Tag Archives: challenges for the modern leader

do you know what the future holds?

Neither do we – but we do have some thoughts about three emerging trends you would be wise to keep an eye on as we enter 2016.

1. The gap between the truly great, the merely good and the boringly average will widen further.

Differences in the level of both organizational and individual ambition, competence and capability will become even more pronounced. This will make it impossible for the unprepared and the complacent to just hang on. Simple survival won’t cut it. The ramifications will be obvious, the consequences predictable and the costs inevitable.

2. The leadership talent you will need to remain relevant in the future will become even harder to locate and attract.

The very best organizations will quickly come to appreciate that the mindsets, skill sets and competencies of the future are very different from those of the past. Retooling leadership, at all levels, will not be an option – it will be a necessity. Sadly, far too many organizations will ignore the signals and fall victim to the natural consequences of the talent scarcity gap.

3. Organizational culture will matter more to your success than ever before.

Dysfunctional cultures punish the guilty by placing a harsh, hidden “tax” on organizational performance. The cost of that “tax” will go up even further in 2016. To boost overall effectiveness, you must lower the tax rate. You do that by creating a culture which boosts the level of discretionary investment by your people by removing the man-made barriers to collaboration, innovation and accountability.

The new year will bring new challenges – it always does. It will generously layer them on top of those you are already facing. Some will find that burden too overwhelming, but others will be wise enough to get ahead of the curve. They will adjust to the signals the future is already sending our way.

It is a choice. There are solid options and better alternatives.

Are you set?

leadership lessons from the military

What surprised me the most about this article by retired four-star General and former Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, General Ray Odierno, weren’t what the lessons themselves were, but how few of them he provided, and how, through this utter simplicity, he managed to hit the nail directly on the head.
I have to admit, I almost glossed over the piece, feeling as though the military analogy has almost been overdone in business and, perhaps, may be somewhat dated and exclusionary. I decided to read it anyway, and while what I was expecting was yet another “leadership list” of the top 10 qualities that make great leaders, I was pleasantly surprised to read a simple yet detailed description of a mere 3 qualities that are absolutely integral to great leadership, whether that leadership takes place in business or in war.
The first quality is Balanced Risk-Taking, the key to this being the word “balanced”. Both risk adversity as well as excessive risk-taking can equally result in failure and financial loss in business, and cost lives at war. Balanced risk-taking requires you to constantly assess and understand the current situation, continually developing ways to gather and use information to contribute to well-thought out, yet timely and efficient risk-taking and decision-making.
The second lesson offered is to take a Holistic View to Guide Bold Decisions. General Odierno addresses balance again, contrasting leaders who wait and require every single piece of data and information for making a decision that is now too late to be effective, to those who jump in with no due diligence, costing organizations time, money, and resources when they are wrong. Neither of these leaders can compare to those individuals who can effectively balance when they have just the right amount of information to allow a bold decision to be made. Sometimes, he says “when you make a decision is just as important, if not more than, the information available. Great leaders understand this dynamic”.
Finally, General Odierno emphasizes the importance of Fostering an Atmosphere of Trust. In his own words, he says that the “foundation of any organization is trust. Trust between peers, subordinates and your leaders. Establishing and communicating right and left limits. Empowering subordinates and decentralizing decision making within those limits. Treating everyone within the organization with dignity and respect. All of this contributes to an atmosphere of trust and pride”.

Whether or not you are interested in the military, or even opposed to the military, this is a great business article that really gets to the heart of what needs to be mastered in order to achieve great leadership.

read here

why CEO’s fail

why CEO's fail

I recently revisited an article written by Ram Charan and Geoffrey Colvin entitled “Why CEOs Fail”. It popped into my head one afternoon at the cottage, and after a quick Google search I was able to locate it in the Fortune Magazine archives at the link below. When I looked at the original publish date, I was shocked to realize that it had been published over 16 years ago, in June of 1999. Once I recovered from that, I reread it only to be even more stricken by how absolutely applicable every single word of it is today.

Over these past 16 years, CEOs have continued to succeed and CEOS have continued to fail, just as often (if not more frequently) than during the time this article was written. The players are different now and the article could be republished with updated examples, but it really isn’t necessary, because the fundamental reasons for success and the fundamental causes of failure remain categorically the same.

Charan and Colvin argued that while strategy matters, it simply isn’t enough. Decisiveness and follow-through, effective execution, and an unwavering commitment to deliverables are the key components to CEO success every time. “So how do CEOs blow it? More than any other way, by failure to put the right people in the right jobs – and the related failure to fix people problems in time. Specifically, failed CEOs are often unable to deal with a few key subordinates whose sustained poor performance deeply harms the company.”

