Sunday, December 21, 2014

70 New Year’s Resolutions for Leaders

Eric Jacobsen

Perhaps write down five to ten and then between now and December 31, think about which couple you want to work on in 2015.

1.     Don't micromanage

2.     Don't be a bottleneck

3.     Focus on outcomes, not minutiae

4.     Build trust with your colleagues before a crisis comes

5.     Assess your company's strengths and weaknesses at all times

6.     Conduct annual risk reviews

7.     Be courageous, quick and fair

8.     Talk more about values more than rules

9.     Reward how a performance is achieved and not only the performance

10.   Constantly challenge your team to do better

11.   Celebrate your employees' successes, not your own

12.   Err on the side of taking action

13.   Communicate clearly and often

14.   Be visible

15.   Eliminate the cause of a mistake

16.   View every problem as an opportunity to grow

17.   Summarize group consensus after each decision point during a meeting

18.   Praise when compliments are earned

19.   Be decisive

20.   Say "thank you" and sincerely mean it

21.   Send written thank you notes

22.   Listen carefully and don't multi-task while listening

23.   Teach something new to your team

24.   Show respect for all team members

25.   Follow through when you promise to do something


Bring Your Values to Life and Get the Culture You Want

Huffington Post

In my work I help companies and teams get the culture that they want in their workplace. Sadly, sometimes there is a big gap between the culture that they have and the one they want. I work with teams to assist in assessing this gap and then using values definition and measurement to close this gap so they have the culture they want.

There are many definitions of culture in the workplace, mine is simply "the way things are done here", that is the collection of behaviors of the team. To explain this I often say to the team, "imagine if I were to set up CCTV in the workplace, what would I observe in the behaviors of the team, what would I hear people say to each other?" This is the culture, the way things are done. If I could I would go deeper and monitor what was going on in people's minds: what are they saying to themselves, what are they thinking, what are they feeling, etc. This would give even more insight.

Values help us choose right from wrong, they help us make decisions. We know when our values have been violated as it usually causes a trigger of intense emotion. Values alignment is important to any team or company.


23 Things Great Leaders Always Do

No organization talks more about leadership and trying to teach its people to become excellent leaders than the U.S. Army. Having both served in the Army and reported on it, I've known more military leaders than I could possibly count. Most were admirable professionals. Some, unfortunately, didn't live up to the standards we have a right to expect. However, there were quite a few others who were truly amazing. These are the leaders who pass what I call the kid brother test: If your kid brother or sister had to go to war, you'd feel a little better knowing that these were the people in charge. In honor of the Army Birthday--the 239th anniversary of the date on which the Continental Congress first authorized the recruitment of troops--here are 23 things great leaders always do (most of which are taught in the U.S. Army).


How Trashing Others Holds You Back


Most of us could probably populate a “People Who Antagonize Me” Twitter list without much effort. According to my research with leadership coach Tanya Geisler, when we’re triggered by someone else, it’s usually because we’re simultaneously seeing something in them that we dislike, and denying its existence within ourselves. There’s a fix for it – and it won’t just make you less irritable. It might just unlock your potential in ways you never anticipated. Choose one of the people on your “antagonizing” list. Now ask yourself: 

  • What is it about them, specifically, that gets under my skin? (Really go to town with this; ranting and raving are welcome.)
  • What about them do I not want for myself? What’s the specific behavior I don’t want to emulate?
  • Why don’t I want to emulate it? Is there fear here? Embarrassment? What do I think would happen if I behaved this way?
  • What lessons is this person teaching me about what matters most to me?

Once you’re clear on why they’re driving you crazy, and what your standards really are, you can take this line of inquiry further – and transform it into real change:

  • How has my reaction to this quality held me back from claiming my own full potential?
  • What could I do if I gave myself permission to embody this quality, with discernment and in a way that’s true to my principles


Leaders who don’t plan: Herculean efforts are not always heroic

Ephiphany At Work

There is a skill gap in leaders which is most annoying for their direct reports and peers, but is sometimes well-hidden from their bosses. Unnoticed, that is, until you can see talented subordinates are exiting, or important peers get uncooperative. The gap is a leader’s inability to prepare the execution of a plan, and their reliance instead on passion and a vigorous last-minute “rally-of-the-troops” to get things done.  How do you know if one of your leaders has this fatal flaw?  Pay attention to how many Herculean efforts they pull off.

Overwhelmed leaders hunker down and pay close attention to what’s right in front of them. In true survival mode, they often prioritize with keen political acumen – responding quickly and energetically to whatever is uppermost in the minds of the boss and key clients. These Hercules fail to plan the best way to get things done. They don’t stop, and scan the future to logically plot the pre-emptive activity they should assign or get support for today. They don’t make time to coordinate and engage with the people they will need to implement solutions they author.


