Leading Blog



12.22.14

Are You Uncomfortable?

Uncomfortable
No one likes to be uncomfortable.

But, there is a correlation between our growth and success in life and the discomfort we’re willing to impose on ourselves. Growth necessarily takes us outside of our comfort zone.

In a world of rapid and continual change, radical personal growth is required. We need to get used to it.

If we are going to stay relevant, we are going to be uncomfortable. If we are going to grow, we’re going to be uncomfortable. It’s difficult and unsettling. It’s just doesn’t feel right.

If a behavior or thinking has gotten us by, we just keep repeating it even if it really isn’t serving us well. We won’t take another look at our underlying assumptions until it lands us in a crisis. Typically, until we are uncomfortable, we don’t see the need to do anything different. We just keep repeating what we know until it’s too late. Staying within our comfort zone limits us.

And here’s the thing, we can put ourselves into an uncomfortable position, or in time, it will be trust upon us—and not on our terms. Every time we avoid the opportunity to grow, the stakes get higher.

Discomfort motivates us to change, to explore, to seek out new answers. It spurs on creativity. It gives us confidence. We need to learn to systematically reassess what we are doing and look for alternatives to the way we do what we do.

Real growth happens when we go into the unknown knowing that whatever happens, we will come out a different person—even a different organization. We will no longer think and act in the same way we did before. This expands our view. Provides us with new opportunities. Previously unseen solutions.

Richard Branson says, “If your vision is to reach a distant beach where, because of the reefs surrounding it, no one has ever set foot, then the chances are that reading the same old charts as everyone else has used isn’t going to get you there either.”

When it comes to leadership, we’ve been reading the same charts for too long. Running over the same old ground. We must develop the discipline to challenge—our beliefs, our assumptions, and our “tried and true” responses.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:01 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

12.18.14

quickpoint: Strategy and Leadership

Leading Blog quickpoint When confronted by “unusual uncertainty” as Ben Bernanke put it, leaders need to be able to think and act adaptively. It’s jazzstrategic improvisation. Professor David Teece of University of California Berkeley Hass School of Business shares this in the foreword of Winning the Long Game:
A firm’s dynamic capabilities rest on two pillars: (1) the vision and leadership skills of managers, and (2) the cohesion and flexibility of the organization as a whole. Leaders must fashion sound strategies for the enterprise, and the organization itself must be agile enough to adapt as required. An organization’s culture and values are much slower and more difficult to change than its structure or processes, and can hamstring even an excellent strategy if its leaders cannot show the way forward.

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Of Related Interest:
  Leadership as Provocative Competence
  Leadership: Artistry Unleashed

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:45 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Change , quickpoint

12.17.14

5 Leadership Lessons: Richard Branson on Leadership

5 Leadership Lessons

The Virgin Way by Richard Branson takes us over very familiar territory. But then maybe that’s the point.

While there is not much that is new, Branson has taken sound principles and demonstrated that – in practice – they work. He quotes Mark Twain, “All ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily used by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them.” And indeed they are. Our problem is age-old: putting what we know into practice.
The Virgin Way

Bottom-line: There is no secret sauce.

Anyone who puts themselves out there will attract more naysayers than usual. Branson is no exception. His book is enjoyable to read, but it would have been more helpful to provide more nuts-and-bolts of his entrepreneurial adventures—the man behind the hype.

1  One of the keys to “the way” we do things is nothing more complex than listening – listening intently to everyone who has an opinion to share, not just the self-professed experts. It’s also about learning from each other, from the marketplace and from the mistakes that must be made in order to get anywhere that is original and disruptive.

2  Any culture with an over-emphasis on “knowing your position” creates problems that get in the way of relationships, causes resentment and, as a direct result of this, can interfere with progress and innovation.

3  Don’t waste your time and energy trying to light a fire under flame-resistant people. If that basic, smoldering fire is not innate then no amount of stoking is ever going to ignite it. The exact same principle applies to positive attitudes in people – you don’t train attitudes, you have to hire them. (We now hire for attitude and not paper qualifications.)

4  To achieve lasting progress we must identify, nurture and learn from the next generation of business leaders. The leaders of tomorrow will be so much more effective if they are taught to retain and refine that childlike curiosity for the unknown, rather than having it “schooled” out of them, as seems still to be the case today in so many schools and universities.

