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Archive for April, 2010

All About Teams

Friday, April 30th, 2010

teams

A reader called me to get some help with a problem she was having with her team. After dealing with the specific problem (too specific and too sensitive to address here) we talked generally about building and managing teams. She said she had searched ‘team’ on my blog before calling and found the information useful and asked it I could recommend some additional reading. Searching Google returned way too many results, so I promised to send her some links.

Now, it’s always nice when someone else does your work for you and I knew that in this case Becky at LeaderTalk would do mine for me.

I knew because her theme this month was about teams and so I thought I’d share that list with all of you.

First up is a post by Mike Henry, Sr. about the Lead Change group and their efforts to create a team of like-minded people who make a difference through leadership. The post includes a link to the team’s new free e-book.  If you are not familiar with this group, check them out; you can join the group on LinkedIn.

Tom Glover has written some fantastic content about teams at his Reflection Leadership blog. I couldn’t choose only one post to include here, so read them all.

Mary Jo Asmus encourages leaders to examine how their behavior could be affecting team performance in her post, “It’s Not Them, It’s You.”

Kevin Eikenberry shares the secret to improving teams in this post entitled “The Quickest Way to Build Your Team.” As a bonus, check out this post about how to nurture strong teams without allowing them to become divisive silos.

Have you met Siddharta Herdegen? I have enjoyed checking out his blog lately. Here’s a place for you to start, with this new post “Why Leaders Need Teams.”

Miki Saxon encourages team leaders to allow people to express their individuality in this post (it also contains a cool video.) Don’t miss it!

Speaking of building teams, one way to build strong teams, according to Tanmay Vora, is to mentor team members. Read more in his post “Eight Lessons I Learned on Being An Effective Mentor.”

Wally Bock draws lessons from the NBA in this post: “Leadership: Creating Teams that Create Great Results.”

Tanveer Naseer talks about how to use the concepts of employee engagement to increase the effectiveness of teams in his post “Employee Engagement is Not Just For Leaders.”

Here’s a post from last summer at the LeaderTalk blog about how to create alignment on your team.

This post from Steve Roesler is hot off the press, published last night. Be sure to read “What to Look For in Teams” for advice from Steve that is spot-on, as usual.

Mike Myatt is straight-up about an important component of team building in this recent post.

Image credit: HikingArtist on flickr

Leadership’s Future: Ignorance is NOT Bliss

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

closed-schoolBudget woes are disrupting state and local governments and everything they fund. Cuts are being made and what better place to cut than those things that don’t show up immediately? Things that are either out of site, like infrastructure, or that can be pushed off to when times are flush(er), such as learning.

As most CEOs will tell you how better to reduce costs than to reduce headcount? And that means firing teachers—more than 100,000 come June and that’s not all.

As a result, the 2010-11 school term is shaping up as one of the most austere in the last half century. In addition to teacher layoffs, districts are planning to close schools, cut programs, enlarge classes and shorten the school day, week or year to save money.

Politicians, especially local pols, tend to focus on supplying instant gratification to their constituency in order be reelected, so even as the economy improves you can’t count on the money being replaced and teachers rehired—assuming they are still available.

It’s far easier to use smoke and mirrors to show that kids are doing just fine in the brave new reduced budget world—smoke being standardized tests as viewed through the mirror of lowered standards.

Education offers little in the way of instant gratification to voters, rather it offers whining kids complaining about homework, tests and tough teachers who have the nerve to expect them to stop texting, pay attention and learn. (What nerve.)

Not all kids are whining, some in New Jersey are protesting the cuts approved by voters .

The mass walkouts were inspired by Michelle Ryan Lauto, an 18-year-old aspiring actress and a college freshman, and came a week after voters rejected 58 percent of school district budgets put to a vote across the state (not all districts have a direct budget vote).

The full damage of cuts now won’t be felt for years to come, but the voting public has both long and short-term memory loss and the pols who did it will be long gone—or moved to a higher level.

And America will be left wringing its hands and moaning about its loss of world leadership and the incredible difficulty of finding good talent to hire.

