In a recent article, “10 Principles of Organizational Culture,” strategy+business highlighted how crucial it is to deploy authentic informal leaders (AILs). As the acronym suggests, AILs are not people in your organization who have been endowed with formal authority by title or by memo. Rather, they possess and exhibit certain leadership strengths such as the ability to do something important well and showing others how to do it (exemplars), or they demonstrate the skill of connecting people across the organization (networkers). Some AILs influence behavior by being the first to understand the value of a new trend (early adopters) or by instinctively associating peers’ positive feelings with day-to-day activities (pride builders). These strengths — which my colleagues at the Katzenbach Center and I refer to as “spikes” — can make AILs powerful allies in any transformation effort.
If you ask managers in a large organization to approach a strategic business problem, their focus often quickly narrows to proposing solutions. When asked why, many respond that they don’t have time to think.
How did we arrive in a state where managers do not recognize that thinking is part of their job? The answer reflects a relentless focus on execution in many large companies. A company becomes big by finding a successful business model — and then scaling it massively. This necessitates building a finely tuned system with highly standardized processes. To get promoted in such an environment requires an almost singular focus on execution. In other words, it requires action more than thinking. However, once executives are promoted to a senior level, these new business leaders must be able to think strategically. Ironically, the very skills in execution that led to their promotions often make these executives ill-equipped for their new roles, since their strategy thinking muscles have withered from disuse.
Every Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is "on the stage" the majority of his or her work life but needs pre-performance quiet and confidential time to be creative, bounce their ideas off someone in a safe environment, and explore the unintended consequences of their future actions. Engaging in a personal coaching conversation is a refreshing opportunity where the CEO can be completely open and creative in a confidential and safe place.
When asked what was the best advice he ever received, Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO of Google, recognized it was from John Doerr, who in 2001 said, "My advice to you is to have a coach." Schmidt initially resented the advice, because after all, he was a CEO. He was pretty experienced. Why would he need a coach?
One of the toughest challenges in personal and corporate development is identifying blind spots and figuring out what to do about them. This is as true for coaches and corporate leaders as it is for any of the team members they direct.
If you are a modern-age professional, we expect you to be self-aware and reflect. At its best, this self-awareness is present in every moment. You engage with another person, and you are at the same time aware of the quality of your engagement and the choices you make. I call this ability double-tracking. In the moment, and watchful of the moment, all at once.
Reflection, however, tends to happen in a pause. The pause is the moment in-between active engagement. Often only milliseconds long. But whoa – what glorious things happen in a pause.
The habits of the best leaders are well documented. They’re self-aware. They admit mistakes. They take care of, recognize, and communicate well with their teams.
But what do these inspirational people do on their own time? What goes on behind the scenes that helps them be so effective on a day-to-day basis?
"I’ve definitely noticed some things that great leaders tend to do," says Danielle Harlan, founder and CEO of The Center for Advancing Leadership and Human Potential, an organization that helps individuals and organizations maximize their impact. And the things they do behind the scenes make all the difference when it comes to their professional leadership ability, she says. Here are five such common habits.
Many of us spend much of our time in meetings and at conferences. But too often these feel like a waste of time, or fail to make the most of the knowledge and experience of the people present.
Meetings have changed, with much more use of online tools, and a growing range of different meeting formats. But our sense is that meetings could be much better run and achieve better results.
This paper tries to help. It summarises some of what is known about how meetings work well or badly; it makes recommendations about how to make meetings better; and showcases some interesting recent innovations. It forms part of a larger research programme at Nesta on collective intelligence which is investigating how groups and organisations can make the most of their brains, and of the technologies they use.
We hope the paper will be helpful to anyone designing or running meetings of any kind, and that readers will contribute good examples, ideas and evidence which can be added into future versions.
Maybe your business has failed or your venture gone off track.
Maybe you were supposed to be the next Steve Jobs, but it's all gone bad. For whatever reason, you find yourself in a place you never imagined--rock bottom. But failure is not fatal and rock bottom is not forever, unless you make it so. There are very important lessons to learn when you've hit rock bottom. Here are nine of the most important:
How is it that Shackleton managed to provide the leadership to overcome mutiny and save all of his men despite the desperate nature of their predicament?
What can we take from it that would be useful in business today? I believe it came down to trust - the trust that Shackleton’s men had built in him, and the environment of trust that he created in his team.
There is a Trust Equation defined in the book The Trusted Advisor that shows the elements needed for trust to exist.
It’s this: Trust = (Credibility x Reliability x Intimacy)/Self Orientation
Most successful leaders have little difficulty saying no to a losing deal, to a project that’s wasting money, or to a request that doesn’t align with their priorities. But these same leaders can find it very uncomfortable to speak up when their concerns are less cut-and-dried or when their organization is hell-bent on pursuing a plan. In certain situations, it can feel politically risky to hesitate or ask too many questions. Even with their direct reports, many leaders find themselves putting off the difficult conversations needed to address issues such as drifting standards, inappropriate behavior, or emerging bad habits.
But, as difficult as it can be, saying no is often the key to effective leadership. Without the ability to push back when needed, you run the risk of “commitment drift”: promises made to customers or employees, or to promote safety, specific values, financial discipline, or social and environmental responsibility are eroded incrementally, without anyone really stopping to think about the consequences. As Joseph Fuller and Michael C. Jensen pointed out in their 2002 paper “Just Say No to Wall Street: Putting a Stop to the Earnings Game,” saying no to such dysfunctional momentum can be your best strategy for helping your company succeed as well as living your values.
Over the last several decades, through my work with tens of thousands of clients and meditation students, I’ve come to see the pain of perceived deficiency as epidemic. It’s like we’re in a trance that causes us to see ourselves as unworthy. Yet, I have seen in my own life, and with countless others, that we can awaken from this trance through practicing mindfulness and self-compassion. We can come to trust the goodness and purity of our hearts.
In order to flower, self-compassion depends on honest, direct contact with our own vulnerability. Compassion fully blossoms when we actively offer care to ourselves. To help people address feelings of insecurity and unworthiness, I often introduce mindfulness and compassion through a meditation I call the RAIN of Self-Compassion. The acronym RAIN, first coined about 20 years ago by Michele McDonald, is an easy-to-remember tool for practicing mindfulness.
I ask this question a lot. My team knows that when they come to me with a question, this is likely the question I’ll come back with first. Sometimes I even preface it with, “I don’t know.” As leaders in our organizations, it’s up to us to coach colleagues and our employees through finding that answer. More often than not, when I ask this question, my team has a better answer than I do — or one that I hadn’t thought about before.
It can be a powerful technique, especially if there is no single right answer – a situation that will be familiar to anyone doing leading-edge work. But it only works in an organization that values listening.
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