Developing a Mindset for Success

Over the past 10 years, I’ve been interested in how we perceive our world through the lens of our personal life journey and through our experience in organizations where we have worked. Both of these are a source for the mindset we find ourselves most comfortable in adopting. In addition our experience of what helps us succeed as leaders shapes and fixes our mindsets and these intuitively drive our behavior and approach. This can be helpful, providing us with quick solutions to what is facing us. Unfortunately as changes happen around us, these shortcuts can be our downfall In 1997 Larry Greiner’s seminal work “Evolution and Revolution as Organizations Grow” was reproduced in the Harvard Business Review. He re-affirmed that major phases of growth can be seen in organizations. Organizations evolve in stages and change through revolution in the form of crises. He defines the consecutive phases and crises as follows: Creativity - leadership Direction - autonomy Delegation - control Coordination – red tape Collaboration – in 1997 he proposed that the crisis following this phase is one of growth and requires a networked organization solution. He observes that leaders in each phase develop approaches that are adaptive for [...]

2019-07-25T17:03:53-04:00By |Leadership|

When Companies Collide: Maximizing Acquisitions

What happens when a $94 billion company acquires a $26 billion company¹? We don’t know the punch line to that question yet, but we do know that Microsoft has made news recently for acquiring LinkedIn for $26.2 billion. To date, that is Microsoft’s biggest purchase, dwarfing the $8.5 billion they paid for Skype. We know that Microsoft doesn’t have a perfect track record with acquisitions, writing down $7.6 billion in 2015 on Nokia, which virtually wiped out the entire value of that transaction². Microsoft isn’t the only company that has struggled to create value out of acquisitions. In fact, more than 80% of company mergers fail, and corporate culture differences is often at the root of these failures³. Microsoft says it will allow LinkedIn to function autonomously, but it is hard to know the degree to which this will be true and at what level of the LinkedIn organization employees will feel the changes. Any change creates uncertainty, and people don’t like uncertainty. Although we don’t yet know the outcome of this partnership, we do know that the leaders in both organizations have their work cut out for them to make this successful. Given how risky mergers and acquisitions [...]

2016-12-15T15:32:13-05:00By |Leadership|

Poor Leadership Comes with a Price Tag

We all know poor leadership when we see it. Virtually anyone who has held a job for any significant length of time has a story about the impact of a bad boss. Whether it’s inconsistent or surprising feedback, poor communication, unpredictable behavior, self-centered actions, lack of direction or guidance, or avoiding difficult situations, many have weathered the storm and learned lessons about what to avoid as a leader. However, not everyone weathers the storm; in fact, the number one reason people cite for leaving an organization is their direct leadership. I once met a man at a networking event who was very interested in the leadership work that I was doing. We talked about the organizational impact of a poor leader, and he gave an example of someone who set up a non-profit organization with a few friends. Within a year, it had grown to about 20 people. However, by the time the second year wrapped up, the organization had almost completely collapsed in on itself, as people couldn’t take the leadership style of the founder. The last time he heard, the organization only had three or four people in it. So, there is a cost to poor leadership, [...]

2016-12-15T15:32:13-05:00By |Leadership|

Mindfulness Beyond Meditation

I was recently at a great conference on mindfulness in the business environment, and a lot of good things were said about the necessity for business leaders to be more mindful in the workplace and to encourage their teams along the same lines. One thing that struck me, however, was the narrow view of mindfulness that many of the attendees and, indeed, the speakers had. The common refrain went something like this: “I regularly practice mindfulness. I’ve been meditating for 20 years.” If a pie graph on mindfulness were created, a small slice of that pie would be called Reflective Practice. A sub-slice of Reflective Practice might be called Meditation. Consequently, meditation is a small slice of a small slice in the mindfulness pie, but there didn’t seem to be much awareness of this in the conversations I had. So, what else is out there on mindfulness above and beyond the practice of meditation? In the 1960s, a psychologist named Walter Mischel ran an interesting study with young children (aged 4-6). He sat them down in a classroom and put a marshmallow in front of each of them. He told them they could eat the marshmallow at any time, [...]

2016-12-15T15:32:13-05:00By |Leadership|

What the World’s Greatest Athletes Can Teach Us

What do Hank Haney, Miller Huggins, Phil Jackson, and Bill Walsh all have in common? All of them had the opportunity to coach athletes who many believe to be the best of all time in their respective sports. Hank Haney coached Tiger Woods during his most successful years. Miller Huggins was Babe Ruth’s manager for the first decade of his career with the Yankees. Phil Jackson (Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant) and Bill Walsh (Joe Montana and Jerry Rice) each had the privilege of coaching two athletes who could throw their hats in the ring as the best of all time. I ran track in high school. My role on the team was as a sprinter/hurdler, but I also ran some middle distance relays. When I got to college, my coach thought I could find some success as a decathlete, but that would mean I would have to learn some field events. One of these events was the high jump. I had never done this before, and my natural inclination was to try to clear the bar with either a superman leap or with what is called the Western Roll. Both of these techniques keep your belly facing the [...]

