Tag Archives: Leadership

The Dojo is now closed

23 Feb

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I received this text recently…”the dojo is now closed.” It was sad – a moment of silence type of experience where you recognize something that mattered is no more. I led a team of four Organization Development Specialists, three grew up in the organization in various operations roles before taking to facilitating learning and planned change; the forth an exceptionally eccentric trades expert from the area, but new to the organization. In the weeks after I joined the company and the team’s formation, they were being moved out of our beautiful new corporate HQ to an empty room in a nearby engineering building. The day they moved in, I was there with them when I had the idea that what we needed was a meeting table in the room and a white board. We would have our team meetings right here; no tracking to a HQ conference room. They were no longer run out of corporate. We were given a sanctuary. Much fun and great work came out of what we affectionately called The Dojo.

I was very proud of this place. I spent time there pretty much everyday though my desk was in the HQ nearby. This was the best work environment I’ve ever worked in. Not because it hosted perfect people, Google like design, or progressive HR policies. We had an engaged team, each member learning and making the greatest contributions of their careers. Within six or seven months of this team being organized and me being brought in to lead it, in addition to our core accountabilities, there seemed to be no initiative happening in our organization that we weren’t needed to contribute to in some way. Additionally, we were meeting with and coaching every Manager, Director and VP in our customer group on a monthly or quarterly basis.

After two-years, I decided to leave the organization for completely personal reasons – to move my family home where my wife and I could raise our kids to know their grandparents, extended family, friends and church. Unfortunately, the magic of the dojo faded quickly. The team members have each moved on now, better from the time they spent together in this place and now using their talents to further other organizations. Who we hire, promote and recognize…who we entrust the duty of leading our talent…This experience was a very personal example for each of us on how the acts of the local leader can enable something remarkable to develop or tear it down. I’m thankful and better off for the years in the dojo.

Noel Tichy on Teachable Points of View

24 Sep

“Great leaders are great teachers not only because they know what they think, but because they take the time to organize their thoughts in ways so that they can communicate them clearly.” – Noel Tichy, The Leadership Engine

Teachable Points of View (TPOV) are by far the most frequently visited topic I’ve written about. In my own work helping develop leaders, learning to develop and communicate TPOV’s continues to be one of the most needed and, when used, effective skills of leaders. Here, Noel Tichy speaks on this concept that he has developed and instructed for decades.

Related Post: TPOV: Good News Fast, Bad News Faster

Fundamentals: One-on-one meetings

29 May
partnershipLeadership is socially demanding. Interaction with those you lead (and hopefully serve) is necessary. I’ve found that it is very unlikely that we as leaders will consistently behave as we wish to – recognizing, coaching, supporting, developing, empowering and engaging…more – without creating some type of structural space/time and process to enable it. A practice that I use and recommend is creating a norm around meeting with each member of your team for one-on-one discussions to focus on their personal learning and performance.
Commit to meeting with each of your direct reports on a consistent frequency. For me, the minimum is 30 minutes bi-weekly. It’s their meeting, so I ask them to schedule the time in open space on my calendar at a time that works for them, booking 3 – 6 months into the future. I’m available for more if they want or need it. Our meetings do get moved as needed, but very rarely cancelled.
I require a written update around a loosely structured agenda built around roles I want to play as their leader:
  • to provide recognition – My Accomplishments (what have you accomplished since we met last?)
  • to serve their needs and support them – My Needs (what can I do that will be helpful to you?)
  • to build trusting relationships – FYI’s (no action needed updates), My Team (skip-level updates)
  • to engage and develop – My Development (what have you planned or accomplished to learn, experience and connect to develop yourself?)
  • to coach and empower performance – My Project Updates (what’s the status / how are you planning to progress?)
The purpose of the written update sent in advance is it allows us to make better use of our time together discussing and responding to the situation rather than using our limited time describing it.
Feedback I’ve received on the process:
  • I get a sense of satisfaction reporting my progress and it forces me to acknowledge ownership of my work.
  • Conversely, knowing the time is coming where I will report on my status and what has been accomplished (or not) also motivates me; I want to avoid having nothing to report but excuses.
  • I like having the consistency. It’s easier to get my needs met without feeling I need to “interrupt” as often.

I’ve provided the same update to my bosses over the years and the process makes me better. One thing that is certain is that if I, as the leader, didn’t set the expectation and require the process, entropy would set in; preparation and the good use of our time would end and I’d likely have what most others do with their time.

Committing to this structure and process makes me a better leader and my team members better performers. It also scales really nicely for those of us that manage global, remote or virtual teams.
If you decide to give it a try, let me know how it works for you.

Choose Service

11 Nov

When King Solomon died, his son Rehoboam became king of Israel. The people of his kingdom appealed for some relief from the heavy requirements  of them. The new king sought council of two groups, his wise elders and his peers. His elders told him if you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will respond in kind. His peers advised teach them a lesson and make your power known by telling them they have had it good and your requirements are much higher, like scorpions even.

I see plenty of evidence that leaders continue to seek similar council on how to lead.

While wise and wildly successful organizations like Southwest Airlines signal servant leadership and respected thought leaders like Jim Collins give us Level 5 Leadership, that’s not really how most of us have ever been led (especially when things aren’t going well) or what we see our peer group doing. Sure, it stands rational to align your service-value chain with how you operate and deliver value – leaders serving associates / organization members, who in turn serve external customers, who in turn chose your organization, fulfilling your organizations purpose and delivering value for stakeholders – but that’s not what my peers do. Do you know what they will think and say? And, being served has its perks. I have the power to…

Great leadership is delivered through individual choices to serve. Great organizations don’t exist without aligning leaders at all levels to make the choice to serve.