5  Going it alone is an admirable but foolhardy and highly flawed approach to taking on the world. So please, take it from me: no matter how incredibly smart you think you are, or how brilliant, disruptive or plain off-the-wall your new concept might be, every start-up team needs at least one good mentor. Someone, somewhere, has already been through what you are convinced nobody else has ever confronted!

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:02 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Five Lessons

12.15.14

Booknotes: Leadership Vertigo, Kidding Ourselves

Booknotes ☙ In Leadership Vertigo, authors S. Max Brown and Tanveer Naseer explain that there is a gap between what we know we should be doing and what we are actually doing. They call it “leadership vertigo” and they attribute it to false signals in our daily perceptions that inform us that we’re moving in a certain direction when in reality we’re not.

How do we avoid leadership vertigo? If we live the following four principles it will help us to keep our focus where it should be and avoid leadership vertigo: “We need to create a feeling of community, of being a part of something bigger than a collection of individuals. We need to consistently respond with an inquisitive mind, actively listening to our employees to learn from their experiences so that we can encourage them to share their creativity and insights. This is especially true when you are dealing with mistakes and failures. We also need to make sure that our employees see the authenticity behind our words and actions so that they will trust the compassion we exhibit in light of the challenges or obstacles they face.”

☙ Joseph Hallinan deals with the same issues in Kidding Ourselves. He writes, “We engage in self-deception so seamlessly, across so many aspects of our lives, that it seems, to be an inherent human quality—a built-in shock absorber that allows us to adjust to life’s stresses and strains not by altering ourselves, but by altering our perceptions.” He notes that this is not all bad. It allows us to adapt and persevere when the odds are against us. We like to believe that we are in control. It may be an illusion but the results it produces are real—to us.

☙ At the same time, “Once we have an opinion about how something should be, that expectation often colors our perception of how that thing actually is.” (Sounds like leadership vertigo.) The tail begins to wag the dog and our perceptions conform to our expectations. “When we look, we look with a purpose—we don’t look at something; we look for something…We tend to see what we expect to see and to experience what we expect to experience.

☙ Hallinan expertly draws our attention to a number of ways we deceive ourselves quite unconsciously. “There is very little we are not capable of seeing or believing.” While a little self-deception can lead to optimism, perseverance and success, being mindful of our proclivity for it can save us. “Striving to see the world accurately is immensely better than seeing is inaccurately.”

Leadership Vertigo Kidding Ourselves
Buy at AMZN Buy at AMZN

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:39 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership

12.12.14

The Chaos Imperative

Our brains need white space to think creatively.

We need white space to think more deeply and completely.

Leading With Intention
In The Chaos Imperative, co-authors Ori Brafman and Judah Pollack say that “if we want to foster creativity and innovation in our own lives, we too need a bit of chaos.” We need organization and routines to be sure, but we also need “pockets of chaos”—“places where structure and efficiency are set aside or blocked off to create a more organic process that allows new ideas to come to the fore.” What Brafman calls “organized serendipity.”

We could actually use more of this white space not only in our organizations, but in our homes, schools and personal lives as well. In one study, “researchers discovered that the children with more recess time learned more, developed better emotional and cognitive skills, were healthier, behaved better, and managed stress better.” The problem is that it seems counterintuitive to us; like we’re not doing our job; we’re slacking off. But if you, as a teacher, a parent, or a leader think of your job as an opportunity to draw out ideas from others, to listen and to connect, it makes a lot of sense.

However, white space is not a shortcut, but a step. Using the stories of Dmitry Mendeleev (created the table of the elements), Gary Starkweather (invented the laser printing), and Albert Einstein (developed the general theory of relativity), the authors write that none of these men could have arrived at the solutions to their problems had they not spent considerable time thinking about the particular problem and mastering their particular field. “But in order to solve the problems they were working on, they needed to create a bit of white space.”

Our brains need time to process the information we take in and it is our default mode unless we are focused on a task. We actually interrupt this process when we perform a specific task. “It’s often in those moments when we cede control, when we put down that pen, when we fall asleep, or when we talk offline, that true eureka moments seem to find us.”

Introducing chaos into our lives and organizations is inherently messy, so the authors have introduced five rules for managing it:

Rule 1: Avoid the Seductive Lure of Data and Measurements. It’s a process. Results will vary. Sometimes you will have more insights and sometimes you won’t have any.

Rule 2: Remember, It’s Called Organized Chaos. Here’s a paradox: “We need leaders who can tolerate uncertainty and imprecision, but we also need leaders who can maintain stability around the chaos.”

