Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Imagine that you're conducting a performance appraisal with one of your people. You're discussing a major project that didn't turn out as hoped and you've just asked him why.
"Why did it fail?" he says. "Lots of reasons, but mostly because we didn't get what we needed from you. We were depending on other groups, but they couldn't have cared less. In fact, they didn't even know what we were doing and how it would help them. Plus, we never had a real strategy or plan and so we pretty much winged it every day, and every day you seemed to change your mind about what was important. In fact, Jack (your boss) never understood the project. So when people asked him, he couldn't support us."
What would your reaction be? We suspect a part of you would be thinking: "He can't say this. This is insubordination. I'm evaluating him. This isn't how it works."
And you'd be right. This isn't how it usually works. In virtually all organizations we know, the right to have formal expectations of others flows only downward, just like formal authority.
Notice we said "the right to have expectations." People certainly have expectations of those above them in the hierarchy, but there's little if any recognition of those expectations. Certainly there's no recognition of the right to have them.
We suggest that point of view should be questioned. We certainly don't think every expectation people have of a boss is appropriate. Many are naive, self-serving, and dysfunctional for the group. But there is one right we believe needs recognition by bosses, organizations, and all the people in them:
People have a right to competent management.
This is not a new idea. Even in Roman times it was said thatevery soldier had a right to competent command. In the same way, your people can and should expect you to be an able boss. They should expect this in the same way and for the same reason they can expect to receive the minimal tools and resources needed to do the work assigned to them. And they should be allowed to discuss these expectations with you, their boss, just as you and they discuss your expectations of them.
"That's fine, in theory," you're probably thinking. "But who knows what 'competent' management is? Look at the millions of words written about the subject."
Certainly there's room for ongoing negotiation, especially around how the requirements of good management apply in a given situation. But that's little different from your own expectations of your people. You know the general elements of what's required of each; how those elements apply to specifics is open to ongoing discussion.
What good management comprises — what bosses do to make their people productive — isn't really a mystery. We can argue about the exact wording, but the basic elements aren't in doubt. We've summarized them in what we call the "3 Imperatives": Manage yourself, manage your network, manage your team. In writing about these elements, we've described them in terms of what good managers do and what all managers should strive to do. But it's not hard to rephrase them from a direct report's point of view — in effect, a "Direct Reports' Bill of Rights" — as follows.
Every direct report should be able to expect that the boss will:
- Be Trustworthy. Trust is based on competence and character, and so people can expect the boss (a) will know what to do and how to do it, and (b) will possess fundamental values, standards, interpersonal skills, emotional maturity, and levels of caring that support the work and those doing it.
- Exercise influence beyond his or her group. Every group works in a web of interdependence within a broader organization and beyond. Success — through, for example, securing needed resources, attention, and cooperation — depends on the boss's ability to exercise influence in that broader context through a network of ongoing, mutually supportive relationships.
- Create a team of his or her group. A group is a collection of people who work together. A team is a group whose members are mutually committed to pursuit of a clear purpose and the achievement of goals based on that purpose. In a team there is a "we" separate from the individuals involved and the people in that "we" believe they will all succeed or fail together. Why is this important? Because members of a team are more engaged and committed and as a group are more innovative and productive. A competent manager knows how to transform a group into a team — by fostering a compelling purpose, worthwhile goals and clear plans, productive work processes, and a culture of "we."
- Recognize individuals and support their development. People want to belong and be recognized for themselves. Thus, an effective manager knows individual team members, works with them, supports their development, and recognizes their contributions — all within the context of the team.
How would you fare in the eyes of your people if they applied these standards? What if your organization told everyone that this is what all employees should expect of their managers? What if, in your performance reviews with your people, you discussed with them your own performance in terms of the expectations above?
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Remember when collaborating was fun?
The news that Google’s staff bonuses now depend on the success of its new +1 social rank tool — and Mathew’s observation that “you can’t threaten people into being social” — brings to the fore an important but often unacknowledged issue surrounding collaborative business: While businesses focus on choosing tools, prescribing acceptable network policies and measuring ROI, the easiest way to get staff to collaborate is, well, to make it fun.
One organization I worked with last year used an internal social network that was literally devoid of any humor or personality whatsoever. Try as I might, I couldn’t bring myself to use it, and I wasn’t the only one. Who wants to “engage” when there’s nothing but a constructed corporate persona to engage with?
If you want staff to collaborate productively with one another, your suppliers, peers or customers, the simplest way is to make it fun.
You may think that’s unrealistic; a non-essential element in the cut-and-thrust of today’s heady business competition. But the fact remains that it’s the easiest way to get staff to work together.
What makes collaboration fun?
Collaboration is fun because we do it with others. Online collaboration helps us very efficiently avoid the tyranny of distance, which is equally great for making disparate teams feel closer, and for allowing us to learn from people we’ll never get a chance to meet.
We all know the kick that comes from engaging with someone we admire — albeit at a distance — over Twitter or Facebook. That thrill is echoed every day in good collaborative exchanges within teams.
