Join the conversation:

Posts

Diversity in Counsel … Unity in Command

March 14, 2014

Alfred Sloan, when he ran General Motors in the 1920s and 1930s, would refuse to make a decision at a meeting if no one could argue a strong case against what was being proposed. He felt that if no one had any objections to what was being decided, it was because they had not thought long and hard enough about the question under consideration.

Alfred Sloan understood that the best ideas — along with the best decisions — are forged in the crucibles of healthy conflict. If there are no objections leading up to a decision, then either people just aren’t trying hard enough or your team isn’t working on hard enough problems. Clear thinking, innovation, and good decisions depend on diverse perspectives and opposing points of view. 

Healthy conflict can be a tense arena. It takes bold leaders to create a safe space where everyone can be heard. And it takes confident followers to speak their mind even when they hold a minority point of view.

Read More

Play Hard. Play Fair. Nobody Hurt. Simple rules for great meetings and teams

March 7, 2014

Working together is hard. Running an effective meeting can be even harder. One of the challenges is that everyone wants to be heard. To make it even more challenging, not everyone speaks up.

Setting a few ground rules is one of the surest ways to get everyone engaged while producing amazing results. Let it be known that you expect full engagement and everyone to be pulling in the same direction. My favorite set of ground rules comes out of the “New Games” movement from the 70’s. Their motto was Play Hard. Play Fair. Nobody Hurt. I can’t think of a better set of guiding principles for great meetings and vibrant teams.

Read More

Mentors are everywhere, you just need to know what to look for

February 28, 2014

Success can be finicky. For those who have made it big, the real reasons for their success are rarely the things they remember and write about. The building blocks of success are always much more subtle and nuanced.

This is where mentors come in.

In our quest for growth, progress, and success, we have this latent desire for someone who will take us under their wing and co-pilot our journey from the mailroom to the corner office. Or, more realistically, we imagine a relationship with a mentor who meets with us once or twice a month over a long period of time and imparts wisdom like a college professor working through a syllabus.

It doesn't work that way.

Read More

Attention Startups: Build the Team First

February 19, 2014

In typical entrepreneurial circles — business schools, incubators, venture capital firms — nascent company leaders are relentlessly challenged with two questions:

  1. What is your idea or product?
  2. Who is your market?

While these questions are important, they fail to paint the whole picture. No product makes it to market as originally conceived. Further, no company survives for very long with one product. This means that, even during the earliest days of a company’s existence, there is something more fundamental to a startup’s success than the product idea.

For companies that survive, there is a current stirring just below the surface while ideas are becoming products and products are coming to market.

Read More

The Rise of the Introverts

February 19, 2014

Jennifer Kahnweiler was recently interviewed by the American Management Association.

I am often asked why we are hearing so much about introverts. “They are everywhere”, someone told me recently. No, they have always been everywhere but now you are noticing their existence…

I call it the “rise of the introverts”. Part of it is the influence of the new wave of leadership where people are not command and control anymore. There’s more research coming out that says that people who are more humble, quiet and calm tend to get more results without a lot of noise, with those loud rattling of the sabers.

Read More

To Sell Is Human

February 14, 2014

Daniel Pink is a master of the art of the amplification of curated research. Like his kindred spirit, Malcolm Gladwell, Pink has taken keen insights in real life, organized them into a theme, woven the theme together with interesting and germane research, and capped it all off with regular doses of great advice.

This is not a book about sales — at least not in the classic sense. Instead, To Sell Is Human is a book for people who want to improve other’s lives and make the world a better place. I’m guessing that includes just about all of us.

Read More

Employee Talent Hiding in Plain Sight

February 11, 2014

We have a tendency to think that past performance is an indicator of future results. And yet, we know this isn’t true in other realms. The financial industry warns us with every earnings call and SEC filing that past performance is not an indicator of future results. However, in building our organizations and in leading others we make exactly this mistake.

We can use Matthew McConaughey’s career as a lens to explore how someone’s potential might be hiding in plain sight. McConaughey had some early career success and seemed to be coasting on a wave of celebrity. He was popular, no doubt, but deemed only a mediocre talent by most critics.

In 2009 – 2010 McConaughey deliberately took a break from acting. Since his return to the screen he has taken on meatier and more challenging roles…

Read More

Have we been looking at 'cultural fit' all wrong?

February 6, 2014

“We’re looking for someone who’s a good fit for our team.” Hiring managers say this all the time. But what is fit? What does fit look like?

Most of the time — especially when we are looking to hire someone — we put a lot of emphasis on finding a candidate who will fit.

We’ve got a round hole and we go looking for a round peg. We have this sense that fit is about matching a fixed set of character traits in the candidate with the culture of our team. We ask a candidate questions and surreptitiously listen for clues in search of a match between the candidate’s personality and our culture.

What if we got this whole ‘fit’ thing backwards? In other words, what if — instead of looking for fit — you start by articulating what fit looks like and then you look for people willing and able to adapt — to ‘fit in?’

Read More

Change agents don't change people. People change themselves.

February 4, 2014

Peter Block is a veteran in the world of leadership organizational change. His book, Flawless Consulting, is in it’s third edition and, rightly so. The subtitle says it all: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used.

In a recent blog post and short video clip he explains how change agents don’t change people. People change themselves. In his own words…

I don’t like the term ‘change agent’ … because usually ‘change’ means someone else. And, so, ‘change agent’ to me is too arrogant, as if I’m here to change them. I’m not. People change their own selves. I am here to change the narrative, I am here to change the conversation.

Read More

Team Dynamics: Learn, Improve, Repeat.

January 31, 2014

Continuous Improvement” is a mantra for just about all areas of our businesses and — if we’re ambitious — our lives. Companies make huge investments in everything from lean manufacturing to agile software development knowing that the best way to make things better is through steady and continual improvement. We reengineer our business processes to have feedback loops so we can learn from what we have done and build on those learnings.

Learn. Improve. Repeat.

It’s a no-brainer, right? The relentless pursuit of perfection, as Lexus would say. Everything is fair game. Nothing is exempt from the beneficent outcomes of continuous improvement…

Well, almost nothing.

Read More