Leadership Posts BIG Enjoyed

Leading Again for the First Time (Chris Souba, Dean The Ohio State University [go bucks!] Journal of Surgical Research 157, 139–153, 2009)

It’s all here: getting your identity all confused with your role, telling yourself empowering and/or disempowering stories, being mindful of your mental hard drives (what a great turn of phrase!), interpretative versus evidence-based decision-making, and even two views of reality. All great stuff as a either a primer or a review, depending upon where you are in your leadership journey. “The sustainability and ‘thrive-ability’ of our organizations, societies, nations, and world rest on changing the way we currently think.”

Roadmap to a life that matters (HBR post by Umair Haque)

Having spent a big chunk of the last year researching business and power, the folks at BIG believe the fabric of business is badly frayed. Umair’s piece filled us with peace…and hope and joy. “More, bigger, faster, cheaper, nastier has built an economy that might just be in furious pursuit of mediocrity. Put what, why, and who you love ahead of what, why, and who you don’t, and your roadmap will begin to write itself.”

The Rainmaker ‘Fab Five’ Blog Picks of the Week (Chris Young, The Rainmaker Group, Maximize Possibility)

OK, OK, including a collection of posts in a collection of posts is perhaps a tad odd. However, there’s such thoughtful content here that touches several of our hot buttons that we couldn’t resist! Insights on employee engagement, leadership values, job autonomy, ethical behavior and more. If you’re a leader looking for a few topics to introduce a thoughtful discussion in a staff meeting, those topics are here.

When You’re Thrown Off Course... (Jesse Lyn Stoner)

It’s been another volatile week on the stock market. The evening news is full of doom and gloom stories. You feel your attitude meter starting to dip southward. If your outlook could use a “pick-me-up,” you’ll appreciate Jesse’s telling of Terry Fox’s story. It’s a true tale of leadership, resilience and spirit. Warning: be prepared to be inspired!

Quote of the week. Gotta love this point of view!

A pessimist, they say, sees a glass as being half empty; an optimist sees the same glass as half full. But a giving person sees a glass of water and starts looking for someone who might be thirsty. ~G. Donald Gale


Change - 3 tips for bringing others along with you

When we moved into our lowcountry home three years ago, the side yard was beautifully shaded with quintessentially southern crepe myrtle and magnolia trees belonging to our neighbor. Given that they lived here only a few months of the year, I felt privileged to enjoy the beauty of their landscaping year-round. Taking their lead, I fulfilled my gardening zest by planting lots of shade-loving flowers and shrubs.

All that changed recently. Crews with chain saws leapt through their yard, taking down tree after tree - including those beautiful myrtles and magnolias. What a loss…and what a difference. My shade-loving plants soon began withering and dying, unable to withstand the heat and light.

And here I am thinking about abrupt change, and the ripple effects it causes.

Change is certainly a part of life and business, no denying that. Yet change imposed without notice and without warning increases the likelihood of resistance and pushback. If you’re a leader facing change, keep a few simple tips and pointers in mind to help your team navigate the bright light more easily and readily.

1) Communicate as much as you can - ahead of time. Bring people into the loop early in the process - both to secure their feedback (and insights you might not have considered) and to allow them time to begin the mental and emotional adjustment to what’s coming. They can handle it.

Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better. ~King Whitney Jr.

2) Explain why the change is happening. It’s so much easier to embrace change, or at least get aligned with it, when one knows the purpose and reasoning for altering the status quo. In the absence of facts, people create their own story - which may be totally accurate or completely off the mark.

Those who expect moments of change to be comfortable and free of conflict have not learned their history. ~Joan Wallach Scott

3) Embed the change. Structure the change process so there are some early, visible wins. Hold people accountable for using the new systems, models, skills, etc.  Have regular readouts on progress made, barriers overcome and tall buildings leapt in a single bound. Reward and recognize. Weave the new into the fabric of your culture.

If I have the belief that I can do it, I will surely acquire the capacity to do it, even if I may not have it at the beginning. ~Gandhi

Photo: Jessica Leigh

Fav Leadership Reading

Inside Pfizer’s Palace Coup (CNN Money post by Peter Elkind and Jennifer Reingold with Doris Burke)

Wow, talk about a fascinating story of dysfunctional leadership! This article is long but well worth the read. It details the rise and fall story of Jeff Kindler, former Pfizer CEO. It’s all here: ego, backstabbing, cliques, insidious competition, rudeness, callousness, passivity and more. Everything on the shadow side of leadership…great lessons for NOT to behave.

How to Find a Child’s Missing Shoe (and Other Entitlement Issues) (Richard and Linda Eyre for Success Magazine)

While the central thrust of this article is helping children understand ownership, the points made and process diagram are useful for adults (and leaders, too!). “Jason felt no sense of ownership for his shoe! Why would he? He didn’t buy it; he hadn’t given up anything for it. He hadn’t even picked it out. And without ownership, he couldn’t have felt a sense of responsibility.”