Personalities can make or break the collaborative effort. Evolving team member disagreements and friendships all have their impacts on the collaborative fun factor.
Establish your collaborative space as a supportive, open platform on which individuals’ unique aspects are welcome, and your staff will likely have more fun there.
A Shared Goal or Direction
Being part of something bigger than the individual is a key motivator for many collaborators. Most of us want to belong, and belonging involves sharing. Shared experience—especially the overcoming of collective challenges, and the achievement of common goals—strengthens team bonds and supports future collaborative efforts.
Think of the people you love collaborating with on work projects. They’re probably people who share your passion for the work, and who can communicate that enthusiasm equally well through in-person or online exchanges.
Learning, Contribution and Recognition
For most professionals, a key personal motivation for collaboration is the opportunities it provides to learn from peers, contribute to the collaborative effort, and be recognized for the good work we do by people we admire.
That cycle of mutual respect, admiration and knowledge exchange is self-perpetuating. Valuable, rich collaborative relationships usually continue even when team members change employers, and no longer have access to in-house collaborative systems.
If you’re thinking, “that’s fine and all, but it sure sounds like a lot of fun,” you’re right. But remember: more fun means stronger staff engagement, more effective collaboration, and greater productivity.
If your organization is one of those that’s still worried about the potential for staff to “spend all their time on social networks,” it’s way past time to join the age of social business. Engaging with staff about the networks they enjoy, and considering the ways they could be used to enrich workplace collaboration might be a good first step towards making your organization more collaborative and effective.
Teams that don’t collaborate well should assess their operation on the basis of the elements mentioned here. Certain tools may help you overcome specific collaborative issues, but the astute team leader will consider each possible solution in light of its potential to enhance the collaborative fun factor—knowing that more fun will likely lead to a greater ROI.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
The Vanishingly Rare Art of Customer Delight
Was ready for a flight destined to Houston, en route to my home. I had a tight connection. But I’m an optimist by default. So I was in strong spirits. And set to fly.
The initial delay was 30 minutes. Something about the plane having to be towed from another area to the gate (not sure why someone didn’t tow it over earlier but no worries; there are worse things happening in the world). 30 minutes stretched to an hour. Nearly zero communication nor explanation. The gate agents just typed frenetically on the keyboards as in one of the final scenes of the pretty-much-hilarious “Meet The Parents” movie.
Finally, we boarded. The captain then came on the PA and advised us of a “minor mechanical problem that should be fixed in 15 minutes.” Four hours later we were still on the runway.
When we eventually took off, I’d missed my connection and resigned myself to the adventure of an unexpected evening in Houston (great city). Through it all, no one from the airline said “Sorry”, the gate agents promised at the arrival gate were invisible and no plans were made for hotel accomodations or ground transport. No one seemed to care (when a business treats its people poorly, its people treat their customers poorly – except for the one in one hundred soul who rises above it all because of their personal belief system and Leads Without a Title).
Look, I’m not complaining. Not at all. Delays and disruption are the price of admission for a professional traveler. I had books to read, water to drink and my iPod with hundreds of audiobooks just begging to be consumed. I’m not so special (and certainly no different from you) but I was able to maintain a sense of perspective about the whole thing. But the experience did fine tune and bring into clearer focus the gorgeous opportunity every business has to breed customer loyalty and all -new levels of trust when things don’t go as planned.
Here are some of my thoughts on what a truly world-class airline that really cared about their customers would have done:
1. Talk To Your Customers: A problem is nothing more than an opportunity to engage and wow the people who keep you in business. The gate agents and personnel could have quickly and regularly explained the situation and assured us all possible progress was being made.
2. Say You’re Sorry: I’m a fanatic about leadership language. Words have such power. The captain talked a lot about “some more bad news”. Better to just give us the facts – and hold off on the emotion. But even more importantly, say “sorry” when you need to say sorry. Many of us missed our connections and were caused inconvenience because of this mechanical issue. Yet no one took responsibility.
3. Show Your Customers a Little Humanity: While we waited, the agents could have handed out bottles of water. Or had some protocol that would make a challenging situation easier (or even fun). Maybe the Plan B could have been a boxed sandwich. Or some special chocolates. Or just walking around checking in with as many passengers as possible to make human connections (I saw one passenger buy Chinese food and share it with people around him…shared decency amidst adversity).
4. Go Beyond Expectations: Most businesses don’t even deliver on what they promise in their advertising and sloganeering. Imagine, when we arrived in Houston (it was nearly midnight), if we were provided with transport to a hotel, a healthy meal, and a letter on check in wishing us a great night, while thanking us for giving the airline our business.
Business brilliance is pretty simple. Maybe not easy. But pretty simple. And it begins with caring about the people who keep you going.
Monday, April 18, 2011
The global economy is in a state of acute disruption. Competition has never been more fierce. Consumers have never been so well-informed and loudly demanding. And what worked yesterday just might be obsolete today.
