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You Can't Thrive Unless You Survive. So For Now, Just "Do It!"

Thanks to all of the organizational mavens out there, we've got a good conversation going here about leadership.The whole thing started with a post by Dr. Ellen Weber  about the ever-popular control issues. (I would insist that you read her post but then you might accuse me of...well...)

The conversation then moved rather naturally toward the issue of delegation and being in "it" together. That is, effective managers don't delegate and then walk away, thinking that they don't have any further involvement in the outcome.

That brought in highly-experienced leaders and leader developers like Wally Bock, Galba Bright, and Jim Straup whose article on Situational Leadership helps set the stage for today's conversation. 

How Do I Show The (Managerial) Love When the Place is Falling Apart?Vinylwillsurvive

We've talked a lot about the "people" factor...how managers and employees can look at what level of direction is needed based on a sense of one's abilities and commitment around a given task or project.

But what about the fundamental health of the organization itself? Shouldn't that impact leadership/management at any given moment?

Galba notes as part of his comment:

"One last idea on situational leadership. . . where one adjusts one's approach to the particular individual. . . there is also a macro level, where one leads according to the organisational situation, without considering the needs, preferences and styles of particular individuals, for example in an organisational crisis or turnaround."

This is what Jim Straup refers to, in part, as examining the terrain in order to accurately assess the situation.

Let's say your company or work group is facing extinction because of competition, over-spending, or some other factor.

What kind of leadership do you want then?

My guess is that you want someone who will accurately size up the situation, do what it takes for short-term survival, and then get people together to figure out how to thrive and move ahead. A "caring" manager (or parent, team coach, etc.) who knows what to do in times of trouble just does it. And people under threat or pressure are thankful for it. Concern for long-term development doesn't really pop into mind when long-term may not be an option.

Another way to think about situational leadership:

1. When your assessment is all about building high performing people in a setting with long-term implications, think development. Pay extra attention to the people diagnostic and appropriate level of direction, coaching, and support.

2. When your assessment says that the life of the organization/work group is threatened, think direction, action, survival. Just do it. Live to fight (work) another day.

I'll bet that there are a lot of stories related to the proper use--and misuse-- of situational leadership.
How about sharing some?

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5 Reasons Why "Who You Are" Really Matters


It's not about. . .

. . . a title. That's the role an organization says you're supposed to play. And that can change in a fleeting moment.

This is about who you really are.

Why is that so important?

1. Who You Are determines How you are.

2. How You Are determines the quality and depth of your relationships.

3. The quality and depth of your relationships  determine your ability to mobilize your people--workers, family, or friends--in time of need.

4. The quality of your relationships  determine  the breadth and depth of help you'll receive in your time of need.

5. Who You Are determines your brand while you're alive and your legacy afterward.

Take time today to build a firm foundation that won't shake and crack with the first sign of adversity.

I hope that provides at least 5 good reasons for action.

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Managers: Even When You Delegate, You're Still In It Together

9884730_480x360 One of the joys experienced by a new manager is having an array of people to call on to "get it done."

One of the challenges experienced by a new manager is having an array of people to call on to "get it done."

I can't think of a role that's more challenging than managing, at any level. One of the traps, though, is a mistaken sense of what delegation is all about.

It's the successful manager's job to:

1.Help people perform.

That means you have to spend time focusing on the people who do the task, not just the task.

Who needs help? How much? How much is too much? How often do you need to follow up to see how things are going? When you follow up, what do you really need to do to be helpful? (It may be to get out of the way, explain how to do something in detail, or something in between).

Check out the post and comments on How Does Assertiveness Influence Leader Effectiveness.

2. Invest in people, not use them.

We agonize over how to invest our earnings so that we reap personal financial growth.

When we delegate are we asking, "How can I invest in this person during this task in order to benefit all of us over the long run?"

Or is the question "What can this person do for me?"

Each question leads to very different outcomes. One is personal and organizational growth. The other is a sense of using and being used.

3. Be alongside, in front of, or close behind--but never absent.

No one--no one--is successful alone. However, it's really easy and unbelievably common to fail by thinking we can do it alone.

So the best managers I know live out a model that clearly shares responsibility. They provide direction and support; their people ask questions easily as a result of the "we're in this together" atmosphere.

What would you add from your own experience?

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How Does Assertiveness Influence Leader Effectiveness?

Assertive_1 What would you say is the first key skill of a leader who hopes to balance over-assertive and under-assertive in order to  lead from between their two extremes?

