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Seize Your Leadership Day: What To Do and Not Do

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

seize_your_dayThree great interviews sharing what to do and one commentary on the opposite.

Do you long for simplicity, especially in software? Jason Fried built his company 37Signals because he hates complexity. Read more about his attitudes in Inc’s excellent article, you may be surprised.

Next is the story of and an interview with Steve Chang, co-founder and chairman of Trend Micro. Learn why two failed startups didn’t dampen his entrepreneurial fire and what drives him to innovate.

I love this interview with William D. Green, chairman and C.E.O. of Accenture. He tells his first training seminar as a manager where he was told the 68 (no joke) things he needed to do to be successful; Green decided there were just the three Cs.

The first is competence — just being good at what you do, whatever it is, and focusing on the job you have, not on the job you think you want to have. The second one is confidence. People want to know what you think. So you have to have enough desirable self-confidence to articulate a point of view. The third thing is caring. Nothing today is about one individual. This is all about the team, and in the end, this is about giving a damn about your customers, your company, the people around you, and recognizing that the people around you are the ones who make you look good.

I don’t follow sports, but Wally Bock’s offers a comprehensive commentary on the amazing unprofessionalism of Brian Kelly, whose actions are a case study on the fastest way to trash your people. But I wonder how many people will actually find them offensive or just shrug and say no big deal.

Finally, the ongoing sex scandals of the Catholic Church have offered up some of best examples of how leaders dance around the truth, never really admitting their errors even when they claim to be sorry. Cardinal Egan is a Church leader who has danced for decades before his house of cards comes crashing down, but even now he hasn’t stopped dancing—or blowing smoke. When will those in power understand that an apology means nothing when the deed is diluted, denied or rationalized.

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Ducks In A Row: Gen X and Executive Stupidity

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

ducks_in_a_rowFew things are constant, but management stupidity when it comes to retention is one of them.

Before Wall Street pulled the rug out of under the economy global demographics made the need to cherish workers at all levels obvious.

Estimates of the national shortage run as high as 14 million skilled workers by 2020, according to widely cited projections by the labor economists Anthony P. Carnevale and Donna M. Desrochers.

Then came the downturn and executive retention stupidity is once again running rampant.

Two-thirds of executives at large companies were most concerned about losing Gen Y employees, while less than half of them had similar concerns about losing Gen Xers. nearly two-thirds of executives at large companies were most concerned about losing Gen Y employees, while less than half of them had similar concerns about losing Gen Xers.

The assumption is often that Gen Yers are the least loyal and most mobile, says Robin Erickson, a manager with Deloitte’s human capital division.

However, a companion survey of employees found that only about 37 percent of Gen Xers said they planned to stay in their current jobs after the recession ends, compared with 44 percent of Gen Yers, 50 percent of baby boomers and 52 percent of senior citizen workers who said the same.

Everyone surveyed worried about job security. Gen X and Gen Y were most likely to complain about pay. But a ”lack of career progress,” was by far the biggest gripe from Gen Xers, with 40 percent giving that as a reason for their restlessness, compared with 30 percent of Gen Yers, 20 percent of baby boomers and 14 percent of senior workers.

Gen Yers, meanwhile, were more likely than the other generations to cite ”lack of challenges in the job” as a reason they would leave, while baby boomers more often chose ”poor employee treatment during the downturn” and a ”lack of trust in leadership.”

Let me spell this out.

The economy will turn around.

The Boomers may stay in the workforce for now, but they will retire.

Gen Y is being held back because of the economy and may never catch up, certainly not fast enough to run American enterprise when the Boomers retire.

That leaves Gen X, which is being ignored.

Stupid attitudes towards employees is nothing new for the folks running companies, but this one is really going to come back and bite not just them, but our country’s competitiveness.

One can only hope that the stupidity is global, so we’re not the only ones dealing with it.

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Wordless Wednesday: Shame And Duty

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

shame-is-duty

Now check out this truly stupid action

Please join me tomorrow for America’s Tragic Shame.

