Embrace Resistance

7_10_14 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 […]

Building Others’ Commitment to Your Success

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Beneath the surface of any leader’s daily actions lies a set of assumptions about what will make the leader successful. Some of the assumptions I’ve repeatedly seen include:   I need to have others in the organization give me/my group credit for our contribution and value. I need to show my competence and strategic thinking. I need to focus on the task being done “right”.  I need to overcome opposition to my goals and strategies.   The pitfalls of these typical assumptions about success When leaders hold these assumptions as true, they remain focused on their own goals and achievement. They may accomplish the goals they’ve set for themselves, but […]

The Illusion of Control

The Illusion of Control 6_11_14

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 […]

Be a Better Performance Coach – Ask, Don’t Tell

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If you’re like most leaders, you have a picture in your head about the performance you want from your people, and you want to get them closer to that picture. When faced with a gap between how they actually perform and what you want, what do you do?  It’s likely that your first inclination is to tell the person – about how you see the situation, or what you believe they should be doing differently.  Of course you tell, right? You have a perspective you want them to get, and you see the opportunities for different approaches that you believe would be more effective. Furthermore, you probably believe that this […]

The Uncomfortable Truth about Leadership Training

3_18_14 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

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. […]

How Do You Decide What To Spend Your Time On?

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It’s one of the most common challenges we work with leaders on. What should I be spending my time on? What are the most important activities for me? And, your default impulse on these questions may very well be wrong. If you don’t intentionally choose what to focus on, you will continually be reactive and likely not addressing the most important demands of your role. Leaders often choose their focus based on the following criteria:   What I have always focused on We know from decades of research on management “derailment” that, as a manager moves up in the organization, strengths can become weaknesses. People who are really good at […]

Building Strategic IT Business Partners

2_27_14 Strategic IT Business Partner

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 […]

Lean Into Your Mistakes

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Every human being (including every leader) is a work in progress, on a developmental journey, moving away from the person they have been, and moving towards the person they are becoming. Whether you’re engaged in a formal coaching process or not, you are likely to have development goals as part of your annual objectives, intended to advance you on this journey. Even if you don’t have formal development goals, you’re probably aware of ways in which you can be more effective as a leader.   For example, you may want to… do a better job of including others and building consensus on decisions be more thoughtful and rigorous about plans […]

The Value of Uncertainty

2_6_14 The Value of Uncertainty

Uncertainty is a permanent part of the leadership landscape – Andy Stanley   “Often wrong, but never uncertain.”  I’m always troubled when I hear that phrase about another person.  The world I see around me is never that certain, it’s never black and white.  In every situation, there are different viewpoints, and different paths you can take.  People who shun uncertainty, who never question their own approach, typically create more problems than they solve.   Some people try to manage uncertainty with simple, direct action.  The classic example is Alexander and the Gordian Knot.  This legend has Alexander faced with the problem of untying a knot that has no beginning.  […]