Rule 3: Make White Space Productive. Here are a few tips: You first have to put in the work. A slacker won’t necessarily benefit from white space. Get up and move. Get some exercise. Take a walk. Create a micro white space—a minute or two—think before you speak.

Rule 4: Embrace Unusual Suspects. Intentionally seek out those with different views and approaches. Different doesn’t mean crazy. Break down silos. Get people from around the organization to contribute.

Rule 5: Organize Serendipity. Create openness. Allow people to bump into one another.

Organize a little chaos in your new year!

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Of Related Interest:
  Does Your Leadership Have “White Space?”
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:52 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Creativity & Innovation

12.11.14

quickpoint: Napoleon on Self-Control

Leading Blog quickpoint In Andrews Roberts’ one-volume biography of Napoleon he builds a picture of self-made man who largely succumbed to his own strengths. Roberts shares an interesting note from Napoleon to Louis-Mathieu Molé on self-control. This excerpt provides some insight into Napoleon’s character:
In my own case it’s taken me years to cultivate self-control to prevent my emotions from betraying themselves. Only a short time ago I was the conqueror of the world, commanding the largest and finest army of modern times. That’s all gone now! To think I kept all my composure, I might even say preserved my unvarying high spirits … You don’t think that my heart is less sensitive than those of other men. I’m a very kind man but since my earliest youth I have devoted myself to silencing that chord within me that never yields a sound now. If anyone told me when I was about to begin a battle that my mistress whom I loved to distraction was breathing her last, it would leave me cold. Yet my grief would be just as great as if I had the time. Without this self-control, do you think I could have done all I’ve done?
Roberts concludes: “So rigid a control on one’s emotions might seem distasteful to the modern temperament, but at the time it was considered a classical virtue. It undoubtedly helped Napoleon deal with his extraordinary reversals of fortune.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:30 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leaders

12.10.14

Eight Critical Questions for Leading with Intention

Leading With Intention
Your leadership effectiveness is a direct result of the level of intention with which you operate.

In Leading With Intention, author Mindy Hall says leading with intention means “consciously deciding to lead by design rather than by default; being mindful of who it is you want to be and then living into that picture twenty-four hours a day. It is about seeing opportunities every day, in every interaction, to shape the tone, the experience, and the outcome of those interactions.”

Everything you do sends a message. It begins with self-awareness. “The rest is practice, consistency, and continuous effort.” Here are eight critical questions from Leading With Intention that the intentional leader needs to ask:
  1. What kind of environment do you create in your interactions with others? Does it inspire people to be their best? You are 100% responsible for the tone you set.
  2. Are you clear about your intentions? The simple act of being clear in your own mind about your intentions helps you come across as more grounded, prepared, and transparent.
  3. Do you have preconceived notions or mind-sets of a person or situation? Mindsets are not static; they are dynamic and with new information and/or experience we can shift our mind-sets. The key is being conscious of your mind-sets and being open to challenging them.
  4. Do you challenge those mindsets? Today’s business environment requires the ability to see beyond one’s own perspective.
  5. How open are you to your own learning? How open are you to your own learning, to changing what isn’t working, to seeking out new experiences, and to not being defensive of diverse opinions even when they are radically different than your own?
  6. Do you do what you say you are going to do? People pay more attention to what you do than what you say, and your behavior speaks volumes.
  7. How would others describe you as a leader? Leaders must actively manage their presence in every interaction, both formal and informal.
  8. Why do you do the work you do?

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:14 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership

12.08.14

Things You Can Do to Build Their Future

Build Their Future

This last summer, my son Mark attended a youth leadership conference for the first time. I attended the opening session with him in a room of about 300 kids that all seemed to know each other. Mark is a very personable and approachable young man but as a parent I naturally thought, “How is he going to get up and running in a group this size? He doesn’t know anyone.”

But the opening session wasn’t over for 30-seconds when a young man walked up and said, “I’m Hunter. Would you like to hang out with us?” And they were off and never looked back.

As I walked away, I thought that this is the kind of leadership that makes a difference in people’s lives. It’s leading from where you are, without title and without fanfare. Just doing the right thing.

It’s the little things like this that we teach our kids that enrich their lives and those of others. Leadership begins in the home. It’s where we have the greatest impact on the future. Here’s a few things we can do:

We can help them to look further out. Help them see the long-term effects of the decisions they make today. Define a future and help them to line up the decisions needed to get there. It will help them to gain a perspective on life.

