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Sunset Isn’t The End

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009


That’s it folks, this is the end.

Or at least it is the end of Leadership Turn, but not the end of Miki:)

Come fly with me over to MAPping Company Success or subscribe via RSS or EMAIL.

And don’t miss important information on how to thrive this New Year’s Eve.

Image credit: Axel-D on flickr

Wordless Wednesday: Leadership Turn—The End

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009


To my readers: Leadership Turn is ending; its last day is December 29. I’ve enjoyed writing it and our interaction since August 16, 2007 and I hope we can continue at my other blog.

If you enjoy my views and writing, please join me at MAPping Company Success or subscribe via RSS or EMAIL.

The WELCOME MAT is out!

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Image credit: JJChandler.com @ Tombstone Generator

Advice About Advice

Friday, December 4th, 2009

magic-castleI’m a coach, so I spend a lot of time discussing challenges and situations and then offering ideas, suggestions and, sometimes, specific advice.

I do my best to jar my clients’ thinking, not necessarily to have them follow my lead, but to nudge them out of their comfort zone and into a more creative space.

Basically, I’m a bit lazy in as much as I don’t do any more than is necessary and I avoid complexifying anything.

So when I do offer specific suggestions they’re based on what I consider common sense and are aimed at simplifying whatever is involved.

I often get a ‘wow!’ reaction and lots of excitement.

When asked, I explain the basis of my thinking and suddenly the reaction becomes ‘that’s simple, anyone could think of that’.

It’s a lot like magic tricks. They’re very impressive when you see the magician do them on stage, but when you know how they are done they often become drab and mundane—the magic is gone.

As a result, I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut; I don’t add a lot of mystique, because it feels like a con, but I don’t have to say that my mind always goes for the simplest approach possible because essentially I’m lazy.

So the next time you’re faced with a challenge try looking for the simplest way to solve it and wow those around you with your brilliance.

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Image credit: brenbot on flickr

Ducks In A Row: Review Love

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

ducks_in_a_rowPeople hate reviews, but done correctly reviews are a terrific tool to provide individual attention, improve retention and show your love—tention reviews as opposed to tension reviews.

I won’t bother explaining the latter; everybody has suffered through a tension review at least once in their life and probably far more.

The biggest difference between the two is in the level of communication and frequency.

Done correctly tention reviews happen constantly and are called feedback. Think of them as a manager’s response to the “how am I doing” sign implicit on every member of their team.

We all crave feedback, which includes

  • sincere strokes (given publicly),
  • constructive criticism (given privately),
  • career growth (what we have to do to take that next step), and
  • friendly general interest.

Truly great managers add

  • how can I improve,
  • what can I do to help you, and
  • how can I help our team excel?

Another part of review love is inherent in the communications necessary to setting solid, intelligent goals for each team member—

  • solid because they make sense and are achievable, while still being a stretch, and
  • intelligent because each person can see how their own objectives support their team’s goals, which, in turn, support the overall goals of the company.

Tention reviews also recognize that individual annual goals often need to be adjusted as a change in the company’s goals sets off a ripple effect throughout the organization.

And for those managers’ who claim they don’t have the time because of their real job, I’m here to tell you this is your job—cut corners or ignore at your own peril.

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Image credit:  ZedBee|Zoë Power on flickr

Fairness is Monkey Business

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

capuchin-monkeyAs you may know, I coach with a focus on MAP—it’s effects, uses and how to enhance/change it—so I tend to collect articles and information that will help illustrate and/or drive home a critical point.

MAP is both timely and timeless with the same topics arising in successive generations of managers, so the past articles are often of just as much use now as when they were written.

Obvious as it may seem, fair treatment of employees is one of those things to which managers constantly make exceptions citing all sorts of ‘reasons’.

Years ago I read an article about a study by Sarah Brosnan.

Briefly, what Sarah did using capuchin monkeys working in pairs was to start by rewarding them equally with a slice of cucumber for performing a specific task, then rewarding one of the working pair with a grape instead (capuchins eat cucumbers, but love grapes). The results? The performance went from 95% success to 60%, but at least they still did the same amount of work. However, when one received the grape for doing less work, i.e., not performing the task at all, the success level dropped like a stone—all the way down to 20% for the cucumber crowd.

OK, back to the managers. Frequently, when I ask managers about a discrepancy in treatment, compensation, promotion, etc., what I often hear is along the lines of, “X and Y are equal with similar experience attitude, and duties, but…” and they finish the sentence with comments such as:

  • “X should earn more because he’s supporting a family.”
  • “X needs the promotion because her husband walked out on her.”
  • “X just moved here and the housing is expensive!”
  • “X is too short to be a manager.”
  • “X and I went to the same school.”
  • “X is cute.”
  • “X reminds me of _________ so I will/won’t…”
  • “I don’t like X.”

