Never Too Young To Train

This was cute!

The little boy holding his mom’s hand and running around the track.

While many kids would cry and resist the exercise, this kid actually ran after his mom to go with her.

It was nice to see!

Never too young to train!

This is how excellence is born. 😉

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Who’s The Boss (The Good and Bad) ?

Who's The Boss (The Good and Bad) ?

Harvard Business Review had a helpful list of 8 leadership types:

1. Strategists – (Chess game) – provide vision, strategy, enterprise architecture.
2. Change agents – (Turnaround expert) – reengineering the organization.
3. Transactors – (Deal-maker) – make deals and negotiate positive outcomes.
4. Builders – (Entrepreneur) – create something new.
5. Innovators – (Idea generator) – solve difficult problems.
6. Processors – (Efficiency expert) – run organization like a well-oiled machine.
7. Coaches – (Develop People) – get the best out of people for a high-performance culture.
8. Communicators – (Influencer) – explain clearly what (not how) needs to be done to succeed.

I would say these are the positive archetypes of leadership, but what about the negative leadership models?

Here’s a shot at the 8 types of awful leaders (and wish they throw in towel and go away):

1. Narcissists – (Self-centered) – focused on stroking their own egos and pushing their own agendas, rather than the success of mission and people.
2. Power mongers – (Domineering) – Looking to grow their piece of the corporate pie, not the pie itself.
3. Competitors – (Win-Lose) – deals with colleagues as enemies to defeat, rather than as teammates to collaborate with.
4. Micromanagers – (My way or the highway) – doesn’t delegate or people the leeway to do their jobs, rather tells them how to do it the right and only way.
5. Insecure babies – (Lacking in self-confidence) – marginalizes or gets rid of anyone who is a challenge to their “leadership,” rather than valuing and capitalizing on diversity.
6. Sadists – (Bullying) – use their leadership pulpits to make others squirm under their oppressive thumbs and they enjoy it, rather than using their position to help people.
7. Thieves (Credit grabbers) – steal other people’s ideas and recognition for their own self-promotion, rather than elevate others for their contributions.
8. Biased baddies – (Whatever I want) – manage arbitrarily by subjective management whim and playing personal favorites, rather than through objective facts and maintaining equity.

How many of you have dealt with the good as well as the bad and ugly? 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Difficult Employees x 7

Difficult Employees x 7

So I was learning about some management best practices in terms of there being 7 major types of difficult employees:

  1. Challengers–employees that are oppositional; they resent authority, are disrespectful and confrontational.
  2. Clingers–people who are overly dependent; they are uncertain about what to do, fearful of making a mistake, withhold their opinions and may harbor deep resentments.
  3. Drama Queens/Kings–these folks crave attention; they can be found spreading gossip and rumors and making dramatic pronouncements both professional and personal.
  4. Loners–people who like to be left alone; they tend to hover over their computers and avoid personal interactions.
  5. Power Grabbers–staff that tend to get into power struggles with their boss; they ignore instructions and resist direction.
  6. Slackers–those who don’t do the work they are supposed to do; they tend to linger on break, calls, or the Internet or be out of the office altogether.
  7. Space Cadets–employees whose minds and discussion always seem to be in la-la-land; they tend to be off topic and impractical.

Obviously, each presents a unique set of management challenges, but one of the most important things a manager can do is focus on specific behaviors and the impact of those on the quality/quantity of work and on the organization, and work with the employee whether through coaching, counseling, mentoring, or training on how to improve their performance.

It should never be about the manager and the employee, but rather about the results and the outcomes. Keep it objective, be empathetic, document the issues, and work in earnest with the person to improve (where possible).

Difficult employees are not evil characters (or villains) like in the James Bond movies, but rather humans being that need inspiration, collaboration, guidance, feedback, and occasionally when appropriate, a change in venue–where a square peg can fit in a square hole. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Dealing With Change Resistance

In leadership class, I learned that in performance management, there are two major types of issues–conduct and performance.

In conduct issues–people willfully do not follow the rules of the workplace. Conduct issues are those of “won’t.”

