Leading Blog


Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success

Failure is how we learn. The problem is, argues Megan McArdle, we’re forgetting that truth. We are becoming too risk-averse and that is bad for our children, for our personal lives, for our companies, and for our country.

While we tend to treat success as finite and failure as disaster, the reality is that in order to be successful, we must learn how to harness the power of failure. In The Up Side Down, McArdle explains why.

Unfortunately, teaching our kids how to fail smartly is one of the most important things we (and our schools) could be doing. Instead, we protect our kids from failure.
Educational software can help kids master new skills by pinpointing where they’re going wrong, and letting them practice just that task over and over until they get it. And yet, we don’t seem to be carrying that lesson outside the computer lab. Perhaps this is because even as our electronics have become a better and better environment for learning from failure, our educational system has become much worse.
Of course, learning from failure means asking the right questions after a failure and taking responsibility for the answers. “Learning to fail well means overcoming our natural instincts to blame someone—maybe ourselves—whenever something goes wrong.” Perhaps we deflect responsibility not just to make ourselves look better, but also to create a sense of control and structure in the world.

Our fear of failure also causes us to stay the course long after we should have quit. The biggest key to understand, says McArdle, is that failure is not the problem. It’s our refusal to recognize that we have failed. “If we assume that failure is a catastrophe, we’ll often try to delay recognizing it as long as possible. That, of course, gives your failure lots of room to turn into a disaster.”

In The Up Side of Down you’ll find why making bankruptcy easy relative to the rest of the world means not only are people willing to takes more risks, but they are feed to try again. “We built the biggest, richest country in the world” and we did it mostly because “we were willing to risk more, and forgive more easily, than most other countries. We lend more freely, and let debtors off the hook; we regulate more lightly, and rely on a hit-and-miss liability system instead. These things are often painted as weaknesses, but in fact they are great strengths. They are the sign of a country more invested in the future than the past.”

Sharing her own experiences among the unemployed, she explains the psychology of why some unemployed people stay unemployed—and what can be done about it. In a chapter titled “Adopting the Way of the Shark,” she explains why you need to keep moving. She notes, “It is very difficult to communicate the progressive corrosion of long-term unemployment to someone who has not endured it.” Money is an issue, but the psychological toll is worse—withdrawing from social relationships because it is “increasingly painful to hang out with people who have jobs.”

The Up Side Down is persuasive and engaging. It is a rewarding read that will have you looking at the “failures” in your life as opportunities to learn and reinvent yourself.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:42 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development


Five Ways to Reduce Conflict When There Are No Right Answers

Leading Forum
This is a post by David Dotlich, Chairman and CEO of Pivot Leadership. He is a co-author of The Unfinished Leader: Balancing Contradictory Answers to Unsolvable Problems with Peter Cairo and Cade Cowan.

To be a leader today in almost any organization means you are daily, if not hourly, bombarded with problems and challenges that don’t have clear-cut “right” answers. Or, even more confounding, there are many “right” answers, depending on your perspective. Such challenges include meeting contradictory needs (for example, tending to your “stars” while building the team as a whole), delivering quarterly results while investing for the future, maintaining consistent standards and policies while accommodating unique customer requirements, or staying focused on results while adhering to your company’s purpose and values. The list goes on and on. In the face of these complex contradictions, many leaders choose to deny them and just “get the job done.” But like Marley’s ghost, unresolved and unacknowledged issues keep reappearing. And as leaders ignore or deny them, conflicts begin to emerge, positions solidify, and resolution becomes increasingly difficult.

Just to be clear: I am not talking about conflict as it refers to disagreement over how to make a decision in which the facts point to a clear outcome, or personal disputes in which one or the other party feels slighted or bruised. Rather, I am referring to those disagreements which emerge in teams or organizations due to how a potential course of action is defined, often in “either/or” terms. By not recognizing the difference between a problem and a paradox, leaders unintentionally generate conflict. This results in both parties adopting a win/lose stance because the problem has not been framed effectively. By not acknowledging the paradox and encouraging “both/and,” not “either/or,” behavior from the outset, paradoxes such as, “How do we maintain global consistency while encouraging local customization?” can easily devolve into conflict, tension, and disputes. And when conflict rages, leaders often attempt to “solve” it by adopting lose/lose compromise solutions in which no one is happy.

