Greg Acton shares a podcast where he discusses problem solving and leadership with Steve Caldwell at Manager Mojo.
While leadership entails guiding people in the direction of success, it also requires the ability to look at problems and seek solutions. How you frame those problems can have much to do with the solution arrived at.
Mark Twain once said, “What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know, it’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.” Remaining convinced that our way is the right way when in fact we might not know what we don’t know can be the stumbling block to uncovering solutions.
The “right thing” often depends on the situation and who is looking at it. As a leader, you will be required to choose when uncertain and to decide where to focus as well as where not to focus.
Here at thoughtLEADERS, I’m fortunate to work with some incredibly bright people. Greg Acton is one of them. Greg recently discussed the topic of problem solving with Steve Caldwell at Manager Mojo. They got together on his podcast to discuss how to better frame problems and generate solutions.
Access the podcast, The Importance of Challenging Assumptions When Problem Solving, on ThoughtLeadersllc.com
Barry Horwitz identifies why it is important to address the predisposition to the positive and how it often arrests the growth and improvement of the company.
Back in the early 90s, I joined the senior management team of a regional retail chain. I was new to the company and had moved there from out of town. The rest of the leadership team was made up of longstanding executives — people who had been there for years (in some cases, decades).
Not surprisingly, my colleagues enjoyed telling the positive story of their achievements. And that was fine, they had certainly accomplished quite a bit.
But the market and competitive landscape were changing; they were blind to the ways in which we were being newly threatened. In my view, if we didn’t evolve our strategic positioning, we were in danger of falling behind, or worse.
Were these executives unusual in this way? Not at all, unfortunately. Organizations work hard to build cohesiveness and teamwork among their employees and people like to feel good about the things they are doing well. Toss in the human tendency for confirmation bias and it’s easy to overlook a lot:
Sales were off a bit last month? That may have been due to bad weather or some other factor — it’s probably just a blip.
Donations are down from prior years? It’s probably the economy or the change in tax laws.
Given this predisposition towards the positive, how do you raise issues and deliver news that may not be welcomed? There is a perceived (often real) risk that by pointing out bad news or blind spots — even if it helps avoid bad things from happening — one will be labelled “not a team player,” perhaps getting sidelined or even fired as a result.
Here then, are some suggestions for highlighting — and slaying — those organizational sacred cows….
Key points include:
- Addressing prior beliefs
- Structuring recommendations
- Establishing a safe environment
Read the full post, Slay the Sacred Cows, on HorwitzandCo.com.
Sean McCoy shares a concise post from his company blog that identifies six levers to influence behavior.
Our third article in a series about incentives. Incentives are powerful levers for business leaders to change behavior. Sadly, incentives are often under-utilized and mis-used tools.
Employee behaviors are a crucial element to every aspect of a business. In some regards, the only way to implement a CEO’s strategy is to change behaviors. If behaviors are not changing, plans are not being implemented, and strategic goals are not being achieved.
Executives have at their disposal a set of integrated, inextricable levers to influence employee behaviors to achieve operational, financial, and strategic objectives. The framework illustrated in Figure 1 captures major drivers of employee behavior. In our experience, we have seen this approach work in settings as diverse as Fortune 500 firms, start-ups, governments, sports teams, military units, and nonprofits.
Key points include:
- Learning and growth
Read the full article, The Levers to Influence Behaviour, on mccoyconsulting.com.
David Hensley shares a post on management that looks at the socio-political environment, the capabilities of the leader, and the alignment of the organisations’ people, policies and systems as the basis for the development of three paradigms.
We’ve observed – as we’re sure you have – that different managers and leaders have very different management/leadership styles. And that those styles don’t always fit the expectations of their organisations.
We’ve also noted that whilst the miscommunication and dysfunctionality that a mis-match causes in an organisation is a common topic for discussion, particularly around the water fountain or in the bar after work, there is typically little analytical discussion about the causes of this.
One of the reasons for this, we believe, is that there is little common vocabulary or taxonomy to use to discuss it, so it is difficult to categorize the presenting or expected leadership style.
Leadership of the Future
In some recent work we were doing, preparing for a speech on the Future of Leadership that Piret gave at the Brave World Conference in Tallinn in May 2018, we were influenced by the work of Simon Sinek, Frederic Laloux and others in describing future leadership as Purpose-driven. We contrasted this with the traditional Power-driven command and control model and the contemporary Performance-driven model. Each has a different objective set and a different management style.