But this time is also a great time, for the astonishing few who are ready to show leadership. Leaders are at their absolute best during messy cycles versus during the easy ones. And messy cycles bring with them gorgeous opportunities.
As I sit quietly on this airplane at 40,000 feet, away from the rallying cries of a wired world filled with endless interruptions, I’ve distilled what I’ve been sharing in my presentations to clients across the planet over the past months, from Kuwait and Dubai to Paris, London and Dusseldorf.
Here are 50 powerful rules to amp up your game so this business cycle is one of your best business cycles yet.
- You are not just paid to work. You are paid to be uncomfortable – and to pursue projects that scare you.
- Take care of your relationships and the money will take care of itself.
- Lead you first. You can’t help others reach for their highest potential until you’re in the process of reaching for yours.
- To double your income, triple your rate of learning.
- While victims condemn change, leaders grow inspired by change.
- Small daily improvements over time create stunning results.
- Surround yourself with people courageous enough to speak truthfully about what’s best for your organization and the customers you serve.
- Don’t fall in love with your press releases.
- Every moment in front of a customer is a moment of truth (to either show you live by the values you profess – or you don’t).
- Copying what your competition is doing just leads to being second best.
- Become obsessed with the user experience such that every touchpoint of doing business with you leaves people speechless. No, breathless.
- If you’re in business, you’re in show business. The moment you get to work, you’re on stage. Give us the performance of your life.
- Be a Master of Your Craft. And practice + practice + practice.
- Get fit like Madonna.
- Read magazines you don’t usually read. Talk to people who you don’t usually speak to. Go to places you don’t commonly visit. Disrupt your thinking so it stays fresh + hungry + brilliant.
- Remember that what makes a great business – in part – are the seemingly insignificant details. Obsess over them.
- Good enough just isn’t good enough.
- Brilliant things happen when you go the extra mile for every single customer.
- An addiction to distraction is the death of creative production. Enough said.
- If you’re not failing regularly, you’re definitely not making much progress.
- Lift your teammates up versus tear your teammates down. Anyone can be a critic. What takes guts is to see the best in people.
- Remember that a critic is a dreamer gone scared.
- Leadership’s no longer about position. Now, it’s about passion. And having an impact through the genius-level work that you do.
- The bigger the dream, the more important the team.
- If you’re not thinking for yourself, you’re following – not leading.
- Work hard. But build an exceptional family life. What’s the point of reaching the mountaintop but getting there alone.
- The job of the leader is to develop more leaders.
- The antidote to deep change is daily learning. Investing in your professional and personal development is the smartest investment you can make. Period.
- Smile. It makes a difference.
- Say “please” and “thank you”. It makes a difference.
- Shift from doing mindless toil to doing valuable work.
- Remember that a job is only just a job if all you see it as is a job.
- Don’t do your best work for the applause it generates but for the personal pride it delivers.
- The only standard worth reaching for is BIW (Best in World).
- In the new world of business, everyone works in Human Resources.
- In the new world of business, everyone’s part of the leadership team.
- Words can inspire. And words can destroy. Choose yours well.
- You become your excuses.
- You’ll get your game-changing ideas away from the office versus in the middle of work. Make time for solitude. Creativity needs the space to present itself.
- The people who gossip about others when they are not around are the people who will gossip about you when you’re not around.
- It could take you 30 years to build a great reputation and 30 seconds of bad judgment to lose it.
- The client is always watching.
- The way you do one thing defines the way you’ll do everything. Every act matters.
- To be radically optimistic isn’t soft. It’s hard. Crankiness is easy.
- People want to be inspired to pursue a vision. It’s your job to give it to them.
- Every visionary was initially called crazy.
- The purpose of work is to help people. The other rewards are inevitable by-products of this singular focus.
- Remember that the things that get scheduled are the things that get done.
- Keep promises and be impeccable with your word. People buy more than just your products and services. They invest in your credibility.
- Lead Without a Title.
New story I’ve been sharing with business audiences at my Lead Without a Title presentations. Legendary Hollywood agent Swifty Lazar was having dinner with a hot young starlet when he was just getting started. He wanted to wow her. And make her his client.
On a break from the meal, Swifty found himself in the men’s room with none other than Frank Sinatra. Swifty introduced himself with enormous passion and exceptional confidence. But Frank wasn’t interested. Swifty persisted and asked Sinatra to “please come and say hello to us at our table.” Sinatra said no.
But 90% of success is persevering longer than anyone thinks you have a right to persist. The best performers and the truest leaders have “Chutzpah”. Guts. Courage. Fearlessness amid their largest fears. And so our friend, the young Swifty, asked again. “Please come by and say a fast hello. It’ll only take a few seconds.” And so Sinatra said yes.