However, with performance problems–people cannot meet the expectations for quantity and/or quality. Performance problems are issues of “can’t.”

On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, I wonder whether these same types of performance management issues apply to our lives as human beings and as children of G-d.

– Some people just won’t do the right thing, instead willfully choosing to lie, cheat, steal, and mistreat others. They prefer the monetary or egotistical rewards of doing the wrong thing over the spiritual and relationship hardships and challenges to do the right thing.

– Other people can’t do the right thing–they are too scarred by hurt, abandonment, loneliness, being told they are not good enough and can’t compete, and so on. For these people, sometimes, no matter how hard they try, they feel that they cannot meet expectations.

Of course, willfully doing something wrong is worse than not being able to do something right.

That is why for the first type of people–those with conduct problems–there is disciplinary action.

For the second type of people–those who have performance issues–we recognize their commitment and try to help them through things like coaching, mentoring, training, and counseling.

Performance issues may be linked to change resistance to change–and there are 3 dimensions of this:

1) Cognitive–“I don’t get it”–the person doesn’t fully understand and therefore agree with the rules.

2) Emotional–“I don’t like it”–a person emotionally rejects the rules of change, because they are afraid of the loss it will cause to them, personally and/or professionally.

3) Interpersonal–“I don’t like you”–when people are not resisting an idea, but rather they are resisting you, personally.

Great leadership is the ability to sense when any of these dimensions are off and help to course-correct them:

– When people don’t get it–we can inform, create awareness, and educate.

– When they don’t like it–we can listen to them and show empathy, get them involved in the process, and maybe show them the “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM).

– And when they don’t like you (the most difficult one)–we can try to win people over by taking responsibility for the things we have done wrong, demonstrating over time that we are trustworthy, spending time together to better get to know each other and build the relationship, and maybe even give in on some issues, where appropriate.

Like on Rosh Hashanah, where we seek G-d’s mercy on us and ask that he work with us, so too, we can learn to work with others to try and help them, where possible.

(Source Photo: Minna Blumenthal)

Big and Small–Who’s Who?

Father_and_son

Yesterday, I go into a store with my daughter to shop for a new iPhone case.

A clean-cut kid–maybe 13 years old–comes out from behind the counter and asks me what I’m looking for.

I chat with the boy for a few minutes about their products and the prices of the various items–and I was genuinely impressed with this kid’s “business savvy.”

Sort of suddenly, a larger man emerges, whom I assume to be the boy’s father.

Making conversation and being friendly, I say to the man, “Your son is a very good salesman.”

The father responds surprisingly, and says, “Not really, he hasn’t sold you anything yet!”

Almost as abruptly, he turns and stumps away back behind the counter.

I look back over at the kid now, and he is clearly embarrassed, but more than that his spirit seems broken, and he too disappears behind the counter.

My daughter and I look at each other–shocked and upset by the whole scene–this was a lesson not only in parenting gone wrong, but also in really poor human relations and emotional intelligence.

As a parents, teachers, and supervisors, we are are in unique positions to coach, mentor, encourage, and motivate others to succeed.

Alternatively, we can criticize, humiliate, and discourage others, so that they feel small and perhaps as if they can never do anything right.

Yes, there is a time and place for everything including constructive criticism–and yes, it’s important to be genuine and let people know when they are doing well and when we believe they can do better.

I think the key is both what our motivations are and how we approach the situation–do we listen to others, try and understand their perspectives, and offer up constructive suggestions in a way that they can heard or are we just trying to make a point–that we are the bosses, we are right, and it’ll be our way or the highway.

I remember a kid’s movie my daughters used to watch called Matilda and the mean adult says to Matilda in this scary way: “I’m big and your small. I’m smart and your dumb”–clearly, this is intimidating, harmful, and not well-meaning.

Later in the day, in going over the events with my daughter, she half-jokingly says, “Well maybe the kid could’ve actually sold something, if they lowered the prices” 🙂

We both laughed knowing that neither the prices nor the products themselves can make up for the way people are treated–when they are torn down, rather than built up–the results are bad for business, but more important they are damaging to people.

