a plan to fill those gaps? Do I have the courage to make the needed moves?
3. Am I a net supplier of level-up talent to the broader organization? If not, how can I strengthen my talent recruiting and development efforts?
4. How am I measuring performance and success of my team(s)? Do the measures promote the right behaviors? Do the measures promote continuous improvement? Do the measures connect to the bigger picture outcomes we are after?
5. Is the firm’s direction clear to everyone on my team? What can I do better or more of to constantly reinforce direction and ensure that our individual and team priorities support direction? Do I need to teach people about our business and how we make money and how we plan to grow?
6. Am I realistic about the need to embrace change? Are market dynamics signaling a needed change in direction and am I advocating for this change with my peers and by offering ideas?
7. Am I serving as a catalyst for productive change in my firm? Do I believe passionately in an issue that can benefit my firm and am I advocating hard for it, or, am I simply going along with consensus? If it’s the latter, how can I constructively break with the consensus and build understanding for my idea or approach?
8. Am I actively cultivating healthy relationships with my peers and colleagues in other functions? Do I recognize how dependent I truly am on the help and support of other leaders and other functional team members for my own success? Is there a rift that needs healing and am I taking the lead on making this happen?
9. Am I developing myself? What investments have I made in time, effort and money during the past year in strengthening my skills and gaining exposure to new ideas and new ways of thinking?
10. How I am doing? Is my work (my firm, my vocation) in alignment with my passion, superpower(s) and values? If any of the three are out of whack, what must I do to fix the problem? Are the issues repairable in my current environment or, must I do the hard work of making a significant change?
11. Do I understand that my physical well-being directly impacts my mental well-being and professional performance? Am I taking care of myself physically? If not, how can I adjust my lifestyle to improve my physical health? Do I need to invest the outside help of a coach or trainer help me jump-start an improvement program?
The Bottom-Line for Now:
High personal performance is an outcome of clarity and balance. From ensuring clarity for the direction of your firm, your team and your team members to gaining objective insight on your own performance, clarity in the workplace is essential for your success. Balancing your passion, capabilities and values with your daily work and backing this balance with physical well-being is essential for your satisfaction and success. The pursuit of needed clarity and healthy balance is a journey with constantly shifting terrain. Get started by asking and answering the questions noted above. And if the answers are less than ideal for you, take action.
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Friday, 23 January 2015

Practice improving your relationships to become a better leader

"If we want to introduce new leadership behaviors in our lives, it’s necessary to practice.” Richard Strozzi-Heckler, The Leadership Dojo

Leading others has everything to do with the relationships you form with them. And when you lead others well, your success – and that of your organization, has the best chance of occurring.
When you discover through feedback you’ve received that your relationships have room to improve, it can be discouraging. However, this feedback is simply a reminder that things can be better. It’s a good thing to know because as your relationships with your manager, your peers, your direct reports, or your customers/clients improve, so does your ability to achieve results.
What you might not know is that leadership is something that needs to be “practiced” in the same way the best basketball players, ballerinas, or virtuoso pianists do. More to the point, the relationship behaviors you need to have as a leader that are capable of connecting, growing, inspiring, and influencing others must be practiced.
You have been born with some of those relationship behaviors. Others must be learned and practiced in order to become embodied. If you are observant, you may notice that as soon as one behavioral habit becomes ingrained in your psyche, another one appears that needs to be practiced and worked on. Some examples of relationship behaviors that are commonly “practiced” by leaders who are intentional about improving their relationships include the “how to” of:
  • having “small talk” conversations
  • listening better
  • getting along with their manager
  • dealing with high performers and/or poor performers
  • forming better relationships with their peers
  • learning to coach others
Start practicing today to improve your leadership relationships by:
Getting feedback on relationship behaviors that may need some “tweaking”. Almost any leadership 360 will have questions relating to your relationships (in the form of how well you communicate, collaborate, work in teams, etc.) that when answered, can help you to understand your gaps. You can also ask for feedback or hire an executive coach to do targeted interviews of your stakeholders around your relationship strengths and gaps.
Creating a plan to close the gaps in your relationships. Create a written action or development plan and find someone to hold you accountable to your action steps. Make sure that your steps include the specifics of the behaviors you need to incorporate, for example, what will you be doing when you listen better?
Trying on new behaviors that will strengthen your relationships. Be willing to do some things that aren’t in your comfort zone. For instance, having small talk can be uncomfortable (but it is necessary to connect with others). Try the new behavior, and observe how others act differently in the workplace and toward you; adjust as needed.
Ongoing “practice” until new, more effective behaviors become “habits”. When you’re diligent in and reflective in your practice, your new behaviors can become “second nature”. This usually means they’ll feel more natural, automatic, or habitual. It may take months for this to happen (so patience is key).
Improving the relationships with your stakeholders requires dedicated practice and a dose of courage. Your improved rapport with others will be rewarded with improved leadership and a successful organization.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

You May Not Be In Charge, But You Can Influence the People Who Are.