Swifty returned to the starlet. And Frank Sinatra, in full view of the entire room, walked over to Swifty’s table. “Hi Swifty,” said Sinatra, extending his hand. “Not now Frank,” replied Swifty. The starlet, duly impressed, signed on the dotted line the next day.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Companies have a great deal to learn from failure—provided they manage it successfully
Apr 14th 2011
BUSINESS writers have always worshipped at the altar of success. Tom Peters turned himself into a superstar with “In Search of Excellence”. Stephen Covey has sold more than 15m copies of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. Malcolm Gladwell cleverly subtitled his third book, “Outliers”, “The Story of Success”. This success-fetish makes the latest management fashion all the more remarkable. The April issue of the Harvard Business Review is devoted to failure, featuring among other contributors A.G. Lafley, a successful ex-boss of Procter & Gamble (P&G), proclaiming that “we learn much more from failure than we do from success.” The current British edition of Wired magazine has “Fail! Fast. Then succeed. What European business needs to learn from Silicon Valley” on its cover. IDEO, a consultancy, has coined the slogan “Fail often in order to succeed sooner”.
There are good reasons for the failure fashion. Success and failure are not polar opposites: you often need to endure the second to enjoy the first. Failure can indeed be a better teacher than success. It can also be a sign of creativity. The best way to avoid short-term failure is to keep churning out the same old products, though in the long term this may spell your doom. Businesses cannot invent the future—their own future—without taking risks.
Entrepreneurs have always understood this. Thomas Edison performed 9,000 experiments before coming up with a successful version of the light bulb. Students of entrepreneurship talk about the J-curve of returns: the failures come early and often and the successes take time. America has proved to be more entrepreneurial than Europe in large part because it has embraced a culture of “failing forward” as a common tech-industry phrase puts it: in Germany bankruptcy can end your business career whereas in Silicon Valley it is almost a badge of honour.
A more tolerant attitude to failure can also help companies to avoid destruction. When Alan Mulally became boss of an ailing Ford Motor Company in 2006 one of the first things he did was demand that his executives own up to their failures. He asked managers to colour-code their progress reports—ranging from green for good to red for trouble. At one early meeting he expressed astonishment at being confronted by a sea of green, even though the company had lost several billion dollars in the previous year. Ford’s recovery began only when he got his managers to admit that things weren’t entirely green.
Failure is also becoming more common. John Hagel, of Deloitte’s Centre for the Edge (which advises bosses on technology), calculates that the average time a company spends in the S&P 500 index has declined from 75 years in 1937 to about 15 years today. Up to 90% of new businesses fail shortly after being founded. Venture-capital firms are lucky if 20% of their investments pay off. Pharmaceutical companies research hundreds of molecular groups before coming up with a marketable drug. Less than 2% of films account for 80% of box-office returns.
But simply “embracing” failure would be as silly as ignoring it. Companies need to learn how to manage it. Amy Edmondson of Harvard Business School argues that the first thing they must do is distinguish between productive and unproductive failures. There is nothing to be gained from tolerating defects on the production line or mistakes in the operating theatre.
This might sound like an obvious distinction. But it is one that some of the best minds in business have failed to make. James McNerney, a former boss of 3M, a manufacturer, damaged the company’s innovation engine by trying to apply six-sigma principles (which are intended to reduce errors on production lines) to the entire company, including the research laboratories. It is only a matter of time before a boss, hypnotised by all the current talk of “rampant experimentation”, makes the opposite mistake.
Companies must also recognise the virtues of failing small and failing fast. Peter Sims likens this to placing “Little Bets”, in a new book of that title. Chris Rock, one of the world’s most successful comedians, tries out his ideas in small venues, often bombing and always junking more material than he saves. Jeff Bezos, the boss of Amazon, compares his company’s strategy to planting seeds, or “going down blind alleys”. One of those blind alleys, letting small shops sell books on the company’s website, now accounts for a third of its sales.
Placing small bets is one of several ways that companies can limit the downside of failure. Mr Sims emphasises the importance of testing ideas on consumers using rough-and-ready prototypes: they will be more willing to give honest opinions on something that is clearly an early-stage mock-up than on something that looks like the finished product. Chris Zook, of Bain & Company, a consultancy, urges companies to keep potential failures close to their core business—perhaps by introducing existing products into new markets or new products into familiar markets. Rita Gunther McGrath of Columbia Business School suggests that companies should guard against “confirmation bias” by giving one team member the job of looking for flaws.
But there is no point in failing fast if you fail to learn from your mistakes. Companies are trying hard to get better at this. India’s Tata group awards an annual prize for the best failed idea. Intuit, in software, and Eli Lilly, in pharmaceuticals, have both taken to holding “failure parties”. P&G encourages employees to talk about their failures as well as their successes during performance reviews. But the higher up in the company, the bigger the egos and the greater the reluctance to admit to really big failings rather than minor ones. Bosses should remember how often failure paves the way for success: Henry Ford got nowhere with his first two attempts to start a car company, but that did not stop him.
