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Archive for July, 2010

Expand Your Mind: About Leadership

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

expand-your-mindToday we’re going to start with the general and move to the specific.

Last year we saw a generational shift during the Presidential election and that generational shift is happening in business, too.

Ethisphere recently spoke with William W. George, a professor of management at Harvard Business School who is the former chairman and chief executive officer of Medtronic and currently a director of both ExxonMobil and Goldman Sachs. He talked about how leadership in business is going through a huge and dramatic transformation as the baby boom gives way to younger executives with very different ways of seeing the world, connecting and working. He also talked about what it takes to be a strong leader in a challenging time.

George considers Chip Conley too old at 49 to be one of those transformational leaders, which just goes to show how silly it is to define things by a random circumstance like birth date. It may seem to work as a generality for marketers, but it rarely holds up on a case-by-case basis. In a delightful post, Conley talks about his leadership lessons during junior high.

No, what Danari [13 year old grandson] wanted to know is which classes had the most profound impact on me as a leader today?

I do like Bob Sutton’s stuff, he’s a great writer and he always makes sense. In this post he looks the boss as a shield, not for herself, but for her people.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic lately, since it’s the focus of an article I’m publishing in September’s issue of Harvard Business Review called “The Boss as Human Shield,” and of one chapter in Good Boss, Bad Boss. There are many nuances to how bosses protect their followers, but it’s a useful simplification to say that the protection must be both tangible and emotional.

The recent stories of unbridled greed makes you think that nothing would surprise you, but any time you think that another story comes along and you realize that you ain’t seen nothing yet. The story of David H. Brooks, CEO of DHB, which makes body armor for the military and police, fits that category. It’s not just his greed, although that is stunning,

“What makes it interesting isn’t that there is anything novel legally about it, but just how egregious this guy’s alleged behavior is, how gross the abuses are and how much greed is involved,” said Meredith R. Miller, an associate law professor at Touro College in Central Islip, N.Y.

but it was his defense that blew me away.

His lawyers also defended the hiring of prostitutes for employees and board members, arguing in court papers that it represented a legitimate business expense “if Mr. Brooks thought such services could motivate his employees and make them more productive.”

Unbelievable.

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pedroelcarvalho/2812091311/

Leadership’s Future: Leadership and Student Achievment

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Learning-from-Leadership-Investigating-Links-bHow important is leadership (in its generally accepted definition) with regards to student results and where does/should it come from?

The Science Codex writes about a new study funded by The Wallace Foundation gives interesting, but not surprising, insight.

“The rubber hits the road in the classroom; that’s where the learning happens,” said Kyla Wahlstrom. “Leadership is important because it sets the conditions and the expectations in the school that there will be excellent instruction and there will be a culture of ongoing learning for the educators and for the students in the school.”

The study demonstrates a strong, positive link between educational leaders — particularly principals — and student learning outcomes.

I’s not surprising because we all know that in the workplace most people live up—or down—to their boss’ expectations and it’s been shown that kids do, too.

If you don’t feel like reading the whole study, the Codex lists the main findings, among them

  • Higher-performing schools generally ask for more input and engagement from a wider variety of stakeholders.
  • In districts where levels of student learning are high, district leaders are more likely to emphasize goals and initiatives that reach beyond minimum state expectations for student performance.
  • The stark lack of district support for principals’ professional development and a lack of regular contact between most principals and their district office.

Input from all stakeholders…engagement…goals…initiatives…striving for excellence…professional development. This is what works, what motivates most humans and leads to positive results.

Not surprising that it would be applicable in education, but not happening, either.

Flickr image credit: The Wallace Foundation

Wordless Wednesday: Potential!

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

potential

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/futurowoman/120862048/

Ducks in a Row: Can You Hear the Song?

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

ducks_in_a_rowIn a recent column in the NY Times by Bob Herbert adds his voice to mine in condemning today’s wired, multitasking mentality, only he does it with far more flair. The part I want to share is near the end.

There’s a character in the August Wilson play “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” who says everyone has a song inside of him or her, and that you lose sight of that song at your peril. If you get out of touch with your song, forget how to sing it, you’re bound to end up frustrated and dissatisfied. … Other people have something to say, too. And when they don’t, that glorious silence that you hear will have more to say to you than you ever imagined. That is when you will begin to hear your song. That’s when your best thoughts take hold, and you become really you.

