The Leadership Equation

Our lives today seem to be run by mathematical equations and algorithms. Google finds our search requests with sophisticated algorithms.  Amazon uses algorithms to suggest items for you to purchase based on your previous shopping history.  Airlines recalculate and publish revised airfares multiple times a day in order to maximize load and profit based on a supply and demand algorithm using multiple inputs such as impending weather, holiday schedules, time of day and even world events.

It seems that almost everything in life can be reduced to a formula or algorithm. When you think of an algorithm in the most general way (not just in regards to computing), algorithms are everywhere. A recipe for making food is an algorithm. Simply a sequence of steps in order to deliver a final product; in this case a perfectly baked cake.

An algorithm is a self-contained sequence of actions to be performed, usually by a computer. Algorithms perform calculations, data processing, and/or automated reasoning tasks.

And recently the news is filled with stories of self-driving automobiles and the intelligent algorithms that integrate all the various data inputs to successfully navigate from point A to B on busy roads with no human intervention.

The Leadership Equation

Can we use a simple equation to help better define leadership?

The concept of leadership, that is the actions taken by an individual that make her/him stand out from others in their ability to get things done and do the right things, has been written about, debated, discussed, argued and theorized, taught and retaught for thousands of years.  Today there are literally hundreds of books on the market about leadership.  Leadership books for teachers, developing early childhood leadership skills, business leadership principles, board leadership, military leadership skills, NGO leadership, etc.  Most are a collection of attributes that, according to the author, makes one a leader.  One of the most popular is a book by John C. Maxwell, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.  There’s even a book titled, Leadership for Dummies!

In my search for simplicity and to help business executives face the growing challenges of leadership in today’s complex global marketplace and changing political landscape, I have tried to look for a simple yet effective equation any person facing leadership choices can use to be more effective.

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.  ~Albert Einstein

So far, the following equation has proven to be extremely useful in helping leaders understand their role and how to execute their responsibilities.  It’s very simple, yet at the same time profound.

LEADERSHIP = ACCOUNTABILITY > AUTHORITY

Authority is how our role or job is defined in terms of decision limits, span of control, delegated authority, scope of budgets, purchasing limits, etc.   These are usually formally detailed in a job description.  In a perfect world, that would be enough for a person to carry out their duties effectively.

Unfortunately, our authority is not absolute and there are others in the company or team with responsibilities and authority as well.  And I have never seen a job description or responsibility matrix that can cover all contingencies and aspects of modern business life.  So there are gaps.  The following diagram is one I often use in leadership workshops to show how authority levels are not enough to get the job done in all situations.

authority

 What About the Gaps?

As it is easy to see, no matter how complete the authority roles are developed, there are always gaps, which lead to statements such as, “that’s not my job”, “I did what I was supposed to do, it’s not my fault we didn’t get the result”, “she’s overstepping her bounds and interfering with my department”, “I did my job, you do yours”, etc.  

Leadership is about closing the gaps and getting things done, effectively, on-time, in budget, and improving the organization and it’s people along the way.  And it can only be accomplished when accountability is greater than authority. Leaders take responsibility for the bigger picture, beyond their stated level of authority. They keep the mission and purpose foremost in their mind, not their own budgets or functional goals. With a mindset of accountability, the gaps can be easily eliminated because everyone is working with the same overall enterprise objectives in mind.

accountability

We use this diagram in our leadership workshops to stimulate a discussion, particularly within a senior team, on what it will take to eliminate excuses and blaming (victim attitudes) and build a culture of accountability and high performance.  You would be amazed at the animated discussions that ultimately lead to a new understanding of leadership.

When someone is a real leader, you hear things like; “I know I didn’t create it, but it’s my problem now!”, “I’ll help whomever and do whatever it takes to help us win!”  How often do you hear that inside your company?

The highest form of leadership is personal accountability!

 

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

Posted in consulting, corporate culture, Human Psychology, leadership, Organization Behavior, strategy execution | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Opps! A Third Critical Life Skill: Effective Public Speaking

stage-fright

My two previous posts on Critical Life Skills for Young People (Checklists and Backwards Planning ) have produced numerous comments.  But one, from a fellow blogger who has great insight and experience (as a father and business leader) is David Kanigan, who politely reminded me of a third critical life skill for young people – effective public speaking. And I couldn’t agree more.

