Jim Clemmer's Leader Letter
September 2011, Issue 102
This week kicks off a new academic year in much of the Northern Hemisphere. As classes resume, here's a critical question for our ongoing personal, team, and organizational effectiveness: is learning a phase of life or a way of life?
Learning is to leadership as seeding is to reaping. We can only reap in proportion to what we've sown and cultivated. What team or organizational leadership seeds have you planted with your underlying (and often unconscious) beliefs? What kind of boss have you grown into? How do you rate on the five most critical skills for leaders? Do you LOL for peak team and organizational performance?
The safety, customer service, quality, innovation, and productivity that a team or an organization reaps come from the learning, values, and behaviors sown in its culture. What cultural seeds have been planted in your team or organization? What kind of harvest is your culture producing? Is your team or organization continuously growing the three core attributes of healthy performance? Does your management team understand what it takes to lead a peak performance culture or are you innocently ignorant? How's your balance of technical, management, and leadership? Are you continually cultivating your Timeless Leadership skills?
If we aren't planting, cultivating, and growing new leadership skills, our yields will be very thin indeed! Effective learning often comes from effective questions. This issue asks and addresses these and many other questions concerning the "soft skills" of leadership and culture. May you read it and reap!
A Good Time to Check Your Balance and Timeless Leadership Learning
As students head back to school this is a good reminder to check our balance and leadership learning. It's so easy to lose our personal, team, and organizational balance and not recognize that it's happening.
Have you become trapped as your team's chief technical problem solver? Are work days an endless series of fighting fire after fire? Is your in-box overflowing while meetings overload your calendar? Do you never seem to have time for coaching and development? Have you confused information dumps with real communication? Does your team or organization need a big attitude adjustment? Is your culture boosting or blocking learning, development, and growth toward your goals and implementation strategies?
These are a few of the key performance indicators of The High-Performance Balance. At performance balance videos you can view some of my video clips on balancing technology, management, and leadership and our management team exercise on finding the right balance.
An all too common imbalance is Management versus Leadership. In hundreds of interactive keynotes, workshops, and retreats over the past few years -- after completing our Finding the Right Balance exercise -- every single group has said they want to spend more time on leadership and less time on management and technical activities.
Shifting that balance demands strengthening core leadership skills. My international bestselling book, The Leader's Digest: Timeless Principles for Team and Organization Success, is built around a central leadership principle supported by six key skills. Go to Timeless Leadership Principles (Leading Others) and timeless leadership videos to do a leadership skill check.
An Offer to Turbo Charge Your Leadership
The Leader's Digest has been purchased in large quantities by many organizations around the world as a foundation for their leadership and culture development. Feedback and re-orders consistently tell us they love the "boiled-down simplicity" of the principles and the book's "browser's digest' format. This is especially popular with many busy supervisors, managers, and executives who often don't read many traditional leadership books. The short, modular sections with snappy headlines and introductory headings, story sidebars, pithy quotes, are supported by the main text. This allows for both "grazing" or in depth reading according to the needs, focus, or time of each reader.
I was especially delighted to get a glowing comment on the book from the grand sage of leadership, Warren Bennis. I have long learned from his dozens of leadership books and his pioneering work as Distinguished Professor of Business at University of Southern California. After reviewing The Leader's Digest, he said, "If you're looking for a book that illuminates the topic of leadership in a useful, readable and lively way, this is it."
To turbo charge your leadership development and your team's performance we are offering The Leader's Digest at a special "2 for 1" rate, plus FREE shipping in Canada and the US . And now you can order this leadership handbook in French, Spanish, and Portuguese editions.
Give your second copy to a colleague or associate or order copies for all your supervisors, managers, and executives. Click on The Leader's Digest to take advantage of this limited time offer.
Major Global Study Calls for a Leadership Revolution
The training firm Development Dimensions International (DDI) has just released their Global Leadership Forecast 2011. It's billed as "the biggest study of its kind, involving over 2,600 organizations in 74 countries. Nearly 1,900 HR professionals and 12,500 leaders participated." This is the sixth biannual forecast they've completed since 1999.