Making Vs.Taking Decisions (Matt Angello on Bright Tree Consulting Group)

In this interesting post, Matt compares the western style of “making” decisions with the European model of “taking” decisions. It’s a nuanced distinction, to be sure, yet one worth pondering as one considers the economic shambles still enveloping us and the disarray in Washington.

Michael Watkins’ ‘The First 90 Days’ (book review by Patrick Brigger)

A very succinct and informative book review: this abstract provides the ten challenge areas new leaders face and four leadership situations defined with a “Stars” model - start-up, turnaround, realignment and sustaining success.

First Look: Leadership Books for August 2011 (Michael McKinney on Leadership Now)

Check out Michael’s sneak peak of five new leadership books being released this month…just in time, perhaps, for some vacation reading!

To ponder, courtesy of Lewis Carroll:

“Speak when you’re spoken to!” The Queen sharply interrupted her.

“But if everybody obeyed that rule,” said Alice, who was always ready for a little argument, “and if you only spoke when you were spoken to, and the other person always waited for you to begin, you see nobody would ever say anything, so that — “

“Ridiculous!” cried the Queen. “Why, don’t you see, child — ” here she broke off with a frown, and, after thinking for a minute, suddenly changed the subject of the conversation.

Shoe photo from Chixpix


Teeball, leaders and reweaving the fabric of business

Ah, work/life boundaries — so tricky, so necessary, and so darn hard to manage for many reasons both personal and professional.

A female business colleague/friend and I were sharing personal insights for how we set (or don’t) boundaries for work and personal time.

(Before I go on, I must raise my hand and confess, “I, Jane, am a workaholic” because this tendency plays a role in how my story unfolds.)

Insights from the stands

Over the last  six weeks, I attended twelve teeball games, two a week, all with 5:30 PM start times ( isn’t 5:30 PM the middle of the afternoon?!). There I saw my six-year-old grandson smile shyly yet proudly at us on the sidelines after his triumphant runs to first base. I could cheer him (and others) on in the process one charming little fellow so creatively named “first we hit, then we glove.”

To my second act of life way of thinking, this encouragement and our presence were acts of leadership development for those small girls and boys. We were helping them build self-confidence. Learn teamwork and sharing.  Begin to appreciate that others to have different skills and outlooks, and that is OK.

Going to those teeball games was also a commitment of time, I’m sad to say, that wouldn’t have happened in the first act of my life.

In that Corporate America part of my life, there was the ever-present, yet albeit covert, belief that individuals — especially women — who left work early for family reasons (things like 5:30 PM teeball games) “weren’t giving it their all” or were “unwilling to do what it takes.” Given my desire to succeed and those workaholic tendencies, I drank the corporate koolaid by the gallon. Not wanting anyone to say I wasn’t willing to do what it took, 70-80 hour work weeks were the norm. I used to joke that a 40-hour week was a part-time job. Ah, sick puppy.

Time for a new direction

Having emerged from my “corporate detox” period, I can more objectively look back. Today I see the error of my ways. Back then, I set no boundaries. All work, very little play.  I allowed my work schedule and life to be influenced by those covert stereotypes. I own letting that happen.

But now, I also see how badly frayed the fabric of business practices is.  Spoken and unspoken expectations that enabled, no - encouraged, my nose-to-the-grindstone, crank-it-out work ethic. Organizational cultures where taking time away from the office to participate in activities like cheering on the next generation of leaders wasn’t valued. Where doing so, in fact, is negatively rewarded at review time for those bold and smart enough to set boundaries. I’m taking ownership to change this.

Along with Anne Perschel, I’ve been researching women in business and power. We’re ready to start reweaving the fabric of business so those teeball acts of leadership development and other changes can happen. For women. For men. For anyone interested in transforming the paradigms of business.

Ready to play?


BIG Curated Leadership Reading

Five People You Need On Your Personal Board of Directors (Tina Vasquez for The Glass Hammer)

If you’re a woman interested in making professional connections for career advancement, there’s some good advice in this article. Rather than wait for a mentor or sponsor, be proactive and create your own board of directors. Tina offers suggestions for five roles for the individuals you select for your board. This composition provides a variety of feedback which “leads to diversity of thought and in most cases, better results.”

Who’s Got the Monkey? (HBR Classic by William Oncken, Jr. and Donald L. Wass)

Struggling with a ‘to do’ list that gets longer every time one of your direct reports pops into your office? If your employees are delegating their issues upward to you, this will be a great read (or re-read!). HBR re-released it in the late ’90′s, and it totally resonated with the leadership team where I was working at the time. To help us manage what the authors call “subordinate-managed time,” we all purchased the barrel of monkeys toy, using it as a visual symbol to track who was giving the monkey to whom!