That was the question posed by Dr. Ellen Weber in a recent Brain-Based Business post. Ellen pointed to some research by
Ames and Flynn  who observed that when leaders walked somewhere between the lines of too much and two little assertiveness… they managed better … according to workers.

That led to some conversation about the situational nature of management as well as the terminology used to describe how managers act.

Galba Bright quickly noted the situational issue and Wally Bock weighed in with his thoughts on the terminology, especially the use of the word "assertiveness"  vs. "controlling."

I began to comment and then realized by the end that there was probably a full-blown post there. So here goes:

What About Over-Assertiveness, Under-Assertiveness and  Leadership?

Ellen mentioned that some of her conversations about the topic take place in Ireland. Since I've spent a lot of time living and working in Europe, I've had to get used to the fact that when people there talk about management and related behavior, they do it a lot more conversationally using everyday language. Quite frankly, I find that the absence of behavioral jargon can make it a lot easier and more natural to discuss topics whose buzzwords can build tension.

In the U.S., there is a recent history of attempting to carefully delineate behaviors using very specific language. This is, in part, the result of approaching human behavior as a science. Since behavior is, indeed, quite situational, this approach serves at least three purposes that I can see:

1. It provides a common language that, when used appropriately and above board, highlights nuance and helps one understand how specific actions impact one's effectiveness.

2. It provides specific definition of attributes that can lead to promotion, rewards, or dismissal. Which means that it also makes dismissal more explainable. (Likewise, terminology can become great fodder for one's attorney in the event of a dismissal).

3. It lends a "scientific" aura to common-sense training and development which, while fully understood as desirable by most reasonable managers, can't be bought and paid for without the "proof" that comes from a smathering of statistics and a few 6-syllable words that prove how deeply meaningful those statistics must really be.

I believe the real issue is situational effectiveness.

For example, if I don't know what to do or how to do it, then my boss has to be very directive and explanatory. If my task is something that I've done well a million times, then I want to know what the deadline is and I'll deliver it. Nothing more. If I need something along the way, I want a manager who I can go to for advice or re-direction. In the first case, the manager manages me closely. In the second, the manager is my consultant.

The reason that Ames and Flynn saw what they did is really rather simple: Since most of us as workers are at least somewhat competent and, hopefully, somewhat mature, any behavior that operates at either extreme will be seen as:

1. Unnecessarily overbearing and somewhat demeaning

2. Unreasonably absent of relationship and connection, and therefore not engaged. Or overly focused on 'relationship and happiness' to the exclusion of completing the task successfully.

Anything in between will be close enough to respectfully  engage one's employees as well as create an atmosphere that invites questions and help, when needed.

Then What is Effective Leadership?

The desire and ability to meet other people where they are and then spend the right amount of time helping them get where they need to go.

Sometimes it's a long walk together. Other times a brief conversation and a nudge in the right direction.

What does a person need to manage in such an effective way?

1. A high degree of self-awareness regarding one's innate tendencies toward one extreme or the other

2. The desire and ability to manage those tendencies in a way that serves the needs and performance of others

3. The humility to pause regularly and ask "How am I doing?"

4. The decency to listen to the answers.

5. The wisdom to make selfless changes as a result.

That's my take, minus the jargon.

What's yours?

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Good Management Training Means Good Follow-up

Roundtable Performance improves quickly when you have good content that leads to real conversations by effective managers committed to making behavioral change.   

When I said that in Management Training... , I didn't realize the reaction it would have, especially from the experienced members of the management and leadership community. In fact, I paused to write this in the midst of creating follow-up activities for the managers in the workshop referenced in that post.

Wally Bock jumped into the conversation with a nifty little resource titled How to Set Up a Roundtable. It describes one way to continue conversations about personal and organizational effectiveness, regardless of the specific training involved. And, it's a good model to use without having had a training event. It simply makes sense to create a relaxed structure in which to continually discuss things of importance to any group of managers.

Thanks, Wally!

Accuracy Matters: Another Good Reason to Have A Conversation

We'd like to think that how we experience work, leadership, or life is almost identical to the experience of the people around us.

Even though we know it isn't true.

The only way I know of to check the accuracy of my own perceptions is through an honest discussion of how things are going and what other people are experiencing. (Another good reason for the "Roundtable" idea).

If you need a spark of motivation to latch onto the potential innacuracies of sole interpretation, check out Mark and Shawn's article at Anecdote.

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Lead Well and Prosper While Coolhunting

Books Two Books Worth Reading

The beautiful thing about being a good manager is that you don't have to be great. There is so much mediocrity that being "good" will vault you way ahead of the pack. The difficulty is that it's not easy to be good. If it were, everyone would be good. If you make a commitment to act, however, you will succeed.