We saw that these were actually three different paradigms of management/leadership, and realised that each one can be done effectively or ineffectively, and that the effectiveness depends on the socio-political environment as well as on the capabilities of the leader and on the alignment of the organisations’ people, policies and systems.
Key points include:
- Organisation and culture
- Changes over time
- Case Example
Read the full article, The Three Management Paradigms, on hensleypartners.com.
David Edelman explains how the foundations of Theater provide powerful tools for leaders to connect, motivate, and deliver during times of constant dramatic change.
When a theater is empty, the tradition is to keep a lone bulb lit on the stage — a ghost light — really for safety, but superstitiously to keep away the bad spirits lurking in the building. Sadly, most theaters right now are lit merely by their ghost bulb, but in the absence of action on stage, I prefer to think of those bulbs as beacons to the rest of us about all that Theater provides, even when performances are temporarily suspended.
We are in a time when the “audiences,” or customers and stakeholders, of businesses are going through constant, dramatic change, and teamwork needs to dynamically adjust, every single day, to the new realities we face. In such a climate, the foundations of Theater provide powerful tools for leaders needing to connect, motivate, and deliver under the spotlight as never before.
In the past, I have talked about the importance of thinking about great business leaders embracing a view more akin to a jazz combo leader than a classical music conductor, inspired by a seminal article by John Clarkeson, the late former CEO of the Boston Consulting Group. Set the structure, assemble great talent, keep the core rhythm going, listen constantly to each other, but let each other innovate in new directions, which if successful, the team will sense and follow. This view is a clear contrast to formally planned, rigorous planning, and leadership through the force of hierarchy.
Key points include:
- Igniting passion
- Investigating the context
- Invite a relationship through a fitting demand
Read the full article, Guided by the “Ghost” Light: Tapping into Theater’s Lessons during its Absence, on LinkedIn.
In this article, Robyn M. Bolton provides a few practical steps that can be taken to help build and improve innovation in the workplace.
According to a 2018 survey by NPR and The Marist Poll, the most common New Year’s resolution is to exercise more. Not surprisingly, losing weight and eating a more healthy diet ranked third and further, respectively (“stop smoking” was #2, in case you’re curious).
Hitting the gym to drop weight and build muscle is a great habit to build, but don’t forget about the regular work needed to build other muscles.
Specifically, your innovation muscles.
Innovation mindsets, skills, and behaviors can be learned but if you don’t continuously use them, like muscles, they can weaken and atrophy. That’s why it’s important to create opportunities to flex them.
One of the tools I use with clients who are committed to building innovation as a capability, rather than scheduling it as an event, is QMWD – the Quarterly-Monthly-Weekly-Daily practices required to build and sustain innovation as a habit.
Leave the office and talk to at least 3 of your customers
It’s tempting to rely on survey results, research reports, and listening in on customer service calls as a means to understand what your customers truly think and feel. But there’s incredible (and unintended) bias in those results.
Take, for example, this story from former P&G CEO AG Lafley.
Key insights include:
- Why consumers can’t tell you what they want
- Sharing mistakes with your team
- Making small, but conscious, changes
Read the full article, 5 ways to Build Your Innovation Muscles in the New Year, on MileZero.io.
Set sail with Chris Rooney as he explains what a bosun is and why your business needs one.
The Bosun is the deck boss of a ship, also known as the “Chief of the Boat.” The most experienced and trustworthy operator, they have charted the world and mastered every role. They are the human conduit through which the vision of the Captain becomes realized action and the patient teacher by which an inexperienced crew can become an exceptional, effective team. And often, they are the wizened thought partner who helps enable the Captain to mature from being visionary to becoming a visionary leader.
CEO’s and business owners have similar challenges to Ship Captains: they have a bigger vision of what is over the horizon, and what world-changing bounty is to be gained from the journey there and back. But without a very experienced Bosun — a partner who has seen it all, can build and elevate teams, can weather unexpected storms and lack of resources, and inspire others during hardships they have endured before — a successful journey can be exponentially harder. Most importantly, Bosuns have the experience and foresight to see problems before they arise, recognize opportunities and execute them more quickly, and re-imagine solutions with the confidence of someone who has done it before.