We didn’t end up buying anything that day, but we both came away with a valuable life lesson about valuing human beings and encouraging and helping them to be more–not think of themselves as losers or failures–even a small boy knows this.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Allen Ang, and these are not the people in the blog story.)

What Arms and Legs Can’t Touch

Unbelievable video of Nick Vujicic coaching people to believe in themselves.The catch is that Nick himself is missing all four limbs.Yet he shows how he can–without arms and legs–run, boat, dive, fish, water slide, play soccer, golf, and much more.I love when he says with conviction:

– “Forget about what you don’t have. Be grateful for what you do have.”

– Don’t be angry at your life and at others.

– You are worthwhile and you are beautiful.

– You have the strength to conquer.

I am inspired–no, I am amazed–by this human being.

Sometimes, like now, when I see such courage and strength, I wonder how people do it!

Life is so challenging even when we have all our limbs and faculties…

I think that G-d must give a special gift to these people so they can inspire others and be role models for us.

So that when times are tough, we can remember them and be elevated to break our own barriers and limitations.

Helping Employees Find The Right Job Fit

I have a new article in Public CIO Magazine (August 2011) on the topic of how to handle poorly performing employees.

Finding the right candidate for a job is much like finding a spouse — it requires the right chemistry. There’s a critical difference between having great qualifications and being the right person for a particular job, which is a concept that organizational behavior specialist refer to as ‘person-job fit.'”

When you see employees struggling, try to bring them up to speed in every possible way. If that doesn’t work, help them find a better position to continue their path of professional and personal development.”

Read the rest of the article at Government Technology.
(Source Photo: here)

>Essential Leadership Do’s and Don’ts

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Below is a list of my top 15 recommended leadership attributes and the do’s and don’t for these.


For example, in managing people—do empower them; don’t micromanage. For supporting people—do back them; don’t undermine them. In terms of availability-do be approachable; don’t be disengaged. And so on…

While the list is not comprehensive, I believe it does give a good starting point for leaders to guide themselves with.

Overall, a good rule of thumb is to be the type of leader to your staff that you want your supervisor to be to you.

Common sense yes, but too often we expect (no, we demand) more from others than we do from ourselves.

This is counter-intuitive, because we need to start by working and improving on ourselves, where we can have the most immediate and true impact.

Now is a perfect time to start to lead by example and in a 360-degree fashion—because leadership is not a one-way street, but affects those above, below, and horizontal to us.

If we are great leaders, we can impact people from the trenches to the boardroom and all the customers and stakeholders concerned. That’s what ultimately makes it so important for us to focus on leadership and continually strive to improve in this.

>Fire In The Belly

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Recently I read a classic article in Harvard Business Review (March-April 1992) called “Managers and Leaders,” by Abraham Zaleznik, in which he differentiates between these two frequently confused types of people.

Some highlights:

Leaders

Managers

Personality

Shape the goals

Solve the problems

Decision-making

Open up new options

“Limit choices” to execute

Relationships

Emotion-driven

Process-oriented

Risks

Prudent risk-takers

Conservative risk-avoidance

Sense of self

Strong and separate

Based on the organization

In my experience, Zaleznik was correct in observing that leaders and managers are very different. In particular, I have seen the following.

· Discipline: Leadership is more of an art, and management is more of a science.

· Orientation: Leaders focus on “the what,” (i.e. effectiveness) and managers on “the how” (i.e. efficiency).

· Aptitude: Leaders are visionaries and motivators, and managers are skilled at execution and organization.

· Ambitions: Leaders seek to be transformational catalysts for change, and managers (as Zaleznik points out) seek perpetuation of the institution.

Given that leaders and managers are inherently dissimilar, advancement from management to leadership is not an absolute, nor is it necessarily a good thing. However, many managers aspire to be leaders, and with training, coaching, and mentoring, some can make this leap. Those who can make their mark as leaders are incredibly valuable to organizations because they know how to transform, shape, and illuminate the way forward. Of course, the role that managers play is incredibly valuable as well (probably undervalued), but nevertheless, they support and execute on the vision of the leader and as such a leader commands a premium.

