Monthly Archives: October 2012

Quote for Oct 30th

There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.
Malcolm X

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Interesting Articles for October

Here are a few of the articles that I’ve found thought provoking this month.  Enjoy!

This is a fantastic list of 5 simple things that create bad meetings.  From Mike Rogers at Teamwork Leadership. I Hate Bad Meetings

From Harvard Business Review Blog here is an interesting take on hiring people.  Do you look for the smartest person to fill your position or do you look for the person who will fit best.  I Decided to Rethink Hiring Smart People

If you are going to be making a change in your organization here are 10 questions you should answer during your introduction to the change.  They will help the change go more smoothly.  10 Questions that Should be Answered before Any Major Change is Announced

In this post Dan Rockwell at The Leadership Freak provides a very succinct look at how strategy and the right talent will address your business issues.   Two Ways to Overcome the Pipe Dream Problem

Tina Del Buono, at PPM Blog, highlights the issues with having a micro-manager.  This one really struck home for me having worked for a major micro-manager.  What is Micromanaging All About?

Hope you enjoy these articles.

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Quote for Oct 25th

There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.

Niccolo Machiavelli
The Prince (1532)

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Funneling the Vision throughout an Organization

Recently I’ve been discussing the challenges their teams are facing in the upcoming year and what training their team needs to meet these challenges with several leaders in one organization.  One concern that has come up several times is how to get the leader’s vision communicated and implemented down to the supervisors’ level.  In this organization the first line supervisors do not see the head of their organization other than in monthly update videos.  There is little or no personal contact as the team is spread out over North America.  This has me thinking about how you ensure the vision is accurate and applied throughout an organization, particularly one that is not all co-located.

First the vision must be clear and concrete enough for people to be able to describe it.  This means that it must address the issue of “what’s in it for me” at all levels of the organization.  The overall vision may not contain this in its high level statement, however, if not it must be able to be broken down so people understand how they fit in.

Next each level of the organization must understand how the vision will impact their immediate working environment.  Will they have to do new things, learn new skills, use new tools/technology or work with new vendors and/or customers?  How will this change the things they are doing each day?  Breaking it down so that each person in the organization understands their role and the expectations for their contribution is a key to successful implementation of the vision.

Now the leadership team needs to look at what are the skill gaps within the organization.  Are there expectations that cannot be met because the individuals do not have the skills required?  If there new tools or technology being implemented, do people know how to use them?  Do the leaders and managers know how to manage change?  Take the time to really understand if there are gaps in the skill sets of the team to ensure the vision can be implemented effectively.  Changing things without providing the tools and skills will lead to failure.

Finally, as the new vision is rolled out and implemented get feedback on what is working and what needs improvement.  When an organization is spread out it’s easy to think all is well if there are no complaints.  Unfortunately, people may be struggling with the concepts, tools or lack of skills at the lowest levels.  As a leader it is critical to seek information about how things are going.  Be sure to ask and then really listen to what is being said.  Ask questions to gain deep understanding of the concerns or problems.  When getting the feedback, think of yourself as a sponge – absorb what is said without comment or defensive reaction.  Once you have the information you can reply or adjust what you are doing to address these issues.

So as you are sharing the vision for your organization, be clear, break it down, close any gaps and get feedback.  If you do these four things, consistently and continually, you will be successful in creating a compelling vision at all levels and it will be effectively implemented.

What have you done to get the vision to all levels of your organization?

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Quote for Oct 23rd

Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.
Paul J. Meyer

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Take the Time to Delegate

If you are struggling to keep your head above water with all you have to do it may be time to get help.   One of the best ways to get help is to delegate some of your tasks to someone else.  When you are too busy to get everything done it can seem like you don’t have time to delegate.  The three main reasons people feel like they don’t have time to delegate are:

  1. Takes time to figure out what to delegate.
  2. I’ll have to take time to explain what is required for each item.
  3. Following up to make sure it’s done properly will take too long.

It’s true that all of the above items are required to delegate and they will take some of your time.  However, they will take less time than you will spend getting everything done on your own.  If you are spinning your wheels because you have so much to do that you can’t seem to finish anything then you really do need help.  The investment in time to delegate will pay the following benefits:

  1. You will get time to finish critical items.
  2. Stress levels will drop as you see things being completed.
  3. Your work/life balance will be better which will give you more energy and enthusiasm for what you are doing.
  4. Delegating tasks to others helps them develop new skills and allows them to grow.
  5. Builds trust with your team, in both directions, when you trust someone else to get things done.
  6. Increases self-confidence in yourself and in others by seeing that things will get done on time.

So can you really afford not to delegate some of your work to those around you?  Be careful to choose what you delegate carefully.  The tasks have to be suited to the person you are giving them to, so that they can get them done properly.  Also, dumping the grunt work only makes people feel that you don’t trust them with the difficult stuff, thus devaluing their abilities. 

When you choose wisely to delegate some of your workload you will reduce your stress, get more done, and develop the team around you.  It’s a win-win-win situation.

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The Danger of Blind Allegiance to Organizational Culture

Below is a parable about monkeys and how learned behavior is passed down.  It demonstrates how easy the “we have always done it this way” mentality becomes part of the culture of an organization.  When we accept organizational knowledge without understanding why this is the way things are done, we run the risk of missing out on new opportunities.  When you hear someone say “we’ve always done it this way” ask them why and what other things have been done that failed.  What opportunities are you missing due to blind allegiance to your organizational culture. 