In fact, because of my personal situation, effective public speaking should have been at the top of the list.  You see, what most people don’t know about me is that for most of my childhood I was a chronic stutterer.  Not just an occasional stutterer, but as someone once said, “John couldn’t lead a group in silent prayer”!

And being a stutterer really bothered me, since I had a fairly good brain, did well in school, but couldn’t communicate my hopes or dreams, or even get into debates with others to prove myself.  So, like most stutterers I just clammed up, did my school work, got A’s and settled into the role of bright, nearly invisible kid.  (Maybe in another blog posting sometime I will tell you the story of how I got over stuttering and became a professional keynote speaker, but let’s get to the real meat of this blog.)

Effective public speaking, and in general being able to communicate effectively to one person or a thousand, is a critical life success skill.  Research on success in business puts effective communication ahead of intelligence or even grades in school. No matter how good your skills or how high your IQ, poor communication skills will limit your ability to influence others, get your ideas across, form strong relationships, build and motivate a work team, and sell your ideas. Employers in today’s marketplace are putting a premium on good communication skills.

80% of success in business and most any occupation today
is attributed to good communication skills.

But sadly, there is little training in schools today for effective communication skills. Classes in public speaking, debate, or Oral Communication skills have been mostly eliminated from school curriculums. So, where do the youngsters of today learn their communication skills and habits? Unfortunately it’s from their peers, movies and sitcoms, YouTube, and social media.  And the communication habits learned are not necessarily those conducive to business or life success.

One bad habit that most youth of today have somehow picked up is the EXCESSIVE use of such “filler words” as “LIKE” and “YOU KNOW”.  If you have ever listened to today’s youth carry out a conversation, whether among themselves or in answer to a teacher’s question or with just about anyone, it seems that every third word is “like” or “you know”, as well as other nonsense words such as “WELL”, “TOTALLY”, “REALLY?” and my favourite, “OMG!”.

“Fillers distract. They drown your message. They impair your delivery by diminishing your ability to align pacing, pauses and vocal variation to content. They make you seem uncertain, unprepared and unknowledgeable. They take up time and add no value.”

Even well educated people have gotten into the habit of filler words, or what some speech experts call “junk words”. Here’s an example from a New York Times interview with Caroline Kennedy where she used a whopping 124 filler words in a 20 minute inerview:

I’m, you know, actually, Andrew Cuomo is someone I’ve known for many, many years and we’ve talked, you know, throughout this process, so, you know, we have a really good relationship and I admire the work he’s doing now and what he’s done, so I’m not really going to kind of criticize any of these other candidates, because I think there are a lot of people with great experience, and, you know, any one of which the governor could easily pick and they’d do a good job.

I think they would make me a really good pick for this job, and, um, it’s up to the governor to decide, you know, who would be the best. Really. And I think there are many ways to serve, and I’ve loved what I’ve done so far, and I plan to continue, I think, you know, serving and advocating for the issues that I think are important. So, if it’s this, that would be wonderful, because I really do think that the relationships that I have in Washington — you know, I worked hard on the Obama campaign, I have a good relationship with many of the people that are coming in to the administration, in the Senate, others, both sides of the aisle, you know, that’s the kind of work that I’ve done outside of politics. It hasn’t been sort of a partisan kind of career that I’ve had. So I think that at this point in time, that’s what people are looking for.

Convinced of her clarity of focus and communication effectiveness? By the way, she didn’t get the appointment from the Mayor of New York!

According to recent research, the main cause of the excessive use of filler words is Distraction or Inattention. To put is bluntly, we just aren’t paying that much attention to what we are saying, who we are speaking to, and not that focused on the topic.

The results of one study indicates that the number of filler words used by participants drastically increases in situations where their attention is divided.

Excessive use of filler words is a mental form of channel surfing while trying to communicate. And as a result of not being focused on the topic or the listener, the speaker comes across as weak minded and wishy-washy (a technical term 😀 ) when trying to influence or communicate.

And an excessive use of filler words does have negative impacts. The majority of communications scholars and researchers agree that the overuse of filler words ultimately negates speaker credibility.

