Collaboration as Mutual Responsibility

Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility. Sigmund Freud I think that Freud was wrong, but not totally wrong. I don’t think people are frightened of responsibility. Instead, I think that they’ve been conditioned to believe that someone else should and will be responsible. But, if we want every person to act responsibly – for results, for choices, for the risks they see in others’ decisions and actions – then we must change how we think and talk about responsibility. When I ask people to describe collaboration, the most frequent definition I hear is working together on some shared […]

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 […]

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 […]

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

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 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. […]

Does your job/company/boss suck?

Lately, I’ve been talking with a lot of people who are in unhappy job situations. Their company is going through a reorganization. Heads are being cut. Different groups are jockeying for power. My people are uncertain what their next job will be. Or, if there is a next job in sight, it doesn’t look good. Lower level. Less interesting. Don’t like the boss. Low-performing supervisees. Or no supervisees at all.   They’re tempted to jump ship and get away from the negative environment, but it’s not exactly as if there are tons of better opportunities beckoning. A bad job is better than no job. And would another organization be any […]

Why leadership training doesn’t work (and what you can do about it)

How many times have you gone to a leadership development workshop, had a wonderful experience, left feeling great, and then went home and kept doing the same old thing?  Or, perhaps you kept up your new resolutions for a couple of months or weeks, and then went back to doing the same old thing.   Why does this happen so consistently? And why do we, knowing this, keep on sending people to training?   Learning these skills will not lead to doing these skills. That’s because, I’ll suggest, most of the leadership skills and insights being imparted through these events are, in the words of Ronald Heifetz, “adaptive” challenges rather […]

Making Performance Appraisal Effective

If someone at work says, “You did a great job,” you’ll probably accept that comment without question (and think “I’m glad someone noticed!”).  However, if another person comes to you and says, “You messed that one up,” you may reject that comment (and think “how would you know?”).  The problem is that neither judgment – praise or censure – was supported with any valid information. An ineffective performance appraisal can feel the same way.  Most organizations use some process to collect information to support an appraisal (employee self-assessment, feedback from clients and colleagues, managerial observations, etc).  Even when this information is valid, it is often not sufficient to deliver an […]

How to Find and Grow HIPOs

The Institute for the Future (IFTF) recently identified key skills they see as essential for success in the future workplace.  These skills include… identify meaning beyond what is expressed, assess information for importance, translate data into abstract concepts and use data-based reasoning, understand concepts across multiple disciplines, identify actions beyond rote or rules, and participate as a member of a virtual team. The Teleos Development Model© identifies five different “perspectives” or development levels.  The “systems” or strategic perspective is critical, because that perspective enables the development of these (and other) powerful skills that improve performance and enhance leadership.  The challenge comes with trying to make the shift into this perspective […]