We can take the time to talk about their experiences. Help them to see them in the most constructive way possible.

While some rules are important, principles will last them a lifetime. Rules are easy to churn out. Principles take time to teach and integrate into a person’s life.

We can teach them that connection with others matters and that’s not done behind a screen. People are experienced when you can look into their eyes. Life is experienced when you can see what is going on around you—both the sights and sounds. One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is your full attention.

We can give them responsibility. Help them to value contribution over consumption. If not we can be guilty of what President George W. Bush called “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” He added, “No child in America should be segregated by low expectations.” Help them raise the bar in their life and thereby help others to discover the possibilities in theirs.

And the most important thing we can do is to set an example of the kind of people we want them to become.

Remember we are training future leaders not just raising kids. It’s an investment.

I later found out it was Mark Sanborn’s son that came up to my son that day. Not surprising. So I’ll leave you with a principle from Sanborn’s book, You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader:
We can’t give to others without being affected positively ourselves. And this is the secret of giving: When we make the world better for others, you make the world better for yourself.

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Of Related Interest:
  Leadership Begins at Home
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:27 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

12.05.14

The Culture Engine


Culture
Culture is the engine of any organization. It is the force behind everything that happens. It empowers behaviors that communicate who we are whether we like it or not. Getting it right is critical.

How do we create a culture that brings out the best in people?

Chris Edmonds says that it can be done by the creation of an organizational constitution. “An organizational constitution is a formal document that states the company’s guiding principles and behaviors.” It describes how your organization operates. It makes clear what our expectations are and how we are to achieve them.

We have to begin by understanding the truth of how our organization operates. Are we were we want to be? To do that you have to de-insulate yourself, genuinely connect with team members, seek out the truth-tellers, and share your assumptions and what you are learning. Whether we like it or not, we have to “understand that people are acting exactly as you would expect. The way they are behaving now is being reinforced consistently, albeit maybe unintentionally.” In other words, if you are going to define a better way, you have to live a better way.

Leaders define the culture. So it’s critical that you live the values and behaviors in your constitution both in and out of the organization. “This scrutiny is unfair, yet it is completely understandable and it is inevitable. You need to expect it and live up to it.”

The first element of your constitution is your organization's reason for being. Your purpose statement should be a clear statement of what the company does, for whom, and why.

The second element is the “positive values and behaviors you want every leader and employee to demonstrate in every interaction with team members and customers.” These have to be defined in behavioral terms so people have something concrete to measure themselves against. Have a "good attitude" is not specific enough. You can't manage attitudes but you can manage behaviors.

The third element is strategy. The strategy represents the path to company goals and expectations. “Every team member should be able to describe how his or her daily projects, goals, and tasks contribute to the accomplishment of team or company strategies.”

Edmonds then explains how to manage, measure, and coach others to embrace the organizational constitution. “In high-performance, values-aligned organizations, values accountability is of equal importance with performance accountability. Leaders spend as much time, if not more, communicating, modeling, and reinforcing the department’s values and valued behaviors.”

The Culture Engine provides tools in each chapter for making this happen in your organization. The ideas here are not limited to just a few leaders at the top. At any level in the organization, you can make a difference within your sphere of influence. As a leader you should be intentional about the culture you are responsible to and for.

Quote 
Organizational culture is not an amorphous thing – it is exemplified by the leadership. It can steer a company up or down, keep it on mission or force it off-course. For an organization to fulfill its potential, the culture must be on-point, truly reflecting the heart of the company from leaders to team members across the company. The Culture Engine helps leaders define the playing field.

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

12.03.14

Efficiency is the Wrong Mindset for a Leader



Efficiency

Efficiency always seems like the right answer. It’s reflexive. Faster. Easier. Who doesn’t want that?

And yet while efficiency is critical and often a competitive advantage, it is a problem when it becomes a mindset that is applied to everything we do; when it becomes an excuse for our lack of real connection. Faster and easier is not always better. As leaders, we have to know the difference. Some things are better over time. There is no such thing as efficient leadership. If efficiency is digital, leadership is analog.

Leadership is about influence and mobilizing people to achieve a common goal. This is done through relationships. Relationships do not benefit from efficiency.