It’s no different now. I see this regularly in our work with clients. Let’s face it, relationships are difficult to experience objectively, they are difficult to manage effectively, and often, in business just as in personal life, people can be late to identify when a relationship fails to add value anymore, or worse, becomes a detriment to success. Employee performance impacts execution. Execution drives the success or failure of an organization. Period. And CEOs who cannot see themselves as accountable not only for their own performance, but for the performance of all players in a position to either drive or compromise organizational success, are not going to make it. Relationship blind spots have been the downfall of more than one potentially great, but ultimately failing leader. This is truly the key.

There is far more insight to be taken from this article in its entirety and, 16 years later or not, I definitely recommend a read (or re-read) of this Forbes magazine classic on why CEOs fail!
read here

thoughts on thinking

I’ve been thinking a fair amount about thinking lately. How much time do I spend doing it? How much time do other people spend doing it? How much of a given day, week, or month should be dedicated to the simple process of reflection and/or thought?

In an era of pushing productivity to the limit, where more is better, and engaging in a constant state of being “over busy” seems to be valued above all else, thinking may be deemed to be a rather unproductive activity … but is it? The assumption is that you need to have a tangible output in order to be productive, as if producing thoughts or ideas isn’t as valuable as producing widgets. On the other hand, we can obviously all recognize the tremendous value of that great idea that allows you to double the number of widgets you produce, or cut in half the amount of time it takes to produce them. So why the ambivalence over setting aside time to think?

In reality, any good leader, anyone in charge of organizational strategy, or anyone responsible for any kind of business development or growth must learn to value and make time for reflection and thought on a regular basis. If they don’t, they might be in trouble when competitors move forward and their business is left behind, or when they miss out on that big opportunity because they were too busy being busy to see it come up. Execution of an effective strategy may indeed be the key to organizational success, but without reflection and thought, how do leaders create strategy? Furthermore, how do they continually reassess to ensure that the strategy remains effective as the external environment continually shifts and changes?

In the following HBR article, Freek Vermeulen, an Associate Professor of Strategy at the London Business School, cites a number of the most successful business leaders of our time who have understood and promoted the value of thought and taking time to think. He then tackles the five strategic questions he believes you should be using your “think time” to answer on a regular basis. In his own words “strategy, by definition, is about making complex decisions under uncertainty, with substantive, long-term consequences. Therefore, it requires substantial periods of careful, undisturbed reflection and consideration. Don’t just accept the situation and business constellation you have arrived at. Leadership is not just about doing things, it is also about thinking. Make time for it.”

read here

the secret to reducing employee productivity

Have you ever seen a child put their hands over both ears and say “blah blah blah” while someone else is speaking so as not to hear them? Have you ever seen a CEO doing the exact same thing, minus the hands on the ears and the “blah blah blah”?

You know what I’m talking about – right? The team member is allowed, perhaps even encouraged, to speak. No one interrupts them. Perhaps there is a small delay to ensure they are finished making their point. And then the CEO / Manager / Team Leader politely thanks them for their contribution, but disagrees, goes back to what they were originally saying, or possibly even takes the conversation in a different direction completely.

When this type of behaviour becomes part of the culture, employees simply stop disagreeing or speaking up, because they have come to feel it is pointless.

The following article brilliantly taps into a couple of the fastest and most effective routes to ensuring employee unproductivity:

1. Having employees that nod and agree with everything you say may feel like “alignment” but, in reality, mandating an “all on the same page” culture, at best stifles autonomous thinking, creativity, innovation and, at worst, sets you up for avoidable mistakes to be made, because employees know that pointing out drawbacks and risks will fall on deaf ears.

2. You may feel, as a leader, that having rigid, well-defined policies will result in a “tidy, well-functioning, and highly productive organization”, however, when the policies you impose on employees are too strict and inflexible, human nature is to retaliate by holding you accountable to the same strict “rule” adherence. For example, don’t expect your unwillingness to allow employees the discretion to leave before 5 “as required”, to be rewarded by having employees who are willing to work past 5 on other days “as required”. At best, this kind of rigidity results in employees who are unwilling to go over and above for you and, at worst, it sets you up for a culture where skirting the rules and lying becomes a common practice to bypass the stifling inflexibility of regulations.
This is not to say that organizations can or should be run without rules, or that every employee idea can or should be incorporated. But, by finding a way to truly value individuals and their contribution to the organization, as well as acknowledging their needs for autonomy and flexibility, according to this author at least, you will have the opportunity to tap into the “90% of each person that is what can make him or her a great employee, partner, team member: the initiative, the questions, the passion, the concerns, the hope, all the quirkiness and joy and excellence that people will bring to their work if you invite them to do so”.
read here