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Leadership's Future: When A Lie Is Not A Lie

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Hypocrisy has had a high profile on my blog this summer, especially as it relates to the emerging attitudes of young people.

One of the current hypocrisy poster boys is Senator John Ensign, who really drove home what is acceptable and not acceptable in the prevailing attitudes of those who claim the moral high ground.

The Senator, who roundly condemned then-President Clinton’s sexual peccadillo and subsequent lying to a grand jury, said, “I haven’t done anything legally wrong.” (My emphasis.)

Which mean that if Clinton had admitted screwing around with Monica Lewinsky it would have made it a “distraction” (Ensign’s term for what he did.) as opposed to the felony created by lying.

Ensign is prominent member of the Promise Keepers leadership, which lists seven basic tenets, the third being, “A Promise Keeper is committed to practicing spiritual, moral, ethical and sexual purity” and the fourth, “A Promise Keeper is committed to building strong marriages and families through love, protection and Biblical values.”

Ensign violated both and compounded the violations by having his parents pay off his mistress.

These don’t count, since Promise Keepers isn’t a legal entity and, obviously, lying to your followers and constituency isn’t illegal—just unethical and immoral.

What kids will absorb is that there are no real repercussions; Ensign still holds his Congressional seat, will probably win reelection, hasn’t changed his role in Promise Keepers, and is still cheered when he gives a speech. And if reporters dare to raise additional questions, his response is “I’ve said everything I was going to say about that.”

We may ring our hands and lament the lack of accountability of society in general and the Millennials in particular, but we don’t have to look very far to find the cause.

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Seize Your Leadership Day: CEO Communications

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

CEOs move markets. A look, a gesture, a word.

And what the experts recommend for them will work for you.

Forbes has an article how to control CEO rage, but the best part is the accompanying slideshow highlighting the anger of a few of the most famous and infamous—those who lied, cheated and stole their way into history.

The Washington Post calls it the “Silent Language of Leadership,” but ignore the ‘leadership’. What is described is the silent language of influencing people, whether you are a CEO, Bernie Madoff or parents struggling to get through to your teenager.

Sometimes the boss decides it’s time to leave, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it—Sarah Palin did it the wrong way. See how it should be done; this is good information no matter what level you’re on.

Finally, how much disclosure should be required of the CEO of a publicly traded company? It’s a hot topic since Steve Jobs surgery was announced as a done deal.

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Speaking In Leadership Redux

Friday, June 12th, 2009

Today’s post is on a subject that angers me no end; it’s also a lead-in to tomorrow’s post.

I wrote about this lunacy shortly after I started writing Leadership Turn, but several recent phone calls made me go back and find the post to bring it to your attention again.

Of course, since you’re here reading this it’s likely that you’re already in agreement with me and don’t inflict this mindset on your people.

It’s about all those bosses (far more than you might imagine) who evaluate their people based on the language they use to discuss their actions as opposed to the actions themselves.

I thought about rewriting it, but decided not to, nothing has changed and the folks who called me recently are all facing similar problems.

Speaking In Leadership

I had a great time with “Jean,” who took me up on my free coaching offer and also received permission to write about her situation, since I’ve heard similar stories over the years.

She told me about a specific situation within her department and what she was doing to handle it. I asked her if it was working and she said it seemed to be, but that she’d rather solve it using leadership skills instead of just management skills.

Jean went on to say that she wanted to be chosen to attend her company’s leadership classes and to do so she had to demonstrate strong leadership potential.

Jean and I had a great discussion (we ran over the hour) about her interest in leadership, her goals, how she communicates with her people, her group’s culture within the overall company culture and what she’s accomplished—solid management, on-time/in-budget projects, low attrition, high morale and strong productivity in her organization.

Apparently the accomplishments aren’t enough for Jean’s boss, who’s been know to skip over DOers in favor of people who “speak leadership,” when describing what they’ve done.

In fairness, and before you get the wrong idea, Jean said that she loves working with him, he’s been a great mentor and promoted her twice. He just has this thing about leadership.

