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Archive for February, 2008

Corporate culture, trust and the boss

Friday, February 29th, 2008

rotten_apples.jpgInteresting post over at Incentive Intelligence regarding incentive abuse, bad corporate culture and lack of trust.

‘If you don’t address the root cause of a problem you can’t motivate and reinforce the appropriate behaviors that will drive performance.

And many times the root cause is the company culture. A bad culture will pervert any incentive and recognition program.’

But I think lack of trust is a symptom of a bad culture, not its cause.

Bad culture is always the responsibility of the CEO (or whatever the top dog is called). Whether the culture is actively fostered by the boss or allowed to flourish through benign neglect it’s still his responsibility.

And no one but the boss can fix it, either.

What has your boss done for you company culture lately?

Review: Executive Intelligence: What All Great Leaders Have

Friday, February 29th, 2008

executive-intelligence.gifJustin Menkes’ Executive Intelligence: What All Great Leaders Have shines a hard light on what sets executives apart. Why does one show brilliant insight while another moves at normal levels and yet another badly blows it?

Menkes makes a case that it is intelligence and the resulting cognitive skills that underlie the brilliance seen in executives such as Andrea Jung (Avon Products Inc.), Van Johnson (Sutter Health) and Jack Welch, as opposed to so-called emotional intelligence or charisma.

Menkes idea that it is intelligence that makes the difference is based on eight years of research on intelligence tests and cognitive skills and reveals the set of aptitudes that all brilliant leaders share.

Although 50% of an individual’s intellectual capacity is genetically influenced, Menkes makes the point that the remaining half offers fertile ground for teaching and improving Executive Intelligence. (He cites several studies showing the difference in test scores between students participating in interactive classes that stress critical thinking vs. more typical teaching methods that do well regurgitating information for standardized tests.)

Menkes breaks managerial work down into three areas—accomplishing tasks, working with other people, and self-evaluation—then identifies the cognitive skills that determine how well an executive performs.

  • Tasks – to correctly define a problem, identify the highest-priority issues, assess what is known and determine needs to be known in order to render a sound decision.
  • Others – to recognize underlying agendas, understand multiple perspectives, and anticipate likely emotional reactions throughout the organization.
  • Self – to objectively identify one’s own mistakes, encourage and seek out constructive criticism, and adjust one’s own behavior.

Much of the book relates to how important evaluating intelligence is when hiring and includes discussions with CEOs on their approach to recognizing its presence.

Menkes believes the best way evaluate a candidate’s talent and cognitive skills is found in a set of question that discuss hypothetical business problems, since this most closely mimics the way most business decisions are actually made.

Additionally, that the best tests in hiring measure the ability to accomplish tasks, work with and through others, evaluate oneself and adapt accordingly and he defines 17 critical skills that the best managers use to think their way through problems.

There is much food for thought in Executive Intelligence, but I was sadly disappointed at the lack of concrete how-to’s.

I realize that Menkes heads Executive Intelligence Group, a consulting firm whose revenues are based on providing the questions and other how-to information for it’s clients, but the lack of practical help in applying his excellent research left me with the feeling that the only solution was to hire his company—something completely our of reach to many companies and most startups.

What roll do you think intelligence plays in running a business?

Corporate Culture: They Will Become Their Parents

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

I love it. Another article focusing on what companies need to do to hire Gen X and Y—of course they’re a big chunk of the workforce and getting bigger—Gen Y alone is 80 million strong and will compose 44% of workers by 2020.

Not that I disagree with the comments, but that the focus is strictly on doing these things in order to lure younger employees because they demand it, when the same perks will attract works of any age.

‘The move often is aimed at attracting the youngest members of the work force — Generations X and Y — who are more outspoken than their baby boomer predecessors about demanding a life outside the office, said Lynne Lancaster, co-author of When Generations Collide.’

generations.jpgWhat people seem to forget is that the Boomers were plenty disrupting and more demanding than their parents—in fact, historically each generation has disrupted the status quo and demanded more than its predecessor in one way or another.

