Friday, November 21, 2008

John C. Maxwell: "Today matters."

Today's ATTITUDE Gives Me Possibilities
Today's PRIORITIES Give Me Focus
Today's HEALTH Gives Me Strength
Today's FAMILY Gives Me Stability
Today's THINKING Gives Me an Advantage
Today's COMMITMENT Gives Me Tenacity
Today's FINANCES Give Me Options
Today's FAITH Gives Me Peace
Today's RELATIONSHIPS Give Me Fulfillment
Today's GENEROSITY Gives Me Significance
Today's VALUES Give Me Direction
Today's GROWTH Gives Me Potential

Focus on making today the most important day you have.

Friday, October 17, 2008

what can we learn from his gold-medal-winning team? (tom peters)

To start the debate off, I can point to what I see as three important factors: awareness of current performance levels compared to the competition, collective desire to achieve a shared ambition or goal, and ability to learn. Let me expand on these:

1. Awareness ...
As a young Army Officer, I was once tasked with planning an attack on an enemy position. For hours I pored over maps, studying known friendly and enemy dispositions, weather, tide, intelligence reports, and so on. I got completely bogged down in my thinking. I had lost clarity. My Commanding Officer offered me a twenty-minute flight in a helicopter to sight the ground over which we were to advance. Twenty-one minutes later I had a crystal clear plan in my head and knew exactly what we had to do. I had quite literally gained altitude over my problem. Heightened my awareness.

I think the business world is evolving faster than management is adapting. We are, as a cadre of managers, poorly prepared to deal with the rate of change we now face. Some of us are in denial about this, some are simply confused by it, and some have willingly embraced the renewal imperative.

Do you have "altitude" over your organisation, or are you bogged down in the detail? Do you have a brutally clear view of your current performance? Can you define the competitive challenges and disruptive forces at work on you? Does everybody in your organisation know, understand, and care about the adaptive strategy as much as you do? Honest answers to questions like these can differentiate the next generation of winners from the future also-rans.

2. Collective desire ...
Many contemporary managers are from a generation that has not experienced the hardships of economic depression or wide-scale warfare. Full employment, violence-free lives, and comfortable retirements are seen as reasonable expectations. Many of us who have done well in the developed world have simply become too comfortable and too complacent. I see many well-established businesses that, as part of an increasingly individualistic society, have become temples of high individual aspiration but low collective or corporate ambition. Take the present credit crunch as an example. To what extent have we all been denying or ignoring the onset of the now inevitable crisis? Will this denial prove to be a contributory factor to the scale of the eventual havoc it causes us all? Even now, people still seem to believe they can escape unscathed!

If leadership is "the art of getting others to want to struggle for shared aspirations" (from leadership researchers Jim Kouzes & Barry Posner), I see too many businesses that are suffering from being over managed and under led. I often ask clients "Isn't our performance struggling from a lack of people who are struggling?" Gold medals certainly don't come without a struggle!

I regularly present the above leadership definition to management audiences. Almost invariably, managers in the West tell me that they have a problem with the word "struggle." I can assure you that in Bucharest, Talin, Moscow, Mumbai, Casablanca, and Chishinau, managers never question the word "struggle." Why is that?

Are you as hungry for your organisation's success as the average Latvian, Indian, Russian, Estonian, Romanian, or Moldovan is for theirs? Do you really love what you do at work, or are you really funding a lifestyle that you love?

3. Learn ...
I want to discuss two factors in this context, failure and speed. Failure is a taboo subject in many management teams to the point where it is, paradoxically, inhibiting their performance. In a fear-charged, non-collaborative, and non-purposeful context, the key post-failure survival competence is blame avoidance, not learning. This kills the natural propensity of an organism to learn from experience and adapt itself for the future. It also seems to me that the larger the organisation, the more hiding failures is likely to be a key management skill, and the more opportunities to do so exist!

Now speed, or rather the lack of it! In the military environment, where speed of reaction often determines survival, soldiers at all levels are taught "naturalistic" decision-making, that is (1) Rapidly identify three options open to you, (2) On gut feel, go with one of the three options, BUT assume that whichever one you choose will ... (3) Need substantial revision once you are underway. This degree of decisiveness engenders life-saving reaction speeds.

How many management teams would deploy decision-making strategies of this type across their businesses? Even in those that have, step (3) above, the preparedness to revise a chosen course of action, or lack thereof, is the biggest source of eventual performance failure.

