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 […]

Building Others’ Commitment to Your Success

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 […]

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 […]

Having Difficult Conversations with Authority Figures

One dangerous effect of American downsizing is that employees’ fear has limited their willingness to engage in the difficult conversations needed to improve performance.  I see and hear about this effect almost everywhere I go, and it seems to get worse all the time. I tell people that avoiding engagement is also a kind of choice, with its own potential risks.  But people seem resigned to these risks, because they pale in comparison with the more immediate consequences they expect will follow any dissent – consequences like job loss, demotion, or being overlooked for the few available opportunities. I believe that this paralyzing fear is bad for both employees and […]

“I hate workplace politics.”

This week, I’ve had conversations with several new clients. They’re all super-smart, engaging, committed to being successful in their roles. And they all share similar assumptions: Good ideas should stand on their own merits. Decisions in organizations should be based on logic. We want to do the “right thing.” Politics stinks.   These assumptions spring from an honorable place. These folks don’t want to schmooze, steal credit, treat people better just because they are more “important,” use sneaky methods to gain influence. Basically, they don’t like the idea of taking actions for their own gain rather than for organizational ends.   But “I hate politics” also becomes a limiting story. […]

Think WITH Your Customers

Unfortunately, customer engagement is still largely defined around talking at customers. And, though methods are evolving, the messages still seemed to be guided by a flawed assumption that you can control customers’ choices, IF you just find the right button to push. I believe that companies could significantly improve sales, brand, and customer loyalty if they would stop thinking ABOUT their customers and start thinking WITH them. Dialogue requires shared responsibility – to identify opportunities and problems, to identify common interests, to define options and decision criteria jointly, and to share responsibility for execution. However, I believe that many companies are afraid of real dialogue, because it might surface issues […]

You Don’t Have to Hate Selling

Are you in a role where there is some expectation that you will “sell” a service or product, but you don’t really see yourself as a “sales person”? So many people, when they face the prospect of selling, experience deep feelings of dread and loathing. But it doesn’t have to be that way.   Let’s start by looking at just why you feel that dread and loathing. Commonly, what I hear are statements such as, “I feel I’m asking someone to do me a favor,” or, “I’m trying to persuade someone to buy something they don’t need.” Those concerns are based on a manipulative model of selling –a picture that’s […]

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 […]