Enough! This list could go on all day, and it just gets sillier.

However, what never ceases to amaze me is that these managers see nothing wrong (let alone illegal) in their actions and expect either no repercussions or maybe some minor grumbling—or they just don’t care.

What they never seem to expect are significant drops in productivity, high levels of turnover (no matter the economy) and the occasional lawsuit.

In fact, most of them are shocked when something does happen, and harbor serious doubts as to whether the inequities actually have anything to do with it.

Of course, the most hilarious justification I hear is that “nobody will find out.

You would not believe just how many line managers at all levels, not to mention HR people, actually believe that people don’t discuss their compensation/stock packages.

Some companies even have rules stating discussing it is not allowed and can be “cause for dismissal.” These aren’t old-line, dark ages managers I’m talking about, but enlightened, 21st century, believe-in-empowerment types.

When will managers learn that secret compensation is right up there on the reality scale with Santa and the Tooth Fairy?

Being treated fairly has always been at or very near the top of people’s wish list. The only real change in the last thousand-or-so years is that it’s moving from the wish list to the demand list.

Since I first read the article I’ve shared it with managers who don’t have a clue; I’ve even emailed it to some of them, but it doesn’t always work.

In fact, the result can be hilarious. Once, when I was at my wit’s end, I sat down with the densest manager I ever worked with and we went through it together.

After discussing it in detail looked at me like I was nuts and said, “So what? I hire people, not monkeys.”

I kid you not!

Please join me tomorrow for a look at what ‘fair’ really means.

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Image credit: Ivan Mlinaric on flickr

Ducks In A Row: Are Slogans Valuable Or Obsolete

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

ducks_in_a_rowWhat do you think about slogans? Do they resonate with you or do you just shrug them off?

The subject came up when a client asked me whether it was worth the effort of finding an effective slogan for a new program at his company; he said the idea surfaced because of the success of President Obama’s “Yes we can” during the last election.

Our conversation reminded me of an article last year about the futility of slogans in today’s world by Dan and Chip Heath, co-authors of Made to Stick.

Now, Made to Stick has some great stuff in it and they made some good points, but overall I don’t agree that snappy slogans have no value.

There’s a reason that slogans have been around since 1500’s and that’s because human beings respond to them. They started as battle cries that roused the troops and gave them something to scream when going into battle; something that in a few short words told the world who they were and what they believed.

The Heaths think that has changed.

“People don’t speak slogan-language today unless they’re trying to put one over on you. So when you hear one, you immediately become cynical.”

They say this in spite of the fact that the first thing all the groups they described did, corporate and non-profit alike, was to find a slogan that encapsulated their goals.

The problem comes if the slogan is all there is; the Heaths used this example to prove their point, whereas I think it proves mine.

“Recently, a task force of top execs at a large technology company was brainstorming about a new leadership initiative. It wanted the company’s managers to spend more time developing their people and less on giving orders. To make this happen, the firm would have to change the way those managers were groomed, paid, and evaluated. Yet, facing these epic changes, the task force felt the need to hammer out a slogan. It was a doozy (mildly disguised for confidentiality): “360-Degree Leadership: Because we all matter.” Just then, all the employees in the universe rolled their eyes.”

I’ve seen many similar slogans that deserved the eye rolls, but this one doesn’t.

If all the execs had done was to announce the slogan and tell the company’s managers that they needed to put more effort into developing their people, then the slogan would be cheap, feel-good talk and I would agree with the cynicism—but they didn’t.

The key to the difference lies in these words, “the firm would have to change the way those managers were groomed, paid, and evaluated.”

Assuming that the company followed through with the changes and educated its managers to their new responsibilities, then the slogan has teeth and it becomes a war cry that can rally the troops.

The stories the Heaths recommend are great; use them to explain; use real examples to show the words in action, but as good as they are for communication, you can’t scream them when going into battle.

Slogans can inspire and encourage; they can tell a story to the world in just a few words; the good ones can be a lifeline when there is nothing else to grab.

People like slogans, even Millennials; what they don’t like are feel-good words and empty promises wrapped up in a snappy package.

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Image credit:  ZedBee|Zoë Power on flickr

Seize Your Leadership Day: Leaders: Authentic And Otherwise

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

seize_your_dayWhat do you do when you are booted out of your business leadership position? Go into politics, of course.

Carly Fiorina, Hewlett-Packard’s ex (to the great relief of people both internal and external) CEO is the latest to throw her hat in the ring, touting her corporate problem-solving skills; problem-making is more accurate.

So what do you do when you are booted out of your political position (or your term expires)? Go on the speaking circuit.

I realize that I may offend some of my readers, but to learn that George W. Bush is being paid $100K to speak for 40 minutes ($2500 per minute!) on “How to master the art of effective leadership” makes me ill. (Hat tip to Grant Lawrence at OEN for the heads up. I found his thoughts on the subject well worth reading.)

