2 Life-Changing Lessons No One Ever Taught You

Lesson #1: It’s easier to see our problems (let’s call them behavioral challenges) in others than to see them in ourselves. For instance, often when I become self-righteous or angry about some perceived injustice, I realize that the deeper issue is often not with “it”, but in me.

Lesson #2: Although we may deny our behavioral challenges to ourselves, they may be very obvious to the people who observe us. There is often a great discrepancy between the self we think we are and the self the rest of the world sees in us. If we can listen and think about what others see in us, we can compare the self we want to be with the self that we are presenting. Then and only then can we begin to make the real changes that we need to make to align our stated values with our actual behavior.

Let me give you a personal example:

As a Ph.D. student at UCLA in the 70s, I had a self-image of being ‘hip.’ I believed I was involved in discovering deeper human understanding, self-actualization, and profound wisdom. One of my teachers, Dr. Bob Tannenbaum, had invented ‘sensitivity training’, published a popular article in the Harvard Business Review, and was a full professor. I was impressed!

In Bob’s class, we could discuss anything we wanted. So, for three weeks, I did a monologue about how ‘screwed up’ people in Los Angeles were. “They wear sequined blue jeans; they drive gold Rolls Royces; they are plastic and materialistic; all they care about is impressing others; they don’t understand what is important in life.” I ranted. (I’m not sure how growing up in a small town Kentucky had made an expert on LA people, but evidently it had.)

After listening to me babble for three weeks, Bob looked at me quizzically and asked, “Who are you talking to?”

“I’m speaking to the group,” I said.

“Who in the group are you talking to?”

“I’m talking to everybody,” I said, not knowing the treacherous path of self-discovery down which I was being led!

“When you speak, you look at only one person and address your comments toward only one person. You seem interested in the opinion of only one person. Who is that person?”

“That is interesting,’” I replied. After careful consideration, I asked, “You?”

“That’s right, me. There are 12 other people in this room. Why aren’t you interested in any of them?” he asked.

At this point, I decided that digging my hole deeper was better than admitting defeat, so I said, “Well, Dr. Tannenbaum, you understand the significance of what I am saying. You know how ‘screwed-up’ it is to try to run around and impress people all the time. You have a deeper understanding of what is really important in life.”

“Marshall, is there any chance that for the last three weeks all you’ve tried to do is impress me?” Bob asked.

I was amazed at Bob’s lack of insight! “Not at all!” I declared. “You haven’t understood one thing I’ve said! I’ve told you how screwed up it is to try to impress other people. You’ve missed my point, and I’m disappointed in your lack of understanding!”

He scratched his beard and concluded, “No. I think I understand.” I looked at the group and could see them nod and agree.

For six months, I disliked Dr. Tannenbaum. I devoted a lot of energy into trying to understand why he was so confused. Then one day, it clicked! The person with the issue about impressing other people was me. I was the one who had been trying to impress Dr. Tannenbaum. That day, I looked in the mirror and said, “Dr. Tannenbaum was right.”

So, let me ask you: Can you see in yourself what others see in you, or do you see in others what you don’t see in yourself? What are you going to do about it?

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It’s Showtime! One Key to Continual Motivation

Let me start with two well-known phrases:

  1. All the world’s a stage” is the phrase that begins a monologue from William Shakespeare’s As You like It.
  2. The show must go on” is a phrase in show business, meaning that regardless of what happens, whatever show has been planned still has to be staged for the waiting patrons.

Until recently, I always had a dilemma regarding the “stage” of business. As an executive educator, who helps successful leaders achieve a positive change in behavior, I, in a way, teach people how to act.

So here’s the dilemma: When is acting being professional? When is acting being phony? I want to help leaders learn how to be great performers, but I never believe that they should be phonies. How can I, as a coach, understand the difference?

And what makes you “buy” your boss’s, colleague’s, subordinate’s, or even a salesperson’s “act?” The answer is we buy someone’s act when they truly love their profession. We are with them when their “act” is part of the fabric of who, and what they are – and we can feel it in our interactions with them.

Let me give you two divergent examples.

First, one of the greatest leaders I know is Frances Hesselbein, the former executive director of the Girl Scouts of America and now chairman of the Leader to Leader Institute. I am not alone in my assessment of her talents. Peter Drucker once noted that she was perhaps the most effective executive he had ever met. As a tribute to her leadership skills, President Clinton awarded Frances with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award that can be given to a U.S. civilian.

I am deeply honored that Frances is also one of my best friends. Like all humans, Frances faces the same problems we all face. She has lived through health problems, tragedies with friends, and family issues. And, like all great professionals, when it is time for Frances to work, she is always there. I have seen her turn down an invitation from the U.S. president because she had already committed to a talk (at no fee) for a non-profit organization in a small town. When she makes a commitment, if it is humanly possible to be there, she delivers. It doesn’t matter that a “better deal” came along later. She not only makes an appearance, she is upbeat and positive, she is inspirational, and she gets the job done.