All the discoveries that have been made are because someone challenged the cultural norm.   Christopher Columbus did not accept that the world was flat.  Galileo persisted on saying that the sun was the center of our universe in spite of being persecuted for challenging the accepted notion that Earth was the center.  Will you take a chance and ask why or why not?  We would not be where we are today as a society if no one pushed the boundaries of cultural norms.  There is a risk to you in raising that question and there is a risk in doing nothing.  Challenge status quo to get new and greater results for your team.

Hope you enjoy the story.

The Parable of the Monkeys

It happened that there were three monkeys in a cage. Suspended at the top if the cage was a bunch of bananas. There was a ladder from the floor of the cage up to the bananas. One of the monkeys, who was both clever and agile and also liked bananas, decided to head up the ladder to grab a banana.

Imagine his surprise (not to mention that of the other two monkeys) when suddenly a fire hose washed down the cage, blasting all three monkeys over to one side. Cold and shivering, the three monkeys regrouped and thought about what had happened.

Monkeys don’t have a real long memory and, after awhile, a second monkey thought again about the bananas and headed up the ladder. Same thing—a fire hose washed all three monkeys over to the side of the cage. They picked themselves up, shook themselves off and hoped the sun would come out to warm them up.

After another couple of hours, the third monkey couldn’t resist and he went for it. Sure enough, same result—fire hose and cold, wet, miserable monkeys.

Finally, all three monkeys became convinced that going for the bananas was a bad idea, and went on with the rest of their lives.

Then the zookeeper drafted one of the monkeys for another exhibit and replaced him with a new monkey. The new monkey arrived, looked up at the bananas, looked over at the ladder and couldn’t figure out why the other monkeys hadn’t gone for the bananas. He headed for the ladder and got about 1 rung up when the remaining “experienced” monkeys tackled him, dragged him to the floor and pummeled him into submission. He quickly concluded that climbing the ladder wasn’t a good idea.

A week later, the zookeeper replaced the second monkey. Monkeys are somewhat single-minded. The new monkey spied the bananas, headed for the ladder, and the remaining two monkeys tackled him and pummeled him into submission.

Finally the third monkey was replaced and, you guessed it, the same thing happened. So life went on among the monkeys and after some time the first of the “new” monkeys was replaced with yet another monkey. Sure enough, the new guy saw the bananas, went for the ladder and his two peers then tackled him and beat him into submission.

Why was that? None of these monkeys knew anything about the fire hose. None of them had ever gotten wet for having climbed the ladder in the quest for bananas. Yet the monkeys had been fully culturalized to know that it was a bad idea. And you could likely go on individually replacing monkeys one at a time forever and expect the same result.

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Quote for Oct 18th

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
Thomas A. Edison

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Leadership and Listening

As a leader in your organization I’m sure you listen to what your team is telling you.  The real question is whether you listen to the things that are left unsaid.  Often, people are afraid to speak up and tell their bosses what is really going on and causing issues for the team.  These things may be personality issues, resource issues, training issues or a lack of understanding what is expected.  Take the time to “listen” to the unheard items to find out what is really going on in your organization.  The Chinese parable below illustrates this principle.

The Sound of the Forest

Back in the third century A.D., the King Ts’ao sent his son, Prince T’ai, to the temple to study under the great master Pan Ku. Because Prince T’ai was to succeed his father as king, Pan Ku was to teach the boy the basics of being a good ruler. When the prince arrived at the temple, the master sent him alone to the Ming-Li Forest. After one year, the prince was to return to the temple to describe the sound of the forest.

When Prince T’ai returned, Pan Ku asked the boy to describe all that he could hear. “Master,” replied the prince, “I could hear the cuckoos sing, the leaves rustle, the hummingbirds hum, the crickets chirp, the grass blow, the bees buzz, and the wind whisper and holler.” When the prince had finished, the master told him to go back to the forest to listen to what more he could hear. The prince was puzzled by the master’s request. Had he not discerned every sound already?

For days and nights on end, the young prince sat alone in the forest listening. But he heard no sounds other than those he had already heard. Then one morning, as the prince sat silently beneath the trees, he started to discern faint sounds unlike those he had ever heard before. The more acutely he listened, the clearer the sounds became. The feeling of enlightenment enveloped the boy. “These must be the sounds the master wished me to discern,” he reflected.

When Prince T’ai returned to the temple, the master asked him what more he had heard. “Master,” responded the prince reverently, “when I listened most closely, I could hear the unheard—the sound of flowers opening, the sound of the sun warming the earth, and the sound of the grass drinking the morning dew.” The master nodded approvingly. “To hear the unheard,” remarked Pan Ku, “is a necessary discipline to be a good ruler. For only when a ruler has learned to listen closely to the people’s hearts, hearing their feelings uncommunicated, pains unexpressed, and complaints not spoken of, can he hope to inspire confidence in his people, understand when something is wrong, and meet the true needs of his citizens. The demise of states comes when leaders listen only to superficial words and do not penetrate deeply into the souls of the people to hear their true opinions, feelings, and desires.”

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Quote for Oct 16th

The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.
Theodore Roosevelt

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