Monday, September 17, 2007

Hey Coach...

Did I mention I coach a 13-15yr soccer team?

This morning, one of my players was in the clinic for a checkup.  As we passed each other in the hallway, she greeted me with a quick "Hey Coach".

The group I was walking with looked at me strangely, as if to say, "When do you have time to coach?"  Which lead to a volley of questions.

What do you coach? Soccer.

How long have you been coaching? Eight Years.

Are you any good? Well...

Actual, I'm not a very good soccer coach. Sure, I've been coaching soccer long enough to be able to teach the basics, run drills, get players to play their position and develop basic field sense, but not much more. I like to think I'm a minimal-essential-requirements type soccer coach.

Also, I'm not like a lot of the other soccer coaches.

While the "much more" aspects of soccer don't interest me, not even a little, other coaches are consumed by the “much more” aspects...and winning.

Don’t get me wrong. I like it when my team wins but it's not the reason I coach. I coach because I like the challenge of getting my players to see that what they are doing is bigger than the actual task at hand, bigger than playing soccer.

Coaching reminds me of the tale of the three brick masons building Notre Dame de Paris.

A new foreman was touring the grounds and came across three brick masons building a wall. The foreman asked the first brick mason what he was doing. The first brick mason replied, "What does it look like I'm doing? I'm laying bricks." Then the foreman walked over to the second brick mason and asked him what he was doing. The second brick mason replied, "Can't you see? I am building a wall." Finally, the foreman walked over to the third brick mason and asked him what he was doing. The third brick mason replied, "I am building the perfect cathedral as a testament to my faith."

Every day, my goal is to be that someone who helps people to recognize that they can be the third brick mason; that what they do is bigger than the task at hand. That's why I coach.

Are you a coach?  Post a comment and let's talk about it.

If you would like to be the first person on your block to receive the latest post from the Leadership Epidemic, be sure to Subscribe by RSS or Get it by E-Mail.

Take care and enjoy...

JWM

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Challenge is Closed

16-Sept-07: The Challenge is officially closed. I would like to give special recognition to Steve Roesler at All Things Workplace for both the quantity and quality of the posts he produced; six in all. I am amazed by his ability to consistently produce high-quality posts. His final post in his weeklong series answering the "Does Most Leadership Suck, Including Yours...“ challenge, is our final entry.

While it has been a challenge for me to keep up with all of the e-mail and comments this question generated, the conversations have been invaluable in helping me better understand how real people view leadership. You can expect to see much of what you have taught me in my ChangeThis Manifesto.

Take care all...

JWM

THE CHALLENGE LIST: Update 16-Sept-07

Ernie A. Cevallos a.k.a. Perseus
Biz-Think
Thoughts on Leadership

David B. Bohl
Slow Down Fast
Fulfillment and Leadership

Anita Pathik Law
Power of Our Way Blog
Does Most Leadership Suck?

Lodewijkvdb
How to be an Original
Does Your (Personal) Leadership Suck?

Carlon Hass
Possess Less Exist More
Does Your Leadership Suck?

Halina Goldstein
The Inner Travel Journal
If the World Didn’t Suck

Monday Morning Power
Attitude, the Ultimate Power
A Challenge on “Leadership”

Jason
A Miracle a Day
5 Reasons Why Companies Fail To Find Good Leaders

Deb Call
Spirit in Gear
Does Most Leadership Suck? Is That the Right Question?

Jennifer
Goodness Gracious
Leading the Way

Sam Chan
Acquire Wisdom and Live with Passion
Understanding Leadership and
The Art of Leadership

Alexys Fairfield
Unraveling the Spiritual Mystique
Monumental Leadership

Jeffrey Phillips
Thinking Faster
Does Your Leadership "Suck"?

Barbara Sliter
Creatorship
No John Wayne Here...

Michael McKinney
Leadership Now
You Can Change

Judy Martin
The WorkLife Monitor
Delving into the Mind of a Leader

Jenny and Erin
Jenny and Erin
Top 10 Reasons being a Leader Sucks

Lisa Gates
Design Your Writing Life
What Sucks Leadership?

Heather Goldsmith
A Creative Journal
Leadership Prompt

Priscilla Palmer
Personal Development Demands Success
Leadership Tag

Donna Karlin
Fast Company Expert Blogs
Leadership: Acknowledging Leaders

Michelle
Amusing My Genius
Why Most Leadership Sucks..Including Mine and
Is There a Problem with Being too Positive About Everything?

Dr Hal
North Star Mental Fitness Blog
When Leaders Use the Prevent Defense

Daniel Sitter
Idea Sellers
The Role of Leadership in Selling

Martin Spernau
Tindertraum Weblog
All Leadership Sucks Including Mine

Don Simkovich
Hey Don
The Leadership Dilemma

Chris Marshall
Martial Development
You Have the Sensei You Deserve

Priscilla Palmer
Personal Development Demands Success
Good Leadership

Donna Karlin
Perspectives
The Leadership Challenge

Mark
The Naked Soul
Does Most Leadership Suck? - A Challenge

Joan Schramm
Momentum Coaching
Leadership, Empathy and Knowing How to Follow

Ray
Black in Business
Leadership

Tim Milburn
StudentLinc
What Sucks About Leadership?