The forecast conclusions are very useful for HR and executives concerned with developing leadership skills across their organization. The report is also a good resource for anyone in a management role looking to assess and further develop their own leadership skills.
Here are some key findings:
- Only 30% of leaders and 25% of HR respondents rated the quality of leadership in their organizations as very good or excellent.
- The five most critical skills for leaders are (in rank order):
- Driving and managing change.
- Identifying and developing future talent.
- Fostering creativity and innovation.
- Coaching and developing others.
- Executing organizational strategy.
"About half of leaders rated themselves as ineffective in the five most critical skills."
The three most frequent leadership development methods (numbers in brackets are percent of organization using this method, followed by percent rating that method as effective):
In a section entitled "The role of management is still in yesteryear mode," author and Professor Gary Hamel partnered with DDI to identify which of the following disablers were most prominent. Gary is quoted from his new book, The Future of Management: "Right now, your company has 21st century, internet-enabled business processes, mid-20th century management processes, all built atop 19th century management principles."
- Formal workshops, courses, and seminars (81/73).
- Coaching from managers (68/63).
- Special projects or assignments (68/66).
The report identified the top "Management Culture Killers (in rank order)":
In the bottom third versus top third performing companies retention is 24% versus 70%, employee engagement is 9% versus 50%, and passion to lead is 7% versus 53%!
- Strategic and key business decisions are made mostly by those in positions of power, with very few opportunities for open discussion.
- Organizational structure is siloed, rigid, and hierarchal.
- Our management processes (e.g. strategic planning) are highly bureaucratic and often a nuisance.
- Senior leaders are the primary visionaries and creators.
- We almost exclusively focus on top/bottom line growth.
- Power and influence are held by those who value the status quo.
Most organizations looking to survive -- and certainly to thrive -- in our turbulent times really do need a leadership revolution! This report provides insights on the sweeping culture and leadership changes needed.
To read an executive summary or download the full report go to Global Leadership Forecast 2011: Time for a Leadership Revolution! and click on the "Global Report" tab.
Avoid These Traps and LOL for Peak Performance
I recently came across this bit of wisdom from an unknown author, "Remember, people will judge you by your actions, not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold -- but so does a hard-boiled egg." Way too many managers confuse intentions, plans, and declarations with actions. Managers must LOL -- lead out loud -- if they are going to bring about culture change and shift behavior for higher levels of customer service, quality, safety, productivity, or innovation.
In their classic bestseller, In Search of Excellence, Tom Peters and Bob Waterman popularized their finding that effective leaders spend huge amounts of time managing by wandering around (MBWA) with customers, suppliers, and staff . Decades later, Tom Peters was as adamant as ever about an executive's use of his or her calendar as a key signaling tool; "Attention is all there is. You are what you spend your time on. You're as focused or unfocused -- as your calendar says you are. Interested in launching, and then sustaining a program of quality improvement through the empowerment of front-line people? If so, that theme had better be reflected unmistakably on your calendar, hour to hour, day to day, year to year."
Team and organization members no longer believe much of what they hear. They must clearly see leadership or change messages led out loud. Here are key traps to avoid if you're going to bring about lasting team or organizational change:
Big Talk, Little Action
There are three keys to long-term change and improvement: (1) follow through, (2) follow through, (3) follow through. You and your managers cannot set bold new directions and then delegate their implementation. Your time and attention needs to stay focused on your change and improvement effort. Obviously you can't get wrapped up in all the details. But you must stay the course.
Managing by Muddling Around
If you're out to "snoopervise," swoop in and "solve" problems, or do bed checks, you'd do better to stay in your office. Many managers with weak coaching or team leadership skills inadvertently reduce openness and trust with ineffective interpersonal skills. Of course, they are usually the same ones who are too busy to build their own skills but send their overworked supervisors to be "fixed."
Ivory Tower Visions
There is a delicate balance between senior management getting their vision, values, and change plans together and building consensus and commitment through broad input. Visions and plans should not be developed in backrooms without the involvement of those people who will make it all work. An even greater danger is low customer input. Many an organization has squandered precious resources providing top–notch products or services nobody wanted.
