Influence Without Authority

9_11_14 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 […]

From Leading a Team to Leading Leaders

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Has the scope of your role increased?  Are you now leading leaders with teams of their own, rather than leading a team of individual contributors? Then you have a challenge. You can’t be the expert in every area you lead. You can’t be the problem-solver every time there is a crisis. Somehow, you need to find a way to have your finger on the pulse of your organization without monitoring everything directly. You need to “scale” yourself or you will be overwhelmed. And hardest of all, you may need to step further back from activities that you have found personally satisfying.   SO WHAT CAN YOU DO? To scale yourself […]

Develop Your Insight

8_18_14 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 […]

You might be a narcissistic leader if…

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What comes to mind when you think of great leaders? Visionary? Charismatic? Big personalities? Create transformative change? If that’s your picture of a great leader, then it involves narcissism.   Surprised? Have you always thought of narcissism as a purely negative trait? The best theorist of narcissism and leadership is probably Michael Maccoby. For a fuller description of narcissistic leadership, see his HBR article. In it, he argues that many larger-than-life business leaders have been narcissists – Jack Welch, Larry Ellison, Steve Jobs. Narcissism can have downsides, but it has its upsides as well. And we all have some narcissistic qualities. What’s key is being what Maccoby calls a “productive” […]

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 […]

Get Beyond 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. […]