Image credit: 19melissa68 on flickr

Wordless Wednesday: a Good Trade

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

fear-and-curiosity

Image credit: *Zephyrance – don’t wake me up. on flickr

Ducks in a Row: CEOs and (with) Brass Balls

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

ducks_in_a_row

Yesterday was my birthday and it was lovely. I did nothing useful or productive all day, just enjoyed puttering and reading, and then was taken to dinner. As I said, lovely; and I sure wasn’t going to spoil the day with a patch of creative writing.

But a hilarious post at Wally Bock’s Three Star Leadership about Big Ed Whiteacre’s magic mirror reminded me of something I wrote last year that compliments it perfectly.

Be sure to read Wally’s post; I’ve included mine below.

Power, Arrogance and MAP

brass_balls

I recently questioned whether, in fact, the imperial CEO is indeed dead as many are saying.

Wednesday Dan McCarthy was inspired to write 10 Ways to Avoid the Arrogance of Power after reading The Arrogance of Power by Jeffrey Pfeffer, a Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford Business School. Pfeffer says,

“The higher you go in an organization, the more those around you are going to tell you that you are right. The higher reaches of organizations–which includes government, too, in case you slept through the past eight years–are largely absent of critical thought. … There is also evidence, including some wonderful studies by business school professor Don Hambrick at Penn State, that shows the corroding effects of ego. Leaders filled with hubris are more likely to overpay for acquisitions and engage in other risky strategies. Leaders ought to cultivate humility.” He ends by advising not to hold your breath waiting for this to change.”

I think much of Dan’s advice is good, but I won’t hold my breath waiting for the advice to be taken.

I think that power corrupts those susceptible to it, not all those who have it; there are enough examples of powerful people who didn’t succumb to keep me convinced.

Susceptibility is woven in MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™) and is especially prevalent in today’s society of mememememememe with its sense of entitlement.

Changing MAP and stopping drinking are similar, since the individual has to choose to change. All the horses and all the men can’t convince the king to change—that only happens from the inside out.

Moreover, as I’ve frequently said, MAP is sneaky; it will pretend to change and then revert to its normal pattern when no one’s looking.

We, the people, can’t force them to change, but we can learn to sustain our attention span and keep looking.

Image credit: Svadilfari on flickr and Jim Frazier on flickr

It’s My Birthday!

Monday, April 26th, 2010

birthday-cake

Another year, another birthday; yup, today is my birthday.

Last year I wrote a rhyme, but I’m not going to inflict another one on you—this year. The preceding three years I treated it like any other day, which isn’t like me.

I’ve always felt that birthday’s were a lot more important than holidays such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day.

After all, your birthday is your day, no one else’s. Sure, other people were born on that day—you might even know some—but that doesn’t change the fact that your birthday the only day in the year that is uniquely yours and you should take full advantage of it.

When I worked in an office I took the day off; now that I work for myself I sometimes only manage part of the day off, but still try for all of it.

My favorite thing this time of year is to go out in my garden and play in the dir, but the forecast is for rain, which doesn’t exactly inspire me.

So I think I’ll give myself a rain check and take a day off down the road when I have both the weather and the reason.

For today, all together now, happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday dear Miki, happy birthday to me.

Image credit: runrunrun on sxc.hu

mY generation: Too Big To…wait what?

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

See all mY generation posts here.

toobig


Quotable: More on Questions

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

questionsQuestions were the topic of last week’s Quotable Quotes and I promised you more today.

The power of questions is recognized world wide; the Irish believe that “questioning is the door of knowledge,” while in India Indira Gandhi said, “The power to question is the basis of all human progress.”

Not everybody likes people who ask questions; as Dale Spender points out, “Openly questioning the way the world works and challenging the power of the powerful is not an activity customarily rewarded.”

On the other hand, Francis Bacon, Sr. said, “A prudent question is one half of wisdom.”

And according to Alice Wellington Rollins, “The test of a good teacher is not how many questions he can ask his pupils that they will answer readily, but how many questions he inspires them to ask him which he finds it hard to answer.” I love that idea, probably because I had a couple of teachers like that.

As a person who loves conversation, I relate completely with James Nathan Miller’s thoughts on the subject, “There is no such thing as a worthless conversation, provided you know what to listen for. And questions are the breath of life for a conversation.”

