Leadership

Paint the Vision

As I prepare for the MBA class on leadership I’ll be teaching this summer, I was thinking about all of critical components. Tom Landy, a great football coach, once said that Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve.”  The most important element is vision – to inspire people to do what you want them to do.

Unfortunately, many leaders assume people know and are committed to the vision, so instead of focusing on it, they give it short shift and focus on the management issues concerning activities. When the stakes are high, that’s a mistake.

One of the best descriptions of vision was offered last century by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

All too often we get lost in the management details and forget that it’s the vision that inspires people to take on the hardships that might be required to achieve the goal. Building a ship takes a lot of work, and can at time be quite draining, in terms of the workload, the doubts that might arise, etc. – as is true for many creative endeavors. Think of Noah’s very long-term commitment to build his ark!  Yet, to get people to make the commitment to prevent hunger, end cancer, or create a transformative new venture, it’s the commitment to the vision of how the world will look afterwards that provides fuel to overcome the challenges.  Steve Jobs recruited John Sculley from Pepsi  to Apple Computers by asking whether he wanted to be the best at selling soda (i.e., brown sugar water) or “make a dent in the universe”.

So, when you recruit people to your new venture, be sure to paint a powerful vision. Share with us your company’s vision statement to inspire other leaders.

Responsible Empowerment

 

There’s a right way and a wrong way to do something. All too often people complain because things aren’t working as they should, and by investigating exactly what is happening, the answer turns out that the “right” goal is being pursued, but the actions people are taking are faulty.  It’s analogous to leadership vs. management: the former makes sure you’re going in the right direction; the latter makes sure you’re doing it correctly. Delegation isn’t enough; management must be sure that workers are equipped (responsibly empowered) to execute as desired in order for people to achieve the goals set by the leaders.

Human Resources often is committed to talent management: hiring the right people, engaging, training and empowering people to take on those responsibilities which will lead to goal achievement – for the individual, team and company. Yet, all too often employees and freelancers fail to deliver on the hiring promise, leading managers to wonder why the people they supervise “isn’t the person they hired.”  (Barry Deutsch).

“Responsible empowerment” requires more than just issuing a job description, telling the person to take charge, and then reviewing in a global annual review. It means making sure the worker is properly empowered to do the job correctly through ongoing reviews at dyadic accountability and improvement meetings.

  • Providing a detailed description of a person’s job responsibilities and the standards by which performance will be evaluated.
  • Reviewing with new employees as often as necessary what challenges they’re having in fulfilling their jobs, enabling the person to adjust behaviors to “get it right”, and providing ongoing feedback including steps for improvement. (For instance, during the first month, each employee and supervisor might meet weekly, then monthly, quarterly, semi-annually and eventually annually. Whenever the person has a changed job description, the cycle begins again in relation to the new activities. (See eval2win.com.)

Without ongoing accountability for mastering one’s job responsibilities, supposed empowerment is likely to fail. For the supervisor, responsible empowerment includes addressing a range of leadership and management issues. Does the employee have the skills and tools and motivation to do the job well? If not, enable him/her. For long-term employees, just because he/she did the job originally hired for well, doesn’t mean he/she will be competent with new responsibilities (e.g., the Peter Principle). Are there other members in the team that are making it difficult to do the job? If so, address these issues with those members, after getting input from others involved to determine the facts.  (Vistage CEOs often share that they hire too fast, fire too slow and almost always discover that other were grateful that the person was finally let go!)

In sum, be a leader who builds a great team with effective management systems. As a manager, use responsible empowerment to ensure that each worker know exactly what he/she should be doing, how it contributes to the strategic direction of the company, and ongoing, job discussions, performance monitoring, with suggestions for continuous improvement.

How are you ensuring that you use responsible empowerment – and not just delegation?  Share your experiences.

Creating a Culture of Innovation

Once you’ve committed to an innovation strategy, you need to make sure that the culture will support it. In addition to the many steps the leaders must take (which were mentioned in prior blogs), here are a few additional tips:

  • Make sure that teams tasked with producing potentially disruptive innovations are truly cross-functional. The diversity of perspective is key to both spurring creativity and avoiding potential blindspots when it comes to execution.
  • Keep innovation teams connected to the core business. While companies often separate the “skunk-works” early stage innovation efforts from the rest of the company, it’s important that once the innovation take shape, it graduates and is re-housed in the department that will operate it hereafter. This encourages excellence in execution because the core business has that skillset and key relationships.
  • Assure that key leaders are actively engaged in the process. They are the bridge between the stage of innovation development and execution.
  • Measure the impact of the new technology from the long-term, not short-term perspective. Not all technologies have immediate higher profit margins than the legacy business; your job is to figure out how it can be incorporated into the larger business and eventually become more valuable. At this time, most use of sustainable energies are not as cost-effective as legacy sources of energy. But governments take the long view in supporting them. Companies need to do the same thing – or else their competitors will figure it out and then disrupt them.

Do you have other innovation culture-related advice to share? Please do.

What’s Your Power Position?

Identifying the customer’s real needs is critical to faciliate a sale. Matching it with your unique capability  is just as important – and the answer needs to be identified before preparing your sales presentation.

In Conversations that Win the Complex Sale, Erik Peterson and Tim Riesterer note that company sale presentations need to positioned from strength. They need to focus on:

  • the strategic need that your customer has, so he/she understands why it’s important;
  • your strength – why you are “uniquely” qualified to meet that need,
  • providing defensible proof of both of the above propositions.

Most importantly, these presentations cannot be based on facts alone – they need to be embedded in a story that evokes the emotions of your audience and drive them to the conclusion that your proposal is a competent business solution and that you and your team are a reliable, trusted partner.

Such presentations create for you a position of power for two reasons. First, it’s what your customer needs to hear to accept your proposition. Second, your competent, presentation generates confidence – and self-confidence is the way to conquer any speaking anxieties. Again, as our ADAP formula (Audience-Driven, Authentic Presentations) teaches when you focus on meeting all the customer’s needs, you’re outward-focused, which leaves little room to focus internally at your insecurities!

What’s your experience here? Share with us.

Take Control of the Agenda

Most people say that regularly scheduled corporate meetings tend to be relatively non-productive (or as they say, “a waste of time”).  Recently, while I was coaching a client for an upcoming negotiation, it occurred to us that the negotiation rule “whoever speaks first, controls the agenda” also applies to staff meetings… and that means you have the power to make them less boring.

Think of the staff meeting as the consumption of time (30 minutes +/- more time). The person who creates the agenda, controls how well or poorly it’s used. Therefore, the best way to make sure the meeting time is well used – is to have a hand in its design.  Often clients report that senior leaders are working inside their own “silos” and do not spend time working together on planning, collaboration, and joint execution.

I often suggest that they create short weekly meetings to make sure that everyone’s on the same page concerning company-wide issues, are sharing challenges for which they need input from others, and are getting the input. To ensure that the time is well used, set up systems in which each participant has some control over the agenda (by submitting their most important issue(s) in advance so everyone knows what could be on the table). Also, control the amount of time and energy per topic to keep it succinct. (E.g., allocated five-ten minutes brief discussion to each topic, with the group able to add more time if it’s deemed valuable! If no-one has an issue that needs to be shared or discussed, then that meeting is scrapped, putting even more pressure on using the limited time well.

How to you keep meetings meaningful and succinct? How to you make sure the time is being used well?  Share your best practices with us!

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