It used to be conventional wisdom that the big organisation would eventually triumph over the small. High rates of disruption, challenge and change mean that it is now the fast that will usually succeed over the slow. Which are you? What happens in your organisation when things go wrong? Does the performance of your business benefit from failure? Does your organisation make decisions in a naturalistic way? What speed penalty do you pay for your need for security? Do you get the balance right?

My conclusion from all this ...
I think Dave Brailsford was pointing us at the human art of performance: respectively, human awareness, human desire, and human ability to learn. The tragedy for many organisations is that they have become too scientific. They are places where managers apply pressure to performance levers rather than lead people to perform.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

There is no one "leadership personality" [drucker]

Peter F. Drucker writes:

I have been working with organizations of all kinds for fifty years or more-as a teacher and administrator in the university, as a consultant to corporations, as a board member, as a volunteer. Over the years, I have discussed with scores-perhaps even hundreds-of leaders their roles, their goals, and their performance. I have worked with manufacturing giants and tiny firms, with organizations that span the world and others that work with severely handicapped children in one small town. I have worked with some exceedingly bright executives and a few dummies, with people who talk a good deal about leadership and others who apparently never even think of themselves as leaders and who rarely, if ever, talk about leadership.

The lessons are unambiguous.

The first is that there may be "born leaders," but there surely are far too few to depend on them. Leadership must be learned and can be learned …

The second major lesson is that "leadership personality," "leadership style," and "leadership traits" do not exist. Among the most effective leaders I have encountered and worked with in a half century, some locked themselves into their office and others were ultragregarious. Some (though not many) were "nice guys" and others were stern disciplinarians. Some were quick and impulsive; others studied and studied again and then took forever to come to a decision. Some were warm and instantly "simpatico"; others remained aloof even after years of working closely with others, not only with outsiders like me but with the people within their own organization. Some immediately spoke of their family; others never mentioned anything apart from the task in hand.

Some leaders were excruciatingly vain-and it did not affect their performance (as his spectacular vanity did not affect General Douglas MacArthur's performance until the very end of his career). Some were self-effacing to a fault-and again it did not affect their performance as leaders (as it did not affect the performance of General George Marshall or Harry Truman). Some were as austere in their private lives as a hermit in the desert; others were ostentatious and pleasure-loving and whooped it up at every opportunity. Some were good listeners, but among the most effective leaders I have worked with were also a few loners who listened only to their own inner voice.

The one and only personality trait the effective ones I have encountered did have in common was something they did not have: they had little or no "charisma" and little use either for the term or for what it signifies.

What leaders know > All the effective leaders I have encountered-both those I worked with and those I merely watched-knew four simple things:

1. The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers. Some people are thinkers. Some are prophets. Both roles are important and badly needed. But without followers, there can be no leaders.

2. An effective leader is not someone who is loved or admired. He or she is someone whose followers do the right things. Popularity is not leadership. Results are.

3. Leaders are highly visible. They therefore set examples.

4. Leadership is not rank, privileges, titles, or money. It is responsibility.

What leaders do > Regardless of their almost limitless diversity with respect to personality, style, abilities, and interests, the effective leaders I have met, worked with, and observed also behaved much the same way:

1. They did not start out with the question, "What do I want?" They started out asking, "What needs to be done?"

2. Then they asked, "What can and should I do to make a difference?" This has to be something that both needs to be done and fits the leader's strengths and the way she or he is most effective.

3. They constantly asked, "What are the organization's mission and goals? What constitutes performance and results in this organization?"

4. They were extremely tolerant of diversity in people and did not look for carbon copies of themselves. It rarely even occurred to them to ask, "Do I like or dislike this person?" But they were totally-fiendishly-intolerant when it came to a person's performance, standards, and values.

5. They were not afraid of strength in their associates. They gloried in it. Whether they had heard of it or not, their motto was what Andrew Carnegie wanted to have put on his tombstone: "Here lies a man who attracted better people into his service than he was himself."

6. One way or another, they submitted themselves to the "mirror test"-that is, they made sure that the person they saw in the mirror in the morning was the kind of person they wanted to be, respect, and believe in. This way they fortified themselves against the leader's greatest temptations-to do things that are popular rather than right and to do petty, mean, sleazy things.

