VIDEO: A-C-T Your Way to Receiving Feedback

Feedback, as Marshall Goldsmith taught me, is a gift. And as such we need to thank people when they deliver it to us.

It is not enough to say thank you. You also need to learn to accept it — and act up on it.

When the feedback is coming from a trusted source — even if we don’t like that individual — it should be considered, and changes made.

First posted on Smart Brief on 2/27/2015

How a Good Leader Reacts to a Crisis (HBR)

There is something about a big snowstorm that brings out the best, or more often the worst, in big city mayors. If, as former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill once said, “All politics is local,” then you would think that the first hint of snow in the forecast would prompt mayors to relocate their offices temporarily to where the snowplows are dispatched.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who recently won a third term, and is widely regarded as an adept city leader, has come under fire for inefficient snow removal in New York City. Most of the complaints came from residents in the so-called outer boroughs — e.g., the four that are not Manhattan.

But across the Hudson, Newark Mayor Cory Booker has received acclaim for his response to the nor’easter snowfall, despite taking flak on a host of other matters. Not content with supervising removal, he plunged in with a shovel, helping to extricate cars, clear walkways, and in one instance deliver diapers to a housebound mother. He also tweeted his first-hand observations of the snow to his more than one million Twitter followers.

We like to see our elected officials in action. The contrast between Bloomberg’s reception and Booker’s can serve as a lesson for anyone in a position of authority. Here are some tips for the next big storm that hits your office:

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First posted on HBR.org 1/04/2011

Help Employees Listen What They Don’t Want to Hear (HBR)

When change initiatives fail, the culprit is often a lack of good communication from management. But that’s not always the whole story. Communication isn’t just about what management says; it’s also about how employees listen.

This point was made to me by an executive whose organization had difficulty in getting employees to buy into changes it had proposed. He felt his employees were choosing to tune out as a form of resistance. Such resistance can often sabotage the best efforts of management to drive change throughout the organization. It even happens when managers are diligent communicators and active in the communication process. Resistance will occur for any number of reasons: perceived loss of autonomy, fear of the unknown, or a dislike for upsetting the status quo.

And then when the long-discussed change occurs — be it an organizational transformation or a move to a new facility — the disgruntled rank and file mutters about not being consulted and blames management for being heavy handed.
What can you do to avoid, or at least mitigate, this kind of ugly situation? It will take efforts before, during, and after your communication push:

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First posted on HBR.org 2/17/2011

 

What Teaching Taught Me about Management (HBR)

I have long admired teachers. The ability to share knowledge and turn it into learning is a gift that I find rich and rewarding. Let me add another accolade to good teachers — great management skills. I learned this first-hand because I failed at teaching.

For years I have taught in executive and corporate education programs. My work has been judged on the merit of insight and engagement; participants are my evaluators. In fall 2009, however, I had the opportunity to teach in an undergraduate program for a local university. I would be responsible for exams, papers, projects and of course grades. I would also be responsible for taking attendance.

Since my students were adults (“non-traditional” in the collegiate jargon), I let them come and go as they pleased. I didn’t bother too much with sign-up sheets for attendance nor did I squawk when students left class early. As a workshop instructor, I am accustomed to participants being called away from class to handle things back at the office. It was annoying when students left without warning, but my attitude was, “It’s their nickel and they must have somewhere else important to be.”

Wrong! This was brought home to me by a student who told me that she found it very rude that students got up and left and that such things were not tolerated by the university, only by certain instructors like me. Since I like to draw leadership lessons from what I observe, let me share a few things about teaching that apply as well to managers.

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First posted on HBR.org 4/13/2011

VIDEO: Your Best People May Be Those You Overlook

re you overlooking the talents and skills of someone on your team?

Some star performers may lack the confidence to challenge conventional thinking about themselves and therefore they stay in their given roles.

Those who manage the talent pipeline would be wise to heed the words of composer Ludwig von Beethoven, who wrote, “The barriers are not erected which can say to aspiring talents and industry, ‘Thus far and no farther.’”

Talent wins!

 

First posted on Smart Brief on 4/10/2015

VIDEO: Employees Are Looking for Inspiration

Looking to get to the top of your organization? You’d better work on your motivation skills. That finding comes from a survey by IIC Partners headquartered in London.

As the survey explained, “68 percent of top leaders say they preferred a senior executive who could motivate and inspire others” over the ability to perform well.

When employees see that their boss walks the talk, stands up for them, and has a clear vision, they are motivated to follow. And when they see a leader who believes that his/her job is to serve (rather than being served) they are all the more motivated.

First posted on Smart Brief on 4/24/2015

Make Time for What Matters Before It’s Too Late (HBR)

“In a market that’s become extremely lean and mean… individuals who have tended to be the senior statesmen of their day are sometimes the first to go.”

That comment by Richard Stein, an executive recruiter in New York, should be handed out with diplomas to all newly minted MBAs. On the one hand this is good news for them because it means there is room at the top — but it’s also a warning to these up-and-comers that time flies.

Nelson Schwartz of the New York Times, who spoke to Stein as well as a number of senior leaders in law and financial services firms, reports that the day of involuntary retirement is fast approaching for many senior leaders, many of whom want to hang on to their jobs a while longer.

Reluctance to exit is understandable. Many senior leaders define themselves by their jobs. Senior executives especially grow accustomed to the perks that come with the job. But it’s not the corporate jet they’ll miss the most when they leave. People in power miss being in power. No longer will their phone calls be returned nor will people stop them in the halls to ask their advice. In retiring, they lose what they treasure most: influence.

That is why Stein’s dictum is so pertinent to today’s emerging leaders. Prepare for the future now. There is a misperception that legacy is something reserved for the CEO and his or her team in their last year at the top. No, you begin to create your legacy your first day on the job — and you build on it with every accomplishment over your career. (You also scuff up that legacy with mistakes you make, too.)

 

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First posted on HBR.org 6/17/2011

VIDEO: The Art of the Sound Bite

Anyone who is seeking to persuade, negotiate, or sell something is wise to learn the art of the sound bite.

Good sound bites are brief, pithy statements that sum up what you are trying to say. Short, sweet and to the point.

Proficient users of sound bites are attuned to their usage. This comes from being well read. Keep up with the issues but also read for pleasure.

The purpose of sound bites is simple — help people remember what you said and why you said it. When concise and colorful they reflect the speaker’s personality and amplify the message.

 

First posted on Smart Brief 5/08/2105

How to Instill Purpose (HBR)

A great many organizations invest a significant amount of money in trying to improve themselves. This commitment to getting better is laudable, but many times organizations overlook something within their organization that, when tapped, can sharpen focus, tighten alignment, hone execution, and — in the process — deliver better results. It’s called purpose.

While a veritable tsunami of resources — many of them first-rate — exist to help individuals discover purpose, a mere trickle of resources are available to help organizations discover theirs. This dichotomy led me to research ways to help organizations discover their purpose, and upon discovering it find ways to put it to good use. The result is Lead With Purpose, Giving Your Organization a Reason to Believe in Itself.

Purpose, as savvy leaders know, is the foundation for creating vision, executing the mission, and abiding by the values of an organization. Culture emerges from purposeful organizations, because purpose is what shapes individual’s beliefs and organizational norms. That foundation is essential, because it opens the door for organizations to do four important things, all of which are vital to success:

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First posted on HBR on 11/11/2011