The next item is a great interview with Drew Gilpin Faust, president of Harvard University, who, unlike her predecessor, recognizes that communication is the most critical action when leading an organization “with enormously distributed authority and many different sorts of constituencies, all of whom have a stake in that institution” and have no tolerance for any top-down management.

Authenticity is cited by many leadership gurus as absolutely necessary, but Professor Jim Heskett, my favorite Harvard voice, solicited reader responses to this question earlier this month, “Can the “masks of command” coexist with authentic leadership?” Beyond his summation be sure to scan through the comments for significant insights both pro and con.

Your comments—priceless http://www.mappingcompanysuccess.com/seize-your-leadership-day-

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Image credit:  nono farahshila on flickr

Life In Six Words

Friday, November 6th, 2009

6Can you sum up your life in just 6 words?

Clare Booth Luce, according to columnist Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, once told President John Kennedy that “a great man is one sentence.” Noonan writes that Lincoln’s life could be summed up as “He preserved the Union and freed the slaves.”Bloomberg.com

Smith Magazine just published its second collection of six word memoirs by, as they say, “the famous and obscure.” They also continually collect them on their website.

Forcing yourself to boil down your current situation or a specific aspect of it is a great way to bring clarity to often smoky or downright opaque feelings.

I love this idea and would like to invite all of you to post your six word summation in comments. I’ll then create a permanent page in the right-hand column to make it easy to post updates as often as you choose. I’ll start off.

Option Sanity™ success is my future

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Ducks In A Row: 4 Major Avoidances

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

ducks_in_a_rowNii Dowuona started as a programmer, became project manager, then added engineering manager to his workload, picked up an MBA at night and is now VP of Development—all at the same company.

He recently shared four tips that he has worked to instill in his company’s culture.

Avoid giving unsolicited advice.
Always ask for permission first, and don’t be insulted if you’re refused. Reacting calmly will leave the door open for future conversations.

However, remember that people can’t/won’t solicit what they don’t know they need. It’s true that advice can be obnoxious, but suggestions can be offered differently or the advice can be phrased as a question that opens the subject up to discussion. The big problem is often not the offering, but the pushing. ‘I explained so nicely why you are wrong, but you still won’t do it my way.’ is what often is being passed off as advice.

Avoid “guilt trips.”
Never try to make your listener feel guilty. Few adults respond well to such tactics. Instead, straightforwardly ask the person for what you need, explaining the possible outcome of inaction.

This is so true and the same goes for hinting and expecting the other person to not only pick up on the hint, but also to interpret it accurately. Plus, it’s a boomerang whammy, because people who hint often become angry or disconsolate when the hint is missed/ignored or misunderstood.

Avoid offering hollow reassurances.
Don’t attempt to gloss over problems or try to hide the downside of what you’re proposing. Openly acknowledging the facts is the key to positive communication.

Glossing assumes the other party is too dumb to figure the downside out and comes over as insulting, contemptuous and condescending to the other person.

Avoid pressuring a person to change.
Allow team members to hold their own opinions and positions. Arguing won’t change those opinions anyway.

Pressure not only won’t change anything, it often makes the people dig in their heels; at the least, it eliminates any viable conversation on that subject and may cause the recipient to shut down to anything you say in the future.

Granted, none of these are rocket science, but stop and think about how often you do one or another.

What other acts do you work to avoid?

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Image credit: ZedBee|Zoë Power on flickr

If It Smells Rotten It Probably Is

Friday, October 16th, 2009

dog-noseYou’ve heard of Cesar Millan, the “Dog Whisperer,” but the item in the article that grabbed me was a quote from another article by Malcom Gladwell in the New Yorker article that “quoted scientists and dance experts analyzing how Mr. Millan’s bearing instills confidence. The conclusion: his fluid movement communicates authenticity better than words could.”

Sadly, the authenticity conveyed by the fluid movements of Jeff Skilling, Bernie Madoff and a host of recent “leaders” proves that authenticity isn’t always the best yardstick.

People are much like dogs, although the words used to describe their reactions are different.

We talk about dogs and other animals ‘sensing’ things; we accept that children have a kind of built-in radar that makes them pull away from fakes and evil-doers.

Adults insist on giving benefit-of-doubt to either their thinking or their gut, which means they frequently get burned.

I’m not saying that we should ignore the rational thinking in favor or instincts or vice versa; rather we should tune in to both equally and include them in our evaluation.

If there is anything we should learn from the people who brought us to the current economic point, it is that our judgment needs to encompass all the data we can accumulate and that we should ruthlessly strip out any assumptions.

We’ve always been told that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck then it probably is a duck, but these days it may be a hunter with a great robotic decoy.

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Image credit: Mark Watson (kalimistuk) on flickr

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