Manage Performance without Authority

In a recent blog, I defined collaboration as mutual responsibility. A key element of this definition is the idea of being responsible for results without the “illusion of control.” I cannot compel others to commit or perform, but I can ask directly for their commitments, reinforce effective performance, and engage and manage any performance that is off-track. This idea may seem self-evident, but you couldn’t tell by observing the everyday conversations in most organizations. From direct observations, data collection I’ve done, and anecdotes I’ve heard, such conversations are avoided more frequently than engaged. And, if people ever do engage, it’s typically when they can no longer avoid it, so the […]

Collaboration as Mutual Responsibility

Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility. Sigmund Freud I think that Freud was wrong, but not totally wrong. I don’t think people are frightened of responsibility. Instead, I think that they’ve been conditioned to believe that someone else should and will be responsible. But, if we want every person to act responsibly – for results, for choices, for the risks they see in others’ decisions and actions – then we must change how we think and talk about responsibility. When I ask people to describe collaboration, the most frequent definition I hear is working together on some shared […]

Creating a Results-Oriented Culture

Even though my friends will laugh (or faint), I’ve decided that it’s time to talk about culture. Lately, I see so much content about this topic, and the role it can play in attracting and retaining talented people. Many of these stories focus on work experience and relationships, which I see as necessary but not sufficient. So, instead of another blog on how to create a great place to work, I want to focus on the issue that I believe matters the most to talented people and that’s how to create a “results-oriented” culture. FIRST, LET ME DEFINE THIS TERM. If you visit Dictionary.com and look for culture you can […]

Influence Without Authority

The aim of every form of organization should be to seek the methods by which power can be increased in all – Mary Parker Follett   I’ve trained thousands and, whenever I ask people to define the word power, they always describe the word discretion.  They define power as a person’s ability to make choices about his own interests and then impose those choices on others.  Power is always seen as control, and I’ve heard the same definition on three continents.   Even though I hear this definition everywhere, I see two major problems with it.  The first problem is what I call the “illusion of control.”  This illusion is […]

Develop Your Insight

Nothing is more terrible than activity without insight. – Thomas Carlyle   Americans are busy at work.  There is no doubting this claim, and here is just a sample of the overwhelming evidence. Americans work 137 more hours/year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours/year than British workers, and 499 more hours/year than French workers. 85% of men and 66% of women work more than 40 hours per week. 88% of Americans carry devices to communicate with work during vacation.   Americans are busy, yet I often wonder just how much of that activity is guided by insight into the situations these people face.  I wonder because I seem to see […]

Embrace Resistance

Q – How does a pilot know that he’s over the target? A – They’re shooting at him.   An old joke, but one that a fighter pilot friend of mine swears is true.  Another saying that goes with this joke is “nobody guards an empty hole.”  Unfortunately, these sayings, while certainly funny and possible even true, also help sustain a dysfunctional model of resistance and conflict in organizations.   Conflict isn’t bad or good, and conflict certainly isn’t about “winning” or “losing,” however you define those terms.  Most people don’t resist your ideas simply to annoy you, and those few that do often prove to be inept in their […]

Get Beyond the Illusion of Control

If you live long enough, you realize that so much of what happens in life is out of your control, but how you respond to it is in your control. – Hillary Clinton   To make sure we’re discussing the same term, let me offer definition one from Merriman-Webster.  “Control – to direct the behavior of a person, to cause a person to do what you want.”  I define it with a bit more color as the ability to get people to do what you want, when and how you want – and to act like they want it too.  As the above title suggests, I believe that control is […]

The Uncomfortable Truth about Leadership Training

Let’s get it out right up front – organizations spend billions every year on leadership training yet see little, if any, change in actions or results.  The uncomfortable truth is that most leadership training is a waste of time and money.  To better understand this situation, we need to look at three critical questions. -Why does most training fail? -Why do companies continue to spend money for so little value? -What steps can you take to make sure that your investment isn’t wasted?   There are several reasons why training fails. Confuse skill and perspective problems – This factor may be the single most common cause for why training fails.  […]

The Most Important Leadership Skill

If you search the web, you will find countless articles that define the characteristics or skills of a great leader – integrity, vision, honesty, creativity, inspiration, accountability, delegation – the lists go on and on.  Yet rarely do I see the single skill that I believe is most important for successful leadership – the skill of listening authentically.   If it appears at all, “communications” is typically near the bottom of most lists.  And, even when a list includes “communications,” it may not include listening among the skills.  Finally, when people do mention listening, most of the discussion is about technique (like attentive listening skills) instead of purpose or goals. […]

Building Strategic IT Business Partners

Let’s start by defining the label.  You aren’t a strategic partner simply because your job title aligns you to an IT business client.  And, you aren’t a strategic partner if you see your role as identifying and addressing the stated needs of that client.  Strategic partners must bring more to the role than addressing stated needs.  A strategic IT business partner will routinely deliver the following results. Identify latent needs, and describe how IT can help clients achieve their goals in unexpected ways. Surface and resolve conflicts about goals, and build consensus on goals across clients. Define a specific, causal connection between IT projects and expected business results. Define and […]