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Skip the Jargon

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Last Friday I cited HBS research that indicates that the best results are achieved when those in charge are both good managers and competent leaders and that the key factor is excellent communications.

Whether you think of yourself as a leader or a manager, communications is about more than talking clearly, it’s about providing all the background necessary for your people to understand why they are doing their jobs, as well as what jobs they are to do.

Think of it this way,

  • operational communications provide people information on how to do their jobs, while
  • management communications tell them what their jobs are and why they do them, giving form and purpose.

People need both.

Many of the problems that managers face daily stem from their own poor or inaccurate communications, often as a result of using jargon in an effort to sound sophisticated, knowledgeable and with it.

Jargon doesn’t work for several reasons.

  • You may not totally understand or be comfortable with the jargon;
  • your people may have their own individual understanding or be guided by their previous boss’ definitions that have nothing to do with your intended meaning. This happens often enough with words of one or two syllables, let alone multi-syllabic management-babble; or worse,
  • your people may shut down when they hear jargon.

You can create a relatively jargon-less environment by

  1. keeping it firmly in mind that your goal is to provide your people with all the information needed to understand how to perform their work as correctly, completely, simply, and efficiently as possible; and
  2. providing clear, concise, and complete communications at all times.

Follow these two steps religiously and the results will amaze you,

  • Productivity will skyrocket; which will
  • make your company more successful;
  • your employees happier; and
  • you a more effective manager with better reviews and an enviable reputation.

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

Be sure to check out this months Leadership Development Carnival; it’s been broken up to run over several days, so I can’t repost it here.

Flickr image credit: kevinspencer

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Quotable Quotes: National Boss’ Day

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Today is National Boss day and, contrary to what some think, it was not conceived by Hallmark to sell more cards. It was actually registered Patricia Bays Haroski in 1958 in honor of her boss, who was also her father. So in honor of all bosses out there, from team leaders to CEOs, I offer up these quotes by and about bosses.

According to H. S. M. Burns, “A good manager is a man who isn’t worried about his own career but rather the careers of those who work for him.” There are plenty of managers that still meet that description, but they don’t make good media fodder.

Culture is proof that likes attract, which is why you find so many managers who fit Peter Drucker’s description in the same company. “So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.”

Not to mention the truth of as spoken by General Joe Stillwell, “The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind.”

Sam Walton saw bosses in a different light, “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” What Walton didn’t see is that workers are also customers of their boss and they, too, can vote with their feet.

And Robert Frost offers up irreverent advice for those who want to become bosses, “By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may eventually get to be a boss and work twelve hours a day.”

After spending more than a decade as a recruiter I can attest to the truth of John Gotti’s comment, “If you think your boss is stupid, remember: you wouldn’t have a job if he was any smarter.”

Finally, for all those stuck in a Dilbert-like world there is Homer Simpson’s fantasy to fuel yours, “Kill my boss? Do I dare live out the American dream?”

Flickr image credit: ilovememphis

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Differences Worth Noting

Monday, July 25th, 2011

2185315789_e5d6af6e0d_mThere is a sizable difference between accepting positional leadership when a company is at the bottom and there is no place to go but up and taking over when its at its height—even more so when what was the growth engine and source of extraordinary profits disappears from the economic landscape.

It is one thing to maximize what you have, wringing out every last possible dollar, and investing in innovation for sustainable growth in the future.

It is one thing to create a culture where public shame and the likelihood of termination for missing your numbers rules and changing that to a culture that encourages appropriate risk-taking and never kills the messenger when the risk doesn’t pan out; a culture that understands not every innovation will be a home run, but encourages and applauds the effort anyway.

These are the differences between Jack Welch

But Welch had taken over when the company was in the bottom of an economic cycle. He took over GE in a recession, not the height of a bubble. Immelt got the job right after the end of the high-flying 1990s, an era which crowned CEOs with mythical, God-like crowns, and Welch was bestowed the biggest of them all.

and Jeff Immelt.

Immelt had known before the meltdown the company needed to ween off the leveraged risk from finance that was begun under Welch. … He admitted mistakes, as any good leader must do, and GE more quietly if not humbly went about its business in making the company a 21st century sustainable and reliable profit engine.

The differences are worth noting.

Flickr image credit: laurita13

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Study Richard Branson

Monday, March 28th, 2011

4564600916_92c937ee38_m

Study Richard Branson as an entrepreneur.

Study him as a leader.

Study him as a manager.

Study him as an example of how to live your life.

Don’t just study Branson; study those around him, such as Stephen Murphy, Virgin CEO since 2006.

Studying both allows you to see how Branson differs from so many of his counterparts.

According to Murphy, “He [Branson] is a listener. He will say ‘I hired you to listen to you. I am not hiring you to tell you what to do’.”

Branson is known as Doctor Yes while Murphy is nicknamed Mr. No; together they make Virgin far stronger than either could separately.