For Frances, the show must go on, and she takes the stage with love, heart, and passion.  She believes in the core of her soul in what she is doing and anyone around her feels it and knows it. Simply put, everyone buys her act – because her act is truly Frances.

My second example is my client Ted, who helped me answer my dilemma question. I worked with him for a year, trying to help him fit in a corporate culture where he really didn’t belong. At the end of the year, I finally said, “Why don’t you leave? You are so miserable that you are starting to depress me!”

He saw the light, left the company, and is now doing something he loves. There was nothing wrong with the company. There was nothing wrong with Ted. He just didn’t belong there. It wasn’t him.

In the case of Ted, when his show had to go on, he was simply going through the motions. When he took the stage, people around him did not truly buy his act – and Ted did not really buy his own act.

I learned through Ted that despite his greatest efforts, he was being phony when he did not love his work.  And loving your work is what makes great performers rise to the occasion.

On Broadway – Their Act Is No Act

This is why great Broadway performers are able to pour their hearts into each production. At times they overcome headaches, family problems, and more. Because, the show must go on.

Like great actors, inspirational leaders sometimes need to be consummate performers. When they need to motivate and inspire people, they do it. And we are inspired (or buy their act) because they are 100 percent invested in their work and the cause.

Believe in Your Act

If you are in the right job in the right company, and you are learning how to perform to the best of your ability, you are being a true professional. If you are in the wrong job in the wrong company and you learn to act so that you can better fit in, you are just being a better phony. It still isn’t you out there.

Today, Ted is a lot happier. He spends his time thinking up creative ideas in his new company, and he’s having a ball. He is not only adding value for the company, he is also adding value for the world.

Think about your job. As a professional, is your job consistent with the person you want to be?

If the answer is “yes”, be like Frances Hesselbein. Put on a great show. Be the consummate professional. Learn to keep developing your ability to perform, so you can get even better than you are today. If you love what you do, a great coach might even help you get better.

Every day we all take the stage. And, when you take the stage and the show must go on – are people buying your act? And, most of all are you buying your own act?

If the answer is “no”, change jobs as soon as you can. Why bother to become a better phony? Even if you do get a coach and learn to modify your behavior, it won’t count for much. Why? It won’t really be you.

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What I Learned About Influence from Peter Drucker

“The great majority of people tend to focus downward. They are occupied with efforts rather than results. They worry over what the organization and their superiors ‘owe’ them and should do for them. And they are conscious above all of the authority they ‘should have.’ As a result they render themselves ineffectual.”—Peter Drucker

You can make a positive difference, even when you do not have direct line authority.

Here are 11 guidelines that will help you do a better job of influencing decision-makers, whether these decision-makers are immediate or upper managers, peers or cross-organizational colleagues.

1. Accept the Facts: Every decision that affects our lives will be made by the person who has the power to make that decision, not the “right” person or the “smartest” person or the “best” person. Make peace with this fact. Once we make peace with the fact that the people who have the power to make the decisions always make the decisions and we get over whining that “life isn’t fair,” we become more effective in influencing others and making a positive difference. We also become happier.

2. Realize You Must Sell Your Ideas. When presenting ideas to decision-makers, realize that it is your responsibility to sell, not their responsibility to buy. In many ways, influencing ultimate decision-makers is similar to selling products or services to external customers. They don’t have to buy—you have to sell. No one is impressed with salespeople who blame their customers for not buying their products. While the importance of taking responsibility may seem obvious in external sales, an amazing number of people in large corporations spend countless hours blaming management for not buying their ideas. A key part of the influence process involves the education of decision-makers. The effective influencer needs to be a good teacher.

3. Focus on contribution to the larger good—not just the achievement of your objectives. An effective salesperson would never say to a customer, “You need to buy this product, because if you don’t, I won’t achieve my objectives.” Effective salespeople relate to the needs of the buyers, not to their own needs. In the same way, effective influencers relate to the larger needs of the organization, not just to the needs of their unit or team.

4. Strive to win the big battles. Don’t waste your energy and psychological capital on trivial points. Executives’ time is very limited. Do a thorough analysis of ideas before challenging the system. Focus on issues that will make a real difference. Be willing to lose on small points. Be especially sensitive to the need to win trivial non-business arguments on things like restaurants, sports teams, or cars. You are paid to do what makes a difference and to win on important issues. You are not paid to win arguments on the relative quality of athletic teams.

5. Present a realistic “cost-benefit” analysis of your ideas—don’t just sell benefits. Every organization has limited resources, time, and energy. The acceptance of your idea may well mean the rejection of another idea that someone else believes is wonderful. Be prepared to have a realistic discussion of the costs of your idea.