Friday, April 15, 2011
the Cartel logo
CarTel is a mobile sensor and telematics system whose design is motivated by transportation and civil infrastructure applications. Road traffic is a well-known “grand challenge” problem that affects most of us on a daily basis. For example, the Texas Transportation Institute’s urban mobility report estimates that the per-person delay caused by debilitating congestion on the highways near major cities was 54 hours on average. In addition to the loss of time and productivity, the amount of gas consumed is worth billions of dollars, and the environmental impact is enormous.
Municipalities spend millions of dollars on their roadways. Despite this investment, people are often unhappy with the quality of the roads they drive on. Poor roads are the cause of expensive lawsuits and damage claims—illustrated for example, by the more than 500,000 pothole-related claims received by insurance companies each year.
Figure 1 The CarTel system architecture. Cars on roads collect traffic and sensor data, and relay it to the CarTelHQ server via cellular or WiFi (802.11) networks. Users can connect to the server and view aggregate traffic and road quality information as well data about their own driving habits.
Balakrishnan and Madden have used a number of electrical engineering and computer science technologies, including sensing, embedded computing, and wireless networking technologies, together with machine learning and optimization algorithms, to significantly improve the state of the art in traffic planning and management. Unlike classical static sensor deployments, their approach is to use opportunistic mobile sensing—sensors deployed on cars and mobile phones). Opportunistic mobile sensing is effective because it delivers data about the roads that matter (those that are used), while being cost-effective to deploy.
The CarTel system uses in-car nodes to collect a variety of information (time, location, speed, vibration, acceleration, on-board vehicle diagnostics, etc.). This data is sent to servers using novel opportunistic wireless protocols that allow, for the first time, WiFi networks to be used from moving cars, and cellular connections (Figure 1, above). Server software analyzes the data using novel algorithms to perform tasks such as delay optimized vehicle routing (in collaboration with EECS Professor Daniela Rus and her group), carbon and emissions tracking, road surface assessment to determine which roads require immediate attention (Figure 2, below), drive data visualization, remote vehicle diagnostics, etc. Each user has an account on a commute portal (Figure 3, below) that maintains his or her data privately and provides the services mentioned above.
Figure 2 Website for the Pothole Patrol, an application that shows the location and pictures of the largest potholes in and around Boston.
CarTel is currently deployed on about 50 Boston-area taxis and a handful of MIT user cars. The team is planning a larger deployment including new algorithms and methods to services that can reduce traffic delays, fuel consumption, and carbon emissions.
The CarTel project is funded by the National Science Foundation and in part by the T-Party Project, a joint research program between MIT and Quanta Computer Inc., Taiwan, and in part by Google.
Figure 3 The drive log for one of our users. Users can see and manage the data collected about them, and visualize their driving patterns using a variety of plotting and filtering tools. (images: Balakrishnan, Madden)
One Response to “The CarTel System”
Waco Cars says:
Very awesome! We need quantitative data and experiments like this in order to gain more knowledge on our traffic, fuel, and emissions situation. This will better our situation moving toward the future.
Former chairman and chief executive officer of Baxter International, Harry Kraemer, has written a genuine, back-to-basics book on value-based leadership: From Values to Action. He presentsfour interconnected principles that build on and contribute to each other:
Self-Reflection is the most important and is central to your leadership. “If you are not self-reflective, how can you truly know yourself?” writes Kraemer. “If you do not know yourself, how can you lead yourself? If you cannot lead yourself, how can you possibly lead others?”
Self-reflection allows you to transform activity into productivity for all the right reasons. It means “you are surprised less frequently.” It is essential in setting priorities. You can’t do everything. So reflection makes it possible to answer key questions like What is most important? and What should we be doing? in a way that is in line with your strengths and values and organizational goals.
Engaging in self-reflection on a regular, ongoing basis (preferably daily) keeps you from becoming so caught up in the momentum of the situation that you get carried away and consider actions and decisions that are not aligned with who you are and what you want to do with your life.
Balance and Perspective is the ability to understand all sides of an issue. Pursuing balance means you will have to grasp the fact that leaders don’t have all the answers. Kraemer says, “My task was to recognize when a particular perspective offered by one of my team members was the best answer….Leadership is not a democracy. My job as the leader is to seek input, not consensus.”
Because he believes we are more effective if we balance all areas of our life, he prefers the term “life balance” over “work-life balance.” It’s not an either or proposition. “When you identify too closely with your work, you can easily lose perspective and become unable to look at all angles in a situation.” He recommends implementing a “life-grid” to keep track of where you are spending your time and to hold yourself accountable.
True Self-Confidence is know what you know and you don’t know; to be comfortable with who you are while acknowledging that you still need to develop in certain areas. (Comfortable not complacent.) Why TRUE self-confidence?
There are people who adopt a persona that might make others think that they have self-confidence, but they are not the real deal. Instead, they possess false self-confidence, which is really just an act without any substance. These individuals are full of bravado and are dominating. They believe they have all the answers and are quick to cut off any discussion that veers in a direction that runs contrary to their opinions. They dismiss debate as being a complete waste of time. They always need to be right—which means proving everyone else wrong.