Just as individuals have songs companies do also and both need silence to hear them.

The song is MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™) set to music; values and culture that sing to you and mirror you.

Songs are elusive and the cacophony that often pervades life and work makes it yet more difficult to hear them.

Why do people keep adding to it and then complain bitterly about the noise.

When I was young I realized that I could have all the stuff I wanted as long as I owned the stuff and the stuff didn’t own me.

Technology is like stuff—you can’t let it own you.

There is a marvelous world outside the window and inside yourself just waiting to be explored.

No thunderbolt will strike if you put it down, turn it off, look out the window, smile and say hi to those you can literally reach out and touch, feel the magic, hear the song.

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zedbee/103147140/

Change Need to Want

Monday, July 26th, 2010

want-not-need

Yesterday I shared quotes about approval and promised you a story.

A few days ago a long-time reader, I’ll call him Jack, and I got back in touch.

Previously Jack had shared some of the problems and personal demons he was facing that were making him unhappy and holding him back.

Yesterday I could hear in his voice that he was a different guy. When I asked him how things were going he shared many of the processes and changes that had led to the new Jack.

It is one of his biggest changes that I want to share with you.

I am much stronger. My life doesn’t hinge on the approval of everyone around me. (I still chase it, but I don’t fall apart if I don’t get it)

Jack is not alone. We all look for approval from colleagues, friends and family, but especially from bosses, parents and our romantic interests.

Everybody chases approval in one way or another and that’s OK.

It’s not the wanting, but the needing that is the problem.

We need air to breathe, water, food and shelter.

We want nice clothes, cars, electronics and choice in everything.

Not having our needs met means misery; missing out on our wants is annoying and frustrating, but it doesn’t jeopardize our lives.

It took Jack more than a year of hard work to change his MAP and move approval from need to want, but he did it.

And so can you.

Flickr image credit: http://www.warningsigngenerator.com/

mY generation: Productivity (a true story)

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

See all mY generation posts here.

productivity

Quotable Quotes: Approval

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

stamp-of-approvalApproval—something we all enjoy and sometimes chase, but isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be.

Self-approval is a good; something to strive for and actively work to achieve, but craving approval from others is a different matter as Chris Morris warns,“The pursuit of approval usually ends in disaster.”

Mark Twain believes that “A man cannot be uncomfortable without his own approval,” which is not only true, but the analog to Tehyi Hsieh’s words, “Lean too much on the approval of people, and it becomes a bed of thorns.”

Rachel Naomi Remen describes the pursuit of approval best, “To seek approval is to have no resting place, no sanctuary. Like all judgment, approval encourages a constant striving. It makes us uncertain of who we are and of our true value. Approval cannot be trusted. It can be withdrawn at any time no matter what our track record has been. It is as nourishing of real growth as cotton candy. Yet many of us spend our lives pursuing it.”

Pursuing approval from others also leads to a lonely life, because, as Maurice Chevalier says, Those whose approval you seek most give you the least.”

Self-approval may not come easily, but it comes fastest to those who follow Johannes Kepler’s approach, “I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses.”

All this can become a moot point is common wisdom is followed early, “If a child lives with approval, he learns to live with himself.”

Please join me tomorrow for a true story about the quest for approval.

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sudhamshu/4208690449/

Expand Your Mind: Fun and Immortality

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

expand-your-mindSummer time and the living is easy—but the thought of a date makes some people queasy…

People may date all year long, but there is something about summer that especially leads to thoughts of romance—or at least lust. Maybe it’s all those partially unclothed bodies…

Twenty and thirty-somethings aren’t hesitant to try new stuff and seem to love tech-driven solutions to the age old problem of finding love, think match.com, eHarmony and others.

Now there’s a new wrinkle in the dating scene.

“…a raft of newfangled dating tools are striving to better bridge the gap between online and real-world romance.

Some companies offer a combination of flirty calling cards and Web pages. Others operate dating applications that use the global positioning systems in cell phones to help local singles find one another.”

Then there is the all-important first date, because what you suggest tells more about you than all the studied (or drunken) prose you post, email or text.