6. “Challenge up” on issues involving ethics or integrity—never remain silent on ethics violations. The best of corporations can be severely damaged by only one violation of corporate integrity. I hope you will never be asked to do anything by the management of your corporation that represents a violation of corporate ethics. If you are, refuse to do it and immediately let upper management know of your concerns. Try to present your case in a manner that is intended to be helpful, not judgmental.

7. Realize that powerful people also make mistakes. Don’t say, “I am amazed that someone at this level…” It is realistic to expect decision-makers to be competent; it is unrealistic to expect them to be anything other than normal humans. Even the best of leaders are human. We all make mistakes. When your managers make mistakes, focus more on helping them than judging them.

8. Don’t be disrespectful. Treat decision-makers with the same courtesy that you would treat customers. While it is important to avoid kissing up to decision-makers, it is just as important to avoid the opposite reaction. Before speaking, it is generally good to ask one question from four perspectives. “Will this comment help 1) our company 2) our customers 3) the person I am talking to, and 4) the person I am talking about?” If the answers are no, no, no, and no, don’t say it!

9. Support the final decision. Don’t tell direct reports, “They made me tell you.” Assuming that the final decision of the organization is not immoral, illegal, or unethical, go out and try to make it work. Managers who consistently say, “They told me to tell you” to co-workers are seen as messengers, not leaders. Treat decision-makers the same way that you would want to be treated if the roles were reversed. If you stab your boss in the back in front of your direct reports, what are you teaching them to do when they disagree with you?

10. Make a positive difference—don’t just try to “win” or “be right.” We can easily become more focused on what others are doing wrong than on how we can make things better. An important guideline in influencing up is to always remember your goal: making a positive difference for the organization. Focus on making a difference. The more other people can be “right” or “win” with your idea, the more likely your idea is to be successfully executed.

11. Focus on the future—let go of the past. One of the most important behaviors to avoid is whining about the past. Have you ever managed someone who incessantly whined about how bad things are? Nobody wins. Successful people love getting ideas aimed at helping them achieve their goals for the future. By focusing on the future, you can concentrate on what can be achieved tomorrow, not what was not achieved yesterday.

In summary, think of the years that you have spent “perfecting your craft.” Think of all of the knowledge that you have accumulated. Think about how your knowledge can potentially benefit your organization. How much energy have you invested in acquiring all of this knowledge? How much energy have you invested in learning to present this knowledge to decision-makers so that you can make a real difference? My hope is that by making a small investment in learning to influence decision-makers, you can make a large, positive difference for the future of your organization.

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Two Elements for Effective Delegation

Can Delegation Kill?

Many leaders think they need to delegate more to be more effective as leaders. This is frequently not true. Most often leaders don’t need to delegate more, they need to delegate more effectively!

When C-level executives are asked what change they could make to become a more effective leader, one of the most common answers is, “I need to delegate more!”

My caution to these executives is always the same: Inappropriate delegation can kill. Kill morale, careers, and even a company.

Delegation is not a quality like “demonstrating integrity” or “complying with the law.” Honest, ethical, and legal behavior is always appropriate—delegation isn’t. Inappropriate delegation can do more harm than good.

I saw an extreme example of the “empowerment is good” flaw in one of America’s largest companies. The CEO naively believed that his employees would always rise to the occasion and see the value of their learning through mistakes they made. He eventually promoted people to levels that were far beyond their capabilities. These people were not ready for the challenge. Perhaps they could learn from their mistakes when the mistakes cost thousands of dollars, but the company went bankrupt when the mistakes cost billions. Delegation killed morale, careers, and the company.

So what do you do, kill delegation? My answer is “no.”

Instead don’t delegate more. Delegate more effectively. So let’s examine what I mean by “effective delegation.”

Two Causes of Ineffective Delegation

When feedback from direct reports indicates that a manager needs to delegate more effectively, the dissatisfaction could come from one of two causes: The direct reports may feel that their leader is micro-managing or getting overly involved with subordinates, or the direct reports may not feel micro-managed at all, but see their leader engaged in tasks that could be done effectively by someone at a lower level in the company.

How to Ensure Effective Delegation

To help leaders ensure effective delegation, my advice is simple:

Have each direct report list her or his key areas of responsibility. Schedule one-on-one sessions with each person. Review each area of responsibility and ask, “Are there cases where you believe that I get too involved and can let go more? Are there cases when I need to get more involved and give you some more help?” When leaders go through this exercise, they almost always find that in some cases, more delegation is wanted, and in others it is not. In fact, more help is needed.

Ask each direct report, “Do you ever see me working on tasks that someone at my level doesn’t need to do? Are there areas where I can help other people grow and develop, and give myself more time to focus on strategy and long-term planning?” Almost invariably, direct reports will come up with great suggestions.

For example, for several of my C-level clients, team management has emerged as an area where letting go can both free up executive time and help develop direct reports. Too many top executives feel a need to schedule team meetings and then act as traffic cop during the meeting to ensure that the time schedules are met and that agendas are completed. This meeting management task can usually be delegated on a rotating basis to direct reports. This helps direct reports understand the agendas of the peer team members and allows them to develop their skills in building collaboration and reaching consensus.

