Leadership Reading We Liked

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!


Leadership Friday Favs 12.23.11

Lots of good material and insights for your holiday reading…enjoy!

Grit: Perseverance and Passion for Long-Term Goals (Angela Duckworth, Christopher Peterson, Michael D. Matthews, Dennis R. Kelly)

There are those who dream dreams and those whose dreams become reality. Into which group might you fit? According to this report, how much grit you possess is a key factor. The authors define grit as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress.” Interesting stuff.

Why Discomfort Is Good for You (Michael Hyatt, Intentional Leadership)

Before you know it, your comfort zone becomes so comfy you really stray beyond its borders. Yet it is beyond those borders where your growth and development lies. Michael offers three good reasons why we should seek discomfort.

No one ever bought anything in an elevator (Seth Godin)

Seth is the master of bright, brief and pointed posts. If you’re struggling with understanding the purpose of an elevator speech, this 75-word post defines it beautifully.

Are You Too Nice to Lead? (Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach)

To effectively lead and manage, one must master being both tough and tender. Too tough…and no one wants to work with or for you. Too tender…and you’re doomed to fail. Personal and professional success balances on knowing when to be both, and Kate offers up some good food for thought here.

On Personal Power (Dan Oestreich, Unfolding Leadership)

Power is simply the capacity to bring about change. It’s only in how one chooses to use power that it becomes positive or negative. Unfortunately, all together too many people shy away from thinking of themselves as being personally powerful. Dan makes a number of compelling arguments about why you need to embrace, not avoid or ignore, your personal power.

A dose of inspiration: For all those who said I couldn’t do it, for all those who said I shouldn’t do it, for all those who said it’s impossible, I’ll see you at the finish line. ~Christopher Reeve

Here’s to using your head to manage and your heart to lead!




Leadership Friday Favs 12.9.11

Our Friday leadership favorites are an eclectic collection of articles, blog posts, quotes, pod casts and whatever else engages our interest. Some items are recent, others aren’t. Some are mainstream, others are off the beaten path. Enjoy! Be inspired!

The Tentacles of Our Ways – Why Change is So Hard (Lisa Haneberg, Management Craft)

Change is a required constant in our lives that never gets easier. We love what Lisa has to say: “Think nonlinear. Think messy. Think terrier-like persistence required here. Think wonderfully human and the hardest work you will ever love.”

How Do You Balance Networking and Managing Your Biz? (Keith Ferrazzi on Keith Ferrazzi)

Grab a cup of coffee and watch/listen to this informative video if you’re struggling to determine where on your priority list networking should be. Enough said!

The Ringelmann Effect (George Brymer, The Vital Integrities Blog)

The BIG team loves to learn something new, and that something new this week was this! “When working on a team project, perhaps you’ve observed that while you’re pulling your weight some others in the group are loafing. Researchers call that phenomenon the Ringelmann Effect.”

Taking What You Don’t Deserve, CEO Style (John Hunter, Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog)

Ready, aim, fire! John takes aim at overly generous CEO compensation (the dollar amounts in his table are staggeringly high) and asks some very pointed questions…that need to be asked.

A Big Lesson (Amy Diederich on Start BIG)

A story of caring and redemption! First Amy recounts one awful day and how she took it out on everyone. Then she shares what she learned from her “bad mood hangover.” Priceless!

A quote that filled us with hope! “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”  ~Jack Layton

Here’s to using your head to manage and your heart to lead!


Leading Change – A Less Painful Approach

Today’s guest post is from Lisa Jackson and Gerry Schmidt, corporate culture experts who teach how SMALL changes in corporate culture get BIG results in innovation, engagement, and workplace productivity, in an unprecedented era of rapid change and transformation. Visit them on the web at www.CorporateCulturePros.com or follow them on Twitter at http://twitter.com/corporatecultur

A leaders’ job is to Go First. Good leaders are good at being out in front with employees and customers whose insights directly impact the company and its customers.  This attunement fosters unified vision, essential trust, and a connected tribal spirit:  The conditions for accomplishing great work.

However, in today’s dynamic world, most leaders also struggle to align (and re-align) people and teams toward continuous adjustments and changes to their strategy.  Imagine 2,000 (or 20,000!) people all attempting to hit a continuously moving target at the same time. Now you get close to a leaders’ job in today’s frenzied companies, in which there’s a steady demand for:

  • Merging companies and/or processes,
  • Ongoing significant changes in technology,
  • New leadership team,
  • New strategy for branding, distribution, or manufacturing,
  • New structure (reorganizations).

