Monkeys, Duct Tape & Other Assorted Thoughts on Leadership

Leaders doing good, getting creative, and managing monkeys were just a few of the leadership posts that snagged the attention of the team at BIG this past week. Enjoy…because it isn’t every day one sees the words “duct tape” in a piece about leadership!

10 Creativity Tips From The World’s Greatest Scientists (The Bacharach Blog)

Creativity was cited as the single most important leadership quality Continue reading


Sacred cows, essay tests and other leadership reading

Sacred cows, life as an essay test, having unthinkable thoughts and success as a catalyst for failure were among the eclectic leadership topics hitting the BIG’s team radar this past week. Please enjoy!

Beyond Either/Or (Ted Coine, Switch & Shift) Continue reading


Effective leaders are tough and tender

Everyone agreed George was a tough boss. He was demanding, settling for nothing less than one’s best. He was goal-oriented, charismatic and driven. He pushed when outcomes weren’t up to par; he beamed when they were. He challenged when he knew people were capable of more. He offered up praise, appreciation and thanks. He had his team’s back.

George “got” tough empathy.

Combining empathy with accountability is a unique skill set no leader should be without. In their Harvard Business Review article, Why Should Anyone Be Led By You? Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones define tough empathy as “giving people not necessarily what they want, but what they need to achieve their best.” It’s the ultimate leadership balance beam act between task completion and relationship. Being tough and tender. Having high standards and high touch.

We’ve seen bosses who bark orders without regard to feelings and leave morale as roadkill in the office. On the other hand, we’ve seen bosses who are so tender-hearted we wonder if they have a spine as no one ever receives correction or meaningful feedback.

5 ways for a leader to show tough empathy

Intervene early and constructively. When performance goes awry, sit down and talk with the employee (this is not the time for an email). Let the employee know you have faith in their abilities and affirm the importantance of their contributions to the organization.

Show some love. Celebrate, recognize, appreciate. The file cabinet in the corner doesn’t have feelings, but employees do.

Don’t sugarcoat a one-way message. Provide solid facts, specifics, and examples. If you offer up an impression, define the details that created it. This is the time for dialogue, not a monologue.

Demand more than an “I’ll try” response. Assure the individual commits whole-heartedly to learning, performing and improving. Employees are responsible for their performance; the leader owns holding them consistently accountable.

Communicate that occasionally failing is OK.  Expecting off-the-chart success all the time leads to burnout and snuffs out innovation. Research by professor Amy Edmondson reveals “people in organizations feel psychologically safe when those in power persistently praise, reward, and promote people who have the courage to talk about their doubts, successes, and failures, and who work doggedly to do things better the next time.”

Ready to get your tough empathy on?! 

Photo:   Tough and Tender by Dara Hurt



Catch up on your reading!

These leadership pieces intrigued us, made us say “hmmm” or were helpful to a client this past week. Enjoy!

Are Successful People Nice (Art Markman, HBR Blog)

Recent research shows that men who are agreeable earn less than those who are disagreeable. What’s up with this?

Handling Direct Challenges to Your Authority (Tanvi Gautam, The Glass Hammer)

Tanvi offers three pieces of practical advice for handling situations when your clout is openly defied.

Leaders Open Their Ears Wide (Mary Jo Asmus, Leadership Solutions)

Terrific post from Mary Jo pointing out the important leadership implications from listening to understand versus “pretend listening.”

Overcoming the Abysmal Reorganizing and Restructuring Failure Rates (Jim Clemmer, The Clemmer Group)

Considering a reorg? You’ll find a whole host of statistics and insights on how to handle a reorganization with people, not to them.

Why You’re Stuck in a Rut (And How to Get Out of It) (Travis Robertson)

Thoughts on upending the change paradigm by not waiting for inspiration before making a change.

Thoughts on gender. If a woman is swept off a ship into the water, the cry is ‘Man overboard!’ If she is killed by a hit-and-run driver, the charge is ‘manslaughter.’ If she is injured on the job, the coverage is ‘workmen’s compensation.’ But if she arrives at a threshold marked ‘Men Only,’ she knows the admonition is not intended to bar animals or plants or inanimate objects. It is meant for her. ~Alma Graham

Image courtesy of Make It Happen



Weekly Leadership Reading

Because ongoing learning, exploring, and developing others are in our DNA here at Brraithwaite Innovation Group and Get Your BIG On, we are researching and reading all the time. These posts intrigued us and/or captured our imagination and/or pushed our comfort zones this past week. Here’s hoping they do the same for you…enjoy!

