Posted tagged ‘Vision’

Completing the Leadership Assessment

June 29, 2010

As with all interviews, and particularly interviews of this type, the key is to get to know the candidate. Therefore, as the interviewer, you must be engaging and energetic. Yet, you must also be a good listener.

Always take notes during the interview. It will allow you to “mentally record” the candidate’s responses and then review the comments as a collective conversation to give you a broader perspective of the candidate’s philosophies. Look for consistencies as much as you look for inconsistencies. At this level of experience, past performance is truly indicative of future performance.

Taking notes also help to prevent blurring the candidates. Often, candidates share similar philosophies in certain areas. Remember, though, that it is the total package that you are engaging, so the intersection and amalgam of a candidate’s management philosophies are critical to your assessment.

So in the end, what was the value of the leadership profile assessment? After all I was not familiar with the company and its needs other than a cursory understanding.

There were several values.

Because, I was not attached to the outcome of the interviews and would not have to contemplate working with the winning candidate on a daily basis, I was able to retain objectivity more easily.  I found this liberating as it allowed me to assess leadership styles more openly.

Second, the context of my assessment could be a little less traditional. I was able to identify the various leadership styles and my presentation to my client could be couched in a more meaningful and, I believe, more elegant way.

That is, I was able to answer a couple of core questions.

  • Does the candidate understand the leadership role?
  • Does the candidate understand strategy, tactical planning and what is necessary to run an organization?
  • What is the candidate’s leadership style? (My client could then decide if it fit the “heart of the assignment.”)

Somewhat surprisingly – at least to me, the five candidates represented five different management styles. And each of these styles would be appropriate in a particular situation.

This reaffirmed to me the very first lesson of interviewing – you must understand the heart of the assignment before beginning this process.

What to Evaluate When Hiring Executives

June 16, 2010

There are certain items that are prerequisites when hiring an executive. Ideally, the candidate should be either knowledgeable in the industry or the skills that are required by the organization to fulfill its mission.

Typically, when I enter the hiring process, the candidates have been vetted in these areas. What I look for are the leadership qualities that are invariably required for success.

Here’s my Top 10:

(1) Positive Energy: Staff always takes their cue from the person on top. If that person isn’t excited about coming to work, every staff member will be affected by that malaise.

(2) Energize Others: Effective leaders need to motivate and inspire.

(3) The “Edge”: This is a term borrowed from Jack Welch. It speaks to the ability to make tough decisions

(4) Vision: Any effective plan starts with a direction. You can’t lead people unless you know to where you are leading them. Part of this skill is the ability to “see around the corners,” and anticipate what may occur and manage for these eventualities.

(5) Execution Skills: The effective leader needs to help people identify the right tactics, sequencing and hold them accountable for delivering results.

(6) Passion: This is a higher level of positive energy. It’s more about a deep and resounding commitment to the client, the staff, the shareholders and the work.

(7) Crisis Management: Crises happen and they happen to everyone. A leader must be planning oriented, possess a cool head and be able to take charge when everyone else is losing focus.

(8) Authenticity: Leaders must be true to their own selves.  This trait also addresses the leader’s ability to recognize his or her strengths and weaknesses and compensate for both.

(9) Ability to Learn: More than ever, today’s leader must be able to learn about their industry, their people and the world around them.

(10) Commitment to Teach: The fundamental role of leadership is to grow the next generation of leaders. Patience and a desire to educate are therefore core to the effective leader.

This list is not sequenced by importance and, naturally, the degree of strength in any area is relative to the “heart of the assignment.”

You can be efficient with things but you can only be effective with people

May 2, 2010

I really love my clients…they are all so eclectic and so varied. They have a unique way of thinking and my role as their guide is always interesting, stimulating and challenging.

This past week presented an unusual opportunity and I wanted to share it with you. It reminded me of one of my favorite management aphorisms — “You can be efficient with things but you can only be effective with people.”

This particular CEO is remarkably gifted. He can see both the vision of where he wishes to go and he knows the steps he must take to get there. When someone is this gifted, he or she tends to move faster than those around him. This particular leader is busy – no make that very busy. He’s always onto the next plan and how to lead the team there. Fortunately, he builds his team with equally fast thinkers and implementers so he is very effective in producing results.

But when he does demos of his products, he speeds through them. You can almost sense a palpable catching of the breath on the other side of the web ex or go to meeting demo as his audience tries to keep up. And frankly they can’t…which brings us to today’s aphorism.

Efficiency is about time, effectiveness is about getting the result that you want.

You can speed up equipment, you can accelerate a process but no matter what you try, people will ALWAYS learn at their own pace. Understanding this human element is critical to being effective whether it be in presentation, motivation, education or just plain-old discussion…and it certainly applies to every relationship that is worth building.