Murphy balances Branson’s “screw it, let’s do it” attitude, but recognizes Branson’s positive mindset, “When there are nine good reasons not to do something, Richard is always the person who focuses on the one reason to do it.”

Branson is a master delegator, not just the responsibility, but the authority and once he delegates he lets go.

Study Branson to learn the value of controlling your ego or, better yet, being confident enough to let your people shine, knowing that giving them the spotlight doesn’t reduce your own place in the sun.

Last year I wrote a very short post on following and Branson seems to fit.

So when you are deciding whom to follow, who’s vision to trust, skip the shiny baubles and silken words and look to see who keeps turning the spotlight on others.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gulltaggen/4564600916/

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Dr. Hawa Abdi

Monday, January 10th, 2011

vision-inspirationTypically heroes are leaders; not because they hold a high level position or are well compensated, but because they take initiative, often to extremes.

But even “extreme initiative” pales to insignificance as a description of 63 year old Dr. Hawa Abdi, better known as Mama Hawa.

For 20 years Mama Hawa has run a hospital and in May faced down Somalia’s most fearsome militant Islamist group.

Hundreds of women from a sprawling refugee camp on her property to protest, adding to a flood of condemnation from Somalis abroad that forced the militants to back down.

Hundreds of women from the sprawling refugee camp on Dr. Abdi’s property dared to protest, adding to a flood of condemnation from Somalis abroad that forced the militants to back down. Dr. Abdi even insisted that the gunmen apologize — in writing — which they grudgingly agreed to do.

What unique combination of genes, MAP and circumstances produces a Mama Hawa? Why has she flourished, while others flamed out?

What can you learn from her regarding initiative, drive, determination, leadership, inspiration and communication?

Take the time to read her profile and analyze it for the multiple lessons it contains.

Then start applying them to your own life one by one.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/uggboy/4881735073/

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Ducks in a Row: Sustainable Actions

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Do you agree with the following statement?

“The most fundamental job of a leader is to recruit, mobilize, inspire, focus, direct, and regularly refuel the energy of those they lead.”

I do with one glaring exception—the words “leader” and “lead.”

That sentence is just as valid if you substitute ‘manager’ for ‘leader’ and ‘manage’ for ‘lead’.

The quote is from a Harvard Business Review post called The CEO Is the Chief Energy Officer and although it’s a cute play on ‘CEO’ the lessons it imparts apply to every manager at every level in every company—even if that manager is the only person in the company.

If you are in a position where you manage anyone and you skip any of the actions mentioned above then you are doing a major disservice to your people and yourself.

Even more so if you are your own manager, which, in the end, we all are.

This is a great time to institute change—not with great fanfare, but through sustainable actions.

So every day get out there and “recruit, mobilize, inspire, focus, direct, and regularly refuel the energy.”

You’ll be glad you did.

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

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Ducks in a Row: Leadership or LeadershIt?

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

ducks_in_a_rowIf you truly want a culture of innovation, then you also need to create a culture of leadership.

Last week I commented that if the ‘i’ in leadership is capitalized it changes leadership to leadershIt.

Whereas leadership can be a great motivator, leadershIt is a guaranteed demotivator.

Visions and other leadership functions done with an eye to self-aggrandizement aren’t likely to resonate whether done by positional leaders, leaders in the instance or those who aspire.

Last year I wrote

Because initiative and leadership are synonymous, leadership needs to be pushed out of the corner office and spread throughout the organization; doing so will encourage growth, creativity and innovation.

If leadership is the fertilizer then culture is the water, without which nothing will grow, and people are the seeds from which ideas come.

By spreading leadership evenly through out your company garden and watering regularly, leaving no unfertilized or dry patches in which a seed will be stunted or die, you assure yourself a bountiful harvest that will be the envy of your competitors. (Two follow-up posts have more on this topic here and here.)

This isn’t a new idea, just a new way of phrasing it; Lao Tzu said it best 4000 years ago, “To lead the people walk behind them.”

The one thing that remains constant in all these discussions is that you always have a choice—this time it’s between leadership and leadershIt.

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

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Expand Your Mind: Leader Stuff

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

expand-your-mindFour interesting takes on CEO leaders today.

From Mark Suster via TechCrunch talking about an important CEO role that is rarely mentioned—Chief Psychologist.

My primary role was “chief psychologist” and as I’ve learned over the past few years the same has been true as a VC. Both are basically people businesses.

What do you think of when you think of CEOs? Most people think of those who are “charismatic, effusive and outgoing,” but what about all those who are “calm, eremitic and observant?”

But then there are the introverted CEOs—calm, eremitic, and observant—who prefer flying below the radar. You’ve never heard of them because they don’t like the spotlight.