Month End Myopia
If you have developed statements that boldly proclaim "zero injuries," "delighted customers," or "quality is our highest priority," watch yourself when the heat is on. This is one of your managerial moments of truth. What standards will you really accept? If you knowingly ship marginal quality products or deliver poor service you've just set a new standard.
Catch as Catch Can
A disciplined, regular process communicating management commitment face-to-face is essential. Staff support professionals and improvement coordinators should help "stage manage" managers time to get maximum visibility and involvement in key change and improvement events.
On a Wing and a Prayer
All your best intentions to signal commitment to team or organizational change will have little impact if you don't have plans, structures, and processes in place to take you through the long haul. People just won't get on board if you announce a million dollar destination and then pull up in a patched up old bus with two miles of life left.
Unconscious and Underlying Beliefs Undermine Culture Change Efforts
Culture change continues to be a hot topic because it's vital to successfully implementing change and improvement efforts. It's one of the key factors in the 50 – 70% failure rate for programs to increase safety performance, service and quality levels, Lean/Six Sigma, productivity, innovation, and leadership skills.
As I prepare for a series of webcasts, keynotes, workshops, and internal consultant/change agent training on culture change this fall, I've been reviewing research and what we're learning first-hand from our work with long-term consulting and training Clients. A team or organization's culture can be quite subtle. Many executives and managers don't understand how the success of programs they're trying to implement go way beyond the "hard" tools to the "soft" issues of leadership behaviors and culture. An example of this is this spring's blogs on Lean/Six Sigma and how Toyota's culture is what really makes the difference in their use of these tools. (Lean Leadership: Boosting or Blocking Lean/Six Sigma Tools and Techniques, Lasting Organizational Change Balances Doing and Being, and Toyota Under Fire: Leadership Lessons in Turning Crisis Into Opportunity).
During leadership development workshops over the past few years, we developed our Range of Reality model to explain the often unconscious underlying values during executive and manager behavior (Range of Reality: Choosing the Best or the Worst of Times). This model was published in Growing @ the Speed of Change.
In using the pessimism and optimism contrasts of the Range of Reality with executives and managers, we'd often draw parallels with concepts like Douglas McGregor's well known Theory X and Theory Y leadership models (Theory X beliefs; people are lazy, will rip you off, need to be "snoopervised," and must be threatened and coerced. Theory Y beliefs; people are self-motivated and self-controlled, want to take pride in their work, be on a winning team, and can be trusted). The executive/manager's beliefs form his or her reality that drives behavior. The shared reality and behavior of the management team is the key driver of the culture of the organization they lead.
This led to a culture version of our Range of Reality:
Range of Reality
Cultures are Built on Underlying Beliefs
- Fearful command and control
- Catch people doing things wrong
- Play not to lose
- Focus on gaps/weaknesses
- See the worst in people
- Push and punish
- Courageous shared leadership
- Catch people doing things right
- Play to win
- Build on strengths
- Bring out the best in people
- Pull and coach
Which reality best describes your culture? Many executives and managers will lean toward the Optimism end of the range when describing the culture of the teams or organizations they lead. This is often a serious self-deception! It's often a confusion of their intention with their behaviors. The truism "perception is reality" means we need to get the perception of the team or organization members. That's courageous leadership.
Book Review: Beyond Performance: How Great Organizations Build Ultimate Competitive Advantage by Scott Keller and Colin Price
This outstanding book should become a classic for its extensive research on leadership and organization effectiveness. It's based on "surveys on the drivers of organizational performance and health from more than 600,000 respondents from 500 organizations across the globe, surveys on the experience of transformational change from more than 6,800 CEOs and senior executives, reviews of more than 900 books and articles from academic journals, one-on-one interviews… the culmination of one of the most extensive research efforts ever undertaken in this area."
In Beyond Performance: How Great Organizations Build Ultimate Competitive Advantage Keller and Price reinforce the decades of accumulating research showing that roughly 70% of organizational change programs fail. Central to that high failure rate are huge shortfalls in developing the "soft skills" of leadership and culture. This is what the authors mean by going beyond performance ("what an enterprise delivers to its stakeholders in financial and operational terms") to organizational health ("the ability of an organization to align, execute, and renew itself").