Cultivating Goodness (Mary Jo Asmus, Aspire Collaborative Services)

Here at Braithwaite and Get Your BIG On, we’re big supporters of goodness, kindness and making a sustainable positive difference. We applaud Mary Jo for creating a thoughtful list of things leaders can/should do to serve the greater good. “When you put goodness out there, it comes back to you. Make an impact and watch goodness ripple throughout your organization.”

Why Airplanes are a Productivity Haven For Me (Kevin Eikenberry on Leadership and Learning)

Kevin’s post made us chuckle. We share his view that airplanes are a haven for unplugged productivity. Kevin’s key point to add to your toolkit is finding your haven - a place to think and renew. “It’s about making (not finding) the time and place to do your most important work.”

Whack Pack: The best brainstorming tool for the iPad

I’m a big fan of Roger von Oech’s Whack Pack. It’s a great tool for introducing creativity concepts to leaders and for brainstorming. Now it’s available as an app. This article provides suggestions on how to use the tool via an iPad…ingenious! (And now all I have to do is get an iPad!)

This quote stopped us in our tracks this week: “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.” ~Nietzsche


Seals, Sardines and Employee Satisfaction

“All you OD folks want to make things so difficult. Making my employees happy is simple. Just serve up pizza on Friday and you’re pretty much done with it.” ~Business Owner

Hey, everyone’s entitled to their opinions. And I disagree with this fellow!

Keeping employees motivated day-in and day-out isn’t the result of one-time events like parties, cookouts or passing out cupcakes on Tuesdays. Employees aren’t trained seals who will patty-cake to get their sardine!

Great leaders build a trusting and giving environment where employees motivate themselves because they feel valued, appreciated, and even loved!

  • Let your employees know you have their back.
  • Let employees make decisions.
  • Seek out and listen to their feedback.
  • Say I’m sorry and mean it.

And then pass out cupcakes on Tuesday and serve up pizza on Friday!

What’s your view? Do share!


This Week’s Fav Leadership Reading

The Value of Ritual in Your Workday (Harvard Business Review by @peterbregman)

After encountering three people in the last month who espouse the value of rituals, we revisited this post.  Folks are saying that Western civilization is losing touch with, or perhaps interest in, ritual. We’re so busy being busy that we forget to be mindful. This post advocates adding simple rituals to one’s work day, things like “stopping for a moment and noticing what you’re about to do, what you’ve just done, or both.” There’s nothing woo-woo (we’re not big fans of woo-woo at GYBO) about simply reconnecting with oneself and what’s important. It’s actually pretty rewarding we’re finding out.

Be A Woman of Power (YouTube video, interview: Anita Zucker, CEO, The InterTech Group)

If you are as interested in women in business and power as we are, you’ll enjoy this interview with Anita Zucker, CEO of The InterTech Group, and recently named to the Forbes’ billionaire list.  Jennet Robinson Alterman, Executive Director of The Center for Women, interviews what the Financial Times named as one of the 50 most prominent business women in the world. Mrs. Zucker speaks openly about her life and how she and her husband, Jerry, raised a family and built a global conglomerate together centered by the Hebrew expression “tikkun olam” meaning “repair of the world”.

Moral potency: building the capacity for character based leadership (free ebook by Sean T. Hannah and Bruce Avolio)

Do you ever listen to the news (like the melt-down at Rupert Murdock’s The News Corporation) and wonder where people lost their ability to discern right from wrong? In this is fascinating paper, Hannah and Avolio offer up some answers via a new paradigm they title moral potency and its component elements: moral courage, moral efficacy, and moral ownership. We read this 44-page downloadable ebook cover-to-cover, captivated by the concepts they propose to build ethical leadership. Their work began with the question: why do leaders who know what the right ethical decision or action to take is still fail to action when action is clearly warranted? “…we believe organizations can seek to develop leaders who cannot just determine what is right (i.e., make ethical judgments), but more importantly, step up and do what is right under pressure. This is critical as leaders serve as exemplars for others to emulate and establish the normative tone for their organization.”

Something to noodle: “Before you can inspire with emotion, you must be swamped with it yourself. Before you can move their tears, your own must flow. To convince them, you must yourself believe.”  ~Winston Churchill


Leadership: On Leaving Marks

An old friend shared this story with me. It’s short yet poignant and full of life, love and leadership lessons. May you enjoy it as much as I did.

A pencil-maker told the pencil five important lessons before putting it in the box:

1) Everything you do will always leave a mark.

2) You can always correct the mistakes you make.

3) What is important is what is inside of you.

4) In life, you will undergo painful sharpening which will only make you better.

5) To be the best pencil, you must allow yourself to be held and guided by the hand that holds yours.