Are you making choices that matter? (Chery Gegelman, Lead Change Group Blog)

This one will get you thinking. Chery asks the $64,000 question:  ”Are we engaged and courageously challenging our own comfort zones for the good of those around us or are we sitting comfortably and watching the world go by?”

Six Extras that Build Power and Leadership (Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business Review blog)

The team at BIG is big on helping people step up and into their power. Power gets a bum rap. People believe they don’t deserve to have it or don’t want any.  Others think it’s evil and self-serving. Power, in and of itself, is neutral. It only becomes good or bad depending upon how one chooses to use it. In this terrific post, Kanter highlights six building blocks for making power good:  being a good colleague, connecting people, being a giver, framing issues, commitment and diplomacy.

Do You Use Verbal White Space? (Steve Roesler, All Things Workplace)

Effective verbal communication skills are a must-have leadership toolkit item. Steve offers up great advice for phrasing your message to assure your meaning is communicated, and not lost in a sea of too many words.

Understanding Bias Is Essential to Inclusion (Mark Kaplan, Diversity Executive)

Ready for comfort zone discomfort? ”The debate about bias is over. Bias is a part of being human. The issue is no longer whether people are biased, but more about how to increase awareness of how bias impacts organizations and what can be done about it.”

Change, Patience, and Reinventing Ourselves (Debbe Kennedy, Women In the Lead)

The butterfly story from Greg Levoy’s Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life is included. It’s a splendid reminder of the power of patience and that sometimes the best help is no help.

Managers: Drive out fear—one thing you can do this week (David Witt, Blanchard LeaderChat)

Great guidance for not letting small things become big problems. What really stood out for us:  email is one-way communicating. Real managers make sure two-way communications occur.

Thoughts on success and humility. ”It is said that it is far more difficult to hold and maintain leadership that it is to attain it. Success is a ruthless competitor for it flatters and nourishes our weaknesses and lulls us into complacency. We bask in the sunshine of accomplishment and lose the spirit of humility which helps us visualize all the factors which have contributed to our success. We are apt to forget that we are only one of a team, that in unity there is strength and that we are strong only as long as each unit in our organization functions with precision.” ~Samuel Tilden

Use this week to help those on your team learn to use their heads to manage and their hearts to lead…success requires both!


Weekly Leadership Reading

Please enjoy our leadership favorites — an eclectic collection of material that engaged our interest this past week. Enjoy! Share! Lead BIG!

Beware The Self-Righteous Fool (Bret L. Simmons on Positive Organizational Behavior)

There’s one in most every workplace: the guy or gal who has all the answers, and pity the poor fool who doesn’t view the world the same as they do. Bret offers a unique approach for addressing these folks and the wake they leave in office morale.

Personal Transformation – A Leadership Trait (Jenny Ditzler on Simon Teague’s The Leadership Expert)

If you or someone on your team perpetually points the finger of blame in all directions except at yourself, you’ll find some great thought-provoking questions and insights here that prompt you to take personal responsibility.

Don’t Throw The Bear In The Road (Lolly Daskal, Lead from Within)

For success in life, love and leadership, we have to get the exquisite balance between confidence and humility right. Playing off a Dutch quote, Lolly offers tips for not selling yourself short.

Overthrow Yourself (Umair Haque, Harvard Business Review blog)

Wow, talk about disruptive reinvention! For a team committed to helping people and companies get their big on, we loved the challenge Umair throws out to individuals and organizations. “Sure, you can argue that the right, true, and best purpose of enterprise is selling more stuff, at a greater profit, to benefit the already privileged more, through pure financial gain — and the human consequences are merely an incidental, almost irrelevant afterthought; nice-to-have, but as disposable as a plastic razor. But it’s a weak argument — and it’s getting weaker by the second.”

Power corrupts, but it corrupts only those who think they deserve it (The Economist)

Power gets a bad rap. It’s misunderstood or used improperly. Some say it corrupts. Others believe it to be evil and self-serving. Truth is, in and of itself, power is none of these things. It’s simply the neutral capacity to deploy resources to generate change and achieve results. It’s only in how one chooses to use, or not use, power that it becomes good or bad. But dang, the research results cited in this article are most disheartening: “the sense which some powerful people seem to have that different rules apply to them is not just a convenient smoke screen. They genuinely believe it.”