Just as every generation has focused on various traits of the upcoming generation and deemed them the end of civilization—if not the world. I’m sure our hunter ancestors looked with horror at their gatherer children and predicted starvation if the herds weren’t followed.

I have no problem when Gen X and Y talk their demands and walk when they aren’t met because most of those demands will improve the workplace for all ages, but they would do well to remember that eventually they will become their parents—maybe not to themselves, but to the newer generations agitating for change.

Bank needs leadership – leaders need not apply

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

I don’t follow Canadian business, but I came across a hilarious commentary by columnist Barry Critchley in the National Post on Canada.com.bmo_financialgroup.gif

He starts by informing you that “Bank of Montreal [Canada’s oldest bank dating to 1817] announced a series of management changes in its capital-markets operation this week,” explaining that all of the executive changes were internal moves as opposed to being advertised externally.

Critchley goes on to describe what an ad might look like if the position had been open to outsiders.

“The position is ideally suited for a senior banker who loves to tell lots of stories over lunch because you will be doing lots of lunches over the next couple of years…a person who is prepared to go big, indeed, an executive who will bet the farm…must have shown a demonstrated competence to manage upwards…extra consideration will be given to those bankers whose group has lost more than $1.5-billion over the past year…We will pay a generous compensation package consisting of salary, bonus, stock, stock options and other perks…We are proud of the corporate culture we have developed over the past 191 years…we don’t toss our CEOs overboard at the first sign of trouble…we stick by you despite the mess.”

Great satire, but also, assuming the one-and-a-half billion dollar loss and 1000 person layoffs are accurate, an excellent encapsulation of a company yearning for real leadership, not just old executives in new positions or new executives cut from the current cloth.

Is this a company in which you’d want to own stock?

Your comments—priceless

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Wordless Wednesday: Expediency

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

bucks_trampoline.jpg

More Wordless Wednesday

MAPpingCompany Success’ Expediency

Linked Intelligence’s Connecting

Wordless Wednesday: authenticity – mean what you say

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

drop_pants.jpg

More Wordless Wednesday

MAPpingCompany Success’ Expediency

Linked Intelligence’s Connecting

Microsoft corporate culture: invade and conquer

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

Over at Computerworld David DeJean offers up some good commentary on the proposed Microsoft acquisition of Yahoo.

After a quick look at a couple of Microsoft’s biggest screw-ups, such as Hotmail, Dean says, ‘To be sure, that was a decade ago, and Microsoft has had some time to learn from past mistakes — and it’s gotten plenty of opportunity, with 52 companies bought since 2005, according to Wikipedia. I’ve got to say, I haven’t heard any horror stories. Maybe it has. But if I worked for Yahoo! right now I’d be comparing that acquisitions list to my rolodex and making some calls to find out.’

Granted that this merger-not-of-equals is a long way from happening, but if it does it will definitely feel hostile.

It’s not just the huge disparity of culture and technology—it’s the idea of being invaded and defeated. Corporations are nationalistic and people are rarely creative,capture_of_a_king.jpg productive or happy when they lose their national identity, their culture is destroyed and the conquerors start running things.

It takes enormous tact, diplomacy, openness, and authentic respect (not traits for which Microsoft is known) to merge when things are synergistic, let alone when there’s a history of open warfare.

In a slowing economy I’ll give odds that not just Yahoo’s best, but all the rest, are already burning up recruiter phone lines, spending hours on LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media sites, calling friends, attending networking events and scouring ads looking for a new home.

What would you be doing if you worked at Yahoo?

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The greatest leadership WOW ever told

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

holding-sun.jpgFinding and identifying WOW in anything is exciting, fun and always a two-edged sword—which is the most useful kind as well as the most dangerous. When the talk turns to leadership WOW, the adjectives that you hear most frequently these days are “authentic,” meaning real or genuine, and “servant” meaning it’s all about them—as opposed to you.

And while those should be the WOW, they’re upstaged every time by what I call the believability factor, BF for short.

WOW—for better or worse—is found in believability.

The better is obvious. A strong BF draws people to you; it helps them hear what you have to say; see the vision that you present; and underscores their willingness to follow your lead. Without it, even the straightest shooters may be casually dismissed.