We all need to be constantly sharpened. This parable encourages you to remember that you are a special person with unique talents and abilities. Only you can fulfill the purpose which you were born to accomplish. Never allow yourself to get discouraged and think that your life is insignificant and cannot be changed.

Like the pencil, always remember that the most important part of who you are is what’s inside of you.



This Week’s Fav Leadership Reading

Some very interesting content this week…

asking questions

Footwashing for Leaders (Leadership Now, Leading Blog)

Sometimes when things are going very, very right at work, and you’ve been dubbed the golden boy or girl, it’s easy to begin believing in your own myth. Slowly hubris creeps in, smothering humility. This short post, along with the links it contains, is a great reminder of keeping “humbition” in your lexicon.

When a Leader Aims to Please (Maggie Craddock on HBR Blog)

Would you characterize your style at work as a pleaser? A charmer? A commander? An inspirer? Maggie shares research from her latest book, drawing links to these styles and how a boss handles (or not) the disruptive employee. Some interesting thoughts to noodle here.

The Golden Rule of Listening: How to Speak Loud and Clear without Opening Your Mouth (Tim Eyre on The People Equation by Jennifer V. Miller)

Tim reminds us that sometimes we say more when we say nothing and listen instead. He offers five valuable gifts one gives by speaking less and listening more. ”If for no other reason to listen more and talk less, remember the pay-off of the golden rule: If you listen to them, they will listen to you. If you want others to take your ideas to heart, then you must offer them the same courtesy.”

Barriers and Gateways to Communication (Carl R. Rogers and E.J. Roethlisberger)

Some things are indeed timeless…with a thoughtful style of communicating being one of them. Some of this research is nearly 50 years old. Yet it still resonates…and reminds us that business engagement relative to connecting with and engaging employees still has a long way to go.

Leading Change in the 21st Century: The Power of Letting Go (Aad Boot on Leadershipwatch)

Aad opens this thoughtful post with a hunting story, using it as a great metaphor for leaders who have trouble letting go. He offers up three principles for creating win-win outcomes. ”Not being able to let go of your past, of your past success, of clinging on to it, almost always creates Win-Lose situations! It is blocking the opportunity to develop and grow.”

Thought of the week: ”It is high time we realized that it is pointless to praise the light and preach it if nobody can see it. It is much more needful to teach people the art of seeing.” ~ C.G. Jung


Leaders: 8 signs it’s time to close the say/do gap

Betsy was credibly confused, yet so wanted to give her boss the benefit of the doubt. In nearly every monthly staff meeting as well as in their infrequent one-on-one sessions, her boss, Florence, assured everyone she valued them as individuals and for their work contribution.

The words sounded so good and were delivered in such a re-assuring tone. Betsy wanted, with all her heart, to believe them. Yet, as much as she was loathe to admit it, it was becoming harder and harder to ignore the small but persistent voice in her head whispering, “Florence says all the right things, but her actions contradict her words.”

Betsy’s concern had gone into hyper-drive earlier in the day when a colleague forwarded an email Florence had sent to the department head in which she detailed her plan for setting up the conference the department head had requested. Not once in the proposed plan did the name  anyone in the three-person department show up. Anyone reading the email could easily conclude that Florence had created the entire plan herself.

I forgot because I was in boss mode

Betsy had lost count of the number of times Florence had passed off content prepared by a direct report as her own. When Betsy or someone else in the department had asked Florence about it, her answer was always that “she had been in boss mode when she wrote the email and forgot to mention other names, but, hey you folks know how much I value you. I tell you all the time.” Betsy just wasn’t sure Florence’s professed care was there anymore, if it had ever been there at all.

A moment of say/do self-reflection

For anyone who manages others, please pause for a minute or two to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Am I certain there’s complete and total alignment between my words, my actions, and my values, each and every single time I speak and/or act?
  • Do I sometimes parse my words and behaviors to be politically expedient?
  • Has anyone on my team, a peer, or my boss challenged me for behaving differently than I spoke?
  • If I have been called out, did I deny their claim? Offer an excuse? Valiantly accept their censure?
  • Do I regularly call out people on my team when there’s a disconnect between what they say and what they do?
  • Have I ever questioned my own boss about a real or perceived say/do gap on their behalf?
  • Do I hang around with leaders who are known for their upstanding character or those who are comfortable talking about reducing expenses over lunch at the most expensive restaurant in town?
  • Am I known for being credible? Sleazy? A straight shooter? Or one who bends in the breeze?

As Bill George writes in True North,

Leadership is not exerting power over others or exhorting them to follow you. Rather, it results from your example of empowering others to step up and lead. Leaders do that by learning to lead themselves, becoming self-aware and behaving authentically.

As leaders, we’re often rewarded for being doers; so it’s occasionally good to hit the personal pause button and re-assess.