In today’s specialist-oriented business world, true Bosuns are hard to find. Most executives (including CEO’s) are deeply functional in their experience, domain, and resulting world-view.
Key points include:
- The problem with the CEO silo
- The limitations of investors and board members
- Skills needed to navigate unpredictable business environments
Read the full article, What is “Bosun”? And why do you need one?, on LinkedIn.
Discover thirteen ways to improve leadership on the shop floor in this older, but always relevant, post from John Sturdivant.
Frontline operations leaders have a tough job, and I’ve seen huge ranges in styles and effectiveness. The best leaders are caring, but know when to be tough. They have their priorities straight, and say no to everything else. They have invested time and effort into building an infrastructure for team performance. And most importantly, they have mutual trust with their team. Below are some of the tactical ways these great leaders get outstanding results from their teams.
1) They make their expectations clear and concrete
What do they do? the team behind a great leader always knows the precise metrics and standards that are important to the leader and the business, so they aren’t surprised when they exceed or fall behind those expectations.
Why do they do this? Because people have to know what they are striving before, and they have to know the expectations put upon them for any accountability culture to take hold. Surprises are for birthdays, not setting the direction and ambition for your team.
Key points include:
- Team engagement
- Time management
- Performance and improvement
Read the full article, 13 Things Great Frontline Leaders Do, on LinkedIn.
Robyn M. Bolton provides key tips that you can take to motivate corporate executives into action.
Things we know we should do because they’re good for us:
Eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day
Floss twice a day
Get 10,000 steps a day
Consistently invest in innovation
Let’s be honest, the above list could also be titled, “Things we know we should do but don’t.”
Why? Why do we choose not to do things that years of research prove are good for us and for which solutions are readily available?
Because they’re inconvenient, uncomfortable, expensive, and, most of all, because we have not yet been burned by not doing them.
Experience is a better motivator of change and driver of behavior than knowledge. We don’t floss until we’ve had one (or more) painful and bloody dentist appointments. We don’t buy insurance until we have to deal with a break-in. We don’t invest in innovation until we’re desperate for revenue, profit, or growth.
The good news is that, at least when it comes to innovation, we don’t have to wait to be desperate or to get burned before we do what we know we should. We can create experiences that motivate change.
Key points include:
- Borrowing relevant experiences
- Creating experiences of success
- Immersing everyone in the experience
Read the full article, How to Get Corporate Executives to Walk Their Innovation Talk, on the MileZero website.
Priyanka Ghosh shares a case study on the steps taken to address a slump in the business cycle combined with frictions in the Leadership Team.
The Middle-Eastern unit of global energy company was facing a challenging period due to a slump in the business cycle combined with frictions in its Leadership Team. As the Middle East business had grown, the Leadership Team had expanded to reflect the broader set of service lines and increased levels of functional support. Most of the new members had joined from outside the company. They were not accustomed to the company’s culture or ways of doing things. Furthermore, they were scattered across numerous countries in the region. ProMelior was asked to uncover why the Leadership Team was not living up to its full potential and to drive a program of individual and team coaching to improve business performance.
To gain a robust picture of the leadership team, both as individuals and as a team, ProMelior conducted a thorough set of diagnostic analyses. For each executive, we conducted 360-degree feedback surveys and administered various psychometric tests. We also conducted in-depth ‘Life-line interviews’ in which we explored how the individuals had made important decisions in their lives. By triangulating the various sources of information, we built up a detailed picture of ‘what made each executive tick’ and their observed behavior patterns in business situations. We also observed the Leadership Team in action during a variety of meetings to understand how they discussed issues, managed conflict and made decisions.
Through the diagnostic analyses, ProMelior generated several important insights. First, the psychometric testing and Lifeline interviews showed clearly showed that most of the Leadership Team members were ‘amiable’ vs ‘analytical’ people. In other words, they valued being liked and maintaining harmony over analyzing issues and pursuing the ‘truth’. As a result, the Leadership Team rarely analyzed the company’s strategic challenges and tended to avoid open conflicts between team members. Over the long-term, however, these behaviors led to a growing set of unresolved issues which elevated interpersonal tensions and created operational gridlock. Second, the Leadership Team held very unstructured meetings without clear agendas or robust time management. Not surprisingly, the meetings tended to meander on detailed operational issues without addressing the key strategic or organizational challenges of the company.