Beyond Performance is misnamed. The book should really be entitled "Healthy Performance." Keller and Price provide strong and well reasoned arguments -- underpinned by their massive research -- for balancing hard performance results with soft health factors. Highly effective organizations have both. This balancing of management versus leadership is central to The CLEMMER Group's work and the foundation of The Leader's Digest (as introduced in Chapter One).
But it's through the so-called "soft skills" (that can be very hard to implement) that teams and organizations get results; "…change programs with clearly defined aspirations for both performance and health are 4.4 times more likely to be extremely successful than those with clear aspirations for performance alone…". Although balancing both management and leadership is critical (I often liken it to asking which wing of the plane you'd like to do without), Keller and Price focus on health because their research overwhelmingly shows "most companies already know how to keep an eye on performance; it's their health that more often suffers from neglect."
Beyond Performance is full of examples and practical advice. A very useful feature of the book is its implementation models and frameworks. A central model is the "five frames" they call the "5As" with chapters organized around each one:
Aspire: Where do we want to go?
Assess: How ready are we to go there?
Architect: What do we need to do to get there?
Act: How do we manage the journey?
Advance: How do we keep moving forward?
Keller and Price go on to identify, "three attributes of organizational health; internal alignment, quality of execution, and capacity for renewal." These are supported and sustained with "a definition of organizational health that consists of nine elements that combine in different ways to support and sustain them:
- Culture and Climate
- Coordination and Control
- External orientation
- Innovation and Learning"
I must confess; a big reason I love Beyond Performance is because it provides such deep research and further validation to the leadership and organization development approaches we've used successfully for three decades. When used as directed, this works! In fact, the authors should be much stronger in their writing style, conclusions, and advice. The editing should have been tighter to eliminate redundant words, awkward sentences, and waffling phrases.
I highly recommend Beyond Performance to leaders looking for transformation pathways to peak performance. It's also an extremely useful field guide for human resources, organization development, senior safety, lean, or service/quality professionals and similar senior support executives building healthier and higher-performing organizations.
Thoughts That Make You Go Hmmmm on… Beyond Performance
As reviewed in my last post, Beyond Performance is an excellent new book chockfull of solid research on the key elements to successful leadership and organization development. Here are a few highlights of Keller and Price's findings:
"What we might think of as the usual suspects -- inadequate resources, poor planning, bad ideas, unpredictable external events -- turn out to account for less than a third of change program failures. In fact, more than 70 percent of failures are driven by what we would categorize as poor organizational health, as manifested in such symptoms as negative employee attitudes and unproductive management behavior."
"Taking deliberate steps to move the needle on the soft stuff is a vital element in organizational transformations, though it's often overlooked."
"Programs that mobilize frontline employees to feel ownership of the change are four times more likely to succeed, programs that empower employees to use their own initiative to achieve aspirations for change are five times more likely to succeed, and programs that make the organization feel engaged and energized through communications and involvement are four times more likely to succeed than programs that don't do these things."
"… programs that communicate an emotionally compelling narrative about the transformation are 3.7 times more likely to succeed… (The Influence Model) identifies four major levers that leaders can use to shift employee mindsets on a wide scale:
- A compelling story -- content, the way it's communicated, and embedding messages through rituals
- Reinforcement mechanisms -- links with rewards and consequence, leverage nonfinancial incentives, and adjust processes, structures, and systems
- Skills required for change -- 'field and forum' approach, relational as well as technical skills, and refreshing the talent pool
- Role modeling -- having top team undergo visible transformation, symbolic actions, and selecting and nurturing influence leaders."
"Programs in which leaders model the desired changes are four times more likely to be successful."
"Our research shows that change programs that explicitly address leadership competencies are 3.2 times more likely to succeed than those that don't. But that's not an easy thing to do well. In a recent survey of CEOs and senior executives, 76 percent cited leadership development as important, yet only 7 percent thought their organization was doing it effectively."
"… organizations that explicitly assess current capabilities against those required to fulfill their performance aspirations are 6.6 times more likely to succeed in their transformation."
