Transform IT into DT

I’ve had the pleasure of working with dozens of great IT leaders, across various industries.  These leaders seem to share the same priorities – create business value, make and keep commitments to clients, and deliver quality solutions built for sustainable success.  Also, these leaders always act as “partners” with their clients – clarifying purpose, proposing solutions, and resolving conflicts that threaten project success.  But, the “best of the best” have gone one step further and moved their organizations from information technology (IT) to decision technology (DT).   The Information Technology Association of America defined IT as “the study, design, development, application, implementation, support or management of computer-based information systems.”  I […]

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 […]

Why doesn’t our team follow up on the plans we’ve made?

Members of a divisional leadership team got together to think about how they could lead their division through a major upcoming growth opportunity. They identified a long list of “to do’s” – things they needed to create collectively to improve the group’s effectiveness. You’d be familiar with the types of “organization building” activities they identified – operating model, strategy, roadmap, clear roles and expectations.   The energy level in the room exploded as members talked on top of each other about all the things they needed to do next, to address these needs.  “We just need accountability.” “We just need to have an off-site meeting.” “We just need to hash […]

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 […]

Stop Treating Conflicts Like Problems

My partner, Joan, wrote a great piece about learning to love conflict. In that post, she cited Ron Heifetz, who claims that the essential quality of leadership is the ability to resolve competing values – in other words, to resolve conflicts. I want to build on her strong start by discussing one of the biggest challenges to effective conflict resolution – which is treating conflicts as if they were problems. I recently conducted a workshop on collaborative conflict resolution. When we got to the part about developing remedies, participants tried to resolve their conflicts with “the usual suspects” – appeals to policies or rules, shared goals, or methodological standards. In […]

The Distorted Lenses Through Which We See

Humans are meaning-making creatures. The processing units in our minds instantaneously take the information that comes in through our senses, and attach meaning to it. Over time, the meanings we have attributed to our experiences get clustered together into beliefs. We think, when observing the world, that we are seeing what is, but we are really seeing our interpretations of what is.   Because meaning is created from experience, the more seasoned you are, the more powerful are your mental models – and the more invisible is that meaning-making step. As a leader, you rely on your mental models to identify patterns, see implications, decide what to focus on – […]

The Golden Rule of Interviewing

You probably know the old saying – he who has the gold makes the rules! But, with interviewing, there is another golden rule, one that can affect your ability to get the job you want.  Managers will hire anyone when they believe the person will create more value than they cost.  No matter what other questions you get asked during an interview, you must make sure to answer the most important questions – HOW WILL YOU ADD VALUE TO OUR COMPANY? This question may seem obvious, but I think you may be surprised at how rarely it appears in interviews.  Nowadays, companies use a wide range of selection methods including […]

Make Yourself More Valuable at Work

Jobless claims fall to 5-year low, but hiring still sluggish – that’s today’s latest headline. Good news yes, but still troubling, because it’s mostly fewer layoffs not more jobs. Things may be improving but few believe that it’s a great time to be looking for work. So, what can you do to make sure you keep the job you have?  Here are some steps you can take right now to make yourself more valuable at work. 1. Make a “line of sight” connection between your job and a critical company result. One good example comes from an L&D department. This function used traditional measures like program attendance and participant reactions, […]

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 […]

Giving feedback to your boss – is it career suicide?

Imagine that you have a boss who’s making your life difficult. Maybe he doesn’t listen to potentially important input when it conflicts with his interests. Or he berates people, which leads to them censoring themselves. Or he makes snap decisions. Or he micro-manages, and thus becomes a bottleneck for the entire group. Furthermore, you think his actions are having a harmful effect on your team and organization. What do you do?   The prevailing opinion is that saying anything to your boss about his style and impact would be, as they say, career-limiting. But is this always as true as you assume it to be?   Executives don’t get a […]