In one example, a CEO was frequently traveling. He would not schedule any team meeting when he was on the road and was falling behind on some important projects. A team member suggested that he did not have to be present at every meeting and that the team could still get a lot done without him in the room. He was pleasantly surprised at the outcome. Decisions that involved cross-divisional cooperation were made effectively without involving him. Another advantage was that his direct reports were getting on-the-job training that could help them take on larger responsibilities in the future.

On the other side of the coin, a division president learned that his employees consistently wanted more direction on one key topic. The company was operating in a rapidly changing environment. His direct reports didn’t need to be told what to do or how to do it in terms of technical details. They needed to know how their work was fitting into the larger strategy of the corporation and how their efforts were aligned with their peers both in the division and across the company. By establishing regular bi-monthly check-in meetings with each person, the president was able to increase the effectiveness of the team and help them build better relationships across the company.

What are your next steps? When are you getting too involved? When do you need to get more involved?

Ask yourself these tough questions. Then ask the people who are working with you. The answers may save your time and increase your team’s effectiveness.

If you don’t ask these questions, you might be delegating without input—and literally without a compass. You will be flying blind.

Instead, with input, you can delegate with your eyes wide open. Delegation won’t blindly kill—instead it will appropriately breathe new life into an organization and build morale, careers and a company.

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Stop Defining Yourself as a Jerk!

We all have that relative who is always late.  She comes in and says, “Oh I am so sorry, I am always late.”

Or, we hear another relative who always makes embarrassing gaffes like Ralph Cramden. He excuses himself saying, “I always say the wrong thing.”

In reality, these people who “admit” their mistakes are setting themselves up for a self-fulfilling prophecy. In fact, they are giving themselves permission to always say the wrong thing or always be late.

The fact is that what we say about ourselves positive and negative defines who we are.

How about the boss who, on the positive side, says things like… “I am usually able to figure these things out,” or “I am dedicated to outworking the competition.”

On the negative side, the boss may say things like…”I am a bad listener” or “I am not detail oriented.”

These little sayings add up to our definition of who we are. I consider them a pile of behaviors that we define as “me.” The more we talk, the more we define our unalterable essence.

Well. Let me alter your perspective.

If we buy into our behavior definition of “me,” which most humans do, we can learn to excuse almost any annoying action by saying, “That’s just the way I am!”

As you read this column, think about your own behavior. How many times does your “need to be me” get in the way of building positive relationships with the important people in your life? How many times have you rationalized inappropriate behavior by saying, “That’s just the way I am!”?

A CEO Who Refused to Be Phony

Some years ago, I worked with a CEO who was generally regarded as a great leader of people but was seen as lacking in the ability to provide positive recognition. As we reviewed his 360-degree feedback report, he snorted, “What do you want me to do, go around praising people who don’t deserve it? I don’t want to look like a phony!”

“Is that your excuse for not giving recognition?” I asked. “You don’t want to look like a phony?”

“Yes,” he replied.

We went back and forth as he desperately defended his miserable scores on giving recognition. He was very animated in articulating his defense. For example, he went into a tirade about when he shouldn’t give recognition that included the following comments:

  1. He had high standards and people didn’t always meet them.
  2. He didn’t like to hand out praise indiscriminately, because this cheapened the value of praise when it was deserved.
  3. He believed that singling out individuals could weaken the team.

While pointing out when he shouldn’t give recognition, he completely failed to deal with the fact that there were lots of times when he should be giving positive recognition. After his dazzling display of rationalization, I finally stopped him and said, “No matter what you say, I am not impressed with your excuses, and I don’t think that handing out praise makes you a phony. Your real problem is your self-limiting definition of who you are. You are afraid that if you recognize others, it won’t really be ‘me’ who is doing the recognition. That’s what the definition of phony is, not ‘me.’”

I asked him, “Why can’t doing a great job of providing positive recognition be you? It’s not immoral, illegal, or unethical is it?”

“No,” he conceded.

“Will it make people feel better?”

“Yes.”

“Will they perform better as a result of this well-deserved positive recognition?”

“Probably.”

“So please explain to me, why aren’t you doing it?”

He laughed and replied, “Because it wouldn’t be ME!”

That was the moment when change became possible, when he realized that his stern allegiance to himself was pointless vanity. He realized that he was not only hurting his employees’ and company’s chances for success, he was hurting his own chance for success!

He realized that he could shed his “excessive need to be me” and not be a phony. He could stop thinking about himself and start behaving in a way that benefited others.

Sure enough, when he let go of his devotion to a pointless definition of “me,” all his other rationalizations fell by the wayside. He realized that his direct reports were talented, hard-working people who did indeed deserve his praise. He finally understood that giving recognition when deserved didn’t damage his reputation as a leader who had high expectations.

