You’re too nice – and that’s a problem


Develop a habit of shooting projects and ideas in the head not in the foot.

It is not my job to be nice – it is my job to make good, clear decisions that further the interests of the business – yet so often I can be tempted with laziness and fear of failure dressed up as compassion or fair play or worst of all incubation innovation. When I do this, I shot something in the foot since I was unprepared to invest resource as a priority when really, I should have shot it in the head.

If I am not going to commit to the success (and I mean commit resources) of a project, make certain that no-one else is either. That means targeting the wounded, unsupported projects that limp about the campus dragging their bloody stumps of project plans and milestones with them – and terminating them.

There have been mammoth Darwinian contests between equal teams that result in spectacular innovation and rate of progress, and I am not talking about those since their success involves at some point the ingestion of the rival or it’s natural demise – no, I’m talking about the hubris programs, the vanity projects that simply should not be drawing a single bean of resource from shareholders and staff alike.

My job is to be rigorous, apply the rules fairly and consistently and develop a habit of killing off stone dead an idea or plan whose time has not come or that I cannot provide adequate resources for given my current priority.

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how people and leaders embrace corporate change (or not)


change = opportunity; If you are not willing to fail, you won’t get very far.

All very easy to say but so much harder to do. I like to differentiate my blog as practical tools and coaching for leadership, so here are some thoughts on how people deal with change.

In my experience there is a 3 stage process that folks typically go through
1) can I simply ignore this?
2) who won, who lost?
3) what now (for me)?

1) in figuring out if this is something that can safely be ignored, the organization is viewed in hierarchy terms – did we shift the chairs on the deck of the Titanic? Are we addressing something fundamental and acknowledging a revolutionary change in direction? are we dressing up ‘status quo’ as change? At it’s most basic “so what?” needs an authentically compelling answer.

As leaders driving change – answer these questions with integrity, and perhaps revise your change plans accordingly! the default for all our staff is to find a way to safely ignore the change. Just because you sent email, held all-hands etc. Do not fall into the trap of thinking you have communicated change – you merely broadcast it.

2) Who won? Who lost? I’ll leave it to qualified analysts to explain the Psychology but I know for sure this is the most vigorously debated around the water cooler and between the thought leaders in your teams. Don’t shy from this fact. Folks make accurate judgements about leaders who pretend a loser won. Thank someone for their hard work, dedication etc if that is true – but anything more is nauseating and will mark you down from potential followers perspective.

Mine for opinion here, you might find an opportunity to correct miss-perceptions or amplify correct assumptions. The bottom line here is that the decisions the organization makes are a clear indication of prevailing culture and intent. For better or worse, pay attention to that fact.

We are often too squeamish to call out the winners – yet, our tribes like to be on the winning side – I mean, who doesn’t? so set up your new leads or strategy guardians for immediate success by identifying their wins and successes in recent work and influence. Help establish their constituency.

3) What now? Critical question, but be prepared to answer “what’s in it for me?” at a micro level. Yes, as a leader you need to be able to talk at a macro level, say “share holder value” for example, but truly great leaders will personalise the message so that every single individual feels like they are on the vital mission of the corporation. Impossible to over invest in the importance of this last piece and it takes a lot of energy from the teams managing the change – but, if you can tell the story of “what’s in it for me?” at the most atomic – your changes will be compelling and sticky.

When you fail to properly tackle any of the above you invite folks to ignore the change you hoped to drive, worse, you reinforce their ability to do so with weak or low authenticity messages.

A more general observation here would be to avoid grand sweeping statements of change if for the audience you are addressing, not much in their day job changes. Again, you must bring rigor to your change in clearly identifying who there is going to be a change for and not get carried away in your own importance by implying that shuffling the pack will create a new suit or extra picture cards etc etc.

Finally, most change is long overdue – so all the above not withstanding, go! start now.

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Triangle of Worth ™


Some advice with regard to strategies that I can *prove* deliver results for diverse, geo-distributed teams:

The Secret Sauce: Based on a recipe I cooked up a few years ago called “Triangle of Worth” the key philosophy is a combination of elemental needs for teams and individuals to have a high sense of worth in the workplace and they are:

  1. sense of vital mission – am I working on the critical path?
  2. sense of equity – do I get out something commensurate to what I put in?
  3. sense of respect – am I able to respect the values and mission of my colleagues and peers – and can I assume they respect mine?

Many of the best trends you can observe in the ‘organisational health’ stats I am proud to have been associated with across a number years, teams and geos are influenced by putting this philosophy into action

Ingredients:
  • Clear Vision and Mission
  • OnePager or Equivalent set of goals and KPIs
  • Regular review period not > 3 months
  • Actionable Scorecard
  • Great communications
Method:

Take your OnePagers and make sure they represent a nuclear group – there are 10 active OnePagers for a team of around 60 peeps – so in aggregate no more than 6 people can describe their work in 1 page. I don’t know what the maximum size is to be effective – but it is not huge

Happy to supply some examples / templates – mail me directly

Finally – get into the rhythm of sending weekly notes from staff meetings to all hands – but these notes always start with a commentary from the leader and follow with the wildly important goals for the team this week (not a status of things got done. The focus on goals for the week makes a difference as they tie back to OnePagers or KPIs and so ground that cannot be overwatered is watered again. Regular and consistent is key.

Go, start now!

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“Burning Deck” without setting things on fire


The role of leadership teams in providing motivational gravity

Some weeks back in a hugely impactful, and widely reported memo to his staff,

Nokia’s chief executive to staff: ‘we are standing on a burning platform’ http://bit.ly/ePlUgo

Mr Elop made a dramatic call to arms that I found inspirational, but which also got me wondering “how do I get my team to work in burning deck mode without setting fire to things?”

Regression to mean can be observed in that left to themselves, teams regress from high performance to the mean, normal performance. Normal is misleading, I do mean underperforming; performance is not sufficient to meet the needs of the business.

As leaders, the question we need to ask ourselves and our teams when we recognise performance as regressing is “If we carry on at this (normal) rate, how long have we got left?”

  • before we lose our market position
  • before we lose our relevance
  • before we lose our jobs?

and when the answer is “not long” – burning deck motivation looks ideal

image

I like the phrase “Job Tourist” to describe a mode we all get in and can recognise, pretty much all of the above are words we use or situations we are in where we are coasting, passing through work – normal performance.

image

These are the words and situations represented by the paradigm of standing on the burning deck of a ship and, are easy to understand as attributes a leader would like to observe in a team that is need of greater performance.

Here is where the role of the leader is to provide motivational gravity that inspires and pulls team performance from “normal” to “burning deck”

Motivational Gravity

Motivational Gravity pulls normal behaviour to exceptional through:

  • Clarity of purpose [confront difficult issues]
  • Behavioural modelling [authentic belief]
  • Consistent messaging [systemic not tactical]
  • Emotional appeal [critical path]

The leadership models I’ve borrowed from are obvious to most readers but this is where to apply that theoretical learning you’ve done to great impact.

And that is the key message here – it’s what we do that matters, not the people we have doing it for us. The role of the leader is to provide that motivational gravity that shifts performance of the team as a whole from normal to something exceptional – go, start now!

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