11 Guidelines to Being an Influence
“The great majority of people tend to focus downward. They are occupied with efforts rather than results. They worry over what the organization and their superiors 'owe' them and should do for them. And they are conscious above all of the authority they 'should have.' As a result they render themselves ineffectual."—Peter Drucker
You can make a positive difference, even when you do not have direct line authority.
Here are 11 guidelines that will help you do a better job of influencing decision-makers, whether these decision-makers are immediate or upper managers, peers or cross-organizational colleagues.
  1. Accept the Facts: Every decision that affects our lives will be made by the person who has the power to make that decision, not the "right" person or the "smartest" person or the "best" person. Make peace with this fact. Once we make peace with the fact that the people who have the power to make the decisions always make the decisions and we get over whining that "life isn't fair," we become more effective in influencing others and making a positive difference. We also become happier.
  2. Realize You Must Sell Your Ideas. When presenting ideas to decision-makers, realize that it is your responsibility to sell, not their responsibility to buy. In many ways, influencing ultimate decision-makers is similar to selling products or services to external customers. They don't have to buy—you have to sell. No one is impressed with salespeople who blame their customers for not buying their products. While the importance of taking responsibility may seem obvious in external sales, an amazing number of people in large corporations spend countless hours blaming management for not buying their ideas. A key part of the influence process involves the education of decision-makers. The effective influencer needs to be a good teacher.
  3. Focus on contribution to the larger good—not just the achievement of your objectives. An effective salesperson would never say to a customer, "You need to buy this product, because if you don't, I won't achieve my objectives." Effective salespeople relate to the needs of the buyers, not to their own needs. In the same way, effective influencers relate to the larger needs of the organization, not just to the needs of their unit or team.
  4. Strive to win the big battles. Don't waste your energy and psychological capital on trivial points. Executives' time is very limited. Do a thorough analysis of ideas before challenging the system. Focus on issues that will make a real difference. Be willing to lose on small points. Be especially sensitive to the need to win trivial non-business arguments on things like restaurants, sports teams, or cars. You are paid to do what makes a difference and to win on important issues. You are not paid to win arguments on the relative quality of athletic teams.
  5. Present a realistic "cost-benefit" analysis of your ideas—don't just sell benefits. Every organization has limited resources, time, and energy. The acceptance of your idea may well mean the rejection of another idea that someone else believes is wonderful. Be prepared to have a realistic discussion of the costs of your idea.
  6. "Challenge up" on issues involving ethics or integrity—never remain silent on ethics violations. The best of corporations can be severely damaged by only one violation of corporate integrity. I hope you will never be asked to do anything by the management of your corporation that represents a violation of corporate ethics. If you are, refuse to do it and immediately let upper management know of your concerns. Try to present your case in a manner that is intended to be helpful, not judgmental.
  7. Realize that powerful people also make mistakes. Don't say, "I am amazed that someone at this level…" It is realistic to expect decision-makers to be competent; it is unrealistic to expect them to be anything other than normal humans. Even the best of leaders are human. We all make mistakes. When your managers make mistakes, focus more on helping them than judging them.
  8. Don't be disrespectful. Treat decision-makers with the same courtesy that you would treat customers. While it is important to avoid kissing up to decision-makers, it is just as important to avoid the opposite reaction. Before speaking, it is generally good to ask one question from four perspectives. “Will this comment help 1) our company 2) our customers 3) the person I am talking to, and 4) the person I am talking about?” If the answers are no, no, no, and no, don't say it!
  9. Support the final decision. Don't tell direct reports, "They made me tell you." Assuming that the final decision of the organization is not immoral, illegal, or unethical, go out and try to make it work. Managers who consistently say, "They told me to tell you" to co-workers are seen as messengers, not leaders. Treat decision-makers the same way that you would want to be treated if the roles were reversed. If you stab your boss in the back in front of your direct reports, what are you teaching them to do when they disagree with you?
  10. Make a positive difference—don't just try to "win" or "be right." We can easily become more focused on what others are doing wrong than on how we can make things better. An important guideline in influencing up is to always remember your goal: making a positive difference for the organization. Focus on making a difference. The more other people can be "right" or "win" with your idea, the more likely your idea is to be successfully executed.
  11. Focus on the future—let go of the past. One of the most important behaviors to avoid is whining about the past. Have you ever managed someone who incessantly whined about how bad things are? Nobody wins. Successful people love getting ideas aimed at helping them achieve their goals for the future. By focusing on the future, you can concentrate on what can be achieved tomorrow, not what was not achieved yesterday.
In summary, think of the years that you have spent "perfecting your craft." Think of all of the knowledge that you have accumulated. Think about how your knowledge can potentially benefit your organization. How much energy have you invested in acquiring all of this knowledge? How much energy have you invested in learning to present this knowledge to decision-makers so that you can make a real difference? My hope is that by making a small investment in learning to influence decision-makers, you can make a large, positive difference for the future of your organization.
See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for companion video

