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Archive for February, 2008

Stupid quote day: past politics 3

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

quail.jpg“What a waste it is to lose one’s mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is.” — Dan Quayle, former U.S. Vice President

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Stupid quote day: past politics 2

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

facts_are_stupid_things_ronald_reagan.jpg“Facts are stupid things.” — Ronald Reagan, Former U.S. President

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Stupid quote day: past politics 1

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

Every Sunday I post three off-beat quotes (6 AM, noon, and 4 PM Eastern Time) from famous people or media and you respond with another strange quote either from the same person or on a similar or connected topic—the further out or more outrageous the quote the better.If the connection isn’t fairly obvious it’s up to you to explain it.

bridge.jpg“Those who survived the San Francisco earthquake said, “Thank God, I’m still alive.” But, of course, those who died, their lives will never be the same again.” — Barbara Boxer, Senator

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Leader + manager = leadager (part 3)

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

In the first post in this series Casey Ross’ comment “I’ve been around too many visionary “leaders” who could inspire the heck out of you but could never get one thing accomplished.” got me to thinking.

There may be something else going on along with the “play it safe” mentality engendered by the bean counters (some, not all).

armchair.jpgCall it the ‘armchair leader’, who, much like the Monday morning quarterback or armchair philosopher, is a person who knows all about leadership without actually doing it.

These are the people who read leadership books, attend leadership classes and can discuss leadership philosophy and approaches intelligently and convincingly. They can create enormously compelling visions, produce the collateral information to implement them and even inspire those around them—but nothing happens.

As Casey says, they just can’t DO it. Something is missing.

I believe that ‘something’ starts in doing, in stepping forward and saying, “I’ve got an idea.”

Or not saying anything and just taking the initiative to do/fix/create/whatever without a lot of thought about visions and inspiration, but with so much enthusiasm and willingness to listen and include others that they jump on the wagon because it’s where the action is and looks like so much fun.

How many armchair leaders do you know?

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Lawyers in the corporate world

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

Most of us aren’t enamored with lawyers in general, and in-house counsel are no exception. But what’s it like from the lawyer’s point of view?

Is working directly for a company and having to assimilate its corporate culture and deal with whatever the bureaucracy is in order to function difficult? Easy? Unnoticeable—just another day at a different office?

I’ve never given it much thought. In all honesty, my thoughts about company counsel most often run along unprintable lines when I’m struggling to turn a policy crafted in legalese into a document that normal employees can understand well enough to follow.

skyscraper.jpgI learned a bit tonight in a Law.com story about in-house counsel recounted from a meeting of the Association of Corporate Counsel.

No surprise that ‘establishing trust with businesspeople is a key to success for a general counsel…’ was considered key and a number of counsel offered up their own experiences.

They all agreed that it was absolutely critical to understand the corporate culture and the company’s business in depth.

Here are the questions they covered.

Question 1. When you first went in-house, what were the most important things you found you needed to know?

Question 2. What was the hardest thing for you to get used to?

Question 3. What was the easiest?

Question 4. What are you still trying to get used to?

Question 5. What do you like best about being in-house?

Question 6. What do you like least?

Question 7. What are the most important things that helped you succeed?

The responses parallel much of the working world.

A strong dislike of corporate politics, bureaucracy and excessive meetings was countered by better work/life balance, lighter workload and a friendlier atmosphere.

Gee, who knew? Lawyers are people, too.

Do you like your in-house counsel?

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Leader + manager = leadager (part 2)

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

Yesterday KG said, “Good managers have processes and techniques that they implement to get people to work. Leaders inspire.

“I replied “inspiring means taking chances and requires a culture that doesn’t just tolerate stumbles and failures, but actually encourages them. Without that safety people won’t take chances with a vision but will stick to the status quo.”

What makes that culture so hard to come by?

At least part of the answer is found in comments by Tony Palazzo in a post from Steve Roesler.

Palazzo thinks that “leadership is demonstrated when someone stands up and says, “We can do this better. Here’s how. Let’s go!”

That’s called vision—outside the status quo.