The payoff was enormous. Within a year his scores on giving recognition were in line with his other positive scores on leadership, all because he had lost his excessive “need to be me.”

The irony was not lost on him. He accepted the fact that the more he focused on his employees, the more they worked to benefit the company, and that benefited him.

An Equation for Life: Less Me + More You = More Success

It’s an interesting equation: less me + more them = more success as a leader.

Keep this in mind the next time you find yourself resisting change because you are clinging to a false, and/or probably pointless, notion of “me.”

And when you see the boss, relative, or colleague who gives him or herself permission to be enclosed in a “prison of me,” remind yourself that you can be freed. And with freedom you’ll find endless possibilities!

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Your Boss – Seriously Successful or Downright Deluded?

Strangely enough, the answer is probably both!

One night over dinner, I listened to a wise military leader share his experience with an eager, newly minted General, “Recently, have you started to notice that when you tell jokes, everyone erupts into laughter—and that when you say something ‘wise’ everyone nods their heads in solemn agreement?” The new General replied, “Why, yes, I have.” The older General laughed, “Let me help you. You aren’t that funny and you aren’t that smart! It’s only that star on your shoulder. Don’t ever let it go to your head.”

We all want to hear what we want to hear. We want to believe those great things that the world is telling us about ourselves. Your boss is no different. It’s our belief in ourselves that helps us become successful and it can also make it very hard for us to change. As the wise older General noted—we aren’t really that funny, and we aren’t really that smart. We can all get better—if we are willing to take a hard look at ourselves. By understanding why changing behavior can be so difficult for our leaders, we can increase the likelihood of making the changes that we need to make in our quest to become even more successful.

Why We Resist Change

We all delude ourselves about our achievements, our status, and our contributions. We

  • Overestimate our contribution to a project;
  • Have an elevated opinion of our professional skills and standing among our peers;
  • Exaggerate our project’s impact on profitability by discounting real and hidden costs.

Many of our delusions come from our association with success, not failure. We get positive reinforcement from our successes and we think they are predictive of a great future.

The fact that successful people tend to be delusional isn’t all bad. Our belief in our wonderfulness gives us confidence. Even though we are not as good as we think we are, this confidence actually helps us be better than we would become if we did not believe in ourselves. The most realistic people in the world are not delusional—they are depressed!

Although our self-confident delusions can help us achieve, they can make it difficult for us to change. In fact, when others suggest that we need to change, we may respond with unadulterated bafflement.

It’s an interesting three-part response. First we are convinced that the other party is confused. They are misinformed, and they just don’t know what they are talking about. They must have us mixed up with someone who truly does need to change. Second, as it dawns upon us that the other party is not confused—maybe their information about our perceived shortcomings is accurate—we go into denial mode. This criticism may be correct, but it can’t be that important—or else we wouldn’t be so successful. Finally, when all else fails, we may attack the other party. We discredit the messenger. “Why is a winner like me,” we conclude, “listening to a loser like you?”

These are just a few of our initial responses to what we don’t want to hear. Couple this with the very positive interpretation that successful people assign to (a) their past performance, (b) their ability to influence their success (as opposed to just being lucky), (c) their optimistic belief that their success will continue in the future, and (d) their over-stated sense of control over their own destiny (as opposed to being controlled by external forces), and you have a volatile cocktail of resistance to change.

So, as you can see, while your boss’s positive beliefs about herself helped her become successful. These same beliefs can make it tough for her to change. The same beliefs that helped her get to her current level of success, can inhibit her from making the changes needed to stay there – or move forward. Don’t fall into this trap!

As the wise older General noted, as you move up the ranks and get that star—don’t let it go to your head. Realize that every promotion can make it harder to change. Always balance the confidence that got you here—where you are—with the humility required to get you there—where you have the potential to go.

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Millennials Speak! 5 Future Leadership “Must Haves”

Millennials speak up! You need an “equal say” in your company’s future leadership. Here is why.

To begin, let’s start with a premise I hear over and over.

The most important job of the CEO and the Board is to pick the next CEO.
Succession is critical.

The next CEO, or the next leaders, are about the future. So, why do most companies go about picking their next generation mired in the past?

Think about it. What are the chances that the typical current CEO, most likely a baby boomer, is well positioned to identify all the characteristics of the organizations’ future leaders?

And, should that CEO be joined in picking those CEO characteristics with a board filled with his or her same generation?

The truth is that companies that only choose wise, experienced people for this task of succession are mired in myopia.

Those companies are much less likely to find the best and most comprehensive leadership qualities and candidates, because they are limiting their view of the world.

It is a company looking into the future like a horse with blinders. They see only what is in front of them. They do not envision the periphery of all of what could be in front of them.

The Proof

My proof is based upon work between Accenture Consulting (with the Alliance for Strategic Leadership). We engaged in a multi-country research project aimed at helping global organizations understand the most important characteristics of the leader of the future. As part of our research we asked leading companies to identify future leaders who have the potential to be the CEO of a global organization.

