Archives for January 2011

What CEO’s Can Learn From Google

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Google announced a reshuffling of the executive team and that one of the original co-founders, Larry Page, will assume the role of CEO. Not surprisingly, analysts didn’t get worked up about this news. Partially because Google has a few billion tucked away. But that’s not the only reason. Google understood that leadership credibility fosters confidence when it comes to transitions in the executive suite.

There is an admonition in the leadership consulting field that goes – people won’t believe the message if they don’t believe the messenger. I believe the most senior leaders at Google communicated in a believable way. They garnered confidence rather than doubt, and left analysts feeling that this shift is a collaborative reconfiguration of senior executive talents and that “they’ve got this under control.”

If you want to secure commitment during a transition in your executive suite there are 6 must do’s in order to be successful. They are:

1. Get Clear
Every organization needs to start by cultivating a global perspective in times of transition. What is needed most is a clear understanding of each constituencies concern, the interpersonal and leadership aspects of the transition, and where uncertainty will raise its head. With this global perspective the next step is to develop your plan.

2. Have a plan
Once you’re clear the next step is to construct a plan that addresses all of the needs and concerns of your key constituents. The ideal plan will answer the question; what do we want people to know, think, feel, and believe about this transition? Treat this transition much like you would a political campaign…have talking points and stay on target with your answers.

3. Focus on People
The easiest aspect of an executive transition to focus on is the technical and task oriented aspects. The area that will secure greater effectiveness is the people side. Put yourself in the shoes of those hearing the news…what are their hopes, fears, and concerns about this news? View this issue from the audience’s perspective and speak to this perspective with empathy and appreciation.

4. Remain Open
No matter how clear your plan is, no matter how detailed your communication strategy, and no matter how much you focus on people, leaders need to be prepared for their message to be scrutinized. An area left ambiguous and or unexplained prompts an audience to question your thoroughness and competence from a pessimistic perspective. Answer all questions in a forthcoming and authentic manner. It’s essential to remember that this questioning is a natural aspect of digesting cumbersome or difficult information.

5. You’re being watched
Leaders only have one tool in their toolkit… themselves. In turn, leaders should remember that they are being watched in ways similar to the old television show Candid Camera. Every word and behavior is filmed and stored privately in the memory banks of each constituent to be played back at a later time. Leaders should strive to be seen as candid, optimistic, inspired, and authentic. The alternative might be to be seen as tentative, disingenuous, avoidant, and detached? One will breed contempt and the other confidence.

6. Live your values
The easiest way to not have to worry about being watched is to behave in ways that are consistent with your core values. By definition, a value is a deeply held belief upon which one acts by choice. Take time to clarify which of your corporate and individual values need to show up during this transition. Without this connection you’ll be buffeted by the demands of the situation and have no safe harbor to call home.

Which of the six do you feel is your strong suit? Which requires your attention? Which one, if not addressed, can derail your executive transition and leave you scrambling to catch up?

Jumping The Curve

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I talk repeatedly with leaders and teams about how to cultivate a new way of thinking about and responding to change. To position growth and innovation in a new way I will share a model called the S-Curve, sometimes also called the Growth Curve.

The S-Curve represents the timeless process of birth, growth, decay, and death. The model also provides insight into how this process influences consumer products, software, textbooks, governments, and everything else in nature.

Most leaders, when they first view the S-Curve immediately understand it intellectually but lack a framework for converting their theoretical understanding into a practical and transformative tool for organizational transformation. That’s what I want to do here.

The key to using this model effectively is to recognize that employees at every level of an organization have a predisposition to remain at the point marked by “maximum yield / profit.” It is there that you’ll find self-limiting patterns of behavior, and if left unattended, guarantee the death of any organization.

Success becomes destructive when employees or teams arrive at the top of the S-Curve and become enamored with the rewards of being successful and see their success as something to be preserved. In subtle ways they unknowingly start to put energy into preserving their current success and have become anesthetized to change. They find it difficult if not impossible to turn their back on what’s made them successful.

Extraordinarily successful leaders have learned to view success differently. They question their assumptions about what’s next and intentionally and continuously talk about jumping to the next level of success. They believe success is a signal that the lifecycle of their project, product, or team is coming to an end and that a new cycle of birth and growth are necessary.