In most instances, these tactics are supposed to help the organization move faster, compete better, and serve customers most effectively. But that is completely dependent on employees who embrace the change.  And that is NOT happening. Why? (You probably have 5 answers by the time you’re done reading this sentence).

Employees are drowning. Most companies issue a steady stream of poorly communicated “change on top of change” efforts, lack clear prioritization of projects, and deploy flavor-of-the-month and complex programs to get people engaged about it all.   But what do people do when they’re overwhelmed?  Most of us check out.  And a mass mental-defection and productivity decline is exactly what’s happening in businesses of every size and in every industry.  Maybe employees are grateful they have a job, but most are decidedly not grateful for the mass confusion and chaos most companies deploy in an effort to speed up and compete better.

In our experience, this happens because overwhelmed leaders simply ignore the basic 101 premise of human motivation:  “People don’t resist change. People resist being changed.”

The Fingerprint Test. If you want people to embrace change, you have to design a dialogue and process that allows people to get their fingerprints on creating the change, early.  To enlist their help in defining the cultural change that will enable the business change to succeed.  Some changes (eg, a merger or reorganization) cannot be discussed publicly during the planning stages, but in almost every case you can involve people before the change with questions like:

  1. “What about our culture are you proud of, and that you believe supports our growth?”
  2. “What would you change about how we work, if you were ‘CEO’?”
  3. “We’re having a tough year.  What do you see as the major source of our problem, and how would you approach making it better?”

Get your leadership BIG on, with the two-step:

Step One. Do something different. Ditch the long surveys in favor of simpler anecdotal questions (1 or 2 of the above will do) in face-to-face focus group settings.  In every case where we have done this, leaders are surprised by the cadre of thoughtful, wise and downright eager employees they find to champion a change, BEFORE you launch a change that impacts people’s daily routine, reward, ability to be promoted, or work environment.

Step Two: While you’re asking, collect ideas for more open, productive and friendly toward change work practices in a few essential areas:

Yes, this is a different process than the one that usually emerges from the boardroom.  But maybe being holed up in the boardroom or office is the problem.

Leaders who spend more time out talking to the people who are making stuff happen – and making their customers happy - always find such conversations pay off, BIG-time.

Remember that old MBWA (Management By Walking Around) wisdom?

Maybe it’s time for a comeback.


Sincerity and Office Politics

Today’s guest post, the third in the Playing Office Politics series, is from Mike Henry. Mike is the founder of the Lead Change Group. He’s passionate about energizing motivated people to make a positive difference. Connect with Mike via his Lead Change profileLinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.

The secret to life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made. ~Groucho Marx

Sincerity and authenticity are leadership competencies that inspire trust.  Trust lubricates relationships and transactions. Trust makes it easier for people to work together.  Trust is necessary for togetherness and group identity.  Being authentic means I know what you’re “for.” If I am confident that another person is “for” the same things I’m “for,” I don’t have to spend energy managing the gap in our allegiance.  I have more energy to devote to the allegiance itself and its desired outcome.

Misleading Motives

When a person fakes authenticity or sincerity, they misrepresent their true motives and create a trust gap.  Faked authenticity and sincerity sabotage shared vision as they kill trust. They create an organization where trust is replaced by “politics;” (office politics, or little-league team politics, or homeowner’s association politics, or church politics, or “you-name-it” politics).

Wikipedia defines “politics” as a process by which groups of people make decisions.  The word originated from the Greek word polis which means city-state. The original idea rises from the ideas of republic and democracy, but over time the term has taken on negative connotations.  Many times office politics implies individuals trying to manipulate outcomes to favor a few rather than the whole. Office politics rise when objectives are not shared or clearly understood.  Lack of clarity on shared mission causes everyone to pursue their own definition of “right.” End-justifying activities such as posturing and manipulation become best-practices of the organization.

Unsuspecting co-workers drop their guard and award trust when it would otherwise be unjustified. Power initially transfers until true motives are discovered.  When trust is compromised and people withdraw, the dark side of office politics fill the trust void.

Restore Sincerity

What do you do when you recognize your group’s culture is one of distrust and politics?