An Effective Tool for Young People to Improve Their Communication Skills

So, if it has become a national epidemic to use excessive filler words and “that’s how all my friends talk, so what?”, is there an effective tool for eliminating filler words and communicating more directly, effectively and confidently?

If the main cause is “mental channel surfing” or a distracted and busy mind while speaking, then the solution is to focus on the topic, the listener, and your own words.  90% of people can’t repeat the exact words in the last sentence they just used when talking to someone. Why? Not really paying attention to the words. Words are powerful.  They are bullets of thought and should not be sprayed around or wasted. Think of your speaking as a laser beam and not a shower head!  Mentally watch the words leave your mouth and strike the audience or your listener.  Just this simple tool of focusing on each word will not only make you a more powerful speaker, but dramatically reduce the number of filler words.

I conquered my stuttering by realizing that my mind was more focused on the fear of rejection and what people were thinking about me than about the actual words I was speaking. Once I began to focus on the words and focus on the listener, my fluency and speaking power dramatically improved. There is a concept called “Mindfulness” and it is basically the ability to be fully present and focused on what you are doing or saying at the moment, and not distracted or mental channel surfing at the same time. That’s the key to effective speaking and communicating.

A Simple Exercise for Kids and Parents

Here’s a fun and insightful exercise you can easily do at home.  Talk about filler words, then for the next couple of days, each person counts the number of filler words used by other people.  While young people have developed filler words as a habit, you would also be amazed at how many adults use unnecessary filler words.  After a couple of days, everyone will be more aware of filler words, then you can start using the “mindfulness” technique of noticing each word as you say it.  Have fun with this and watch the amount of filler words decrease dramatically and the power of your communication increase significantly.

Otherwise, like, you know, it’s, Oh My God, I mean really, you know, like a tough habit to break!

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

 

Posted in Human Psychology, leadership, Life Skills, parenting, Personal Development, Psychology, Self-improvement | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Backward Planning: The Second Important Life Skill

backward-planning

You are young at any age if you are planning for tomorrow.

In my previous post I introduced the importance of habits and life skills that should be learned at an early age. And believe me, learning good habits is much easier and quicker when you are young. At the ripe age of 68 just trying to remember my limited French is a challenge, let alone learn a new language or a new skill.

And from my experience in both education and business, as well as daily life, there are a couple of life skills that are critical for success, no matter what the profession or occupation.  Last post I introduced the important life habit of Checklists.  Making a daily check list of important items to accomplish, reviewing it throughout the day and reviewing progress and lessons learned at the end of the day.  All of us, no matter what the age group, have hectic lives and multiple activities and commitments and the checklist is my number one success habit.

However, just because you have made a checklist doesn’t automatically spell success. You have to deliver on the items and “To Do’s” on your list.

Activity expands to fill the amount of time allotted.

And now comes the second important life skill: Backwards Planning.

Backward Planning

I was first introduced to Backward Planning by two former US Army Rangers I hired as part of my consulting company in the 1980s.  According to them, Backward Planning is the most effective tool to get a long-term task accomplished in a hectic, changing environment (kind of like most of our daily lives).

Backward planning lets you know when you need to get started, and also gives you timing points along the way to let you know if you need to adjust your plan in order to get ‘er done when you need to.

Backward Planning begins with the objective and the end date or time as fixed. Then you simply walk backwards in time and determine the actions, milestones and time frames required.

Here is simple military example:

ranger-patrolSuppose a Patrol had to be at a certain location ready to engage at 11pm. If the end time was at 11pm, a final reconnaissance of the arrival site needed to take place an hour beforehand. Given backward planning, reconnaissance should begin at 10pm.   Before that a small patrol base had to be set up in the area about 15 minutes before.  This means the patrol needed to be on location at 9:45pm.  It would take the patrol about three hours to get there from where they were currently located.  This meant leaving at 6:45pm.  It would take an hour to ready the equipment, fifteen minutes to eat, and three hours for mission planning. The patrol would start to get ready at 2:45pm.

We were mentally there and prepared long before we arrived.  ~US Army Ranger

The same process can be used for delivering a term paper.  Start with the subject and day and time to be handed in.  Calculate the time for reviewing, revising and spell checking the final draft, say 4 hours.  Step backwards again and calculate the size of the essay (number of words or pages) and how long it would take to write that, given 2-3 hours bursts of concentrated work.  Then determine the amount of research required (books and articles to be read, interviews, discussions, etc.), then step backwards again to determine your overall thesis and ideas you want to explore in your essay.  If all that is longer than the time frame you have, then adjust the times for research, writing, revising, etc. accordingly.