Ask any leader, CEO or not, about the power of stories and they will tell you that stories are critical to any effort at engagement. And how better to learn the fine art of storytelling than through improv, which is available to all?

Improvisation (or improv, as it’s commonly called) is becoming increasingly accepted as a method to teach business skills; in fact, many of the country’s top business schools are including lessons on improvisation and its use in the world of business…

After all that reading you would probably appreciate a good video and what better subject than watching these experts Talk about the biggest mistakes a leader makes?
Bill George, Professor, Harvard Business School and former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Medtronic
Evan Wittenberg, Head of Global Leadership Development, Google, Inc.
Dr. Ellen Langer, Professor, Harvard University
Andrew Pettigrew, Professor, Sïad Business School, University of Oxford
Gianpiero Petriglieri, Affiliate Professor of Organizational Behavior, INSEAD
Carl Sloane, Professor Emeritus, Harvard Business School
Jonathan Doochin, Leadership Institute at Harvard College
Scott Snook, Associate Professor, Harvard Business School and retired Colonel, US Army Corps of Engineers
Daisy Wademan Dowling, Executive Director, Leadership Development at Morgan Stanley

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

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Expand Your Mind: Of Learning and Leaders

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

expand-your-mindIt’s something we all know, although we tend to forget, leadership and positional leadership are not the same thing. Because anyone/everyone can lead, within the framework of their own lives, much of the information available about and for positional leaders can be absorbed and used by all.

Of course, there are always those in positions of leadership that don’t lead, while some lead backwards and some even ass backwards but, sadly, it doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to their paychecks.

Not that all positional leaders should be tarred by the same brush; there is still a lot for everyman to learn from leadership teaching from sources such as these.

Over the past six years, starting as a project focused on women that now includes men, McKinsey has developed a vision they call “centered leadership” that includes five specific dimensions. You may find it useful in putting more meaning and balance in your own life. (Free registration required.)

This concept has five dimensions: meaning, or finding your strengths and putting them to work in the service of a purpose that inspires you; positive framing, or adopting a more constructive way to view your world and convert even difficult situations into opportunities; connecting, or building a stronger sense of community and belonging; engaging, or pursuing opportunities disguised by risk; and energizing, or practicing ways to sustain your energy on a long leadership journey.

Do (did) you love or hate Shakespeare? Besides being one of humanity’s most accomplished writers, Shakespeare, like Lao Tzu, offers brilliant insights for all those who want to excel. Check out how Carol and Ken Adelman, founders of Movers & Shakespeares, use Henry V to teach leadership and let Shakespeare’s ideas guide you.

Henry V’s leadership skills and his ability to innovate in ways that would turn significant disadvantages into game-winning advantages.

What can you learn about leading a ‘culture of innovation’ on your iPod? And learn it not from a podcast, but through music from a guy who has constantly reinvented himself and his music to stay relevant in the current world.

Even if there is “darkness on the edge of town” today, when it comes to leading your company’s growth efforts with innovation expertise, there is no reason for your organization to be a casualty when you could instead “walk in the sun” (Born to Run).

And that’s not the only musical source from which you can draw lessons in leading, innovation, extending, inventing and reinventing yourself.

From business to fashion, Lady Gaga is an innovator, and she also makes a strong case as a leader.

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

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Expand Your Mind: One “Leader,” Two Leaders

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

expand-your-mind

I get really tired of the L word (leadership), but I can’t seem to avoid it. It’s used whether applicable or not—more often because the people described are positional leaders than because they actually embody real leadership

The Washington Post’ leadership section has a new blog that looks like it is worth reading, especially if you are interested in analysis of the exploits of leaders ripped from the headlines.

“PostLeadership” is a new by Jena McGregor that will examine real time leadership lessons as they unfold in the news — explaining what works, what doesn’t and who is getting it right.”

Her first post, What BP’s Tony Hayward can learn from World Cup coaches, gives you a good feel for both her writing and her opinions. I highly recommend it.

Now for a couple of guys who actually deserve the L word.

22 years ago he was a dairy farmer who started a co-op with a few neighbors. Today he is CEO of a 550-employee company with $530 million in sales last year, but it isn’t your typical corporation.

George Siemon isn’t just in the business of organic milk. As the CEO of Organic Valley, he has shepherded the company to its own organic brand of leadership and corporate culture.

Are you a Mark Twain fan? If so, get ready to have your world rocked.

Twain spent the last four years of his life dictating his no holds barred, half million word autobiography, but said that it should not be published until the world was ready to deal with his unvarnished views. 100 years after his death his decedents have decided it’s time. The first volume (of three) will be out in November.

Ron Powers, the author of “Mark Twain: A Life,” said in a phone interview. “He’s been scrubbed and sanitized, and his passion has been kind of forgotten in all these long decades. But here he is talking to us, without any filtering at all, and what comes through that we have lost is precisely this fierce, unceasing passion.”

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

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