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 […]

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 […]

Want To Be An Innovator? Shift Your Perspective

There’s a lot of talk these days about innovation and disruption. If you’re a front-line leader, what can you do to foster innovation? First, you must understand how your ability to innovate is directly shaped by your thoughts and beliefs about the world and yourself in it.   Let’s talk first about some actions that are key to your ability to identify and champion an innovative idea.  Across dozens of organizations that have tried to develop more innovative cultures, they consistently identify and emphasize competencies like the following:   Recognize opportunities, which others may not see, to affect organizational goals and challenges. Advocate for unpopular ideas. Challenge others’ thinking and […]

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 […]

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. […]

How Do You Decide Where to Spend Your Time?

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 […]

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.  […]