Those words are from Nick McCormick at BeGoodVentures and come from his handy  book  Lead Well and Prosper: 15 Successful Strategies for Becoming a Good Manager.

What this book is: A useful handbook for new supervisors or managers who need to understand how to view their role and their people.

The author uses two characters, Joe and Wanda, to highlight typical situations facing managers and their employees. He then provides simple and useful guidelines for what to do (and not) in each situation. The advice is practical.

What this book is not: A deep tome on the psychological and sociological underpinnings of leadership.

How you might use it: This is one of those books that I'd hand out to new managers, ask them to have a quick read, and then sit down and review each of the brief chapters periodically. It's a useful resource to help focus and structure regular follow-up and coaching conversations. The information is practical and there is more in this brief volume (93 pages) than one might imagine at first glance.

The graphics may seem too simplistic for some in this digital age of sophisticated media. However, the lessons presented are ones that people at every organizational level are confronted with daily.

Coolhunting is an entirely different experience and targets those of us who are fascinated by social networks, how they work, and what's "cool." Authors Peter Gloor and Scott Cooper have really done their homework when it comes to showing people how to go about  accomplishing the tag line, "Chasing Down the Next Big Thing."

I have to admit that I was captivated by the way they laid out relationships, trends, and technology--and then provided practical guidance to go "Coolhunting" on your own.

If  you are at all interested in innovation, you'll see how to find and visualize emerging innovation in a wide array of settings. For those who think that innovation is a nebulous concept, this could be a big help.

Happy reading!

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Note: Complimentary copies of the above-mentioned books were forwarded to me. There was no compensation received nor any promise of favorable comment.

Photo attribution: seclog.de

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Be Still. You Can't Be Engaged All The Time

Backporch Sometimes it pays to just stop.


Because we're not made to "go" all the time.

If you're a regular reader here (and I do hope you didn't delete me from the Great RSS Reader of Life), you may have noticed that my last post was on June 10. This after a series of mostly 5-day-a-week posts since September of last year.

Listen to Your Body, Mind, and Heart

After consecutive days of running workshops, doing some very difficult 360 feedback sessions, and then working through the middle weekend to tie everything together, I stopped. Not for lack of energy, but because of a total absence of focus. So much had accumulated in my mind and calendar that everything came together in a big blur.

So instead of "toughing it out" I just stopped and let it go until things became clear again.

What I Learned (or Re-learned!)

1. Fear is a hideous enemy. Almost as bad as professional narcissism. I began to fear that if I stopped posting, I would never have any more readers. And if I stopped answering the office phone, my clients would never want to work with me again.

Think about the craziness in that. How much does the "never again" fantasy drive us to do things that don't need to be done or cause us to view our lives in distorted ways?

2. If you've been honest with people all along, they'll understand.

I, uh, didn't lose any clients. In fact, more professional engagements came in. When I told current clients what my schedule had been and that I needed a short break to properly sort things out, everyone said "Well, that makes sense." And the emails that arrived from readers asking "Are you ok?" proved that blogging is about relationships and not just about information.

3. Lack of focus is a message that your priorities are out of line. Listen to the message. You won't like it at first, but take heed.

I spent the past week working in the yard, caring for people close to me, and thinking little about leadership, organizations, and professional advancement.Backyard1

It was counter to the messages that we get from "the world." It was absolutely the right thing to do. (Take a moment to read Decision Making: Confused or Conflicted?)

4. Productivity 24/7 is vastly overrated and probably a contributor to lower productivity.

Well, publishing that statement could be the professional kiss of death. But I doubt it. Any sane person recognizes the need for refreshment and relaxation. The truly successful actually act on it.

Recommendation: While I wasn't blogging, working, or reading posts, my friend The  Coyote at Slow Leadership  suggested that we LIghten Up.

Sound advice. 

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Listen to My Leadership Interview on The Cranky Middle Manager Show

Microphone Shameless self-promotion is not one of my strengths. It always seems easier for me to promote other people and their ideas.

However: His Crankiness, Wayne Turmel, emailed to let me know that his podcast interview of me is now up and available at--where else--The Cranky Middle Manager. Or, you can click here.

Wayne is not only a funny guy and a good interviewer, but he's the only guy I know who can get away with a lead-in to Leadership by talking about Johnny Appleseed.

Special thanks to Wally Bock and Dr. Ellen Weber for making the connections that helped this happen.

We covered lots of Leadership ground in the interview...let me know what you think.