Key points from this case study include:
- Presenting the insights from the diagnostic analyses
- Training sessions on the characteristics of a high-performing team
- Components of developing the Leadership Team
Read the full case study, The Executive Team Coaching & Development Program, on Promelior.co.uk
Caroline Taich shares how to make the mindset shift from uncertain operator to confident corporate leader.
Dave was one of my first clients as a management consultant. He was in a rotational leadership program at the regional utility. He became the leader of procurement for the construction services category overnight – without any training or preparation. My job was to guide him through the procurement process to identify cost savings.
Dave was taking a risk. In this new role, he was going to be responsible for setting up the vendors and systems that his colleagues would have to use. He cared about the cost savings and he cared about delivering a good outcome for his trusted professional relationships.
I helped Dave by outlining the procurement process. We worked together to define what success looked like. We engaged the people that would be impacted – the line workers, warehouse managers, and vendors. And we got started, working together over ~4.5 months to implement.
Key points in this article are:
- Building capabilities
- Winning respect
- Growth mindset
Read the full article, How to go from uncertain operator to a confident corporate leader, on the Kirtland Consulting website.
Leadership is not a one-size-fits all position. Every leader adopts a different style based on their strengths, passions, and talents. Bernie Heine provides a process that can help you understand your strengths and leverage the overlap of passion and talent.
The Zone of Leadership explained
Get INTO Your Leadership Zone. What are YOU really good at? What are you passionate about? We are talking here about knowing yourself, knowing what’s really important to you, what you do very well, and what you love to spend your precious time at.
Here are 3 excellent tools to help understand your personal zone of leadership:
The Gallup Strengths Finder is a tried-and-trusted survey that gets you to list out the 5 top items from a number of comprehensive assessment areas. It is important to understand the support material that accompanies these assessment areas. For example, Bernie’s 5 strengths came out as ‘individualization’ (works well one on one), ‘learner,’ ‘achiever,’ ‘communication,’ and ‘maximizer’.
Areas covered in this article include:
- VIA strengths survey
- The Venn diagram
- The five-step process to create your zone
Read the full article, Get Into YOUR Leadership Zone, and follow the process on the Professional Business Coach website.
Aneta Key shares a short message that shines a light into the importance of leaders spending valuable time on scenario planning, and how following military training can guide business strategies.
It is important for leadership teams to regularly work through scenarios across time horizons.
Strategic decision-making is at the core of leadership and is what Aneta Key facilitates among clients. It is also one of the core areas explored in the GrowthKey leadership development programs.
This question is a sneak peek from an upcoming episode of the Simplicity for Success podcast in which host Peter Eckart and Aneta are talking about Strategic decision-making under risk and uncertainty.
Points discussed include:
- Thinking across multiple timelines
- The fog of war
- The death of the best plans
Read the article,The Value of Strategic Planning: Military Analogy, and watch the video on the Aedea Partners’ website.
Dan Markovitz shares a new video series on the root cause of CEO overwhelm and provides a downloadable PDF on why the best CEOs don’t feel overwhelmed.
As many of you know, I conducted a study of CEO overwhelm this winter. It wasn’t entirely surprising that CEOs (and other leaders) who embraced lean habits and principles in their work felt less overwhelmed by the demands on their time and attention.
In the study, I made a few brief suggestions about how to deal with the root cause of overwhelm. But the limits of a PowerPoint format made it difficult to go into much detail. In response to requests for more information, I made a series of short (2-3 minute) videos in my state of the art video studio (i.e., my living room).
I’ll be posting one video per day over the next week on my YouTube channel. I’ll also be providing links to each video on Twitter and LinkedIn as they’re released. I hope you enjoy them.
Dan has recently published his latest book, The Conclusion Trap, which addresses the bane of problem solvers everywhere: jumping to solutions.
Geoff Wilson provides a reality check and a sage reminder to plant your feet firmly on the ground when looking to the future.
Times of crisis require a change of perspective and a call to action.
So, here we are, weeks into a bizarre world of isolation, uncertainty, and pain. If one thing is likely, it’s that after weeks of responsiveness, you may now start to see real signs of resignation and capitulation. But, you may also see signs of opportunity and–dare I say it–optimism. My sense is that both mindsets are probably “right” and “ok.” This is no self-help blog. I fully believe that there is plenty to fear in the environment beyond fear itself.