Backwards planning is the only way to deliver a quality product, on-time, without pulling an all-nighter, being horribly stressed and/or without compromising your true abilities.

If you have ever felt that there are not enough hours in a day to do everything you need to do, the habit of Backwards Planning will be a life saver for you.  You will actually be surprised at how much you can accomplish using this skill.  With a plan focused on the end deadline, you may find yourself getting more done each day than you usually accomplish in a week.  Not only will you be more productive, but achieving each goal will come much easier as Backwards Planning becomes a habit and a routine way of working.

Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. ~US ARMY moto

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

Posted in Human Psychology, John R Childress, leadership, Life Skills, Organization Behavior, Personal Development, Self-improvement, strategy execution | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Two Life Skills Every Young Person Should Learn

confucius quote trees

Life skills, like values, are best learned at an early age.  In today’s stipped-down, minimalistic educational system, values and life skills are not taught, let alone reinforced, so as parents, it is our duty to prepare our children for success in life. And television or social media may be doing just the opposite, creating false expectations without teaching skills.

So, if we are to prepare children for success in life, whatever their chosen profession or occupation, what life skills are fundamental foundations for success?

I believe there are two critical life skills every young person must learn and master.  Skills that support both personal and professional success. And these skills need to become life habits.  A good habit becomes a shortcut and makes life easier to navigate.

We are what we repeatably do.  Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.  ~Aristotle

The first good habit is the use of Checklists

Most of us believe we can keep everything in our heads, like things we need to do or to work on.  After all, what’s the brain for?  Well, reality is different. And the mind of a young person is especially jumbled and forgetful.  When she young my daughter was constantly running up the stairs to her room to get something she should have gotten in the first place.  We have even been out the door, in the car and down the street when she suddenly blurts out: “Wait! I need my ——-“, then she dashes back into the house once again.

Sound familiar?  And when we get older and the brain synapses and cognitive centers are more fully developed, we also have more things to deal with, like a job, bills, friends, kids, doctor appointments, grocery shopping, etc.  The list of things to remember becomes overwhelming and it is not uncommon that we have to make up some excuse for missing an appointment or forgetting a friend’s birthday, or worse, a wedding anniversary.

pilot-checklistEnter the checklist.  Aviation accidents took a dramatic decline with the introduction of the cockpit checklist.  Relying on the mind to remember and recall all the correct procedures for takeoff and landing proved to be fatal, even with highly experienced pilots. Even today with all the modern technology that allows an airplane to takeoff and land by itself, the pilot checklist is a critical step in accident prevention. There are even several pilot checklist apps on the market now.

So, at home it is easy to begin the habit of checklists.  On our front door we have taped a checklist that reminds everyone: keys, cell phone, bus pass, wallet, driver license, student card, umbrella, shopping bag, violin and music, and a big category that says: THINK – Anything Else? This simple front door checklist has reduced the number of trips back upstairs or driving back home to retrieve a forgotten item considerably.

If you take the time to make your daily list of important things the evening before, your subconscious mind will work on your list as you sleep.  Many times I have woken up in the morning with ideas and even solutions to things I put on my list the night before.

Without a written checklist for the day it is all too easy for less important tasks to take up valuable time. I have listened to many an executive complain that they just can’t find the time to work on the really important strategic issues. My reply is not very sympathetic. You make time by putting it on your checklist and diligently working through your list. If you don’t write it down as an important To Do the evening before and review your list at the beginning of each day, it is easy to either subconsciously avoid or get involved in day-to-day business issues.  If you want to get something done, put it on your checklist!

Sound too simple?  Who cares; it’s effective at getting things done!

Everyone must choose one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.  ~Jim Rohn

The second good skill habit is Backwards Planning (in my next blog)

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

Posted in consulting, Human Psychology, John R Childress, leadership, Life Skills, parenting, Personal Development, Psychology, Self-improvement | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Foxhole Buddies . . .

band-of-brothers_660_wb

“A friend is one who walks in when others walk out”
-Walter Winchell

Not too long ago I watched the HBO TV miniseries, The Pacific, produced by Tom Hanks.  This is a companion piece to the widely acclaimed Band of Brothers. Both are moving and graphic accounts of the lives of those soldiers who fought and died protecting our freedoms in World War II.