Choose service. Not to self-actualize and for virtuous altruism alone, but to deliver enduring value and effectiveness.

There’s no such thing as a great company

10 Mar

There are great teams and not so great teams. The best companies are networks of great teams. When you look at organizations, there is a huge range in performance team by team by team. There are differences within high performing teams compared with underperforming teams. These differences impact not only business outcomes, but lead measures like the ability to attract and retain talent that create the valued product or service that customers trade money for.

In 1994, a HBR article titled Putting the Service-Profit Chain to Work (J. L. Heskett et al.) introduced a model that is widely referenced and used. This year, DDI published their DDI’s 2011 Global Leadership Forecast. In it, they illustrate an adapted version of this value chain based on their huge biannual leadership study. Integrating the two looks something like this:

I do this to illustrate a (simplified) sense of cause and effect. The best companies are made up of great teams. Great teams have high quality leadership that build a uniquely positive work environment / climate. This leadership and context supports team member engagement in work that allows them to contribute their strengths. While the local leader exists within a system – enabled or confined by talent systems and process, as well as the broader management culture – it is the leadership of the local manager that has the greatest impact on the engagement and performance of their team. While leaders are as much a product of this system as they are nodes within it, positive deviants exist and they make the most significant difference. Most team members’ knowledge of and beliefs about the organization are driven by how the organization is presented and exemplified through their local leader’s words and behavior.

Curt Coffman and his partner Kathie Sorensen have taught me a lot about how local managers drive engagement. Most engagement research consists of reporting data collected from a large sample of employees from a broad set of teams and organizations – how do a broad range of factors impact engagement. Coffman’s research surfaced drivers of engagement by finding the correlation between employee responses to questions and team performance. For example, while a question like, “I’m fairly compensated…” is a highly rated hygiene factor that individuals rate as highly influencing their level of discretionary effort and intent to stay, It’s important to everyone regardless of performance level. However the question “My manager really knows me” is rated significantly higher on high performing teams than low performing teams. This research shows that highly engaged teams delivering superior results are different and the key differences are under the control of and most influenced by the local leader.

Despite more than a decade campaign to refocus leaders on achieving greatness through allowing talent to contribute those things they are truly great at, we remain fixated on being “not-bad” by trying to put in what’s not there or improve what we are remedial at. Good is not the opposite of bad. It’s entirely different.

“We all have a vast number of areas in which we have no talent or skill and little chance of becoming even mediocre. In those areas a knowledge workers should not take on work, jobs and assignments. It takes far more energy to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence.” ~ Peter F. Drucker

There’s no perfect job. The ideal for most people, when they are asked to describe it, is an enriched and empowered variation of what they are doing now.

SO WHAT?

Glad you asked. Leadership matters. How we feel about our contribution at work matters too. Focusing on these two things will make you and your organization more effective.

Leaders – Focus on leadership drivers of engagement. How would those you lead respond? Ask them?

  • What are the outcomes that you are accountable for?
  • Do you feel that you really know me? Is there anything you’d like to know?
  • Do you see additional opportunities where you could contribute your talents and abilities?
  • What’s the best (most meaningful) recognition you’ve ever received at work?
  • What are you doing when you’re doing what you’re best at?
  • Who was the best manager you’ve ever had? Tell me about what he or she did that you liked so much?
  • How do you feel you best add value to the organization?
  • What are the strongest teams in our organization? Tell me about the strongest team you’ve ever been a member of?
  • When have you grown most professionally in your career?

Each of us must better understand our strengths and use them more. This will serve our personal interests, benefit our organizations and the stakeholders we impact – family, community, etc.

What, in your experience, causes an organization to be seen as great?

Measures that Lead

17 Dec

James Slavet’s recent post Five New Management Metrics You Need To Know at Forbes is excellent. It presents five examples of lead measures (he calles them inputs) that organizations are using to drive performance. I call them lead measures because I first learned the concept of how important it is to have both lead and lag measures identified was in a presentation DDI President Bob Rogers delivered after the release of his excellent book, Realizing the Promise of Performance Management. His presentation was simple and impacting – effective strategists and leaders are looking forward, planning and developing capabilities that will cause the outcomes sought. In contrast, many more often see the situation where the person in charge reminds us of the budget targets that were given, where we are for the past month, YTD and YOY…followed by praise, reward, threats and consequences; quite Pavlovian. Imagine watching a baseball or football game where the commentary and coach interviews revolve only around the number of runs / points each team had scored…no on-base percentage, yards-per-carry, time of possession, defense formations, etc. It would be moronic. There are important outcomes and status towards those outcomes that are important to measure and review, but the real work is done when performers are aligned with actions that will cause success and measures of these drivers are identified, implemented and tracked to create change.

This Post provides a couple of nice examples. My favorite analogy is likening lead measures to the arrows on a bowling lane (and this video cracks me up).

Lead measures focus talent on behaviors that will cause success. So why aren’t they more effectively used? I believe it’s fundamentally cultural. It’s difficult to choose and use the right lead measures if you’re not in the business. As a leader, with all the related demands, you’re not spending time at the process level where value is created unless you make it a priority because you see it as your role to serve the processes and those that execute them. The best I’ve witnessed are from leaders that practice and value gemba walks. With a balanced set of lead and lag measures not only will outcomes improve, but you’ll know why. You will likely even be able to foresee opportunities and threats much earlier while there’s time to mitigate, reduce losses and capitalize on opportunities.

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