Genuine Humility is born of self-knowledge. Never forget where you started. “Genuine humility helps you recognize that you are neither better nor worse than anyone else, that you ought to respect everyone equally and not treat anyone differently just because of a job title.”
After describing each of these principles, Kraemer explains how these four elements play in everyday situations such as talent management and leadership development (“The values based leader is looking for people who exhibit the values that are most important to her.”), setting a clear direction(You’ve been tasked with creating a quick strategy, the first step is to listen. “This is precisely the time that you need to draw upon the capabilities of the excellent team you’ve put together.”), communication (“Never assume you have communicated enough.”), motivation (“What you must do is relate to others by letting them know who you are and the values you stand for.”), and execution(“As you become a leader, you will shift from knowing the right answers to asking the right questions.”).
Kraemer describes a values-based leader well: “Self-reflection increases his self-awareness. Balance encourages him to seek out different perspectives from all team members and to change his mind when appropriate in order to make the best possible decisions. With true self-confidence, he does not have to be right, and he easily shares credit with his team. Genuine humility allows him to connect with everyone because no one is more important than anyone else.”
From Values to Action is an outstanding book and filled with important concepts that any would-be leader would benefit from.
In my most recent blog, I made the case that leaders must first establish a relationship with themselves as the basis for leading others. On the journey toward self-knowledge and self-acceptance, you quickly realize that you have your own unique way of being in the world. Sure, you may share some qualities with other people, but your overall package is different from the rest.
How do you become more familiar with your own unique way of being in the world? By focusing on your character.
Character is defined as a “psychological system of personal traits, an evaluation of a particular individual’s moral qualities and a disposition to express behavior in consistent patterns across a range of situations.” As leaders are guided in discovering the various aspects of their character, they begin to see how these parts fit together (or not), what they accept about themselves (or not), and what more they can tap within themselves to lead more fully and authentically.
My work with leaders to help them better understand their character focuses on four key areas: self-awareness, energy (or drive), people skills, and practical insight. I refer to these four areas as the skills of character; they constitute the foundation upon which your leadership is based.
Most of our preparation for leadership focuses on gaining knowledge and experience. But the greatest impact leaders have on their world comes through knowing and experiencing who they are and how they show up—it derives more of the being than the doing part of leading. The skills of character help people connect to this being dimension.
Let’s begin with the skill of self-awareness. Although we live within ourselves from moment to moment, many leaders find that there is a lot about themselves that they are not aware of. This was certainly the case with one of my clients, whom I’ll call Dave. Interestingly, the more he examined himself, the less Dave considered himself to be a leader. (He wasn’t alone in this belief; many leaders have a similar view of themselves. In his zeal for knowing and doing, Dave would take on whatever was necessary to get the job done.
One day, however, Dave realized that what he was doing was no longer working. He was a technical guru; his knowledge of the business, coupled with his ability to translate that knowledge in to new service offerings, had won Dave a promotion to a higher-level position. But now Dave was out of his comfort zone: he was being asked to apply his vast knowledge across three critical functions that he was not very familiar with: product development, marketing, and sales. Dave responded to this challenge by leading in the same way that he did when he was in his comfort zone: he shared his technical knowledge.
As we become aware of our own perception of ourselves, we are better able to see how we are showing up for others and how they are responding to us. Dave gradually came to see that his new role called for leading people whose knowledge and experience were very different from his. What they needed from him was not his knowledge but his understanding of the possibilities for applying that knowledge.
As his self-awareness deepened, Dave realized that the leadership challenge he now faced was no longer about what he knew and what he could do—it was about how he could engage others. So he started to ask questions instead of sharing more ideas. As he learned more about what his team members could do, he began to frame for the team possible ways of putting their capabilities to use.
The demands of leadership require more than depth of experience and a track record of doing important work. If your prior success has been a function of what you know—your technical expertise—then you’ll probably feel unprepared when you’re catapulted into the world of leading. You’ll find yourself asking, “What else do I need to know? What more do I need to do?”
You won’t find the answers to these questions in books or seminars—you’ll find them within you.
The Action Plan
• Begin to observe who you are in your leading—when things go well and when things go badly. What are the feelings and insights that you get about yourself as a leader? Do you even see yourself as a leader?
• Who are the leaders that capture your attention? What do those leaders stir up within you? What is it that you deeply admire (or dislike) about them, and why?
Sunday, April 10, 2011
"This is the story of four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it. Consequently, it wound up that Nobody told Anybody, so Everybody blamed Somebody. "
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Engaged in a fierce battle on last night’s Chopped All-Stars, chef Aarón Sanchez quipped, “When brilliance happens, you don’t ask where it came from, you just kind of go with it, ride the wave.”
It didn’t matter that he was referring to making whipped cream out of chickpeas; he might just as well have been talking about the next high-tech innovation or big business idea.
If you watch enough Food Network shows like Iron Chef or Worst Cooks in America, a picture of what greatness is all about begins to emerge. No, I’m not talking about great chefs making great food. I’m talking about great leaders.