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Management Training: What I Learned From Participants

49584677m In the middle of conducting today's workshop, I learned something. It was something that I had seen before but forgotten.

Why forgotten?

Because I don't see it very often.

The participating managers were totally--totally--involved in giving each other candid, useful, feedback on the impact of each other's presentations. Normally, I have to provide the gutsy, nuts-and-bolts observations and suggestions for how to improve. Today, they did it for each other. And with a clear sense of mutual goodwill, receptivity, and willingness to try out new ways of doing things more effectively. Then, checking with each other on how it went.

This is a workshop leader's dream. More importantly, it says volumes about their relationships and why they're good at what they do. The ability to be real with each other clearly impacts their ability to execute on-the-job.

Lisa Haneberg did a post today from ASTD on The Aim Of Management Training. She asks some good questions about what's really important when it comes to training programs and trainers' skills.

Some of the answers to her questions were revealed today:

Performance improves quickly when you have good content that leads to real conversations by effective managers committed to making behavioral change.   

What's your experience with management training effectiveness?

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Are You In A Data-Driven, Presentation-Making Company?

Send_help Today I'm doing a workshop for a new group of managers who want to bump up their "presentation" capabilities.

Here's the thing. The company characterizes itself as "data-driven" with most of the data exchanged through stand-up presentations.

This isn't a unique situation. The easy part is actually helping the participants become more effective at telling their stories, understanding their audiences, and knowing when and how to use effective graphics.

The harder part is helping managers to understand the best situations in which to use presentations. That's especially true when the culture has established a way of doing things. Presentations are just one way of communicating...and they aren't necessarily the most effective way in many situations.

So I think some additional help is needed and I'd welcome your participation.

Will You Help? Here's How...

Below are some questions. I'll take your responses and share them with the group as well as the sponsoring executive. I think it could prove helpful to share experience other than my own, especially from people who are living this every day.

You don't need to mention your organization's name, but do share your job title and department (Marketing, IT, HR, Finance...)

I'll collect the responses from the comments box now through Thursday at 7 a.m. And, I'll let you know in a post exactly how you impacted the managers.

These should get at the right kind of information:

  1. In what kind of industry do you work?
  2. How large is the organization and is it global?
  3. How would you describe the use of presentations in your organization?
  4. What makes that approach effective/ineffective
  5. As one who makes presentations and/or listens to them, what advice would  you offer to improve their effectiveness and frequency?

I'm really looking forward to your responses!

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It's Time to Keep It Fresh and Build Someone Up

I'm off to do a series of workshops in Albany, NY, through Thursday and a 360 feedback session in NYC on Friday. My hope is to bring experiences from the workshops into the conversation here--as long as I can stay awake long enough at night to do the posts!

Are You Ready for a Dab of Freshness in Your Life?

In the midst of preparing to head out, I realized that this workshop--Presenting With Impact-- is something I have been doing for 28 years. It's one that I had designed while living in the Middle East and Europe, and has accounted for 30% of ongoing business relationships over the years.

It was designed originally for clients who do business internationally, and continues to include the most effective ways of designing and communicating with diverse groups around the globe.

I still get buzzed just before each one starts. Why? Because there are fresh questions, new participants with fascinating backgrounds and engaging personal styles, and new relationships as a result.

Ann Michael started me thinking about this with her Keeping It Fresh post. Ann talks about deleting blogs  she's been reading if they start to feel stale and repetitive. (Hmm. I'll have to check the stats and see if she's been around here recently). She really caught my attention with a question:

"How important is it to balance being consistent, and thereby fulfilling audience expectations, with staying fresh and relevant?"

Regardless of your "audience," what are you doing to keep it fresh and stay relevant? (Be sure to let Ann know).

One Satisfying Solution: Build Others UpGhana2

I realized that the Presenting With Impact workshop is always exciting because:

1. It involves just about every aspect of successful communication and relationship building. Good presentations are about "talking with," not "talking at."

2. It's the only time I get to see results immediately. Other engagements involving large scale changes and  leadership development are exercises in delayed gratification.

3. It's totally devoted to building others up. In a world--and often a business environment--where people want to seem bigger by trying to make others smaller, this is a way to watch others grow. Right before your eyes.

While putting this together I saw that Steve Farber is about to kick off a series of posts with the theme GTY (Greater Than Yourself). That sounds like a good building-up source and some really worthwhile reading to help steer people in that direction.

When it comes to staying fresh, what could be better than finding ways to impact and build the lives of others?

What will you today to help make that happen?