  1. Commit to authenticity and transparency. Take the leadership role by developing sincere, team-focused motives and being transparent. (Someone has to go first!)
  2. Renew a shared vision – work to make sure everyone on your team is working for the same goal. If you’re not sure about a team member’s motives, maybe you need to help them find another team.
  3. Align motivations – Every sustainable relationship must be win-win. Align individual motives with the shared vision.
  4. Tear down walls – transparency is the only way to initially prove true authenticity and sincerity.  When people begin protecting themselves and masking true motives, credibility evaporates. Work to keep people open and honest.
  5. Encourage patience and grace – authenticity is proven over time.
  6. Celebrate progress – Repeatable success over time builds confidence.

What other steps can you recommend to readers who long for true sincerity (positive office politics) or a politics-free workplace?

Speak up and stamp out negative office politics, one organization at a time.


What’s Your Agenda?

Today’s guest post, second in the Playing Office Politics series, is by Susan Mazza of Clarus Consulting Service.  She is a motivational speaker, business consultant, coach and trainer specializing in Leading and Managing Change.

When an agenda has to do with a meeting or event, people appreciate and even expect one.  Yet when we refer to a person’s agenda the connotation is typically not very positive.

According to the Encarta Dictionary (North America) the definition of “agenda” is as follows: 1.  A list of things to do: a formal list of things to be done in a specific order, especially a list of things to be discussed at a meeting; 2.  Matters needing attention:  the various matters that somebody needs to deal with at a specific time; 3. Personal motivation:  An underlying personal viewpoint or bias.

So the first two definitions above typically evoke a positive reaction.  The third implies someone is up to something of a sinister nature and is typically the context in which the dark side of politics emerges.  Perhaps the underlying theme here is that agendas for the sake of the group are perceived as “good” and agendas for the sake of the individual are perceived as “bad”.   Here I want to focus on the third definition: personal motivation.

We ALL have agendas. You could say our ambitions, no matter how altruistic or noble they may be, are an agenda.  We also have many underlying personal viewpoints and biases.  Some we are aware of and some we are not.  And they inform everything we think, say and do.  So the fact that we have agendas is not inherently a problem.

There are two ways, however, this kind of agenda can be destructive.

The most obvious is when our motivation is perceived to be for purely personal gain and/or the gain of “us” at the expense of “them”. Those agenda’s are usually hidden.  When we have them we keep them close and may not even share them at all.  And when we interact with someone who has that kind of agenda, we can feel their affect on the dynamic of an interaction even though we don’t actually hear anyone speak them.  These are the agenda’s that feed the rumor mill and are labeled as “political” in the negative sense.

Perhaps the less obvious agendas that can be destructive are the ones we have, but we are either unaware of or fail to examine together. Not everyone will have the best interests of others in mind.  Yet most people have the best interests of some constituency in mind.  A group of intelligent individuals does necessarily make an intelligent organization.  Understanding the motivations and needs of all constituencies involved and affected by the conversations you are in and the work you are doing are essential to tapping that collective intelligence for the greater good.  Unless we openly discuss our beliefs and motivations we are likely to miss important factors in our strategies and decisions.

And, yes, there are some people with predominantly self serving motivations, and they are not likely to admit to them. Sometimes a culture even encourages self interest.  If that is the case the only thing to do may be to be honest about the reality of how the system is designed and move forward in a way that embraces what is, rather than trying to move forward with the proverbial blinders on.  More often than not the individuals with predominantly self serving motivations are among the minority.  At some point it is likely to cost them.  It is a waste of effort to try and change it and a waste of your breath to complain about it.  And if they get in the way of progress you will just need to find a way to deal with them.

I’ve talked about the dark side of agenda’s.  So when is an agenda a good thing?

When our personal motivations, aka our agendas, are the source of our leadership. What makes these particular personal motivations distinct is that they are shared by and contribute to others.

These motivations may not be directly about us, but they are certainly very personal.  And that is what gives them such power.  This kind of agenda is the source of movements that change the world and change us in the process.  They are the source of the stands we take.  And when we take a stand for something we make our agenda public.

Using an agenda in this way is actually an essential political tool.  When used well it provides the platform for leading effectively, although it would not be labeled “political” or likely to be interpreted as “political behavior”.  It would more likely be called leadership.

What is the bottom line when it comes to agenda’s?