Watching these true stories of a fast disappearing generation of heroes reminded me of aconcept my father often talked about.  ”Foxhole Buddies” he used to say, are friends you make for life as a result of a shared significant emotional experience.  At the end of each episode of The Pacific were short interviews with the actual men portrayed in the series.  Hearing them speak about their comrades brought home the power of human bonds born out of a shared significant emotional experience. Many of those men stayed friends for the rest of their lives, even though they were from widely different social and economic backgrounds and regions of the country.

In many ways a successful marriage is a significant shared emotional experience.  The shared experiences of raising children, building successful careers, learning how to make 1 + 1 = 3 is definitely not easy and certainly emotionally trying at times.

As I consult with senior executive teams on alignment and strategy execution I often step back and watch how they interact and relate with one another.  As I observe them in meetings and working on business challenges together I rarely find many “foxhole buddies”.  Too often they approach each other with invisible protective shields, careful not to let their emotions out or to let the other person “get too close”. And occasionally when the interactions are heated and emotions do erupt, there is a sense of embarrassment and then an awkward effort to bring things back to the rational and analytical ground they are comfortable with.

Business is not always rational and all issues cannot be solved with reason and logic!

Business is emotional.  Business is a contact sport.  It is hard work; it is sweaty and tedious, fast paced and sometimes even scary.  Many of us in executive positions right now are deeply disturbed at the prospects for the global economy and even for our own future and wellbeing.  It’s tough work out there building and guiding a company.  Not unlike frightened soldiers advancing through a minefield, trying to find safe passage.

Now, more than ever we need foxhole buddies by our side.

So let’s get closer to each other, support each other, argue with each other, be honest with each other in order to find the best solutions for our business and for the welfare of our customers and employees.

A Business Example:

Over twenty years ago I made a foxhole buddy during a senior leadership team offsite.  One of the senior program managers in this large aerospace and defence firm was not only extremely bright and capable, he was also extremely critical and condescending of his subordinates and peers.  As one employee volunteered, “When Dick walks down the hall he leave dead bodies littered behind him!”.  As the team was beginning to come together and find common ground for a team agenda, Dick was the naysayer, the outspoken devil’s advocate, challenging everything said.

Finally I walked over to Dick and said something like this.  ”Would you like some appreciative and constructive feedback?”  He knew he was trapped and said, yes.  ”What I appreciate about you is your quick mind and your willingness to challenge ideas in order to find the best solution.” Naturally he puffed up with pride.  I continued.  ”And I believe you could be even more effective if you realized that you terrify your subordinates into not speaking up and you leave dead bodies all around when you engage with people.”  Well, you can imagine his response.  Total denial and a barrage of examples to prove me wrong.  I nodded, looked him in the eye and said, “think about it”.

Two weeks later Dick and I had a great private conversation.  Like a true leader he had thought about it, asked for input from his peers and a few subordinates, and realized the truth.  He was a great thinker, an exceptional engineer, and a bully.  Dick and I became foxhole buddies because he stuck it out and arrived at a valuable insight that was to carry him to become CEO of several large organizations.

Dick is now retired but I know I could call on him for just about anything.  That’s the gift of foxhole buddies.

It might be time to rethink your relationships.

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

Posted in consulting, corporate culture, Human Psychology, John R Childress, leadership, Organization Behavior, Personal Development, Self-improvement | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The First Step on the Road to Leadership

The journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step.  ~Lao Tzu

To say that the road to becoming an effective leader is long and difficult is an understatement and definitely not for the faint of heart. And those who have travelled this road also know that it doesn’t end, it’s definitely a journey and not a destination.

There are many characteristics and capabilities that an individual must either posses or develop to become an effective leader and there are numerous books and articles claiming to describe these critical leadership “must haves”. And there is no leader, no matter how far along the road, who possesses all these characteristics. All leaders are, in one form or another, flawed and lacking, yet they can still be effective, but never perfect.