Palazzo continues, “The gods of Finance are setting the rules for how business will be done. Shareholder value is now the end product. Standing up and taking the lead in your area of discipline is a risk that is not only not rewarded, it may get you into trouble if the “Finance Guy” doesn’t like it–or doesn’t understand it.”gcstool.jpg

I’ve always told my clients that corporate success is like a 3-legged stool—customers, equity-holders, employees—and that if one leg grows too long from over-indulgence the stool will tip over.

Great philosophy, but the reality today in most public companies is that Wall Street and quarterly results are what really matters.

And that reality is driving a risk-adverse, color-inside-the-lines mentality in which vision and leadership have no place. Worse is the vicious circle that forms—the person brought in to lead has a vision, but the vision isn’t fast enough so the person is dumped and another brought in and each successive round plays it safer and safer.

Please join me tomorrow for the final part of Leader + manager = leadager.

How can more companies be encouraged to take the risks that lead to innovation?

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MAP and coconut headsets

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

coconuts.jpgMy thanks to Scott Allen for pointing this out. (I don’t get around as much I should:)

Rob May has left Businesspundit, but is still in voice with a new blog he calls Coconut Headsets along with an explanation of the name. In short, the term refers to copying something in the hopes of making it real. As applied to business Rob says, ‘Managers wear coconut headsets when they blindly copy ideas, or grossly misapply them, instead of thinking through each situation to see if adopting a new idea makes sense. Leaders wear coconut headsets when they confuse cause and effect, like believing that happy employees leads to better corporate performance, when perhaps the real link is that better corporate performance leads to happy employees.’

I like the analogy and it’s a great way to broach a serious problem with a bit of humor, always a good idea.

MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™) addresses a problem similar to coconut headsets.glassesandmap.jpg

While copying blindly is ineffective, copying thoughtfully ideas that are at odds with your MAP is just as ineffective.

When the manager, who’s MAP believes his people are stupid, add little value, are interchangeable and easily replaced, institutes an employee recognition program it’s bound to fail because his people will feel the hypocrisy and ignore it.

Utilizing best practices and other good ideas works only when

  • you take the time to think them through and tweak them to fit the situation; and
  • they are, at the least, synergistic with your MAP, so you can authentically support them.

How do you stay true to your MAP and avoid coconut headsets?

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Leader + manager = leadager (part 1)

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

kg_charles-harris.jpgI asked Emanio CEO KG Charles-Harris what he thought of ‘leadager’ as a new word that meant both leader and manager.

KG: I believe the terms are so different that it’s difficult to put them together.

me: Yes, but I’m referring to the best. I think that if you lead without managing you end up with chaos.

If you manage without leading you codify the status quo.

KG: I agree. But management is a discipline, whereas leadership is more difficult to quantify and teach.

me: True, you DO leadership, public opinion recognizes you as a leader and the leadership industry gives you the language to talk about what you did.

KG: I’m not sure what the leadership industry is. Much of it is smoke and mirrors, but not all. I think leadership is best described as influence directed to accomplish goals, either explicitly or implicitly so. Good managers have processes and techniques that he implements to get people to work. Leaders inspire.

me: Yes, but I still think that great managers inspire and great leaders manage—emphasis on great.

KG: Leadership is not necessarily good. Hitler was a good leader but a terrible manager. He had very good managers under him, though.

me: True, and I should have said “should” instead of presenting it as a given. In today’s world, especially in business, many of those in positions of power are afraid to have people in place that might challenge them or show them up. As a result, each level of management often gets weaker as it goes down the ladder.

Fostering leadership is yet more difficult, since inspiring means taking chances and requires a culture that doesn’t just tolerate stumbles and failures, but actually encourages them. Without that safety people won’t take chances with a vision but will stick to the status quo.

Be sure to join me tomorrow for part 2.

Do you think that managers should have vision and leaders should have management skills?

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Wordless Wednesday: Necessity = Innovation

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008


More Wordless Wednesday

sign of our time

casting his net

Wordless Wednesday: sign of our time

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008



More Wordless Wednesday

necessity = innovation

casting his net


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