Rather than the usual process of asking today’s leaders (who will not be there) to describe the future of leadership, we decided to ask tomorrow’s leaders.

In comparing the desired characteristics of the leader of the future with the desired characteristics of the leader of the past we found both similarities and differences.

Characteristics like vision, integrity, focus on results, and ensuring customer satisfaction were seen as factors that were critical in the past and will be so in the future.

The 5 “Must Haves” for Future Leadership

Yet, five key factors emerged that were seen as being clearly more important in the future than in the past include:

  • Thinking Globally
    Globalization is a trend that will have a major impact on the leaders of the future. In the past, even major companies could focus on their own country or, at most, their own region. Those days are almost over.
    Several suggested that future leaders might need to spend time in multiple countries to better understand how multi-country trade could help their organizations achieve a competitive advantage.
    Global thinking will take a global perspective.
  • Appreciating Cultural Diversity
    Motivational strategies that are effective in one culture may actually be offensive in another culture. The same public recognition that could be a source of pride to a salesperson in the USA could be a source of embarrassment to a scientist in the UK.
    Leaders who can effectively understand, appreciate, and motivate colleagues in multiple cultures will become an increasingly valued resource in the future.
  • Demonstrating Technological Savvy
    High-potential leaders from around the world were consistent in expressing the view that technological savvy will be a key competency for the global leader of the future.
    One trend on this issue was clear—the younger the participant, the greater their emphasis in the importance of technological savvy.

    • Young future leaders often have been brought up with technology and view it as a part of their life.
    • Current leaders often still view technological savvy as something that is important for staff people, but not for the line officers that run the “real” business.

What does “technological savvy” mean? It means that leaders will need to do the following:

  1. a) Understand how the intelligent use of new technology can help their organizations;
    b) Recruit, develop, and maintain a network of technically competent people;
    c) Know how to make and manage investments in new technology; and
    d) Be positive role models in leading the use of new technology.
  • Building Partnerships
    Building partnerships and alliances of all kinds was viewed as far more important for the future than the past. Many organizations that seldom formed alliances in the past (such as IBM) are regularly forming alliances today. This trend will be even more important in the future.
    Reengineering, restructuring, and downsizing are leading to a world where outsourcing of all but core activities may become the norm. The ability to negotiate complex alliances and manage complex networks of relationships is viewed as becoming increasingly important.
    The changing role of customers, suppliers, and partners has deep implications for leaders. In the past it was clear who your “friends” were and who your “enemies” were.
    It is a world of “co-opitition.” Roles are becoming more blurred. In fields as diverse as energy, telecommunications, and pharmaceuticals the same organization may be a customer, supplier, partner, or competitor. On one initiative you are competitors, on another partners.
  • Sharing Leadership
    In a world where leading across a fluid network may become more important than leading from above a fixed hierarchy, being able to effectively share leadership is not an option.
    In an alliance structure telling partners what to do may quickly lead to having no partners. All parties will have to be able to work together to achieve the common good.
    Not only did our participants believe that the leader of the future would be different than the leader of the past, they also believed that the employee of the future would be different. Many of the future leaders saw that the management of knowledge workers was going to be a key factor in their success.
    Peter Drucker has noted that knowledge workers are people who know more about what they are doing than their managers do. In dealing with knowledge workers old models of leadership will not work.
    Telling people what to do and how to do it becomes ridiculous.

A Final Note to All CEOs

So, in thinking about sharing leadership, if you are a CEO, are you bringing Millennials to the table—or are you stuck in the past? Are you sharing leadership?

If the next generation does not have a say in tomorrow’s leadership, they will leave.

And, by the way, Millennials are a company “must have”—if they exit, there goes the succession plan.

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Why Your Boss Is a Lousy Coach

Your boss is a lousy coach. It culminates in your boss not helping you grow. There are three key reasons:

  1. You are smart. You know more than the boss: You are a knowledge worker, who already knows ten times more about what you are doing than the executive does.
  2. Your boss is too busy. The reason your boss may avoid coaching is that she is too busy and she thinks you are busy too!
  3. Your boss is afraid. He may avoid coaching because is he is afraid of alienating you.

It adds up to your boss being a poor coach.

In fact, the most common complaint I hear from direct reports about their leaders is that they do a poor job of providing coaching. I have this documented in thousands of in-depth assessments of executives. Direct reports find the leaders do not “provide effective coaching when needed.” In fact, this item consistently scores in the bottom 10 of all items when direct reports evaluate their leaders.

So, what can you do about this? How do you get the help you need from your boss? How do you turn him or her into your coach?

To answer the question of how to turn your boss into your coach, you can try the Six-Question process I have outlined here. I’ve seen it work for countless teams across the world, and I bet it can work for you too.

The Six-Question process for coaching is a one-on-one dialogue you have with your boss approximately once each quarter, answering the questions outlined below.