Making Business Personal


To an extent that we ourselves are only beginning to appreciate, most people at work, even in high-performing organizations, divert considerable energy every day to a second job that no one has hired them to do: preserving their reputations, putting their best selves forward, and hiding their inadequacies from others and themselves. We believe this is the single biggest cause of wasted resources in nearly every company today.

What would happen if people felt no need to do this second job? What if, instead of hiding their weaknesses, they were comfortable acknowledging and learning from them? What if companies made this possible by creating a culture in which people could see their mistakes not as vulnerabilities but as prime opportunities for personal growth?


Why it’s time to manage progress, not people

Fast Company

Telling your workers to be more engaged just won't work. Leadership is about putting mechanisms in place that will encourage their progress.

The farmer is in the business of growing plants, the physician that of curing patients, the teacher that of educating students. But the very grammar of those clauses betrays a misunderstanding.

The farmer does not grow the plant, the plant does; the physician does not make the patient healthier, the patient grows healthier; and the teacher cannot command the student to learn, that growth must happen within the student.

Instead, what these noble professions do is arrange the circumstances for the beings they are taking care of so that they may flourish.

You cannot tell a flower to grow, but you can help it to do so. The farmer is mindful of the seasons and plants seeds when most suited; the physician studies a patient’s case history and integrates treatment into that larger narrative; the teacher tailors her lessons to the lives of her students, allowing the material to be as relatable as possible.

We can add leaders to that list of helpers.

The people we work with are not so unlike the plants the farmer grows—we can’t simply tell them to grow.

The growing happens within them, and for people to want to work rather than having to work is actually a matter of managing progress, not people.


Welcome to the failure age!

Adam Davidson via

‘An age of constant invention naturally begets one of constant failure. The life span of an innovation, in fact, has never been shorter. An African hand ax from 285,000 years ago, for instance, was essentially identical to those made some 250,000 years later. The Sumerians believed that the hoe was invented by a godlike figure named Enlil a few thousand years before Jesus, but a similar tool was being used a thousand years after his death. During the Middle Ages, amid major advances in agriculture, warfare and building technology, the failure loop closed to less than a century. During the Enlightenment and early Industrial Revolution, it was reduced to about a lifetime. By the 20th century, it could be measured in decades. Today, it is best measured in years and, for some products, even less. (Schuetz receives tons of smartphones that are only a season or two old.)

The closure of the failure loop has sent uncomfortable ripples through the economy. When a product or company is no longer valued in the marketplace, there are typically thousands of workers whose own market value diminishes, too. Our breakneck pace of innovation can be seen in stock-market volatility and other boardroom metrics, but it can also be measured in unemployment checks, in divorces and involuntary moves and in promising careers turned stagnant. Every derelict product that makes its way into Weird Stuff exists as part of a massive ecosystem of human lives — of engineers and manufacturers; sales people and marketing departments; logistics planners and truck drivers — that has shared in this process of failure.

Innovation is, after all, terrifying. Right now we’re going through changes that rip away the core logic of our economy. Will there be enough jobs to go around? Will they pay a living wage? Terror, however, can also be helpful. The only way to harness this new age of failure is to learn how to bounce back from disaster and create the societal institutions that help us do so. The real question is whether we’re up for the challenge.”


Being a nice boss


“There’s an age-old question out there: Is it better to be a “nice” leader to get your staff to like you? Or to be tough as nails to inspire respect and hard work? …

The traditional paradigm just seems safer: be firm and a little distant from your employees. The people who work for you should respect you, but not feel so familiar with you that they might forget who’s in charge. A little dog-eat-dog, tough-it-out, sink-or-swim culture seems to yield time-tested results and keep people hungry and on their toes. …

“Tough” managers often mistakenly think that putting pressure on employees will increase performance. What it does increase is stress—and research has shown that high levels of stress carry a number of costs to employers and employees alike. …

Is it any better with “nice” managers? Do their employees fare better — and do kind bosses get ahead?

Contrary to what many believe, Adam Grant’s data shows that nice guys (and gals!) can actually finish first, as long as they use the right strategies that prevent others from taking advantage of them. In fact, other research has shown that acts of altruism actually increase someone’s status within a group.

Harvard Business School’s Amy Cuddy and her research partners have also shown that leaders who project warmth – even before establishing their competence – are more effective than those who lead with their toughness and skill. Why? One reason is trust. Employees feel greater trust with someone who is kind.”