Sheryl Sandberg Leaves Work at 5:30. Why Can’t You? (Inc.)

The BIG team is on a quest to reweave the fabric of leadership. One of the really frayed portions is the high value placed on long hours which create yet another double bind for women leaders. Sometimes it just takes someone to drop that first pebble into the pond of change, and maybe Sheryl has done just that.

A reweaving leadership thought. “Competition has been shown to be useful up to a certain point and no further, but cooperation, which is the thing we must strive for today, begins where competition leaves off.” ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

Make it a good week using your head to manage and your heart to lead!



This Week’s Leadership Favs

The BIG team’s Friday leadership favs are an eclectic collection of articles, blog posts, quotes and whatever else caught our eye this past week. Some items are recent, others are old. Some are mainstream, others are eclectic. Lead BIG!

Everyday Leadership (TEDxToronto, Drew Dudley)

Feeling like you aren’t making as big a difference as you’d like to? Listen to this funny and inspiring six-minute talk, then come away renewed. Often we affect change one person at a time, unaware of the ripples of positive impact we began.

Are Women Better Leaders than Men? (Joseph Folkman, Jack Zenger, HBR)

The BIG team believes great leadership knows no gender, race or ethnicity. In reading the 175+ comments to this post, others don’t share that belief (particularly with regard to gender). Fascinating stuff. (Disclosure: BIG’s Jane Perdue is a commenter.)

Are You Ready to Speak Up? (Susan Mazza on Random Acts of Leadership)

Susan sums it up best, “Speaking up as an act of leadership isn’t about what you have to say, about being heard, or even about being understood.  It is about the difference you want to make by speaking up.”

The Art of Making Your Point–Avoid Getting Lost in the Sauce (Dawn Lemon on Business Fitness)

Dawn asks communicators to consider how their message will be received and interpreted by the message recipient – an interesting twist that underscores the importance of clear communications.

Twitter is not a Social Network (Colleen Sharen on Thinking is Hard Work)

Some very interesting research sited here about Twitter being more of a broadcast medium than a social exchange.

Why Directors Should Give a Damn about Culture (John Bell on In the CEO Afterlife)

More CEO’s and Boards of Directors should heed John’s advice on the value of culture and the impact it has on performance and engagement.

Quote of the week: Not fixing others gives you the time you need to take responsibility for your own life. ~Paul Ferrini



Leadership Reading BIG Liked

Ongoing learning, exploration, making a positive difference that lasts, and developing others are in our DNA here at Get Your BIG On. We are doing research all the time whether it’s fact-finding for an article we’re writing, creating content for a development session, or working for a client. We see lots of worthy material while doing our work (what a delightful perk!), so we’re sharing the highlights via our “Friday Leadership Favs” - a short-cut to information you may not have the time to look up but might be interested in knowing.

3 “ME’s” of Leadership (Rosabeth Moss Kanter, The Change Master)

The BIG team (and Anne Perschel, Germane Consulting) are big on positive power. Learn here how to espouse the power of message, exemplify the power of models, and establish the power of formal mechanisms - all keys to being a better leader (and person!).

Turn up the heat (Simon Jordan, Success for Business)

We have a client who was concerned that her business wasn’t growing. When asked to describe how she was promoting it, she talked about all the things “she planned to do.” However, there was little to talk about regarding what she had actually done. In this piece, Simon offers a cooking metaphor for putting action behind all the wishing and thinking and intentions. It’s the hard work that produces results!

How to Instill Purpose (John Baldoni, Lead by Example)

Purpose gives our personal and professional lives meaning and direction. Here John offers four astute things for organizations to do to build purpose amongst their employee base. “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.”

Leading By Example and Mistaken Beliefs (Gwyn Teatro, You’re Not the Boss of Me)

Gwyn opens her post by saying this post is one “I like to come back to from time to time because I strongly believe it is not what we say, or what we intend but what we do that shapes the leader.” We agree! Gwyn thoughtfully debunks some common misbeliefs about what being a leader is, or isn’t.

How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall? Fail, Fail, Fail (Daniel Honan, BigThink)

Failure is a great teacher…provided we give ourselves the opportunity to learn from it. If you’re afraid to take a risk and/or want to give up, this inspiring story about Twyla Tharp will nudge you in the learning and success direction. “…success comes through rapidly fixing our mistakes rather than getting things right the first time.”