7,000 of the four million single people in New York City have proposed first date on a new site called HowAboutWe.com and crunching them has yielded interesting insight.

New data from a Web site suggests that not only do many people plan similar dates, but like lemmings, they also collectively migrate from one theme to the next.

Gee, sounds a lot like high school.

All this is great fun, but the problems start when you and your new love/lust/friends start sharing all that fun online, because what you post today will be there forever. I was warning about this back in 2006, but not with the authority of Jeffrey Rosen, a law professor at George Washington University. His article is worth reading because what you post could cost you your future as it already has for others—and, no, I’m not being an alarmist.

Four years ago, Stacy Snyder, then a 25-year-old teacher in training at Conestoga Valley High School in Lancaster, Pa., posted a photo on her MySpace page that showed her at a party wearing a pirate hat and drinking from a plastic cup, with the caption “Drunken Pirate.” After discovering the page, her supervisor at the high school told her the photo was “unprofessional,” and the dean of Millersville University School of Education, where Snyder was enrolled, said she was promoting drinking in virtual view of her under-age students. As a result, days before Snyder’s scheduled graduation, the university denied her a teaching degree.

Read the article, then think at least five times about what you choose to give immortality.

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pedroelcarvalho/2812091311/

We, the People, Must Take Responsibility…

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

negativityHow can a week of discussion focused on ethics and cheating not touch on politics? Especially when it’s that time of year and media is filling the air with conversation, clamor and rants by and about those running for public office.

It’s a frustrating time for those who don’t blindly vote an ideological ticket; frustrating because most campaigning is focused on trashing the opponent as opposed to anything constructive.

I listen to people complain about the negativity when it’s aimed at their candidate, while sagely nodding at its appropriateness when coming from their side.

I listen to the rants against incumbents, but hear little about what should be done, other than ideological platitudes.

They all talk of the importance of leadership, while demonstrating none.

In a post a couple of years ago I wrote, “Sadly, the oxymoronic coupling of ‘leader’ and ‘politician’ usually is just plain moronic.”

Proof of that is showcased in an analysis of how Rod Blagojevich got elected.

How did we, the people, end up with this mess?

It can’t just be blamed on Obama or even on Bush—it’s been developing for more than seven decades.

It stems from our collective MAP and the arrogant world-view we developed after WWII; the abandonment of our melting pot roots; the entitled mindset that taught generations of Americans to covet and indulge in unsustainable lifestyles and, more recently, the replacement of thought by ideology.

How can we, the people, clean it up? How can we find more statesmen and fewer politicians?

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/quinnanya/2244832648/

Leadership’s Future: Cheating Required?

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

cheatingCheating was in the spotlight in a recent NY Times Room for Debate, which includes opinions from a professor, author, recent grad and high school teacher, along with reader comments on each.

The opinion that drew the most comments was from Mark Bauerlein, professor of English at Emory University and the author of The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future. He pinpoints two causes, 1) pressure to achieve has made cheating a “survival skill” and 2) they don’t know it’s cheating because concepts such as plagiarism and attribution are foreign to them as a result of Web 2.0 and social media’s interactive nature, mashups, file sharing, etc.

I didn’t read all the comments, but #2 from George Canada was especially interesting.

I doubt that anything has changed. At Berkeley in the academic year 1952-53 my teaching assistant in an American History course said “Mr C—-, if you don’t start bringing cheat notes to the exams, you’ll get a B in this course.” I looked as astonished as I was, I suppose, since he went on to say something like “don’t you know that everyone else is bring in notes and cheat sheets?” I didn’t know and I didn’t act and I did get a B in that course. In a psychology course I apparently got the highest or very high mark: the professor said “you must have brought in the perfect cheat sheets.”

Perhaps what we are seeing today is the cumulative effect of cheaters raising cheaters, so that the act itself is becoming more pervasive, more blatant, more socially acceptable, technology-enabled and therefore much easier.

Perhaps it really is no big deal, as we keep being told by those who do it; perhaps it has always been pervasive, as George Canada’s experience leads us to believe.

Perhaps I’m behind the times and test scores are more important than learning; perhaps cheating is a necessary skill in today’s world.

What do you think?

Image credit: Hariadhi on Wikipedia Commons

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