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Archive for May, 2008

This is leadership? Yuk!

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Post from Leadership Turn Image credit: hellolapomme

harvard.jpgYesterday’s NYT Bits wondered who is the smarter of two Harvard dropouts, Bill Gates of Microsoft or Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Neither bothered attending class, but Gates caught up “in a single intense burst during a separate reading period at the end of the term.”

Zuckerberg was to busy with Facebook to even do that. “So in an inspired last-minute save, he built a Web site with all of the important paintings and room for annotation. He then sent an e-mail to the students taking the class offering it up as a community resource. In a half an hour, the perfect study guide had self-assembled on the Web.”

Sorry, what Zuckerberg may not have been de facto cheating, but I certainly wouldn’t term it ethical. At lease Gates did the reading himself.

These two men, and other’s like them, are the role models for today’s students. I know, most people think it’s no big deal and a lot of them are very impressed.

I’m not.

No matter how successful they’ve become, they’re attitudes seem to belittle school, essentially saying that it’s OK to not do the schoolwork and pass in any manner you can.

Great examples to set for our future business leaders.

As to the media hype regarding entrepreneurs who start businesses in their dorm rooms, sure, there are a few that make it big. But the great majority of companies are started by seasoned business people and the most successful have advanced degrees.

Am I just a dinosaur, out of touch with acceptable behavior? What do you think?

Your comments—priceless

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Living with your MAP

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Image credit: jon argos

All this talk about knowing yourself/your MAP reminds me of something I’d like to share with you.

Twice recently people have commented on how direct I am and both times it caught me up short. Not because I’m unaware of the trait, but because I’d forgotten about it.

For the last 10 years, direct is why my clients hired and paid me.

The fact that my directness was problematical previous to my starting RampUp Solutions had totally slipped my mind, so when it came up my reaction was ‘huh’.

That’s the way it is with MAP features. There’s no way we can stay conscious of every one of them all the time and in all their guises—and that’s OK 98% of the time, but that 2% can bite when (not if) it pops up.

What to do?

Start by leveling with your people about yourself. In my case, I not only admitted to being direct, i.e., blunt—I joked about it. Along with that I approved and encouraged them to be blunt with me—full reciprocation. It wasn’t always comfortable, but it worked.

Since you know that it can happen, focus your awareness on your effect on those around you. Stay conscious of their facial expressions—or lack thereof—body language, speech patterns, even silences. When a flag goes up address it immediately.

MAP features don’t function as excuses for poor behavior. Continuing with my example, being blunt isn’t an excuse for tearing people down; it doesn’t excuse rudeness, embarrassing, humiliating, disparaging, or publicly criticizing someone.

What MAP features have you forgotten? What impact do they have?

True leadership isn't positional

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Post from Leadership Turn Image credit: Daniel Voyager from TSL

An interesting post over at Collab@work led me to the Executive Summary of an HBS study on how multiplayer games hone leadershipvirtual_universe.jpg skills.

“…the authors studied people who headed up teams in online games. They also sought the insights of gamers who have led real-world business teams at IBM.”

“The authors identified three distinctive characteristics of leadership in online games that, as workplaces and the overall business climate become more dynamic and gamelike, will be essential for tomorrow’s leaders: speed, risk taking, and acceptance of leadership roles as temporary.”

It is the last condition, people acceptance that leadership roles are temporary based on the needed skills at that particular moment and for that particular effort, that will be the hardest sell.

In his blog post, Romuald says, “…in those games, leaders are not designated but rather elected… All team members want to win… So they will elect the one leader that can bring them victory.”

The researchers say that “…nonmonetary incentives built into a game economy strongly motivate individuals to accomplish group aims.”

Temporary leadership happens all the time, but because companies, churches and government insist on connecting ‘leadership’ to ‘position’ via assumptions—if you’re in X role then by definition you’re a leader—makes getting ‘leaders’ to admit that leading is a temporary function all the more difficult.

How would you make leadership less positional?

Your comments—priceless

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Legal isn’t always ethical

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Image credit: seriykotik1970

We all know that legality and ethics don’t go hand in hand, but when (generally accepted) unethical actions go from legal to illegal companies can be slow to change direction.