What separates iconic chefs like Bobby Flay, Masimaru Morimoto,and Cat Cora from the millions of competitors around the world is their leadership ability. It’s evident in their behavior, their character, everything they do. Never mind that they’re on TV. They may as well be cooking in one of their restaurants or mentoring an up-and-coming sous chef.
Restaurants deliver product and service like any other business. But make no mistake. The cooking business is a fiercely competitive battleground that breeds great chefs who are also great leaders.
10 Leadership Lessons From Food Network Chefs
- Compete to win but respect the enemy. Forget all the politically correct BS - business is about winning. And yes, it is a zero-sum game. It’s all about market share. But that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t respect your competitors.
- Success is about managing and mentoring people. The way chefs move up is by hiring talented cooks and training them to be sous chefs so they can someday run one of their many restaurants. It’s the same as climbing the corporate ladder.
- Results are all that matter. It’s what the customer thinks of the product and service that counts. That’s what creates repeat business and loyal customers. You may think you’ve come up with a brilliant dish, but if the folks don’t like it, you failed.
- You’ve got to know the business. Steve Jobs isn’t just a brilliant marketer. Warren Buffet isn’t just a smart investor. Bill Gates wasn’t just a great software coder. Just like these iconic leaders, every great chef has a head for the business.
- It’s not who you know but what you know. Don’t let anyone tell you success is about who you know. That’s just an excuse for whiners who can’t cut it. Great chefs know everything there is to know about making a restaurant business successful. Period.
- Experience is overrated. Even young chefs like Sanchez and Bobby Flay - when he was first starting out - exude such instincts and passion for what they do that you know in a heartbeat they’re going to be successful. That’s why people follow them.
- Learn from failure and move on. Failure is how we learn and grow. Failure teaches us how to do things differently. How to do things better. Great chefs don’t dwell on their mistakes. They suck it up and do better next time. After all, there’s always another meal.
- Focus on core strengths. Great chefs grow their business around their core strengths. For Flay it’s southwestern. Paul Prudhomme is a Cajun master. You can probably guess Mario Batali’s specialty. There are lots of ways to diversify without going too far afield.
- Smarts matter. Nobody has ever been successful in the restaurant or cooking business by just doing the same stuff as everyone else. Sure, execution is critical, but innovation and creativity are also requirements for success. Like it or not, smarts matter.
- Work hard, play hard. Even while competing at an extraordinarily high level, these chefs never lose their sense of humor and, when it’s over, they party and congratulate each other on a job well done. That’s how it should be.
Saturday, April 2, 2011
Geography significantly influences the formation of generational beliefs and behavior. Each country's unique social, political, and economic events shape specific views and attitudes among today's adults. Western generational models cannot be applied broadly to a global workforce.
My latest research builds on an approach of understanding the generations by looking at the shared formative events that shaped their early years. We did In-depth research into the events occurring in each country during the time each generational cohort would have been in their teens and pre-teens. Understanding these events is critical because many of our most powerful and lasting beliefs are formed when we are teenagers. What we see and hear — and the conclusions we draw — influence for our lifetimes what we value, how we measure success, whom we trust, and the priorities we set for our own lives, including the role work will play within them.
This research, confirmed through personal interviews, highlights the logic of each generation's response to work and life today, encouraging acceptance and appreciation of the different lenses through which individuals view events. We focused on the generations in eight countries, including the four BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), some of the most important markets for talent over the next decade, as well as one country from the Middle East. We also examined two European countries, the U.K. and Germany, representing the two opposing sides in World War II; the generations shaped by events after the war in these two countries have significantly different characteristics. In each country, we studied four age cohorts. To allow comparisons across the geographies, we held consistent age spans and generational names.
Highlights from this research
National circumstances heavily influenced the development of Traditionalists (born from 1928 to 1945) and Boomers (born from 1946 to 1960).
Traditionalists around much of the world shared the experience of becoming teens in the midst of major, in some cases cataclysmic, changes in their local environment. For many, the defining event was World War II, which had consequences that haunted this generation's formative years in the countries affected. The conditions of the post-war world encouraged the abandonment of colonial policies and the emergence of new states, among them India. China ended its long civil war, and transformed into the Communist People's Republic of China. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was in its infancy, having just been formed through the consolidation of the local tribes in the Arabian Peninsula. Brazil was ruled by a dictator.
- Traditionalists in the U.S., the U.K., and other countries on the Allied side in World War II exhibit strong characteristics as "joiners." Most were eager to participate in the post-war boom that created a promising economic climate. This generation experienced the rapid evolution of a middle class that dominated and drove these economies. These members of this generation tended to enter the workforce and advance through affiliation with successful organizations. Most held a strong respect for authority, rooted in their early observations that those in positions of leadership were doing admirable things and warranted respect.
- In contrast, many other parts of the world experienced significant economic hardship, either from the aftermath of the war (for example, in Russia and East Germany) or from the policies of the then-leaders (for example, in Brazil, China, and India). In many cases, leadership demanded compliance, promoting risk-aversion and compliance, rather than respect. Traditionalists reared in these areas retained strong ties to traditional customs and family practices.