Ponder time: We all participate in weaving the social fabric; we should therefore all participate in patching the fabric when it develops holes. ~Anne C. Weisberg


Weekly Fav Leadership Reading

A kind word changes everything (Blanchard Leader Chat)

It’s too bad that “being kind and compassionate” isn’t a standard entry on most performance review. Most people, myself included, will perpetually go above and beyond for a boss, friend, colleague, etc. whom we know has our back. This post offers a simple reminder about the importance of saying that kind word once in awhile. After you read David’s post, pop out of your office or cube or wherever, and tell someone thank you.

Four Destructive Myths Most Companies Still Live By (Tony Schwartz, Harvard Business Review blog)

The BIG team has been there, done that, unfortunately working for organizations in our past lives where these myths are alive, well and flourishing. If you’re a boss and you’re reading this, please decide to slay one of this myths at your organization or in your department…starting right now!

Three Steps to Managing Perfectionism’s Side Effects (David Peck, The Recovering Leader)

Some folks chase perfection like Indiana Jones in his quest for the Holy Grail. That’s a tough adventure. David offers three, timeless tips for rethinking and reframing one’s view of the need for perfection; and quotes Voltaire in the process! “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”

Following Through on Big Dreams (Mary Jo Asmus, Aspire-CS)

One of the things the BIG team frequently tells its clients is if you’re going to dream, dream big. Mary Jo shares the inspiring story of Doc Hendley, founder of Wine to Water, a nonprofit that provides clean water to needy people where clean water isn’t available. She provides four dream lessons she learned from Doc. One of them might work for you!

Put Your Own Mask on First (Scott Eblin, Eblin Group)

Your schedule is jam-packed, projects and due dates are multiplying like micro-organisms in a petri dish…who’s got time for self-care?! In this thoughtfut post, Scott underscores the importance of taking care of yourself as foundational to taking for, and leading, others.

Thought of the week: “In Iroquois society, leaders are encouraged to remember seven generations in the past and consider seven generations in the future when making decisions that affect the people.” ~Wilma Mankiller


Fav Leadership Reading

Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership (Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis)

Fascinating stuff! Research in the emerging field of social neuroscience—the study of what happens in the brain while people interact—is beginning to reveal subtle new truths about what makes a good leader. Certain things leaders do—specifically, exhibit empathy and become attuned to others’ moods—literally affect both their own brain chemistry and that of their followers. The authors contend that leading effectively is less about mastering situations—or even mastering social skill sets—than about developing a genuine interest in and talent for fostering positive feelings in the people whose cooperation and support you need.

Next Generation Leaders (Talent Management)

Is your organization wondering whether or not investing in leadership development is the right place to spend your money? If so, you’ll benefit from reading this well-written and researched piece (that does take several minutes to load so do be patient, the wait is worth it). The list of 10 expectations for evaluating the success of a leadership development program is quite interesting.

Can You Lead With Pictures (Center for Creative Leadership March 2011)

This post introduces “visual thinking.” “Visual thinking uses pictures and images to evoke ideas, thoughts and feelings and to foster powerful conversations,” says CCL’s Chuck Palus. “People use pictures as the starting point for talking about complex or difficult things.” The post contains a list of very provoking “framing” questions to spur creativity…techniques appropriate for every leader’s repertoire.

The Making of a Corporate Athlete  (Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, Harvard Business Review)

We used this piece in a workshop we facilitated this week to underscore the importance of self-care. Short-staffed organizations expect their leaders to continually do more with less. Thinking of oneself as a corporate athlete – and training mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually – can be a great boon in replenishing one’s leadership reserves so the well doesn’t run dry someday.

The Myth of the Ideal Worker (Nancy M. Carter and Christine Silva for Catalyst)

In this recent report, Catalyst continues researching gender myths, this time focusing on the question of whether the gender gap persists because women and men adopt different strategies to advance their careers. Their discovery? That doing “all the right things” helped men – but not women – advance further and faster.

Quote of the week: “There is another more subtle way in which the innocence of childhood is lost: when the child is infected with the desire to become somebody. Contemplate the crowds of people who are striving might and main to become, not what Nature intended them to be - musicians, cooks, mechanics, carpenters, gardeners, inventors - but somebody: to become successful, famous, powerful; to become something that will bring, not quiet and self-fulfillment, but self-glorification and self-expansion.” ~Tony deMello SJ, Indian spiritual leader and writer