“You can be efficient with things but you can only be effective with people.”

Rethinking Overseas Technical Support

July 15, 2009

After nearly 25 years as a PC, I became a Mac late last month.

I didn’t make the switch so I could grow my hair long – bedsides it’s probably too late for that – and I discarded my tie in favor of open collars long ago. The Mac just seemed easier and besides, my son, Eli, was lobbying me to switch for quite some time.

And while the adjustment has been pretty stress free, there are some moments…which brings us to tonight’s tale.

Perhaps one of the most maligned groups in the IT world is the overseas tech support team. People say that those from across the globe may be more difficult to understand and culturally, are not in tune with an American’s way of thinking and approaching an issue. However, if my most recent experience is any indication, it may be time to reconsider this perspective.

My friend, Alan, at Microsoft tells me that the technical support world is changing. The shift is to more online chat – and less telephone conversation. There are a lot of reasons for this. Online chat allows supervisors to more quickly review calls for quality and the transcripts of these calls are much simpler to access.

Anyway, back to our story.

I had purchased an application for offline storage called Mozy. I had heard good things about it and one of my colleagues at a client was a strong proponent.

One of the differences in the Mac world is that when you click on an application icon, sometimes the only thing that opens is the thin ribbon for the application on top of the screen. In the case of Mozy, it also opens a screen to show you what it is backing up. My previous orientations with PCs had taught me that the screen that opens is indeed the application itself…so I never noticed the ribbon.

This led me to believe that the application’s client had never loaded and so I could never set preferences or schedule the backups. Naturally, I made a call to technical support.

I’m not writing about the fact that the two people that I worked with were courteous or knowledgeable or patient. What impressed me was that I received personalized, professional e-mails with new suggestions every day. It felt like these two professionals were focused solely on my issue – and that they were more committed to its resolution than I was.

It took a little more than a week for me to realize that the “problem” was likely not a problem and simply my unfamiliarity with the Mac interface. And while I learn new things about Apple each day, the most important thing that I may have learned is that international boundaries are likely not what separates quality from mediocrity. More appropriately, it is corporate culture, professional training, personal commitment, outstanding character traits and appropriate reward systems that are the differentiators.

So Sandeep and Mohammed, here is a shout out for an exceptional job. Well done – and thanks for this important reminder and lesson.

How the Obama Administration Motivates Behaviors

May 26, 2009

The Time Magazine article was extremely instructive in helping us to understand the behavioral science oriented steps being taken by the Obama administration. In this post we’ll focus on a number of them. Specifically, they are:

  1. Supplying knowledge
  2. Making it easy
  3. Creating social norms
  4. Legislating the activity

According to the Time Magazine article, studies suggest that better information can help us make better choices. This information can be disseminated in the forms of public service announcements (PSA’s) or appeals from well respected figures (remember our discussion about the use of Hubs in building communities) and even serial dramas.

What this means is that aggressive rules for disclosure and clarity will likely result in people making more informed and better choices. Documenting best practices will also produce meaningful results.

The second way to influence behavior is to make it easy for those who wish to make the choice that you wish them to make. This is why default options – opt-out instead of opt-in – are very successful. The push to create an electronic health record (EHR) is one step along the path of making generic drugs our default prescription of choice.

The creation of social norms is yet another way to influence what we choose. An appeal to conformity is very effective as we are a herdlike species. If our peers are obese, we are more comfortable choosing to be that way. What works is creating a sense that choosing not to participate in an effort sets us apart from social norms and therefore, we will take steps to be in sync with our peers. This is a technique that has been used successfully even in forwarding goals that are inappropriate or morally wrong (think McCarthyism).

The last factor that the Time Magazine article addresses is what happens when a nudge is insufficient. At that point, a strategy of making something mandatory is very useful. That’s why there is interest in taxing undesirable behaviors such as cigarettes, alcohol and even trans-fats consumption and subsidizing desirable behaviors such as weatherizing a home or the purchase of fuel efficient cars.

Now, when we hear a new initiative being proposed by the Obama Administration, our awareness to the work of the behavioral scientists will be present. Let’s hope that these efforts though are used to move us in the right directions.

In the ensuing posts, we’ll look at like some of the other models and variants that allow us to influence others.

Understanding the Science of Change

May 22, 2009

I have always been a big believer that the universe has a tendency to bring ideas, concepts and even people to you when you need them to be in front of you. When that occurs in my life, after I finally recognize that it is happening – and yes, sometimes it takes me a while to notice — I begin to immerse myself in the idea or get to know that person better.

