If you feel guilty for reading fiction, Amanda Setili’s article on how fiction books can improve leadership skills will remove guilt. Put your feet up and enjoy.
I’m deep into The Expanse book series, and it never ceases to amaze me how many insights and inspirations I get from reading fiction, especially science fiction.
Fiction makes it easier to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and to understand different perspectives: how others feel, and how they solve problems that might have baffled you.
In The Expanse series, Naomi Nagata is a superb engineer who can solve virtually any technical problem. At the point I’m now at in the series, there’s a war going on between an authoritarian government and a resistance group. Naomi’s role is gathering intelligence and feeding recommendations to the leader of the resistance. This role seems perfectly suited to her skills and temperament. But then the leader is killed and Naomi finds herself suddenly thrust into his former role as leader of a group that spans many solar systems. She finds herself in a position where everyone is looking to her for guidance and instructions. She must learn to act like a leader, which is a role she never wanted. This happens often in business, but seldom do we get such a behind-the-scenes understanding of what it feels like to be forced into this kind of transition.
To share another strategy for leveraging fiction, one of my clients organizes book clubs among their employees, engaging a local literature professor to lead the discussion on a certain novel. One participant summed it up this way: “We learn how each other thinks, because we all read the same thing, yet have completely different observations about it.” What a great way to build trust and understanding.
Key points include:
- Leadership learning
Thinking beyond your own parameters
Read the full article, Why You Should Drop That Business Book and Read a Work of Fiction Instead, on LinkedIn.
Believe it whether you want to or not, exercise can improve your performance as a leader. Jeffery Perry explains how in this article.
John F. Kennedy once said, “Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.” There is arguably no greater dynamic and creative intellectual activity than personal leadership. Leaders have significant daily demands as they manage teams and engage with internal and external stakeholders. As such, leaders benefit from positive habits that can boost overall effectiveness. Incorporating physical fitness does just that—it can enhance personal leadership, especially in organizational environments fraught with disruption, uncertainty, and change.
While the link between enhanced personal leadership and physical fitness may seem logical, look no further than the general population to see that physical fitness is not universally embraced. According to Harvard Medical School research, over 50% of American adults don’t meet basic activity guidelines of at least 30 minutes most days a week, and over 25% devote no time to active pursuits. While the profile of leaders may not be as dismal, many leaders focus so much time on achieving that they neglect their physical fitness. Extensive travel, team dinners, client entertainment, long work hours, and tight deadlines are often cited as justification for physical fitness placed on the back burner.
Research from the Mayo Clinic and other sources highlight that regular exercise stimulates the body to release proteins, chemicals, and endorphins—the brain’s “feel-good” neurotransmitters. This stimulation enhances key leadership qualities such as energy, confidence, mental sharpness, and stress management. A physical fitness regimen also requires discipline—commitment to develop a plan, follow-through even during challenging times, and accountability. Building discipline muscle (no pun intended) is a metaphor for the demands of personal leadership.
Key points include:
Building discipline muscle
The process of physical fitness
Read the full article, Physical Fitness Can Enhance Personal Leadership, on LeadMandates.com.
Umbrex is pleased to welcome Erica Reischer with Dr. Reischer Coaching. Erica is a clinical psychologist, author, and executive coach. Drawing on over 20 years of experience as a psychologist, business leader, and management consultant with McKinsey & Company, Erica partners with leaders and the organizations they serve to hone leadership skills, enhance teamwork, support organizational change, and optimize workplaces.
In addition to her clinical and coaching work, Erica is a contributing writer for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Psychology Today, The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, and The Atlantic.
Erica holds a B.A. from Princeton University and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in Psychology / Human Development. During her Ph.D. studies at the University of Chicago, she worked with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a pioneer in Positive Psychology and the author of “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.”
Erica lives with her family in Vancouver, BC and the San Francisco Bay Area. She is an avid hiker, swimmer, and skier, as well as an encaustic artist.