books every leader should read

24 Jan 2014, Denmark --- Interior of living room --- Image by © Torben Djenner/All Over Press/Corbis

24 Jan 2014, Denmark — Interior of living room — Image by © Torben Djenner/All Over Press/Corbis

In today’s fast paced world, where it seems we just never have enough time, it can be hard to carve out even a few short moments for quiet reflection and learning. The irony of this paradox is today’s leaders need to have their hands and heads around a multitude of tough, challenging issues, and be better equipped to tackle them to the ground than ever before. They need new knowledge and fresh insight and, yet, we all tend to push this priority down the list.
It’s not the smartest thing for any of us to do!
So – in response to the question “What do I need to know?”, we have put together a list of the books we believe all leaders should read in their quest to be on top of current thinking in a dozen or so key areas. It’s not that we expect anyone to read them all but, as Spring turns to Summer, there may be a few lazy days when reading a good book would be just the right tonic for rejuvenation.
Enjoy your quiet time, the battle will still be there when you get back from vacation.

click here for the book list

Challenges for the Modern Leader

Challenges for the Modern Leader #5: Say/Do Ratio

This week, I am proposing 5 challenges facing modern leaders, and the respective competencies needed to face each challenge. If you like a specific post, please ‘like/favourite/share’ it. The post with the most amount of engagements will earn a follow up post outlining HOW TO DEVELOP COMPETENCIES RELATED TO THAT POST.

Say/Do Ratio

This is pretty self explanatory, but often overlooked by management teams. If a leader’s say/do ratio is less than 1:1, that leader is in trouble. There are few things that damage credibility more than not following through on something you said you would do.

Modern leaders, keep this in mind. Don’t commit to an action unless you’re positive it can be completed. Don’t make false promises.

Interested in more information on maintaing a 1:1 say/do ratio? Like this post on Facebook or Twitter to warrant a detailed follow up post!

5 Challenges for the Modern Leader

Challenges for the Modern Leader #4: Winning Conditions

This week, I am proposing 5 challenges facing modern leaders, and the respective competencies needed to face each challenge. If you like a specific post, please ‘like/favourite/share’ it. The post with the most amount of engagements will earn a follow up post outlining HOW TO DEVELOP COMPETENCIES RELATED TO THAT POST.

Winning Conditions

The fourth challenge I present for modern leaders is to create winning conditions — create an environment where people thrive and can ‘win.’ As I’ve spoken about before, culture is of absolute importance to organizational success. Leaders must create an environment where people feel like they can speak up, like they can challenge the status quo, like they can creatively problem solve.

To create winning conditions, two competencies are imperative.

TQ – talent intelligence. The ability to spot talent, focusing more on potential than on performance, and judge fit within a company’s culture.

COQ- collaborative intelligence. The ability to foster outstanding collaboration. A type of collaboration where people help grow each other’s ideas — delicately balancing constructive criticism with positive energy.  The ability to know when to be a devils vs angels advocate during idea creation.

Interested in how to develop TQ and COQ? Like this post on Facebook or Twitter to warrant a detailed follow up post!

Leadership Challenges

5 Challenges for the Modern Leader: Sense Making and Sense Shaping

Welcome to the first post of my new campaign: 5 challenges for the modern leader. This week, I will propose 5 challenges facing modern leaders, and the respective competencies needed to face each challenge. If you like a specific post, please ‘like/favourite/share’ it. The post with the most amount of engagements will earn a follow up post outlining HOW TO DEVELOP COMPETENCIES RELATED TO THAT POST.

Challenge #1: Sense Making and Sense Shaping

The first first challenge for modern leaders is to learn sense making and sense shaping. If a leader understands how to make sense of the world, and can shape that sense in a new way, in a new opportunity, this leader is set for the future.

Think of how Steve Jobs and Apple made sense and shaped the opportunity in mp3 players and digital music — creating the Ipod and ITunes, changing the music industry forever.

The competencies that are needed for sense making and sense shaping are:

CQ- contextual intelligence. This entails situational understanding, or being able to understand the status quo, its opportunities and limitations.

SQ- strategic intelligence.  This entails weaving opportunity into a narrative, making it clear and understandable.

Interested in how to develop CQ and/SQ? Like this post on Facebook or Twitter to warrant a detailed follow up post!