Perhaps the factor shared most widely by members of the Boomer generation around the world is simply the sheer size of the cohort. In many parts of the world, birth rates increased during the 1940s and 1950s, producing a large "boom" in the number of adolescents of the 1960s and 1970s. The sheer volume of people their age produced a generation that is generally hard-working, driven, and competitive.
However, within this large cohort, the formative experiences of Boomers differed substantially around the globe.
- In the Western world during their teen years, progressive social values, such as increasing political involvement, civil rights for individuals of different races, and the political and economic liberty of women, became popular. In the 1970s, these values extended to opposition to the Vietnam War and nuclear weapons, the advocacy of world peace, and hostility to the authority of government and big business. The environmentalist movement grew dramatically during this period. In these areas, Boomers tend to share a desire for change, idealism, and anti-authoritarian values.
- Members of this generation growing up in other parts of the world, however, experienced very different conditions. The military coup in Brazil produced a generation with anti-authoritarian views, but limited ability to speak out regarding their desire for change. Similarly, conditions in East Germany and the Soviet Union did not allow for the development of strong generational solidarity against the existing authority. In Saudi Arabia, the rapidly expanding wealth from the oil economy produced a generation that was deeply grateful to those in authority.
- Educational opportunities were a key differentiator for this generation globally. The Cultural Revolution in China shaped a generation that is perhaps more different than any other in this age cohort because of the nearly complete lack of educational opportunities available to members during their teen years. Educational opportunities were limited in India, although those who were able emigrated to other countries for advanced education and work opportunities. In the Soviet Union and East Germany, education became a key differentiator among members of this generation, as the best and the brightest were able to excel in the communist system. Education was an important goal for Boomers in Western countries during these years.
Both Generation X (born from 1961 to 1979) and Generation Y (born from 1980 to 1995) tend to have more shared characteristics in common than do older generations, but for different reasons. For Generation X, the state of the local economy during their formative years had major implications for their outlook on life today.
- In many parts of the world, the economy struggled. In the U.S., the recession of 1981 prompted a major wave of layoffs. In Brazil, the arduous transition from a military dictatorship to civilian rule, along with growing exposure to foreign trade, weakened the local economy and intensified the country's financial crisis. In Germany, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the integration of East Germany came at significant financial cost. In Saudi Arabia, steeply declining oil prices created government deficits for the first time. These different underlying factors all contributed to shaping individuals who value self-reliance. X'ers in these areas tend not to rely on institutions for long-term financial security.
- Members of Generation X in China and India, however, had very different formative experiences. In both countries, sudden reforms brought the promise of new economic opportunity. In India, loosened business regulations and restrictions on foreign investment and imports, along with reductions in bureaucracy spurred a boom in economic activity, including a major expansion of the telecommunications industry and space program and the birth of the software and information technology sector. In China, post-Mao economic reforms de-collectivized the countryside, decentralized government, legalized private ownership, and created Special Economic Zones for capitalist investment. China was exposed to American pop culture, cinema, nightlife, and brands and to a cultural renaissance, the return of traditional Chinese culture, Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. Living standards, life expectancies, literacy rates rose, along with a growing urban middle class. X'ers in these countries were eager to join the growing economy and willing to compete for still-scarce educational slots.
Members of Generation Y around the world had the greatest number of shared experiences of any of the generations profiled. Technology, of course, is at the core: in most countries, they have had almost lifelong access to digital technology and, because of that technology, have developed a shared awareness of many events, such as terrorist attacks and school violence, and a unique always-on connection with one another.
- One of the key differences among Y's around the world is the degree to which their immediacy translates into a strong desire for financial success; this financial value is clearly strongest in the BRIC countries and others in which the economy is expanding rapidly for the first time. In many Western countries, the sense of immediacy encompasses a broad set of considerations: whether the current work is challenging and important, as well as financially beneficial.
- Of the countries profiled in this research, Saudi Arabia's Generation Y is probably the most different from others in this age cohort around the world. In Saudi Arabia, Y's tend to be more religiously conservative than previous generations and more mistrustful of those in authority, while in most other parts of the world, Y's are both progressive and trusting of authority. Throughout the Middle East, Y's struggle to find balance between tradition and modernity. As recent events show, this generation's large size gives them a strong voice in the future of this region.
Understanding individuals' backgrounds and resultant perspectives or mental models both within generations and across geographies helps leaders grapple with the diversity, challenges, and potential of a global workforce. Better understanding leads to greater empathy for the "other guy's" point of view and, ultimately, provides the foundation for more effective and efficient talent management practices.
Over the next decade, engaging talent from multiple generations and geographies will be vitally important for business success. As businesses expand, the availability of talent to match this growth will be limited in many areas and skill sets. Almost every company will find it challenging to attract and retain top talent unless they are able to engage individuals of all ages and across multiple geographies.
A white paper based on this research is available on my website.