She is interested in collaborating on projects involving leadership development, executive coaching, employee well-being, and culture transformation.
Umbrex is pleased to welcome Guilherme Bcheche. Guilherme has already dedicated more than 12 years to supporting leaders and teams in complex strategic and organizational challenges. Having worked for several years at McKinsey & Company leading projects for large corporations around the world, Guilherme is focused on supporting leaders and their businesses in their transformation journeys. He is a professor at Fundação Dom Cabral Business School, where he teaches leadership and strategy. He is a psychoanalyst, executive coach, specialist in entrepreneurship and innovation from Stanford Graduate School of Business and has his masters degree in Consulting and Coaching for Change from Insead with distinction.
He lives in Sao Paulo and spend the weekends in the countryside close to the nature. Guilherme is happy to collaborate on organizational transformation and leadership development projects worldwide.
Umbrex is pleased to welcome Koen Veltman with OrganizationBuilders. Koen is a true believer in business as a force for good. Koen has over ten years of experience as a consultant at McKinsey & Company, Aberkyn, and SparkOptimus. And is the founder of OrganizationBuilders. Building hands-on expertise in over 40 organizations in transformation topics like designing and delivering substantial scale change, organizational design, leadership development, Agile, Lean, strategy to execution, culture change at scale, large re-organzations, and front line customer excellence.
Koen has worked across a broad number of industries and geographies with organizations ranging from 5 people start-ups as well as 250,000 people collectives. Additionally, Koen held a role as COO in a venture, worked at an energy efficiency startup, supported multiple NGOs and is a board member of the non-profit INDEVOR for which he was the founder of INDEVOR consulting. Koen is certified Holacracy Coach (the 11th globally certified coach), a certified MMS coach, level 1 Barrett CTT. Koen has done international project work in Germany, Denmark, UK, Ireland, France, Czech Republic, Uganda, Ethopia, Tunesia, India, the US and lived and worked for 1.5 years in Singapore. He holds an MBA from INSEAD and an MSc in Econometrics and Quantitative Finance from Tilburg University.
Peter Costa shares a lesson from history to illustrate why leadership without management renders a leader ineffective and possibly dangerous.
What do you think of when you see the word “management”?
Probably nothing good. Management seems to have become a dirty word, the antithesis of what a real leader is supposed to be.
I believe it’s time to rethink that view. To be a truly effective leader, you need to develop a full suite of both leadership AND management skills.
Leadership is the act of setting a vision and then bringing people along with you to achieve it. It encapsulates empathy, courage, humility and integrity. Management is about planning, directing, organizing, and monitoring to ensure things go well. It requires competence, diligence, and discipline.
Leadership and management are what a good leader DOES. One without the other is ineffective at best and dangerous at worst. A quick history lesson can illustrate this point.*
It’s almost Memorial Day in the US. For those that may not be familiar with it, this holiday began as a way to remember the service members killed in the US Civil War (1861-65), the bloodiest and most transformational war in this nation’s history. And while we probably spend too much time scouring history’s battlefields trying to understand what makes a great leader, there are some broad parallels between their period and ours that merit a deeper look.
Key areas explored include:
- The leadership of General George McClellan
- The danger of arrogance
- The successful leadership of Ulysses S. Grant
Read the full article, Leadership and Management – you need them both, on LinkedIn.
In this post, Dan Markovitz identifies the weak spots in productivity hacks and explains why they don’t work.
Leaders in organizations are always seeking to improve employee productivity (including their own). All too often, that quest goes no further than time management training provided by the HR department. Those classes cover the pros and cons of Inbox Zero, the Pomodoro technique, the Eisenhower matrix, Getting Things Done, and countless other approaches that tantalize us with visions of the promised land of peak productivity. Given that people are still overwhelmed by work, buried in email, and unable to focus on critical priorities, it’s safe to say that these productivity hacks don’t hack it.