Since, in my opinion, Jean’s already demonstrated her ability to lead, what she needed to learn was how to talk about it. I knew she had read both books and blogs on the subject, so I asked her to choose something and then describe it to me as she would to her boss.

As I listened, the problem was evident. Jean’s description was low on “I,” high on “us.” It was about the challenge and how the team succeeded in overcoming it—exactly the way a good leader talks.

When I mentioned that, Jean laughed and said that speaking “leadership” sounded pretentious to her and that none of the leaders that she’d been around spoke that way, including her boss. She said that although she’d found a lot of the tools she used described in leadership books, she just assumed that they were different when used by a “leader.”

Now, I’m the last person to stomp on common sense (it’s too uncommon), so I suggested to Jean that she walk her boss through the prequel to the event, in other words, how she planned to achieve whatever, since when describing her planning she did use leadership terms.

As for all you bosses who recognize yourselves in the above—stop it! Stop focusing on the talk and check out the walk of your people who DO. Maybe they haven’t learned the language of leadership or maybe, like Jean, they find it pretentious to describe what they do that way, but if you’re desire is to identify those with the best potential I hope that you’ll start looking for it in what your people DO.

PS I’m extending that coaching offer again today.

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Wordless Wednesday: Leaders Communicate Their Vision

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

The right protection for today.

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Leaders, Leaders Everywhere, But Which Ones Should You Follow?

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

Oh goody. Another CEO study. I haven’t seen the study, but David Brooks (NY Times) gives an overview (whatever you do, don’t miss the comments), while Dan McCarthy (Great Leadership laments the fascination with such studies.

I pretty much ignore them, except for their amusement value—sort of like all the food studies that tell us which food that was recommended last year will kill us this year.

Speaking of which, I wish someone would do a study like that on CEOs.

A ranking of CEOs who were lauded for x amount of time before they crashed and burned for the same traits that were their supposed strengths.

And a corollary ranking of all the pundits, gurus and executive coaches who did the lauding and how many have come forward to apologize for mistaking hubris for competence.

Of course, that would be a very long list.

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Wordless Wednesday: Another Bad Culture

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

See how Calvin explains the economy

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Lie, Cheat, Steal—Business As Usual

Monday, April 6th, 2009

Sometimes it seems as if the economic crisis is acting like an earthquake that’s turning over rock after rock and all kinds of icky things are crawling out much to our dismay. A few months ago I wrote about the mindset that seems to be so prevalent these days.

“These days” aren’t all that recent whereas the executive bonuses causing so much rage are just a blip.

Enron was eight years ago as was the phen-phen settlement rip-off, although the two lawyers were only convicted this week.

For decades, the Feds have been scamster heaven and that hasn’t changed, “about 32 percent of the combined monies paid out by Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are fraudulent”—often enabled employees—and by 2007 more than $100 billion was spent on contractors for the Iraq war (you can outsource anything) and you can bet your bottom dollar there’s been plenty of fraud there. Just business as usual.

Of course lying, cheating and fraud aren’t new, but what’s depressing is that they seem to become more and more acceptable. Worse, all the signs are ignored until the situation blows up causing massive damage to thousands of people.

Maydoff and the other hedge fund scamsters operated for years with everybody ignoring the warning signs until the Wall Street bomb blew up and investors wanted their money back. At that point all those houses of cards came tumbling down.

Yet as recently as last August Congress was seriously considering turning over the private pension funds to these same people responsible for the financial crisis—even as those funds were crashing.

Remember when you were young and some boring older person told you that “if it seems too good to be true it probably is”? The problem is that as people grew up they tacked two words onto that phrase and those two words helped get us where we are today.

Do you know which two words?

But me.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I hate leaving things on a down note, so here is something to raise your spirits and your skills.

Dan McCarthy over at Great Leadership hosts a terrific leadership carnival and the latest one just went live today. Click on over and check it out, I guarantee that there’s something there for everyone—and probably more than one something. Enjoy!

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