I also think it’s important to realize that in times of crisis or trial or despair it’s our imperative to reflect and chart a course. That course may be brand new and different, or it may be a retreat to the tried and true. In either case…it’s a course.
One of the more influential books in my life is Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Frankl was a Holocaust survivor and influential thinking on how people find meaning in life regardless of experience. His experience in the Auschwitz death camp sparked a globally influential view of how individuals find meaning in challenging and even hopeless circumstances.
Points addressed in this article include:
- Reflecting and charting a course
- Why me vs. what’s next
Read the full article, Finding meaning during crisis requires an answer, not a question, on the Wilson Growth Partners’ website.
Leadership has its own set of unique challenges during times of crises; Luiz Zorzella provides a post that identifies a few of the common obstacles faced and how to overcome them.
During a crisis, we are all pushed to make strategic, life-changing decisions. Often we need to make these decisions under a lot of uncertainty and with incomplete and faulty information.
Below, I review some of my favourite cognitive biases with a couple of examples of how they may be influencing your and your counterpart’s decisions.
You can print this list and keep it in your drawer as a checklist on how to survive yourself and the other survivors during this period.
In the early days of a crisis, there is a lot of uncertainty: at the macro level, questions like how long the crisis will last, how effective the solution will be and, what will be the direct and indirect impact of this on your business, your clients, partners and competitors are very troubling questions.
On top of these, micro questions like how will these change the demand for your products, what emerging business models will be successful and what implications all these changes will have to your risk profile; and individual questions like what is the impact on the your health, your team’s and your loved ones and what is the impact on your job security, growth prospects and personal investments.
Areas covered in this article include:
- The need to hide vulnerability & overconfidence
- Ambiguity aversion
- Availability heuristic
- Group think
- Belief bias, confirmation bias & outcome bias
Read the full article, 5 Demons Who Flourish During Hard Times, on the Amquant website.
Geoff Wilson asks you to take a moment to look to the future and determine the impact of the legacy you want to leave.
We all leave a legacy of some sort. Ryan Newman’s survival of NASCAR’s worst wreck ever highlights the contrasts of passive and active legacies.
Do you know the legacy you are leaving with your business, team, or organization?
It’s surprising how little this topic actually gets highlighted when managers and executive teams focus on their strategic aims. Sure there are legacies that are left via who you are–for example the ethical legacies like that of Marvin Bower at McKinsey or innovation legacies like that of Gordon Moore of Intel and Moore’s Law fame. Those were probably not forged in a boardroom strategy session but rather through strength of personality.
But, there are also legacies left in a couple of other ways. There are passive legacies that result accidentally, and there are active legacies that result from thoughtful focus and intervention. This weekend offered a stark contrast of the two.
Monday’s Daytona 500 ended with a vicious wreck where driver Ryan Newman–leading the race at the time–was bumped from behind and spun violently into the wall of the final turn in the race. His car, pictured above, went airborne, was struck broadside by another car at 190 miles per hour, landed on its roof, and then slid for a quarter mile or more in a conflagration of sparks and flames.
Read the full article, Legacy Lessons from NASCAR’s Worst Wreck Ever, on the Wilson Growth Partners website.
Thinking about kicking off the New Year with the goal of transitioning from senior to executive leadership? Stephen Redwood provides advice on how to achieve the goal.
When coaching clients I am often asked the question: what do I need to know to make the transition from being an already experienced leader to being effective as an executive leader
It’s an interesting, and sometimes surprising, question given that they will already have years of experience as leaders. I believe the reason they are asking is because of the realization that the most senior executive roles are often differentiated from other leadership roles by the:
- Weight of ultimate accountability
- Complexity and breadth of oversight responsibilities
- Challenge of motivating others to accept accountability for problem solving
- Difficulty of learning to ask questions rather than give answers
- Degree to which messaging has to be effective at a distance
This is not to say these factors don’t play a role to some degree at all levels of leadership, but at the most senior levels each of these generally carries greater consequences for the organization. So, let’s dig in and look at what I’ve often found helps leaders I work with successfully make this transition.
Read the full article How Do I Make the Transition from Senior to Executive Leadership? on LinkedIn.