2016-12-15T15:32:14-05:00By |Leadership|

Your Most Important Asset as a Leader is Not What You Think

Several years ago, Gallup did a poll that looked at the state of the American workforce. The results weren’t encouraging. When they tallied up the results, a stunning 71% of the workforce was not fully engaged in their work. For those keeping score at home, that means that only 29% are fully committed to doing their best at work. What’s worse, a Towers Watson study showed that 26% of the American workforce is actively disengaged. This means that almost as many employees in your workforce are doing little more than draining resources as there are those who are fully dedicated. If you imagine that your company is a rowboat, and your employees are the rowers, those who are fully engaged are rowing the in direction the company is setting. Those who aren’t completely engaged have basically pulled in their oars, and those who are actively disengaged are rowing in the wrong direction, essentially counteracting the other rowers. If you’ve ever felt like your company wasn’t going anywhere fast, this may be the reason. When I was on Active Duty in the Air Force, we went through periodic inspections to make sure that we [...]

2016-12-15T15:32:14-05:00By |Leadership|

Accountability Part 4: The High Performance Team of Your Dreams

In the previous three blog posts about accountability, the foundation was laid for understanding what it means in the business context and how certain types of accountability can put organizations in risky positions or, at best, cause an inefficient use of resources. Now its time to discuss the highest level of accountability, which is seen in the most successful teams: Personal Accountability. When Alan Mulally took over as CEO of Ford Motor Company, the organization was hemorrhaging money, poised to lose more than $12 billion in one year. He brought his senior team together in a weekly meeting to take a look at the programs they had running and asked them to rate how things were progressing on a red (bad), yellow, and green (good) system. All of his executives rated their programs as green. The irony was not lost on Alan, and he pointed out to his team that it is difficult to have all green programs and lose money hand over fist. He encouraged them to be honest with him so they could start to address their issues. However, they continued to report their programs as green in subsequent meetings, clearly afraid that if they reported as [...]

2016-12-15T15:32:14-05:00By |Leadership|

Accountability Part 3: Why Second Best Just Isn’t Good Enough

It is my sincere hope that you have not experienced first hand what No Accountability does to an organization (see Part 2 of this blog series). What is more likely is that you have spent most of your career in a setting that exists at the second level of accountability: Mutual Accountability. When I was on Active Duty in the Air Force, I heard a story about a senior enlisted member who broke the rules. One of his duties was maintaining control of the unit’s government vehicles. He handed out the keys, collected the keys, and kept the vehicle logs. One weekend, he was seen driving around in one of the vehicles, running personal errands. He had been placed in a position of trust and violated it. The person who witnessed the dishonest behavior did the right thing and reported it to the chain of command. When this report was investigated, it became clear that this was not a one-time offense. This individual was punished, to include being stripped of rank. It was important that all in the unit understood that this type of behavior would not be tolerated. This is mutual accountability in action. And it works – [...]

2016-12-15T15:32:15-05:00By |Leadership|

Accountability Part 2: An Organization in Chaos

In my last blog post on accountability, I talked about how the misapplication of accountability can stunt the growth of your team. My next three posts will follow up on the concept of accountability – specifically the three levels of accountability in an organization. The topic of this post is the lowest level: No Accountability. And if you think this doesn’t happen in organizations, think again. An acquaintance (“Tim”) was relaying a story about some work he did with the Federal government as an auditor. He was called in to take a look at why the food service company at a military installation was losing money hand over fist, despite running a busy operation. The managers had tried everything they could, from increasing traffic to raising the prices as high as they legally could – and still they were losing money. Tim came in and noticed that their end-of-day reconciliation showed a ‘waste’ category of up to 40%. In other words, he believed employees were stealing from the business. To solve this problem, he came up with an ingenious solution. Tim placed buckets behind the counter, and everything that was labeled in the books as waste needed to end [...]

2016-12-15T15:32:15-05:00By |Leadership|

Accountability Part 1: 3 Ways You Are Short-Circuiting Your Team’s Development

One of the most common things I hear discussed when I facilitate workshops is accountability, most often how to drive it down into the organization or their own team. This inspired me to create a 4-part blog series on accountability in organizations. This first post will focus on recognizing some common leadership mistakes around accountability. The following three posts will focus on different levels of accountability, moving toward the most effective ways to drive accountability with your team. Accountability is a fundamental part of business success, right? Companies have ethics officers, whistleblower hotlines, annual performance reviews – there are even accountants, which shares the same root word as accountability. Without a true commitment to accountability, we’d likely see all sorts of corporate abuses the likes of Enron or Bernie Madoff, and without holding people to standards, we would see drastic decreases in business performance. With something this vital to your business success, it is important to understand that leaders can misapply accountability, blocking development for the people on their teams. I once consulted with a company that had a leader who was obsessed with control. If you had a conversation with someone outside of your department, he wanted to [...]

2016-12-15T15:32:15-05:00By |Leadership|
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