The problem isn’t with the intrinsic logic of any of these approaches. It’s that they fail to account for the simple fact that most people don’t work in isolation. They work in complex organizations defined by interdependencies among people—and it’s these interdependencies that have the greatest effect on personal productivity. You can be an email ninja, but with the explosion of email (not to mention instant messages, Twitter direct messages, Slack messages, and countless other communication tools), you’ll never be fast enough to deal with all the incoming communication. Similarly, your personal urgent/important Eisenhower categories fall apart when the CEO asks you to do stop what you’re doing and handle something right now.
As legendary statistician and management consultant W. Edwards Deming argued in his book Out of the Crisis, 94% of most problems and possibilities for improvement belong to the system, not the individual. I would argue that most productivity improvements belong there as well. Personal productivity systems are certainly useful, but the most effective antidote to low productivity and inefficiency must be implemented at the system level, not the individual level.
Four countermeasures to systemic overload include:
- Tackling tiered daily huddles
- Enabling an equitable distribution of work
- Defining the “bat signal”
- Aligning responsibility with authority
Read the full article, Why Your Productivity Hacks Don’t Hack It, on MarkovitzConsulting.com.
Nora Ghaoui shares an article that identifies how to read the signals that predict what people will do next.
Have you ever been in a situation where something happened, say, a relationship ended, and you thought, “I should have seen it coming”? Would you have wanted to see it earlier so you could do something about it? You can. You can see things coming by paying attention to the clues in people’s behaviour that tell you what they will do next.
Signals in behaviour
I call these clues “weak signals”. They are the things that people say or do that may seem insignificant the first time that you experience them. But they’re not insignificant. They keep coming back, and they get stronger each time, until you reach a situation that requires a reaction.
I once worked with someone who missed an important project review meeting due to illness. Then he missed another due to an urgent medical procedure. Over time, he missed several more meetings. No one thought anything of it besides concern for his health.
But it turned out that he hadn’t been ill at all. He’d created excuses to avoid meetings that would show that he lacked the credentials that he claimed to have. Pretending to be ill was the weak signal for pretending to be qualified. Once he was found out, he was dismissed.
Why do weak signals exist? A person’s behaviour reflects their attitudes, personality, or capabilities – which change slowly, if at all. When we’re with other people we look at their behaviour to determine if they’re friendly, reliable, caring, and so on. We observe their body language, listen to what they say, or watch how they treat other people. We put together an image of who we think a person is, and we refine our image over time as we spend more time with them.
Key points in this article include:
- Observing the signals
- Using the signals
- Creating change
Read the full article, Weak Signals. How to Predict what People Will Do Next, on Veridia.com.
Remote onboarding presents a few new challenges; luckily, Tineke Keesmaat shares an article that offers seven ideas to help leaders transition to a new role.
Leaders transitioning into a new role bring with them fresh ideas and great energy. They want to hit the ground running and make their mark. But, many leaders are wondering how can they do so in the context of today’s workplace?
As the pandemic continues, so too, will our need to work remotely. Leaders are also joining teams where its members are grappling with tremendous uncertainty, and a wide range of unique and highly personal experiences. A recent report found that 2 in 5 Canadian workers say their mental health is worse than before the pandemic. Adding to this a recent McKinsey & Company report suggests 25% of women are considering downshifting their work commitments or even leaving their company altogether. Similar studies are popping up across the globe.
There’s good news. Much of the great thinking around good leadership transitions still hold true in today’s context. You can learn more about these by reviewing practical advice offered by leading consultancies, academic institutions and executive search firms. However, these principals will need to be adjusted for our unprecedented times.
The seven ideas include:
- Setting up to show up
- Connecting at a human level
- Establishing a communication cadence
Read the full article, Remote Onboarding: 7 Ideas To Help Leaders Transition To A New Role, on Tiltco.ca.