Finally, these effective leaders were not preachers; they were doers. In the mid 1920s, when I was in my final high school years, a whole spate of books on World War I and its campaigns suddenly appeared in English, French, and German. For our term project, our excellent history teacher-himself a badly wounded war veteran-told each of us to pick several of these books, read them carefully, and write a major essay on our selections. When we then discussed these essays in class, one of my fellow students said, "Every one of these books says that the Great War was a war of total military incompetence. Why was it?" Our teacher did not hesitate a second but shot right back, "Because not enough generals were killed; they stayed way behind the lines and let others do the fighting and dying."

Effective leaders delegate a good many things; they have to or they drown in trivia. But they do not delegate the one thing that only they can do with excellence, the one thing that will make a difference, the one thing that will set standards, the one thing they want to be remembered for. They do it.

Peter F. Drucker is an author, professor, consultant, and founder of the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management Reprinted with permission from The Leader of the Future, The Drucker Foundation, F. Hesselbein, M. Goldsmith, and R. Beckhard, eds. 1996 The Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management. All rights reserved. For ordering information, please contact Jossey-Bass, Inc., 350 Sansome St., San Francisco, CA 94104; 800-956-7739. 1996 by Christianity Today International/LEADERSHIP, journal. Last Updated: October 8, 1996


Monday, January 14, 2008

Rushworth Kidder is one of the leading lights when it comes to thinking about ethics and civility. He leads the Institute for Global Ethics. Recently he wrote about his wish list for the new year - Civility, Vigilance and Fairness. Here is his New Year’s wish for 2008 for Civility:

"Civility. This coming year will require a willingness to outgrow the shallow notion of ethics as right-versus-wrong and replace it with a thoughtful clarity about right versus right. During his confirmation hearings, U.S. attorney general Michael Mukasey quoted Supreme Court justice Robert H. Jackson, who wrote that “the issue between … a right and a wrong … never presents a dilemma,” but that “the dilemma is because the conflict is between two rights, each in its own way important.” The challenge to ethics in public and corporate life is to replace a rule-bound, compliance-based, right-versus-wrong way of thinking with a values-based, right-versus-right reasoning. Resolution: I won’t resort to a rule when a value will make the point. And I will refuse to reduce the great debates of our day to the polarizing, I’m-right-and-you’re-wrong language of talk radio and blogosphere rant."

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

God knows that we are all artists of life [paulo coelho]

One day, he gives us a chisel to make a sculpture, the next, brushes and a canvas, another day, he gives us a pen to write with. But we cannot use a chisel to paint a canvas or a pen to make a sculpture. Each day has its own miracle. I must accept today’s blessings in order to create what I have; if I do this with detachment and without guilt, tomorrow I will receive more.


Friday, September 07, 2007

ONE polls New Hampshire

On August 9, ONE released it's first ONE poll. The survey of 500 likely Republican primary voters and 504 likely Democratic primary voters was conducted on July 24 and 26, 2007 and demonstrated an inspiring unity among Republican and Democratic voters on some critical issues.

Read through the full poll's findings. Open PDF

Some highlights:

  • Nearly all Democrats (97%) and 70% of Republicans agree that America’s standing has suffered in recent years. In addition to a strong military, Democrats (91%) and Republicans (78%) agree that the United States also needs to improve diplomatic relations by doing more to help improve health, education and opportunities in the poorest countries around the world. Both Democrats (81%) and Republicans alike (70%) agree that reducing poverty, treating preventable diseases and improving education in poor countries around the world will help make the world safer and the United States more secure.
  • Democrats and Republicans agree that America has a moral obligation as a compassionate nation to help the world’s poorest people through foreign assistance. More than nine in ten Democrats (93%) and 84% of Republicans agree that when millions of children around the world are dying from preventable diseases and hunger, we have a moral obligation to do what we can to help. Similarly, Democrats (90%) and Republicans (85%) agree that it is in keeping with the country’s values and our history of compassion to lead an effort to solve some of the most serious problems facing the world’s poorest people.
  • When it comes to addressing these issues, Democrats (86%) and Republicans (67%) agree that it is important for Presidential candidates to discuss their plans for addressing global hunger and poverty issues in this campaign. Additionally, eight in ten Democrats (81%) and Republicans (80%) agree that the next president should keep the commitments made by President Bush to prevent and fight the spread of AIDS in Africa.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

From an AQAL point of view, we are called to embrace the truth of as many perspectives as we can, as deeply as we can, while cutting through the falsity of partial and fragmented views, so that we may act, lead, or govern on behalf of the greatest depth for the greatest span of living beings. (excerpt from Holons)