  1. Where are we going?

The first question deals with the “big picture”. Your boss outlines where the larger organization is going in terms of vision, goals, and priorities, then asks you where you think the larger organization should be going. By involving you in this ongoing dialogue, your boss can build alignment and commitment to the larger organizational vision.

  1. Where are you going?

Question two deals with your vision, goals and priorities for your part of the organization. You tell your boss where your part of the organization is going. Then he gives his view on where he thinks this part of the organization should be going. By the end of this discussion two types of alignment should have been achieved: 1) the vision, goals and priorities of your part of the organization should be aligned with your leader’s vision of the larger organization and 2) the individual goals and priorities of you and your leader should be aligned.

  1. What is going well?

One key element of effective coaching is providing positive recognition for achievement. Your leader provides an assessment of what you and the organizations are doing well. Then she asks you a question that is seldom asked, “What do you think that you and your part of the organization are doing well?” By asking this question she may learn about “good news” that may have otherwise been missed.

  1. What are key suggestions for improvement?

Your leader gives you constructive suggestions for the future. These suggestions should be limited to key “opportunities for improvement”. Then he should ask another (seldom-asked) great coaching question, “If you were your own coach, what suggestions would you have for yourself?” By listening to you, your leader may learn that his original coaching suggestions need to be modified.

  1. How can I help?

A key to effective coaching is asking the right questions. One of the greatest coaching questions a leader can ask is, “How can I help?”

  1. What suggestions do you have for me?

By asking this question, your boss changes the dynamics of the coaching process. Traditional coaching is sometimes thought of as a one-way monologue that focuses on, “Let me tell you what you can do to improve.” The Six-Question approach creates a two-way dialogue that focuses on, “Let’s try to help each other.” You will be much more willing to be coached by your boss, if your boss is willing to be coached by you!

As implied in the final question of this process, a key to effective two-way coaching is mutual responsibility. The organizational survey in one of my clients pointed out an interesting dilemma. Direct reports criticized their leaders for not providing help when it was needed. Executives said that direct reports never asked for help! If you take the responsibility to ask for coaching (when needed) and your boss takes the responsibility to be responsive and helpful, there is a high probability that the entire process will work!

If the process does not work and your boss won’t engage, it is a sign that you should engage a new job with a new boss who will help you, help the organization, and help him or herself.

Dr. Marshall Goldsmith was selected as one of the 10 Most Influential Management Thinkers in the World by Thinkers50 in both 2011 and 2013. He was also selected as the World’s Most Influential Leadership Thinker in 2011. Marshall was the highest rated executive coach on the Thinkers50 List in both 2011 and 2013. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There was listed as a top ten business bestseller for 2013 by INC Magazine / 800 CEO Read (for the seventh consecutive year). Marshall’s exciting new research on engagement will be published in his upcoming book Triggers (Crown, 2015).

 

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3 Questions for Building a Great Team!

Recently, I coached a team in a group session. The team members rated the team a 6.1 in terms of working together. I asked each team member to reflect on a challenge that he/she is currently having and share it with me and the group. There were about 10 people and 6 focused on changing what they could not change. It was an epidemic! The team prioritized this behavior as the one to focus on in their team change efforts. Over the next six months, the group took part in the Team Building without Time Wasting process and I am happy to report that it is now a highly functional team, with members rating the team an 8.6!

Following are the steps the team took to change this endemic challenge of focusing on what they could not change. Note step 7. All of the steps are critical in the process, and step 7 is the one that will take your team to the next level – it is Follow-Up – and it will ensure that the change sticks!

1. Ask all members of the team to confidentially record their individual answers to two questions: (1) “On a 1 to 10 scale (with 10 being ideal), how well are we doing in terms of working together as a team?” and (2) “On a 1 to 10 scale, how well do we need to be doing in terms of working together as a team?”

2. Have a team member calculate the results. Discuss the results with the team. If the team members believe that the gap between current effectiveness and needed effectiveness indicates the need for team building, proceed to the next step in the process.

3. Ask the team members, “If every team member could change two key behaviors that would help us close the gap between where we are and where we want to be, which two behaviors we all should try to change?” Have each team member record his or her selected behaviors on flip charts.

4. Help team members prioritize all the behaviors on the charts (many will be the same or similar) and (using consensus) determine the most important behavior to change (for all team members).

5. Have each team member hold a one-on-one dialogue with all other team members. During the dialogues each member will request that his or her colleague suggest two areas for personal behavioral change (other than the one already agreed on above) that will help the team close the gap between where we are and where we want to be.

6. Let each team member review his or her list of suggested behavioral changes and choose the one that seems to be the most important. Have all team members then announce their one key behavior for per¬sonal change to the team.

7. Encourage all team members to ask for brief (five-minute), monthly three question “suggestions for the future” from all other team members to help increase their effectiveness in demonstrating 1) the one key behavior common to all team members, 2) the one key personal behavior generated from team member input, and 3) overall effective behavior as a team member.