Umbrex is pleased to welcome John Long with Satoe Solutions. Jack Long was a consultant at McKinsey focusing on leadership development, organizational transformation, and strategic planning. Following that he as an executive at IDEMIA where he lead integration and transformation, strategic planning, and value creation efforts. Prior to McKinsey, he was an Innovation Fellow at Oxford University leading teams building startups based on University IP. Jack holds a PhD in nanoengineering from Johns Hopkins and spent 8 years on active duty in the Marine Corps, and is currently a Reservist at the Office of Naval Research focusing on AI/ML. He lives in Washington, DC and is happy to collaborate on projects in North America.
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.
Umbrex is pleased to welcome Wendy Richards with MarTel Advisors. Member of the Board for AMC Natural Drinks, Wendy advises this family-held Spanish corporation on international strategy and leadership development. Beyond the boardroom, she builds team cohesion through executive coaching and change management, serving PE and Venture-backed firms.
An experienced Chief Marketing Officer in the investment industry, Wendy’s clients include Makena Capital Management and Altegris Investments. She led telecoms finance for HSBC in London and the design and roll-out of the first digital mobile networks across Europe for AirTouch/Vodafone based in Brussels. Wendy was honored as Fortune’s “Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Business in Europe”.
A McKinsey and Stanford alumna, she is an avid sailor at home on San Francisco Bay and has sailed her 41-foot sloop across the Med and the Caribbean.
Umbrex is pleased to welcome Adriana Mascolli Fontes. Adriana is a former Senior Expert in the Organizations Practice at McKinsey with a focus on Organization and Leadership development. Since leaving the Firm in 2012, she has been collaborating with top boutique leadership consulting groups like Mobius Executive Leadership in designing and delivering leadership development programs. She is a certified Coach (ICF) and holds several certifications in the field of Organization, Culture and Leadership Development.
She spent 11 years at McKinsey, and prior to that 3 years at Monitor Group. She started her career at Banco Itau in Sao Paulo, Brazil and has a bachelor in Civil Engineering.
She has been living in Marin County, in the Bay area with her husband and two high-school children for 2 years. Prior to that, she lived in a sailing boat for 4 years, sailing from Seattle (US) to New Zealand. She speaks fluent English, Portuguese and Spanish. Her Italian is a bit rusty.
Adriana would be delighted to collaborate on projects involving organization, culture and leadership pillars.
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.
Robyn Bolton explains why Visual Thinking (VTS) sessions improve creative problem solving and critical thinking skills and provide major benefits to executives.
“It was quite a sight! A dozen senior executives from a big, conservative financial services firm, all sitting on the floor in front of a painting, talking about what it could mean and why they think that.”
On a typical dreary November day, and Suzi and I were sitting in the café inside Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. She had just left her job as Head of Design Thinking at Fidelity Investments and I was taking a sabbatical before deciding what would be next for my career. Introduced by a mutual friend, we decided to swap stories over lunch and a walk through one of the museum’s special exhibitions.:”
Included in this article:
- The benefits of VTS
- Visual thinking strategies
- How to do VTS
Read the full article, How Looking at Art Can Make You a Better Thinker, Communicator, and Leader, on Medium.
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.
Umbrex is pleased to welcome Ashu Dalvi with South Pointe Strategy. Ashu has spent over 15 years as a consultant with various firms, including A.T. Kearney and Booz Allen Hamilton. He loves working on ambiguous problems and has developed and implemented transformational business strategies for tech, transportation, and non-profit clients. Ashu recently founded South Pointe Strategy, a consultancy that helps clients in all sectors build operating models that support their business ambition. Just prior, he was building out the strategy and operations practice for Slalom Consulting in San Francisco.
Ashu lives in San Francisco with his wife, Margia, and their dog, Maizie. In his free time, you can find him playing flag football and intensely watching University of Michigan basketball and football. Ashu’s favorite part of being a consultant is solutioning with peers and clients; he is happy to partner on U.S.-based projects involving strategic planning, operational improvement, and leadership development.