  • Hidden agenda’s give politics a bad rap.  But when an agenda is discussed openly it informs our decisions and strategies.  When an agenda is expressed as a stand it sets direction, facilitates progress, and is interpreted as leadership.
  • When we promote an agenda to facilitate progress of a group rather than personal progress, we have the capacity to transform the way people work together for the success and satisfaction of us all.

So what is your most personal, most passionately held agenda?  Maybe it’s time to take a stand and make it known!


Networking Inside the Company Walls

Today’s guest post, the first in the Playing Office Politics series, is by Jennifer V. Miller, the Managing Partner of SkillSource, a training and consulting company that helps emerging leaders “master the people equation”. Her experience as a human resources generalist, training facilitator and corporate manager helps her develop the “people side” of those who want to maximize their influence. Connect with Jennifer at The People Equation blog, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

One of the four behaviors resident in people who “play politics” in a positive way (as identified by researchers at the University of Florida) is networking. Because I spend a lot of time giving keynotes on the topic of networking,  Jane reached out to me for my perspective on the topic.

Two Types of Networking

If you are in sales, or are job seeking, then it’s a no-brainer: networking should play a key part in your outreach strategy.  Connection-making if this sort is external networking.  See my blog posts here and here for tips on how to network outside your organization.

Even if your job rarely requires you to interact outside your company walls, you still need know how to network.  That’s where internal networking comes into play. Internal networking is when you reach out to colleagues within your organization, even if your job doesn’t require you to do so. It’s going beyond your normal scope of job responsibilities.   Being an internal networker means you are looking outside your immediate, day-to-day activities and thinking about how you can connect with and create value for others in your company. 

Many of the same principles apply for both external and internal networking, but there’s a nuance to the internal process that’s unique. Let’s explore why it’s important to distinguish between the two types of networking.

What Makes Internal Networking Different?

It comes down to mindset: people have expectations about what various job roles “should” be.  For example, people expect outside sales reps and job seekers to be making phone calls and attending industry functions. It’s seen as a required part of their daily work.  With internal networking, however, the mindset shifts. People are a bit more leery of employees and leaders who seek connections beyond their daily scope.  These activities are often perceived as “sucking up” or “playing politics”. The differentiator, as Jane points out in her introduction to positive office politics is that effective internal networkers are those who are always going for the win-win.  They create connections because they believe that reaching out to others will help all involved, including the company.

How Can I Improve My Internal Networking?

The first thing you need to do is a quick mental audit: what’s my mindset on internal networking? If you’re still stuck in the mentality of “networking is for kiss-ups” then the tips below won’t help.  Take a moment and remember a time when you successfully made a connection beyond your department boundaries.  Think about how you benefitted and the other person did too.  In the right frame of mind now?

Great. Here are some ideas:

  • Have a decent relationship with your boss? Ask her (or him) to give you a few ideas on other leaders who you should get to know in the company.  The purpose would be to broaden your business acumen and learn from another leader in the company. Who knows, maybe it will turn into an informal mentoring situation. Plus, it helps to know other business unit leaders if you want to switch job functions in the future.
  • Make a list of key players in your organization that you would like to get to know.  It’s OK if the list has only 3 people. If you’re not comfortable inviting them to meet, find a person who knows both of you and ask person to make an introduction. Arrange to have a coffee break or lunch with the purpose of getting to know what you both do for your jobs.
  • When people are promoted, receive an award, or otherwise achieve something, send congratulations. A quick congratulatory email to someone (even if you don’t know them well) will go a long way towards showing that you are paying attention beyond your cubicle’s four walls.
  • Been assigned to a cross-functional project team? If you’re unfamiliar with the work of the project team members, suggest that one of the initial project team meetings be an “infomercial” of sorts. Have each team member do a 2 minute recap of their role back at their desk. Not only will you learn more about your project team members, you’ll also quickly gather data that may head off miscommunications or misperceptions for the project.
  • Talk up other people’s accomplishments. When in department meetings, be sure to praise other teammates’ wins.  Do the same for people in other departments who have helped you out.  Word will spread that you’re a team player, one who’s not afraid to share credit.

Networking inside your company’s walls does not mean that you’ll garner a reputation for being a gamer. Rather, if you keep others’ interests in mind, you will be seen as someone who’s willing to lend a hand.  The well-connected person creates value for all.