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Photo attribution: www.delasalle.org.uk

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Even More on 360 Degree Feedback: Readers Speak

Sphere1 360 Feedback: It's About The Conversations That Follow prompted a series of thoughtful comments and reactions. They were so dead-on that I thought it would be useful to continue the topic by extending the thoughts of those who took time to weigh in.

This post will be a little bit longer than usual because I've listed a sample set of process steps near the end.

More Good Reasons to Use 360 Degree Feedback

1. Jim Stroup at Managing Leadership points out that "one-on-one verbal conversations can be problematic, because people want to be helpfully critical, but don't want their observations to become the basis for a confrontation."

The ability to start by responding in writing--then having a follow up conversation--allows both people time to think through things more clearly and have a discussion that's focused on the performance, not the person. And having a third party available to help the discussion is useful, if needed.CA

2. CA writes about a small business VP who wanted to do a 360 but said that comments about the CEO were off limits.

Well, 360's are used to provide feedback to specific people about their personal impact. So, it wouldn't be useful to comment about a third party anyway. I would wonder, though, about an atmosphere that intentionally stifled the impact of people related to performance. And I think a CEO would fall into that category!

3. CA also noted that it's "not personal." I understand what is meant by that, but the fact of the matter is, it's always personal. At least I've never seen anyone totally separate "themselves" from the feedback and remain detached.

The good news: More often than not, 360's give recipients positive information about areas in which they are exceeding expectations and performing even better than they realized.

4. Robyn McMaster added a powerful and easy-to-implement step with this:

"Ask the person what she likes most about your leadership style. And then ask what style the manager could use to engage more of "my" talents [employee].

My sense is that this is a two way street and that the manager can grow through this experience as well as the employee."

5. Dr. Ellen Weber, Robyn's associate at Brain-Based Business , says:

"I love the idea of discussion to follow the data -- and yet I have reservations when I do not know how the exchange will be facilitated.

. . .what about the guy who interprets the data funny to begin with or the gal who comes in with an agenda. Too many people are not getting feedback that doubles as a growth plan. Instead they get zapped with somebody's data. When possible, I like to create feedback as a process. . ."

Having a solid process is a hallmark of good 360 implementation.

Here Is One Process You Can Use

I'm in the middle of a series of 360s for a client company now. While this is not the only way to do 360's, it's what was decided and agreed to. And it is going well.

1. The sponsoring (in this case CEO) executive meets with the people who (s)he would like to receive 360 degree feedback. The purpose of the meeting is to explain what it is, why it's being done (developmental plan), and the logistics.

2. If the people involved don't already know me, I'm introduced and explain my role.

3. There are three constituencies who provide feedback:
a. The boss
b. Direct Reports
c. Peers/Colleagues. These are people outside of the reporting chain who rely on the recipients for information sharing, coordination, resources, etc. These people collectively reflect a manager's willingness and ability to work with and influence those who are important to a company's success but who don't provide the pay raise or deliver the immediate team results. Note: I always work with the individuals to designate who might be included here. This can sometimes be a revealing discussion in itself and offer some "Aha's."

3. All of the 360's I use are done online.

4. When the results are complete, I send them to the sponsoring executive to read. They are not to be discussed and I've not had anyone to date violate that.

5. I meet with the sponsoring executive to review and help interpret the developmental meaning of the data. We have a lengthy discussion until we're both satisfied that the possible/likely meaning within the data have been identified.

5. I then meet one-on-one with each of the recipients to review the results (which they have received and read). I start by asking them their "take" on the meaning, then we work through each of the elements together.

6. Each recipient prepares a personal development plan--albeit cursory--to discuss with the sponsor.

7. Then, each meets with the sponsor (CEO) and discusses ways to reinforce or improve, depending upon the issue. The sponsor is coached in advance NOT to ask for a shopping list of changes. The magic number is 3. If an executive can meaningfully improve 3 important aspects of organizational life, that's a huge win.

8. Depending on the agreement, either the sponsor, myself, or both of us follow up on progress. This adds importance to the activity and allows for re-direction as well as finding ways to help the individuals involved learn what they need to learn.

9. Sometimes another 360 is done to measure progress, sometimes not. The interesting thing about a second 360 is that expectations change. How people are "scored and commented on" differs from the first to the second. The expectations of those filling out the responses usually increases. They figure that if the executive took their first feedback to heart and had a chance to work on it, that they should certainly have improved. So when there is a second 360, it's more important to look at the behavioral comments than at the numerical scores.

Please join in with a comment on any aspect of 360 Feedback that you'd like the community to think about. This conversation is meaningful to a number of people.

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Photo Attribution: gregegan.customer.netspace.net.au

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