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The Neuroscience Of Being A Good Leader

Neuroscience has gained so much popularity in the last few years, because of advancements made by scientists in human nature and behavior change.
I find neuroscience so interesting, and have been spending a lot of my free time learning more about it.
All of this research is especially relevant for being a good leader in the workplace, where executives need to change the behavior of potentially thousands of employees.
But getting people to change their behavior is easier said than done. Change literally hurts us. In studies of people who have had coronary bypass surgery, only one in nine people adopt healthier day-to-day habits.
I won’t go into too much detail behind why this is, but it’s basically because of the parts of the brain that are used to develop new habits vs continuing with old habits.
The part of the brain used to build new habits uses a lot more energy than the part that’s used for old habits.
A simple example is when someone that’s been driving a car for years goes somewhere in the world where they drive on the other side of the road. They find that driving incredibly difficult.
I want to go through a few things that leaders should keep in mind, that will help them be more effective and more productive.
The reason that employee pulse surveys matter so much, is that they can give you insights into things like how people feel about how much freedom they have and what their relationships at work are like, which as you’ll soon see, are very important.
All of what I’m saying is backed by science.

1. Treat Everyone As An Equal

Confirmation bias is one of my favorite things about the brain and our subconscious. I find it so interesting, but it’s a really big problem.
We like people that are similar to us. If we agree with someone’s beliefs, we’re more likely to be friends with them.
Similarly, when we can’t relate to another person, we rarely give them the benefit of the doubt, and our brains don’t even process much of what they have to say.
This can affect our hiring decisions, and it’s very important to hire for diversity to get unique perspectives on things.
The way to fix this is to regularly challenge yourself. Keep reminding yourself about this, and try your best to avoid these biases.

2. Go For A Walk

Going for a short walk can help you stay healthy, and be more creative.
University of Michigan study found that people who spent time outside were better able to solve creative problems.
Researchers at Stanford University tested creativity in people that were walking, and found that creativity improved by an average of 60% when the person was walking.
According to research, all you need is 5 minutes outdoors to get that creative boost.

3. Be Inclusive

A study on the effects of being ignored at work found that “having no role to play in work culture was more detrimental to one’s well-being than having a negative role to play.”
Little things, like saying good morning to your coworkers, or inviting them out to lunch with you can really go a long way.
Everyone just wants to feel included.
This is especially important for new hires, who are so nervous about this new environment, and just want to fit in.

4. Take As Much Downtime As You Need

In a four-year study, researchers tracked the work habits of employees at the Boston Consulting Group.
In one experiment, consultants on a team took a break from work one day a week. In a second experiment, every member of a team scheduled one weekly night of uninterrupted personal time, even though they were accustomed to working from home in the evenings.
Everyone resisted at first, fearing they would only be postponing work. But over time, the consultants learned to love their scheduled time off because it consistently refreshed them, and made them more willing to work, which made them more productive overall.
After five months, employees experimenting with deliberate periodic rest were more satisfied with their jobs, more likely to envision a long-term future at the company, more content with their work-life balance and prouder of their accomplishments.

5. Being The Boss Isn’t Stressful

A study from Stanford University found that the higher people are in the pecking order, the less stress they experience.
Researchers from Berkeley showed in a study that having a higher status among others mattered more than a pay increase when it came to one’s happiness. This higher status means more autonomy at work, and they also have more job security.
So even though CEOs have more responsibility, they have more freedom, are paid more, and are generally more respected.
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