In my 30+ years of work as a leadership executive and coach for Fortune 500 companies, as well as through interviews with 100 CEOs and top leaders, I’ve identified five effective ways to successfully manage conflict when faced with paradox:
  • Acknowledge the Paradox: In my work, I’ve often discovered teams feel a palpable sense of relief in just recognizing that they are actually all on the same side—it’s the paradox they must figure out how to manage together.
  • Acknowledge Each Other’s Views: When people feel their point of view is being ignored, they become entrenched in their positions. As basic as this problem may seem, people get surprisingly angry when they believe nobody cares enough to hear them out. When leaders spend time listening, they show that they care; this can quickly defuse a situation and allow both sides to be more thoughtful and adaptive.
  • Invoke the Customer: Given that everyone’s purpose is to create value for customers, invoking customers and their unmet needs can put everyone’s gripes and grudges in a new light. While this can be done in a variety of ways, the most effective is often meeting with customers—getting customers and people from non-marketing/sales functions in the same room. Many company insiders have probably never met a customer face-to-face. Those feuding can then better see their joint goals, and set partisan issues aside.
  • Start at the Point of Agreement: Instead of having the same old argument 100 different ways, seek confirmation where you can find it, in a team purpose or a particular organizational goal. People need to back up and look for more basic areas of agreement—typically, related to a larger purpose. If the team can agree on “where we’re headed,” it can have a more effective discussion on “how we’ll get there.”
  • Remember Your Purpose: Teams and individuals in conflict often disagree about tactics and options because they’ve lost focus on what’s really important—the company or team’s overall mission or purpose. Keeping purpose in front helps people “pull up” from the issues and align on what really matters.
By understanding different viewpoints and then aligning through customer insights and the organization’s higher purpose, people can successfully resolve conflict and come together around meaningful and impactful answers.

* * *

Trappist Monks
David Dotlich is the chairman and CEO of Pivot, a strategic leadership boutique that develops corporate strategy and executive development programs for Fortune 500 companies such as Walmart, Johnson & Johnson, GSK, Nike, Microsoft, KKR, Aetna, Best Buy, DPDHL, AbbVie, Ericsson, and many others. Named one of the Top 50 Coaches in the United States, Dr. Dotlich is former executive vice president of Honeywell International, founder and former president of CDR International and Delta Executive Learning Center, and former president of Mercer Delta Consulting. Visit David at Pivot Leadership and follow him @pivotleadership for additional leadership advice and ideas.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:14 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Communication , Management


First Look: Leadership Books for April 2014

Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in April.

  Accelerate: Building Strategic Agility for a Faster-Moving World by John P. Kotter
  Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace
  The Unfinished Leader: Balancing Contradictory Answers to Unsolvable Problems by David L. Dotlich, Peter C. Cairo and Cade Cowan
  Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
  Leadership Blindspots: How Successful Leaders Identify and Overcome the Weaknesses That Matter by Robert B. Shaw

Accelerate Creativity Unfinished Leader Essentialism Blindspots

For bulk orders call 1-800-423-8273

discounted books

Build your leadership library with these specials on over 120 titles. All titles are at least 40% off the list price and are available only in limited quantities.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:01 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Books


LeadershipNow 140: March 2014 Compilation


twitter Here are a selection of tweets from March 2014 that you might have missed:
See more on twitter Twitter.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:04 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | LeadershipNow 140


Asking a More Beautiful Question

If our questions are so unimaginative and predictable that Google can guess what we’re asking before we’re even three words in, says Warren Berger, then we aren’t asking the right questions.

“It’s the questions Google cannot easily anticipate or even answer that we should be asking. Asking the right questions helps us figure out what matters, where opportunity lies, and how to achieve our goals.”