In order to counteract a team’s tendency to remain focused at the top of the S Curve while simultaneously embracing a continuous process of growth and innovation, we recommend deploying S-Curve Leadership Teams to achieve the following:

1. Maximize each member of a teams natural talents and skills
2. Position each member of the team effectively on the S-Curve based on an AEM-cube® profile
3. Accelerate innovation and growth regarding the organizations strategic Initiatives
4. Fully capture the teams enthusiasm, engagement, and creative thinking

The three S-Curve leadership teams are:

• The Innovative Leadership Team
• The Growth Leadership Team
• The Efficiency Leadership Team

Innovative Leadership
This teams focus is on innovation and new idea generation. Their first job is to explore what’s possible without considering “how” to implement the idea. Members are to think about the “what’s and why’s” of new ways to provide greater value and to enhance the end user experience while providing a direct linkage to the strategic initiatives of Central IT.

Growth Leadership
The Growth Leadership Team process is identical to the Innovation Leadership Team process, except that the focus is on ideas already vetted and ready for implementation. This phase of the S-Curve is focused on accelerating the deployment and growth of ideas. This team executes ideas and manages the process until the process hits a maturation point, which then requires that the idea be handed off to the Efficiency Leadership Team.

Efficiency Leadership
The Efficiency Leadership Team process is identical to the Innovation and Growth Leadership Team process, except that the focus is on eliminating inefficiencies from all processes within the team or project. They are solely focused on elongating a processes time on the S-Curve and are the final link before a process or procedure is reinvented. This phase of the S-Curve is fully focused on the “how” of processes.

Where is your team on the S-Curve?
Where is your professional development on the S-Curve?
Where does your team need to be regarding your strategic initiatives?

Tragedies, Tributes, and Political Trash Talking

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Much has been written about the tragic shootings in Tucson on January 8th. If you search the internet for Arizona shootings you’ll find a plethora of articles about the nineteen people shot and the six fatalities. A positive respite in this tragedy is the miraculous progress of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

Not surprisingly, this tragedy and President Obama’s speech at the memorial service has become an opportunity for political posturing rather than an opportunity for healing and for paying homage to the dead and injured. Do our political leaders really believe that their trash talking is something constructive in a time of national mourning? I’m not sure how they would answer that question, but I believe that a heightened sense of decorum is warranted.

Peggy Noonan, the former speechwriter and political strategist for Ronald Reagan wrote an Op-Ed piece in the Wall Street Journal about President Obama’s speech at the memorial service and helped bridge the chasm between the left and right side of the political aisle. She said much of what the President said was “worthy of a president.” Thank you Peggy Noonan.

In my coaching and consulting work I help leaders understand that people won’t believe the message if they don’t believe the messenger. I believed President Obama when he said that at this time our discourse has become so sharply polarized that “we are too eager to lay blame at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do.” It is important that we talk to each other “in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.” Scripture tells us “that there is evil in the world.” We don’t know what triggered the attack, but “what we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other.”

Our political leaders have turned on one another, and that means it is time for us as an electorate to think about political discourse through a business prism. In business there is an obligation to shareholders and employees to ensure every business interaction and transaction supports a positive impression of the corporate brand. For example: the Ritz-Carlton’s mantra is “we are ladies and gentleman serving ladies and gentlemen.” Every interaction with a customer supports that mantra. Ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen seems to have been lost and I long for the day when our political leaders usher in its return.

Obama’s speech was delivered by a politician trying to be “gentlemanly”. Can his political foes reciprocate? Can we as a populace be gentlemanly toward our politicians? My belief is that we’re getting the public discourse we give and have a significant role in fostering the acrimonious nature of public conversation. While we’re frustrated and in many cases disgusted by reprehensible and selfish behavior by our politicians, we as citizens of this great country need to change the tone of the conversation and make the old way of debating issues no longer acceptable.

While the President has been accused of taking advantage of the memorial service and converting what “should” have been a somber moment into a political rally – I say that’s a distorted view. The first funeral I attended in a southern evangelical church was one hundred and eighty degrees different from the funeral masses I attended growing up in the U.K. When a gospel choir sings spirituals with the intent of celebrating a persons life I’m moved in ways that leave me speechless. There are many thoughts being expressed as to what the tone of the funeral service should have been – I think that’s a personal preference and room should be left for varying expressions of grief.

But what does this have to do with the world of work? As you arrive at work today consider the following three questions:

1. If leadership is being in service of others, who are you serving? Are you serving your own hopes, dreams and aspirations or your constituents?

2. If you believe that you get what you give, what have you “intentionally” given and or fostered with your employees?

3. If leaders are capable of balancing multiple perspectives, how open are you to multiple expressions of enthusiasm, despair, hope, and frustration?

Pulling Out The Stops In 2011

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Pulling Out The Stops In 2011 from Hugh Blane on Vimeo.