The flip side is definitely worse, because con people, crooks and even murderers often have BF in abundance.

For that reason, followers as well as other leaders need to look first for BF, because without it nothing will happen, and then beyond it to be sure that it’s grounded in values that are at least synergistic to their own.

Values are subjective and are part of your MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™). To assume that another person’s values are parallel to your own because you like them, work with/for them, even go to church with them, is naïve—but people do it all the time.

Choosing whom to follow is a responsibility not to be taken lightly or handed off to others. Sure, your choices won’t always be correct, but you will be able to say that you made the best decision possible based on who you were and what you knew at that time—which is the most we can expect of ourselves.

If you’d like to learn more about how to evaluate your own BF and change it if you so desire, read MAP your BF—at work, at home, even in the bedroom!

 Want more WOW factors? Visit Common Sense PR for links to all the WOW today on the Business Channel.

How do you assess BF in those around you?

Your comments—priceless

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Strength and grace: Vanessa Williams

Monday, February 25th, 2008

I have to confess that I’m as far from a pop culture vulture as you can get and movies aren’t my thing, so normally I don’t watch the Academy Awards. But tonight I was working and left the TV on for background noise. There wasn’t much choice so I had on the Academy Awards and they segued into an hour of Barbara Walters’ interviews when I wasn’t looking.

The interview with Vanessa Williams caught my interest.

Hard to believe that 20 years have past since she was forced to give up her Miss America crown because of nude pictures taken several years before she won.

Williams was devastated, but chose to focus forward instead of backward.

“Today, Vanessa has not only has 14 Grammy Nominations, won over 30 awards from things such as Soul Train awards, MTV Video Music Awards, and the Billboard Music Awards (to name a few), but she has also conquered “The Big Screen” with movies such as Soul Food, Eraser and Dance With Me. She has overcome the TV screen with made-for-tv-movies such as Bye Bye Birdie and The Courage to Love. Lastly, she has made her life long dream come true and performed on none other than Broadway in Kiss of the Spider Woman.”

Williams currently plays one of the most delicious bitches ever to grace the small screen in the hit comedy Ugly Betty.

She’s a philanthropist, “embracing and supporting such issues as education, homelessness, abuse, women’s issues and health concerns, AIDS and anything having to do with children.”

Her intelligence and wit show clearly in numerous interviews—as when asked what she thought about being a sex-symbol she replied, “Oh well, I’m happy how my parents’ genes have worked out.”

Tonight, Walters asked if she would have done things differently in 1989 and Williams responded that she wouldn’t have entered the pageant. Nothing about not taking the pictures, just that she would have avoided the conflict.

Williams has displayed strength and grace under fire in all her efforts and is proof that even a traumatic setback doesn’t have to stop you unless you allow it to.

Do you have a strength and grace story to share?

Your comments—priceless

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5 guiding points to hiring and managing diversity

Monday, February 25th, 2008

diversity.jpgBy 2010 one in every three workers in the US labor force will be people of color.

True diversity isn’t just diversity of race, gender, creed and country, but what I call the new diversity—all those plus diversity of thought.

Think about it, if a manager really works at it she can create a rainbow colored group who all think the same way—it’s far more difficult to put together a group of totally diverse thinkers.

Managers tend to hire in their comfort zone, but more and more that refers to how people think, rather than how they look.

Here are 5 guiding points in hiring and managing diversity.

  1. Avoid assumptions. People aren’t better because they graduated from your (or your people’s) alma mater or come from your hometown/state.
  2. Know your visual prejudices. Everybody has them (one of mine is dirty-looking, stringy hair), because you can’t hear past them if you’re not aware of them.
  3. Listen. Not to what the words mean to you, but what the words mean to the person speaking.
  4. Be open to the radical. Don’t shut down because an idea is off the wall at even the third look and never dismiss the whole if some part can be used.
  5. Be open to alternative paths. If your people achieve what they should it doesn’t matter that they did it in a way that never would have crossed your mind.

Finally, remember that if you’re totally comfortable, with nary a twinge to ripple your mental lake, your group is probably lacking in diversity.

How do you hire and manage diversity?

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