Example: Siemens. But first, some background.

In 1998 Germany criminalized bribery of foreign officials, but prior to that it was fairly common practice, especially on large infrastructure projects where Siemens is a big player.

The investigation that started in 2006 is just now coming to trial with prosecutors planning on charging some 300 people.

Did the brass know? Seems likely since managers carefully signed Post-it notes that had been affixed to potentially incriminating documents so that they might later peel away evidence of their imprimatur if necessary.”

The prosecution’s effort is aimed well beyond Siemens, “This trial is going to create a new sensibility in Germany,” said Anton Winkler, a senior prosecutor in Munich. “Not only this trial but the entire Siemens investigation. The message has arrived in all German companies.”

In case you don’t read the whole article it’s only fair to mention that “Siemens has hired its own legal and financial investigators, who have identified 1.3 billion euros ($2.1 billion) in suspicious payments that may have been used to win contracts around the world. (Whether in euros or dollars that ain’t hay!) Siemens also hired Michael Hershman, a co-founder of the prominent watchdog group Transparency International, to fashion a system for training employees in compliance with anticorruption laws.”

OK, they’re finally getting it—a decade late, but better late than never. “To be fair, Siemens is setting a pretty good example that other companies could learn from,” said Mark Pieth, a professor of criminology at the University of Basel and the head of antibribery efforts at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, based in Paris.”

Bribery has been illegal in the US far longer, yet companies still do it.

Will this make a difference? What do you think?

Wordless Wednesday: know yourself – know your MAP

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

Image credit: Thiru Murugan

Be sure to visit my other WW our future is in their hands

Wordless Wednesday: our future is in their hands

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

Post from Leadership Turn Image credit: JasonRogers

future.jpg

Be sure to visit my other WW know yourself—know your MAP

Your comments—priceless

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Self-improvement books and your MAP

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Image credit:

Yet another management book, this one telling you that there are five major supports for great management

  • motivating others,
  • attracting and retaining top talent,
  • planning and organizing group performance,
  • driving results throughout an organization, and
  • lifelong development.

Which book doesn’t really matter and I’m not arguing with the list, but you’ve been told similar things over and over. While you really work at making them happen, your results are spotty and you’re not sure why.

Even when you follow the author’s how-to’s exactly your results leave you feeling less than satisfied.

What’s going on? Is there something wrong with you—or is it them?

More importantly, how do you fix it?

To paraphrase an old song, “The answer, my friend, is blowing in your MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™).” Right, in your MAP and not because there’s anything wrong with it, but because you are unique and books are written in a ‘one size fits all’ manner.

This doesn’t mean that you need to change your MAP (unless you decide that change would be beneficial), but it does mean that you need to find books, or parts of books, that resonate with your MAP. Doing so will supply you with tools you can really use and increase your satisfaction.

Here are three quick tests you can use when shopping for self-improvement books.

  • Read the Table of Contents – how someone organizes and presents their material needs to feel right to you or absorbing it moves to the difficult-if-ever category.
  • Scan some of the information and see if it makes sense to you – if you dip into the book in several places and each time find yourself scratching your head then it’s likely that the author and you are on a different wavelength. This doesn’t make either of you wrong, just different, and that kind of different makes your learning more difficult.
  • Read two or three paragraphs in at least three different places – evaluate whether the writing flows for you. No matter how good the content if the writing is so poor/dull/scholarly/etc. that you don’t enjoy it you won’t read it. And if you do manage to plow through it you’re unlikely to absorb it, which defeats the whole purpose of reading it.

Finally, being considered an expert doesn’t guarantee synergy with your MAP and it’s your MAP that needs to connect—not mine and not the reviewer’s.

How do you decide in which books to invest your time?
What are you favorite improvement books?

Alpha companies don’t always have the best leaders!

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

By Wes Ball, author of The Alpha Factor – a revolutionary new look at what really creates market dominance and self-sustaining success.­ Read all of Wes’ posts here.