However, there is one thing that all of those desiring to travel the road to leadership must have, and it is actually what allows them to take that important first step.

That one thing is an understanding that leadership is all about CHOICE and the courage and capability to make difficult choices. Making a choice between two rights or between right and wrong is easy, even a child can do it successfully.  But real leadership becomes apparent when we must make choices between two wrongs (by wrong I mean choices that have negative consequences yet cannot be avoided).

Let me give you an example from the classical Greek mythical poem, the Odyssey, often attributed to the ancient scholar, Homer.  The poem mainly focuses on the Greek hero Odysseus (known as Ulysses in Roman myths), king of Ithaca, and his journey home after the fall of Troy. It takes Odysseus ten years to reach Ithaca after the ten-year Trojan War, and along the way he and his crew face numerous hardships.

scylla-and-charybdis

One of those hardships is that he must sail between two great perils, Scylla, a dangerous outcrop of jagged rocks and shallows, and Charybdis, a huge whirlpool.  These two dangers lay between the west coast of Italy and the island of Sicily in a narrow passage called the Strait of Messina. To reach his home in Ithaca, Odysseus had to choose between sailing close to the rocky shoals or the whirlpool. Either choice meant loss of life and there was no turning back or going around. Choice Time!

Now more than ever business, government, military, religious and social leaders face unavoidable perils. It comes with the territory, although it seems like in the 21st Century the territory is even more hostile than before. Threats of terrorism, social unrest, disruptive technology, mass migration and unstoppable immigration, employee disengagement, widening gaps between the rich and poor, competition coming from nontraditional players, economic slowdowns and rising debt levels are just a few.  The list of perils, and therefore the number of choices a leader must make, are endless.

If nothing else, effective leadership is about choice.

Making hard choices and living with the consequences.  And by the way, not making a choice is actually the worst choice of all.

Effective leadership means learning to live with unpleasant choices, making the best choice possible, learning how to see and deliver the best possible outcome from those choices, and staying optimistic in the face of ever more difficult choices.

Want to grow more leaders?  Then put your up-and-coming talented young men and women into situations where they must make, and live with, hard choices.

Making good choices comes from experience, and experience mostly comes from bad choices.

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

Posted in Human Psychology, leadership, Life Skills, Organization Behavior, Personal Development, Self-improvement | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Corporate Culture is visible if you know what to look for . . .

road-painting

Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected. -Steve Jobs

Not too long ago a friend of mine asked how to tell a reputable plumber or tradesman from the “cowboy” fixit men (those who talk fast, do poor work, and never return to fix their messes) who seem to be everywhere here in London.  They all have websites and email, they all tout excellent references and talk convincingly.  Some even offer a free evaluation.  What makes this a difficult decision is that in many places in London people don’t really know their neighbours (lots of second homes and transient expatriates who come and go frequently), so getting a reference from someone you know is not that easy.

The way I see it, there is actually a very simple way to determine the reputable from the “flim-flam” man, and it’s based on the principle of “shadow of the leader“.  This is a key principle in our work in understanding corporate culture and its impact on the performance of an organisation.

Organisations are shadows of their leaders; that’s the good news and the bad news!

In general, the principle of “Shadow of the Leader” says that the behaviour of people within an organisation tends to be a shadow, or reflection, of the behaviour of the leaders at the top.  One of the best places to quickly understand this principle is to look at the big banks.  The cutthroat culture of RBS several years ago was a clear shadow of Fred Goodwin.  The “above the rules” behaviour at Barclays Bank concerning the Libor rate fixing scandal a direct reflection of Bob Diamond and those he surrounded himself with. Culture shows up in how people behave, how they treat customers and each other, and in their work habits.

Now, returning to my friend looking for a trustworthy and quality tradesman, we need look no further than the back of his van for a clue into the quality of the individual.  If you are looking for someone who takes pride in their work, who will treat your home with respect, who takes pride in their own equipment, who understands the importance of quality, then take a look at the back of his van.  A man’s van is a direct shadow of his work!

Who you are speaks so loudly, I can’t hear a word you are saying.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The two van’s above show very clearly the principle of a visible corporate culture and the mindset (attitude) of the employee and his company.  Want to know which would be the most reputable and high work-ethic tradesman to hire?

Pretty obvious when you know what to look for.

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

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