8. Conduct a mini-survey, follow-up process in approximately six months. From the mini-survey each team member will receive confidential feedback from all other team members on his or her perceived change in effectiveness. This survey will include the one common behavioral item, the one personal behavioral item, and the overall team member item. A final question can gauge the level of follow-up – so that team members can see the connection between their level of follow-up and their increased effectiveness.

This process works because it is highly focused, includes disciplined feedback and follow-up, doesn’t waste time, and causes participants to focus on self-improvement.

Let me close with a challenge to you (the reader) as a team leader. Try it! The “downside” is very low. The process takes little time and the first mini-survey will quickly show whether progress is being made. The “upside” can be very high. As effective teamwork becomes more and more important, the brief amount of time that you invest in this process may produce a great return for your team and an even greater return for your organization.

Dr. Marshall Goldsmith was selected as one of the 10 Most Influential Management Thinkers in the World by Thinkers50 in both 2011 and 2013. He was also selected as the World’s Most Influential Leadership Thinker in 2011. Marshall was the highest rated executive coach on the Thinkers50 List in both 2011 and 2013. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There was listed as a top ten business bestseller for 2013 by INC Magazine / 800 CEO Read (for the seventh consecutive year). Marshall’s exciting new research on engagement will be published in his upcoming book Triggers (Crown, 2015).

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You’ve Changed! Why Didn’t They Notice?

It’s much harder to change others’ perceptions of our behavior than it is to change our own behavior. People’s perceptions of us are formed when they observe a sequence of actions we take that resemble one another. When other people see a pattern of resemblance, that’s when they start forming their perceptions of us.

For example, one day you’re asked to make a presentation in a meeting. Speaking in public may be the greatest fear among adults, but in this instance you don’t choke or crumble. You give a great presentation, magically emerging as someone who can stand up in front of people and be commanding, knowledgeable, and articulate. Everyone in attendance is impressed. They never knew this side of you. That said, this is not the moment when your reputation as a great public speaker jells into shape. But a seed has been sown in people’s minds. If you repeat the performance another time, and another, and another, eventually their perception of you as an effective speaker will solidify.

Negative reputations form in the same unhurried, incremental way. Let’s say you’re a fresh-faced manager looking at your first big crisis at work. You can react with poise or panic, clarity or confusion, aggressiveness or passivity. It’s your call. In this instance, you do not distinguish yourself as a leader. You fumble the moment and your group takes the hit. Fortunately for you, this is not the moment when your reputation as someone who can’t handle pressure is formed. It’s too soon to tell. But again, the seed has been sown—people are watching, waiting for a repeat performance. Only when you demonstrate your ineffectiveness in another crisis, and then another, will their perception of you as someone who wilts at crunch time take shape.

Because we don’t keep track of our repeat behavior, but they do, we don’t see the patterns that others see. These are the patterns that shape others’ perceptions of us—and yet we’re largely oblivious to them! And once their perceptions are set, it is very difficult to change them. That’s because, according to the theory of cognitive dissonance, people see what they expect to see, not what is there! So, even if you finally do choke a presentation – people will excuse it saying you just had a bad day or they will think it was great because that’s what they expect. And, even if you save the day in a crisis, it will not change people’s perceptions of you. They will consider it a one-off event or they will not notice your part in it at all.

So, what do you do? The challenge is that just as one event doesn’t form people’s positive perceptions of you, neither will one corrective gesture reform their views of you. Change doesn’t happen overnight. You need a sequence of consistent, similar actions to begin the rebuilding process. This is doable, but it requires personal insight and, most of all, discipline. A lot of discipline.

You have to be consistent in how you present yourself—to the point where you don’t mind being “guilty of repeating yourself”. If you abandon the consistency, people will get confused and the perception you are trying to change will get muddied by conflicting evidence that you are just the same as you were.

Finally, you have to follow up with those whose perceptions you are trying to change. Go to them every month or two and ask, “Ms. Co-Worker, It’s been one month [two months, three months] since I told you I was going to try to change this behavior. How am I doing?” Your co-worker will pause and reflect, “You’re doing good Co-Worker. Keep it up!” In this way, they will repeatedly acknowledge that they are seeing a change in your behavior. And, if you do fall back into an old behavior one time after a few months, they will remember how you have been doing great for such a period of time and will likely let it slide!

Dr. Marshall Goldsmith was selected as one of the 10 Most Influential Management Thinkers in the World by Thinkers50 in both 2011 and 2013. He was also selected as the World’s Most Influential Leadership Thinker in 2011. Marshall was the highest rated executive coach on the Thinkers50 List in both 2011 and 2013. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There was listed as a top ten business bestseller for 2013 by INC Magazine / 800 CEO Read (for the seventh consecutive year). Marshall’s exciting new research on engagement will be published in his upcoming book Triggers (Crown, 2015).

 

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