In my fifteen year research project for my book, The Alpha Factor, that finally uncovered the core transferable secrets to creating sustainable market dominance no matter how big or small you are, I discovered something that seemed to fly in the face of most business mythology. I discovered that many companies that are the dominant leaders are not run by extraordinarily gifted visionary “leaders.” I know that the book Good to Great came up with the conclusion that “great” companies had great leaders, but I did not find that to be true across the board.

harley_davidson.jpgA prime example: Harley-Davidson. They are clearly the Alpha in the cruiser motorcycle category and have been for many years. In the mid-1990s, Harley-Davidsons were found to be the most desired item in the world. Not the most desired motorcycle; the most desired item.

Yet their leadership is not visionary. It is not inspirational. It is not truly “Alpha” material.

The difference between H-D and many other Alphas, Victoria’s Secret for instance, is that one created its Alpha status, the other had it thrust upon them. Victoria’s Secret very purposefully created the aura and dominance they enjoy. Harley-Davidson discovered that they had that aura after they finally got their quality up to an acceptable level in 1983, after the company was purchased from AMF.

H-D’s “Alphaness” is the result of their customers, not their own marketing or strategic vision.

Because of that difference, we may be watching the beginning of the demise of one of the greatest success stories in American manufacturing, as H-D begins to let its quality slide, as I heard from one distraught factory manager.

Could we see them slide into oblivion over the next decade or so, just because their management doesn’t “get it?”

What a shame. As a long-time, die-hard Harley fan, my hope is that they finally catch their customers’ vision!

The road to wisdom really is paved with years

Monday, May 26th, 2008

Image credit: maxbrown

I used to be a whiz at names and phone numbers, but not any more. I excuse these lapses with jokes about accessing data with only 1 K of RAM or that my brain is so stuffed that it’s hard to keep track of minor details.

Well, lo and behold, it’s true.

A recent article in the NY Times explains that in older (that’s me:) brains.

“A broad attention span may enable older adults to ultimately know more about a situation and the indirect message of what’s going on than their younger peers. …much of what occurs is a gradually widening focus of attention that makes it more difficult to latch onto just one fact, like a name or a telephone number.”

What the researchers did was to have both young and older people read text that had extra words thrown in as a distraction; then they asked questions related to the added words. While the younger folks read faster than the older readers, they didn’t process the distracting words.

“For the young people, it’s as if the distraction never happened,” said an author of the review, Lynn Hasher, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and a senior scientist at the Rotman Research Institute. “But for older adults, because they’ve retained all this extra data, they’re now suddenly the better problem solvers. They can transfer the information they’ve soaked up from one situation to another.”

But the best part, both for quieting fears about memory loss and bolstering ego, was the comment about what this means.

Jacqui Smith, a professor of psychology and research professor at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, who was not involved in the current research, said there was a word for what results when the mind is able to assimilate data and put it in its proper place — wisdom.

“These findings are all very consistent with the context we’re building for what wisdom is,” she said. “If older people are taking in more information from a situation, and they’re then able to combine it with their comparatively greater store of general knowledge, they’re going to have a nice advantage.”

What about you? Where are you on the road to wisdom?

Pregnant women need not apply

Monday, May 26th, 2008

Post from Leadership Turn Image credit: danaloganphotography

Cynic that I am, I never really bought into the idea of “sisterhood” and that women supported each other because they were all in the same boat. Nice idea, but I just couldn’t swallow it, partly based on my own experience and partly on what I saw happen around me.

For all you doubters I offer more proof from a brief item in Business Week synopsizing a study in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

pregnant.jpg

 

Researchers at George Mason and Rice universities had 105 people (56 men, 49 women) play the role of interviewer as nonpregnant and visibly pregnant candidates (the researchers, some wearing prosthetic bellies) “applied” for such [traditionally “male”] jobs as corporate lawyer and engineering professor… Hostility toward pregnant applicants was 33% higher than for the other women, with the “interviewers” agreeing afterward with such statements as “she’ll try to get out of doing work” and “she would be too moody.”

Complaints are up 14%, but probably would be higher if more women bothered.

But if that same 105 people had to answer the questions publicly or in front of an audience of predominantly pregnant women, I bet that the general hostility would evaporate, the attitudes change drastically and political correctness would shine through.

Is it right? No. Is it fair? No. is it reality? Unfortunately, yes.

Have you or someone you know experienced pregnancy bias?

What do you think can be done to change it?

Your comments—priceless

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