"… the single more important aspect of the senior leader's role in a transformation… is shifting the culture… the leader should seek 360-degree feedback on how their behavior ties in with the objectives of the broader program; have their diary analyzed to reveal how much time they actually spend on transformation priorities; commit to a short list of personal objectives; and get professional coaching on how to achieve them."
"… when a caterpillar becomes a butter-fly, or a tadpole a frog, it goes through transformation, not a change… when something goes through a transformation, it can't go back to what it was before… it has been fundamentally altered, taking on a new form that gives it more freedom and a better chance to survive and thrive in its environment."
Core Elements to Leading a Peak Performance Culture
Organizational culture development is a complex topic with many intertwined leadership components. Establishing a peak performance culture in what's sometimes called a "green field" situation has different challenges than changing an established culture (sometimes called "brown field").
In response to my July blog, RIM/Blackberry is at a Critical Leadership Crossroad, a subscriber sent me this e-mail focusing on that difference:
"RIM may come through their struggles because their culture may still remain fresh and "open enough for real enquiry" and understanding. But many companies are older organizations and are simply staid and entrenched.
I know you are a great advocate of personal growth in our leaders. How do you bring this about in organizations? Personal development (or self awareness being the more accurate description) does not come from reading a few books or attending the odd seminar. Much like attending a psychologist or counseling, it requires a genuine desire for change/growth and sustained effort, sometimes over many years. Most contemporary leaders would simply be too busy or challenged by it to want to engage in this sort of thing. How do you think we can tackle this dilemma?"
This reader put his finger on a key challenge of revitalizing an established "brown field culture." It has to start with the understanding and motivation of the organization's key leaders for deep and sustained change. Often that means a transformation. Rarely will incremental change or implementing current practices more efficiently or faster be enough.
Two sections of our web site deal with culture change. One is a series of articles and the other is past blogs on the topic.
We've been working with more and more executive teams who proclaim strategies for transforming their culture toward higher safety, customer service, innovation, Lean/Six Sigma approaches, productivity, employee engagement, or new technology platforms. Often their intentions are strong but their understanding of just what it takes is weak. They're innocently ignorant.
Drawing from our experience and emerging research on this critical topic (as I blogged last week in my Beyond Performance book review and key quotations) I've been reviewing the research and our recent keynotes, workshops, management team retreats, and consulting work to pull together a presentation/workshop on Leading a Peak Performance Culture. I'll be giving keynotes and workshops this fall based on this summer project.
On November 4, I'll be delivering a highly condensed and jam packed 60 minute webcast of this material. It will cover:
- How "Soft" Leadership and Culture Produce Hard Results
- The Top Five Culture Change Failure Factors
- Bolt-on Programs versus Built-in Processes
- The Peak Performance Balance: Managing Things and Leading People
- Six Core Components for a Peak Performance Culture
- The Five Stage Commitment Continuum
- Bringing Alive Vision, Core Values, and Purpose/Mission
- Leadership is an Action, Not a Position
- Getting (Re) Started
There is no charge to listen in, but you must register. You can get more information and register yourself and your management team for the webcast here.
Culture change and organizational transformation can be complex. But the core elements of successful implementation are fairly simple and doable. If you have the will, there is a way.
Reflections on "Nine Leadership Behaviors" and a Bad Boss Mirror Check
A recent blog post on "Nine Leadership Behaviors to Build Commitment" provoked a few excellent questions/observations that got me thinking -- and responding. Reader input included:
- How is the measurement and management of leadership effectiveness actually implemented in practice?
- Most managers let themselves off the hook for the poor productivity of an employee…
- Aren't egos and talk the most common predictors of leaders? Are we likely to see change as modern business practices increasingly alienate employees?
Click here to read the full reader comments/questions and my responses to them.
With the summer release of the movie "Horrible Bosses," Carol Tice asks "what kind of boss have you turned into, now that you're in charge?" She writes that the movie "has thrown a spotlight on an unpleasant fact: A lot of bosses are awful." She cites research that half of participants work for an "unreasonable" manager. Nearly 60% of workers stayed on the job, 11% quit immediately, while 27% planned their escape.