We are drowning in answers. What we need today are good questions. In times of great change, doubt is the norm, so good questions, not answers, have the edge. John Seely Brown says, “If you don’t have a disposition to question, you’re going to fear change. But if you’re comfortable questioning, experimenting, connecting things—then change is something that becomes an adventure. And if you can see it as an adventure, then you’re off and running.”

Beautiful Question
In A More Beautiful Question, Berger shows how the most powerful forces for igniting change is the question. Example after example demonstrate how often off-beat “why” questions were at the foundation of many innovations. But he cautions, “Just asking why without taking any action may be the source of stimulating thought or conversation, but it is not likely to produce change.” He suggests the following sequence: Why? What If? and How? It brings some order to an otherwise chaotic an unpredictable process.

We must even question the questions. Neurologist Robert Burton says we should step back and inquire, “Why did I come up with that question? Every time you come up with a question, you should be wondering, What are the underlying assumptions of that question? Is there a different question I should be asking?

Finding that one big beautiful question for you is not easy. It is a process—a way of looking at life. “You don’t have to be a recognized expert; you just have to be willing to say, I’m going to venture forth in the word with my question and see what I find. As you do this, you’re in a strong position to build ideas and attract support. Because, whereas people are more likely to ignore or challenge you when you come at them with answers, they almost can’t resist advising or helping you to answer a great question.

Live the questions.

* * *

(A More Beautiful Question has more than enough examples of questions that led to great ideas to fire up your brain. Interestingly enough, in place of a standard index, he has an Index of Questions.)

• Why do kids ask so many questions—and more importantly, why do they stop? (p.39-70)
• Considering that today’s schools were built on an industrial model, is it possible they were actually designed to squelch questioning? (p. 4-60)
• Should businesses replace mission statements with “mission questions”? (p. 162-165)
• How do the most innovative companies foster a “culture of inquiry”—and how can any business or organization do likewise? (165-174)
• What has worked for me before—and how can I bring more of that into my life now? (p. 193-194)
• Can I use productive “small failures” as a means of avoiding devastating “big failures”? (p. 199-202)
• Why did George Carlin see things the rest of us missed? (p. 39-40)

A beautiful question is an ambitious yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something—and that might serve as a catalyst to bring about change. What is yours?

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:43 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Creativity & Innovation


How to Avoid One-Dimensional Thinking

Dead EndWhat undermines far too many leaders is that they don’t want feedback; they don’t like to be or feel they should be questioned. Unfortunately, this position takes them out of “leading” and into their own heads. They become focused on their own one-dimensional thoughts and agenda.

As human beings, we easily deceive ourselves in ways that are completely unknown to us. To lead well we must encourage feedback. In The Moment of Clarity, authors Christian Madsbjerg and Mikkel Rasmussen state, “As a leader you cannot be sure that you are always making the right interpretations or know the right path.” They recommend creating a “brain trust” of advisors that in include the following three kinds of people:
  1. Reconfigurators. These people are “great at spotting new opportunities and inspiring the company with fresh ideas.” They have the “ability to sense ideas, insights, and practices that are not on the company’s radar and to redefine them as business opportunities.”
  2. Articulators. These people are “excellent in translating new thinking into the practical, everyday activities of the company.”
  3. Conservators. These people focus on “maintaining the operation of the company.” While these people may be skeptical of too much change, “they are fast at understanding when change is inevitable and will help diffuse the fresh ideas of the reconfigurators to the mainstream of the organization.”

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:33 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Teamwork

Leadership Digital


Powered by
Movable Type 3.2

Copyright ©1998-2014 LeadershipNow / M2 Communications All Rights Reserved
All materials contained in http://www.LeadershipNow.com are protected by copyright and trademark laws and may not be used for any purpose whatsoever other than private, noncommercial viewing purposes. Derivative works and other unauthorized copying or use of stills, video footage, text or graphics is expressly prohibited. LeadershipNow is a trademark of M2 Communications.