Much of the practice of leadership is a process. If you rush the process you miss the fundamental issues that create meaning and engagement. Leaders are action oriented people to be sure. Holding another meeting, having critical conversations, and reinforcing commitments, principles and values, can seem like a waste of time especially when you see the goal and the need to get moving so clearly. But if you don’t take the time to do these things, you may end up on your own—leading no one. Leadership does not exist until we create a relationship with another person. It is our relationships that result in the actions we seek.

The efficiency—quality and flexibility—you get from people is primarily based on the relationship you have with them. Creating partners takes time. Distributing ownership takes time. The idea is to build relationships so that people in your sphere of influence, flourish.

Growth is rarely an efficient affair. It’s almost never a straight line. People have emotions, feelings and history and that takes time to understand and work with. If we are to grow and learn and innovate we have to leave room for the inefficient. Growth is born in the question. Efficiency rarely leaves room for questions. It is a tension that has to be managed. We have to learn to maximize efficiency without restricting growth.

We know when it comes to people, better doesn’t always mean faster. Easier isn’t always the best way. But if we approach the practice of leadership with a efficiency-based mindset, we will look for shortcuts through a process that necessarily requires time and patience. The straight line can miss so much. The crooked path often adds the depth and color to our life that we can’t get in any other way.

Good relationships cultivated over time, will bring you the level of commitment you want when you need it the most. If you haven't taken the time to build relationships all you have is a gun. Take the time now to build trusting, caring relationships with the people you serve.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:07 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership

12.01.14

First Look: Leadership Books for December 2014

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

  The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace by Ron Friedman
  A Year with Peter Drucker: 52 Weeks of Coaching for Leadership Effectiveness by Joseph A. Maciariello
  Winning the Long Game: How Strategic Leaders Shape the Future by Steven Krupp and Paul J.H. Schoemaker
  Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to Make Groups Smarter
Cass R. Sunstein and Reid Hastie
  The 5 Choices: The Path to Extraordinary Productivity by Kory Kogon, Adam Merrill and Leena Rinne

Best Place to Work Year with Drucker Winning the Long Game Wiser 5 Choices

For bulk orders call 1-800-423-8273


discounted books


Build your leadership library with these specials on over 100 titles. All titles are at least 40% off the list price and are available only in limited quantities.


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“ I think of life as a good book. The further you get into it, the more it begins to make sense.”
— Harold Kushner


Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:46 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Books

11.30.14

LeadershipNow 140: November 2014 Compilation

twitter

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

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:06 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | LeadershipNow 140

11.28.14

Accelerate (XLR8)

XLR8
In order to reliably maintain an organization nothing beats a well-organized and well-developed hierarchy. But in order to grow, avoid collapse, and take advantage of the changes happening all around us, we need something more.

John Kotter provides that extra something we need in Accelerate (XLR8). He writes that management-driven hierarchies are “still absolutely necessary to make organizations work.” So what he suggests is not an either/or but a both/and. It is a dual operating system. A second system that is organized as a network that works in cooperation with the existing hierarchy.

XLR8 Building leaders and being responsive in a disruptive, ever-changing environment “will no longer be improved by tweaking the usual methodology or adding turbochargers to a single hierarchical system.”

The second operating system does not take away from the existing organization but it adds to it, enhances it, feeds it. It is based on a few basic principles:

• Many people driving important change, and from everywhere, not just the usual appointees. It recognizes the possible contribution made by anyone in the organization. “You need more eyes to see, more brains to think, and more legs to act in order to accelerate.” It gives more people the latitude to initiate—the foundation for developing leaders.

• A “get-to” mindset, not a “have-to” one. Your existing people will step up but only if they “are given a choice and feel they truly have permission to step forward and act.”

• Action that is head and heart driven, not just head driven. Logic alone is not enough. People will want to help you if you can give them greater meaning and purpose to their efforts.

• Much more leadership, not just management. Management is the guts of the engine, but “the name of the game is leadership, and not from one larger-than-life executive.” Both practices are crucial but management alone will “not guarantee success in a turbulent world.”

• An inseparable partnership between the hierarchy and the network, not just the enhanced hierarchy. “The two systems, network and hierarchy, work as one, with a constant flow of information and activity between them—an approach that succeeds in part because the people essentially volunteering to work in the network already have jobs within the hierarchy.”

Kotter has found that “just 5 to 10% of the managerial and employee population in a hierarchy is all you will need to make the network function beautifully.” He describes eight accelerators for launching and sustaining this two-system model.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:28 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Management



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