Carol identifies "five common types of bad bosses:
- Poor communicator
- Mixed nuts"
See "Are You a 'Horrible Boss'?" to read her blog and get more insights to looking in the mirror at whether you might resemble any of the types of bad bosses.
Tweet Reading: Recommended Online Resources
This section summarizes last month's LinkedIn Updates and Twitter Tweets sent about online articles or blog posts that I've flagged as worth reading. These are usually posted on weekends when I am doing much of my reading for research, learning, or leisure.
My original tweet commenting on the article precedes each title and descriptor from the original source:
I continually use these three questions for management team development and other assessment, planning, and development work.
Three Questions for Effective Feedback - Thomas J. DeLong
"I introduced the SKS process into faculty evaluations at universities, as well as performance appraisals on Wall Street. I've found it helps me, as well as others, avoid living in our fantasies of who we are."
A great reminder in these turbulent times that strong leaders build highly adaptive organizations thriving on unpredictable change.
S&P and the Trouble with Forecasting - Rick Wartzman
"We must start out with the premise that forecasting is not a respectable human activity and not worthwhile beyond the shortest of periods,' Drucker wrote in his 1973 classic Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices."
I've long defined leadership as an action, not a position. This is an excellent commentary on how roles and behaviors are often confused.
There Is No Such Thing As Bad Leadership - Rajeev Peshawaria
"Despite the thousands of books written on the subject, and despite billions spent each year on teaching it, leadership is a very misunderstood word. Most of us regard people in positions of power and authority as leaders. And here is where the problem begins."
Experimenting, pilots, and "happy accidents" or failing our way to success are often avoided and not mined for their rich learning.
Tim Harford on Trial, Error and Our "God Complex" - MIT Sloan Management Review
"Forget the idea that one person or even a smart team has the brains and education to think through a complex challenge. Establish, instead, a process that forces the consideration of many options. Narrow in on the best only after first considering and rejecting the many."
Turbo Charge Your Leadership
To help accelerate your leadership development and your team's performance, we are offering my bestseller, The Leader's Digest at a special "2 for 1" rate, plus FREE shipping in Canada and the US . Even better, you can now order this leadership handbook in French, Spanish, and Portuguese editions.
Give your second copy to a colleague or associate -- Order copies for all Your Supervisors, Managers, and Executives
"If you're looking for a book that illuminates the topic of leadership in a useful, readable, and lively way, this is it."
-- Warren Bennis, Distinguished Professor of Business, USC, and Co-author of GEEKS AND GEEZERS: How Era, Values and Defining Moments Shape Leaders
The Leader's Digest: Principes immuables de la réussite d'une équipe et d'une entreprise
The Leader's Digest: Principios que no mueren con el tiempo para el éxito de equipos y la organizacin
The Leader's Digest: Principes immuables de la réussite d'une équipe et d'une entreprise
Available for a limited time -- take advantage of this limited 2-for-1 offer!
Read The Leader Letter in Twice Weekly Installments
An overwhelmed reader with an overflowing in-box cancelled his subscription to The Leader Letter because he said it was too long. I do try to provide much more value than subscribers are paying for! He didn't realize that items in each month's issue of The Leader Letter are first published in my twice weekly blog during the previous month. When he learned this, he promptly signed up at http://www.jimclemmer.com/blog/ (enter your e-mail address in the upper left corner box under "Sign up for E-mail Blog Notification").
If you read each blog post (or issue of The Leader Letter) as it's published over twelve months you'll have read the equivalent of one of my books. And you'll pick up a few practical leadership tips that help you use time more strategically and tame your E-Beast!
Feedback and Follow-Up
I am always delighted to hear from readers of The Leader Letter with feedback, reflections, suggestions, or differing points of view. Nobody is ever identified in The Leader Letter without their permission. I am also happy to explore customized, in-house adaptations of any of my material for your team or organization. Drop me an e-mail at Jim.Clemmer@Clemmer.net or connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, FaceBook, or my blog!
Keep learning, laughing, loving, and leading - living life just for the L of it!!
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