Questions may drive conversation, but as Anon points out, “There are two sides to every question, because, when there are no longer two sides it ceases to be a question.”

Answers often offer up wisdom, even innocuous ones, such as this from Garson Kanin, “A man ninety years old was asked to what he attributed his longevity. I reckon, he said, with a twinkle in his eye, it because most nights I went to bed and slept when I should have sat up and worried.”

Join me next week for another look at wisdom.

Image credit: immrchris on sxc.hu

Expand Your Mind: Traits of a Leader

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

expand-your-mindContrary to popular myths, venture capitalists invest in leaders with powerful management teams as opposed to investing in the technology or idea. That’s because change—markets, competition—happens often and shit—fatal flaws, the economy—happen more often.

In short, they look for leaders.

So what makes people want to follow a leader? We look for 3 key traits:

  • The ability to articulate the vision
  • The right kind of ambition
  • The ability to achieve the vision

TechCrunch did a great post on three people who embody the key attributes that people want to follow.

And although I’m sure you’ll recognize Steve Jobs and Andy Grove, but you’ve probably never heard of Bill Campbell, who is by far the most interesting of the three.

Next, Scott Berkun offers a great summary, along with the video, of the best points in an Economist interview with Ed Catmull, the president of Pixar.

Finally there is Scott Adams of Dilbert fame, who suggests that one of the most important traits for a leader is energy.

I have a hypothesis that people instinctively want to be led by whoever has the most energy. … We’re all energy junkies, and our leaders are pushers.

Adams offers some interesting examples, so be sure to read what comes between these two sentences before deciding on the validity of his idea.

Image credit: pedroCarvalho on flickr

Common Sense and Competency

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Today’s post is very short because it requires you to read two others.

First is Dan McCarthy’s wondering if common sense is a learnable skill and offering his own eight steps that might (or might not) help. The first step is a doozy.

Admit you have a problem.

As Dan points out it is probably the hardest step of all.

Reading that post reminded me of a post I did based on an article I read ten years ago about research on incompetence.

“Most incompetent people do not know that they are incompetent. … One reason that the ignorant also tend to be the blissfully self-assured, the researchers believe, is that the skills required for competence often are the same skills necessary to recognize competence.”

Admitting you may be incompetent is far worse than admitting a lack of common sense and so even less likely to happen.

feedbackWhich is why you need feedback from a variety of sources; the larger the variety the more accurate the picture.

Of course, then you need to listen to it.

Image credit: Karl Horton on flickr

Leadership’s Future: a Sustainable Future

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Today is Earth Day and much will be written on what it will take to create a sustainable future for all life on our planet and it will be written by those far more knowledgeable than I.

earth-dayThe basis of the actions that must happen to assure a sustainable future is the MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™) required to enable it. MAP is composed of three parts that are formed over time starting in early childhood. Mindset and attitude are the main focus; they are the ones most commonly written about and discussed.

But it is philosophy upon which the other two rest making it the most important and it is philosophy that most often is assumed or ignored—especially when it comes to young kids. After all, developing philosophy requires high level reasoning and common wisdom says that young kids can’t do it.

However, as is often the case, common wisdom is wrong.

Matthew Lipman, then a professor at Columbia University, argued that children could think abstractly at an early age and that philosophical questioning could help them develop reasoning skills. … Professor Lipman’s view opposed that of the child-development theorist Jean Piaget, who asserted that children under 12 were not capable of abstract reasoning.

To build a truly sustainable future is more likely to happen if the changes required are driven by the ‘P’ in MAP, rather than by unthinking dogma and ideology.

You would think that anything that helped kids develop the kind of life skills that make for better citizens would be welcome, but the ability to conceptualize and reason are no longer the focus of education.

…many school officials either find the subject too intimidating or believe it does not fit with the test-driven culture of public education these days.

Building a sustainable future isn’t a function of multiple choice questions, so we, today’s adults, had better choose wisely the tools that are required and then see to it that the tomorrow’s adults can use them—or there won’t be much future for their children.

Image credit: FlyingSinger on flickr

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