What I think we can take away from Zaleznik’s work, then, is that a leader should never be thought of as just a manager “on steroids.” Instead, leaders and managers are distinct, and the synergy between them is healthy, as they each fulfill a different set of needs. In this vein, when organizations seek to recruit from within the ranks for leadership positions, it would be wise for them to look at candidates more discriminatingly than just looking at their managerial experience. (In fact, counter to the conventional wisdom, the best leader may never have been a manager at all, or may have been a mediocre or even a horrible one!) We cannot just expect that good managers will necessarily make good leaders (although to some extent success may breed success), but must look for what fundamentally makes a leader and ensure that we are getting what is needed and unique.

So what can a person do if they want to be a leader? In my view, it starts with believing in yourself, then genuinely wanting to achieve a leadership position, and after that being willing to do what it takes to get there. Baseline efforts include advancing your education, hard work, building relationships and credibility, and so forth, but this is only part of the equation.

The truth of the matter is, you can go to an Ivy League school and leadership boot camp for twenty years, but if you don’t have passion, determination, and a sense of mission or cause that comes from deep inside, then you are not yet a leader. These things cannot be taught or handed over to a person like a baton in a relay race. Rather, they are fundamental to who you are as a person, what drives you, and what you have to give to others and to the organization.

Regardless of what role we play, each of us has a unique gift to share with the world. We need only to find the courage to look inside, discover what it is, value its inherent worth (no matter what the dollar value placed on it), and pursue it.

>Building High Performance Teams

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At work, there is almost no greater feeling than being part of a high-performing team, and no worse than being part of a dysfunctional one.

Teams are not, by definition, destined to succeed. In fact more often then not, they will fail unless they have the right mix of people, purpose, process, commitment, training, and of course, leadership—along with the time for it all to jell.

I remember being on a team in one special law enforcement agency that had the “right mix.” The project was both very successful and was written up as a case study, and everything in the project was really fulfilling personally and professionally: from gathering around the whiteboard for creative strategy sessions to the execution of each phase of the project. Now, that is not to say that there were not challenges on the project and on the team—there always are—or you are probably just dreaming rather than really in the office working. But the overall, in the experience, the health of the team was conducive to doing some really cool stuff. When the team is healthy and the project successful, you feel good about getting up in the morning and going to work—an almost priceless experience.

Unfortunately, this team experience was probably more the exception than the rule—as many teams are dysfunctional for one or more reasons. In fact, at the positive team experience that I was described above, my boss used to say, “the stars are all aligned for us.”

The challenge of putting together high-performance teams is described in Harvard Business Review, May 2009, in an article, “Why Teams Don’t Work,” by Diane Coutu.

She states: “Research consistently shows that teams underperform their potential.”

But Coutu explains that this phenomenon of underperformance by teams can be overcome, by following “five basic conditions” as described in “Leading Teams” by J. Richard Hackman (the descriptions of these are my thoughts):

“Teams must be real”—you need the right mix of people: who’s in and who’s out.

“Compelling direction”—teams need a clear purpose: “what they’re supposed to be doing” and is it meaningful.

“Enabling structures”—teams need process: how are things going to get done and by whom.

“Supportive organization”—teams need the commitment of the organization and its leadership: who is championing and sponsoring the team.

“Expert coaching”—you need training: how teams are supposed to behave and produce.

While leadership is not called out specifically, to me it is the “secret sauce” or the glue that holds all the other team enablers together. The skilled leader knows who to put on the team, how to motivate its members to want to succeed, how to structure the group to be productive and effective, how to build and maintain commitment, and how to coach, counsel, mentor, and ensure adequate training and tools for the team members.

One other critical element that Coutu spells out is courage. Team leaders and members need to have the courage to innovate, “ask difficult questions,” to counter various forms of active or passive resistance, and to experiment.

In short, harnessing the strength of a team means bringing out the best in everyone, making sure that the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals offset each other—there is true synergy in working together. In failing teams, everyone might as well stay home. In high-performance teams, the whole team is greater than the sum of its individual members.