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 […]

Productive Nonconformity

“Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist.” – Emerson   When people think about nonconformity, they often think about superficial things – language, grooming, clothing, and even tools or toys.  But that is not the nonconformity that concerns me here.  The most powerful, useful, yet dangerous nonconformity is to speak out when all the forces around you compel you to silence.   Perhaps the best-known case concerning the need for nonconformity is the debacle that was Enron – 4000 jobs destroyed, $74 billion in lost shareholder value, billions more in losses by creditors, and the dissolution of Arthur Andersen represent only a portion of the final toll.  Based […]

What is Bad Management?

“Lots of folks confuse bad management with destiny” – Kin Hubbard   Kin Hubbard was a 19th century American journalist and humorist, declared by no less than Will Rogers as “America’s greatest humorist.”  Obviously he was going for the laugh with this quote, but there is a seed of truth here, and his quote led me to wonder – just what is “bad” management and how can you avoid it?   The effects of bad management are obvious to everyone – wealth destroyed, jobs and pensions destroyed, and entire communities or even whole economies disrupted.  One of my clients is going through a major contraction, with all the predictable negative […]

“Why Can’t I Get My Employees To … ?”

If you manage people, chances are that you have been frustrated, at one time or another, about some performance or behavior you want from your reports, but can’t get them to consistently display. You may want them to …   …suggest new ideas …make decisions and take responsibility …manage their own performance on an entire task without needing you to monitor and prod …think about how their actions and choices will affect others downstream …give you authentic feedback about how your behavior affects them   If you’ve tried to manage your frustration by exhorting your reports – “Why can’t you just do x?” or “I need you to do x!” […]

What’s Good About Having A Bad Boss?

So you have the boss from hell? Seems that lots of people have had this experience. A recent study claims that 65% of Americans would like a better boss – almost twice as many as would like a pay raise. Here are some typical “bad boss” complaints I’ve heard. takes credit for your accomplishments throws projects at you without explaining them, and then explains why your work is “all wrong” when you bring back the finished job yells, attacks, bullies you micromanages inaccessible when you need help plays favorites overly demanding, doesn’t honor your work-life boundaries   A Different Way To Look At It The experience of living with a […]

The Dark Side Of Trust

I’ve been hearing a lot of talk lately about trust. Trust is widely assumed to be a necessary ingredient for effective organizations and effective leadership. But what do we really mean by the idea of trust? Might there be hidden downsides to the value we place on trust? What Do We Mean By Trust? First, since trust is one of those loaded words that means many things to many people, let’s unpack how it is used. When I say, “I trust you,” there are usually a few dimensions embedded in that statement: Benevolent intention I believe you are going to act in my best interests, therefore I don’t have to […]

John Wayne Must Die!

I know that The Duke has been dead for over 30 years but, unfortunately for American organizations, his shadow continues to hang on as a model for how a leader should act. Take your typical John Wayne western. He rides into town (or is hired for his gun), and analyzes the scene, trying to understand what’s gone wrong. Once he figures things out (usually on his own) he provokes a conflict designed to smoke out the bad guys. He kills the bad guys, kisses the girl, and rides out of town – triumphant as always and in less than two hours. Amazing! Wayne never got the trains to run on […]

Are Authority Figures Living Rent-Free In Your Head?

It’s universal. As we grow up, we are indoctrinated in the values and beliefs of our “tribe”. That’s how we learn to transcend selfishness, develop empathy, become concerned for the good of others.  No doubt you can identify a number of institutions that contributed to your socialization – family, school, church, military. We internalize the viewpoints of those institutions so effectively that, for a while, there is no distinction between their views and ours. As the old AA saying goes, they are living, rent-free, in our heads.   The Costs of Our Reliance On Authority As we move into adulthood, the unquestioned reliance on those voices doesn’t serve us. It’s […]