Lately, a new concept has been showing up and so over the next few posts, I’m going to write about it. I’m also going to read about it and share what I learn along the way.

In the April 13th, 2009 edition of Time Magazine, there was an article by Michael Grunwald called “How Obama is Using the Science of Change.” The article cited the work of behavioral scientist Robert Cialdini who found that that the most powerful motivator was that “people want to do what they think others will do.” Cialdini is the author of the best seller “Influence.” (For what its worth, Cialdini is the name that keeps popping up…more on that in the next few posts)

According to Time, Obama leans heavily on the work of the behavioral scientists to understand what makes people tick and then, using this knowledge, he intends to spur behavioral change throughout the country. He’s leveraging what he learned about people to move forward his agenda on the economy, healthcare and energy.

The power of these nudges is huge. For example, is there a difference in the number of people who participate in a 401 K plan if they have to sign up or would that number change if they were signed up already and had to opt out? Well, a 2001 study showed that only 36% of women joined a 401K plan when they had to sign up for it…but when they had to opt out, 86% participated.

The implications of using behavioral science in our business and personal lives are huge. This notion affects sales, marketing, management, leadership and even how we lead our communities or exist within our families.

So how is the Obama Administration using what they have learned? Consider the way Americans received the $116 billion in payroll tax cuts from the stimulus package. Obama chose NOT to send one lump sum check even if that would have put the money in the hands of Americans faster. His administration was concerned that a lump sum check might be viewed as a windfall and deposited in a bank account instead of being spent to rev up the economy. Instead, the money is being released through decreased payroll withholding. Smaller amounts spread over time are more likely to be spent. The idea is to subtly nudge us to spend the extra cash.

Make no mistake – this is a radical departure from the way that we have let the free market dictate how things work. Some might call this “manipulation,” but to change our ingrained behaviors, this might be necessary. And we may discover that behavioral science is compatible with free market thinking as it may prove to be an accelerator in how we interact with the free markets.

The Time magazine article goes on to highlight several elements that help us to change behavior. And that will be the subject of the next post.

Keeping Your Balance

February 16, 2009

As I mentioned in an earlier post, it appears that President Obama is getting quite an education from both the Democrats and the Republicans. This type of education will hopefully result in the President learning how to keep his balance.

The life of a leader is always a balancing act but never more so than during a transition. Uncertainty and ambiguity can be crippling. One does not know what one does not know. Keeping one’s balance is a key transition challenge.

It is essential that the new leader avoid these seven traps.

1)      Riding off in all directions. You must focus yourself on what is important.

2)      Undefended Boundaries. It is important to establish boundaries around what you are willing and not willing to do. Otherwise bosses, peers, and direct reports will take all that you have to give.

3)      Brittleness. The uncertainty inherent in transitions breeds rigidity and defensiveness, especially in new leaders with a high need for control. The likely result will be over commitment to a failing course of action.

4)      Isolation. Isolation can occur because you do not take the time to make the right connections, perhaps by relying on a few people, on “official” information or, by discouraging people from sharing bad news with you.

5)      Biased Judgment. This difficulty manifests itself as over commitment to a failing course of action because of ego and credibility issues, confirmation bias (the tendency to focus on information that confirms your beliefs and filter out that which does not), self-serving illusions (a tendency for your personal stake in a situation to cloud your judgment), and optimistic overconfidence or underestimation of the difficulties associated with your preferred course of action. Vulnerability to these biases increases in high stakes, uncertain, ambiguous situations in which emotions can run high.

6)      Work Avoidance. The leader avoids making a tough call by choosing to bury him or herself in other work. This causes tougher problems to become even tougher.

7)      Going over the top. All these traps can generate dangerous levels of stress. When stress is too high it becomes counterproductive.

To avoid these traps the author recommends following the leadership transition program outlined in this document, creating and enforcing personal disciplines, and building support systems at home and at work that help you maintain balance.

Personal disciplines that should be considered are

  • Planning to Plan
  • Deferring Commitments until you are certain that you have time to fulfill the commitment
  • Setting aside time for hard work by prioritizing and eliminating distractions so as to concentrate on what needs to be done
  • “Going to the balcony” and allowing yourself to step out and distance yourself so that the problem may be perceived in a different light
  • Focusing on the process of influencing others through consultation
  • Checking in with yourself to privately reflect on the situation.
  • Recognizing when to take a break in order to reenergize yourself.

Building your Support Systems means getting your personal office set-up, stabilizing the home front as your spouse and family are transitioning too, and building your advice and counsel network. This network should include people who can guide you on technical issues, such as expert analysis of technologies, markets and strategies; cultural interpreters who will help you understand the culture; and political counselors who will help you deal with political relationships.


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