Donna Karlin
Fast Company Expert Blogs
Leadership: Tagged for a Leadership Challenge

Steve Roesler
All Things Workplace
Leadership All Week: Accepting the Challenge
- Leadership: It's All About You
Leadership, Choices, and Implications
- Leadership: Is It About Them or Me?
- Leadership: What About These Factors?
- Leadership: Plucky, Lucky, and Sometimes Sucky

 

If you would like to be the first person on your block to receive the latest post from the Leadership Epidemic, be sure to subscribe by RSS or Get it by E-Mail.

Take care and enjoy...

JWM

Friday, September 14, 2007

Carrying a Message...

While I am sure that some people do and/or will find Hubbard's essay offensive, it provides a great start for a conversation on Followership.  The entire text is available at The Project Gutenberg

Take care...

JWM

A Message to Garcia

by Elbert Hubbard

As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him: for he refresheth the soul of his masters.

--Proverbs xxv: 13

In all this Cuban business there is one man stands out on the horizon of my memory like Mars at perihelion.

When war broke out between Spain and the United States, it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents. Garcia was somewhere in the mountain fastnesses of Cuba--no one knew where. No mail or telegraph message could reach him. The President must secure his co-operation, and quickly. What to do!

Some one said to the President, "There is a fellow by the name of Rowan will find Garcia for you, if anybody can."

Rowan was sent for and was given a letter to be delivered to Garcia. How "the fellow by the name of Rowan" took the letter, sealed it up in an oilskin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the jungle, and in three weeks came out on the other side of the Island, having traversed a hostile country on foot, and delivered his letter to Garcia--are things I have no special desire now to tell in detail. The point that I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, "Where is he at?" By the Eternal! there is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college of the land. It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing--"Carry a message to Garcia."

General Garcia is dead now, but there are other Garcias.

No man who has endeavored to carry out an enterprise where many hands were needed, but has been well-nigh appalled at times by the imbecility of the average man--the inability or unwillingness to concentrate on a thing and do it.

Slipshod assistance, foolish inattention, dowdy indifference, and half-hearted work seem the rule; and no man succeeds, unless by hook or crook or threat he forces or bribes other men to assist him; or mayhap, God in His goodness performs a miracle, and sends him an Angel of Light for an assistant. You, reader, put this matter to a test: You are sitting now in your office--six clerks are within call. Summon any one and make this request: "Please look in the encyclopedia and make a brief memorandum for me concerning the life of Correggio."

Will the clerk quietly say, "Yes, sir," and go do the task?

On your life he will not. He will look at you out of a fishy eye and ask one or more of the following questions:

Who was he?

Which encyclopedia?

Where is the encyclopedia?

Was I hired for that?

Don't you mean Bismarck?

What's the matter with Charlie doing it?

Is he dead?

Is there any hurry?

Shall I bring you the book and let you look it up yourself?

What do you want to know for?

I wasn't hired for that anyway!

And I will lay you ten to one that after you have answered the questions, and explained how to find the information, and why you want it, the clerk will go off and get one of the other clerks to help him try to find Garcia--and then come back and tell you there is no such man. Of course I may lose my bet, but according to the Law of Average I will not.

Now, if you are wise, you will not bother to explain to your "assistant" that Correggio is indexed under the C's, not in the K's, but you will smile very sweetly and say, "Never mind," and go look it up yourself.

And this incapacity for independent action, this moral stupidity, this infirmity of the will, this unwillingness to cheerfully catch hold and lift--these are the things that put pure Socialism so far into the future. If men will not act for themselves, what will they do when the benefit of their effort is for all? A first mate with knotted club seems necessary; and the dread of getting "the bounce" Saturday night holds many a worker to his place.

Advertise for a stenographer, and nine out of ten who apply can neither spell nor punctuate--and do not think it necessary to.

Can such a one write a letter to Garcia?

"You see that bookkeeper," said a foreman to me in a large factory.

"Yes; what about him?"

"Well, he's a fine accountant, but if I'd send him up-town on an errand, he might accomplish the errand all right, and on the other hand, might stop at four saloons on the way, and when he got to Main Street would forget what he had been sent for."

Can such a man be entrusted to carry a message to Garcia?

We have recently been hearing much maudlin sympathy expressed for the "downtrodden denizens of the sweat-shop" and the "homeless wanderer searching for honest employment," and with it all often go many hard words for the men in power.

Nothing is said about the employer who grows old before his time in a vain attempt to get frowsy ne'er-do-wells to do intelligent work; and his long, patient striving with "help" that does nothing but loaf when his back is turned. In every store and factory there is a constant weeding-out process going on. The employer is continually sending away "help" that have shown their incapacity to further the interests of the business, and others are being taken on.

No matter how good times are, this sorting continues: only if times are hard and work is scarce, the sorting is done finer--but out and forever out the incompetent and unworthy go. It is the survival of the fittest. Self-interest prompts every employer to keep the best--those who can carry a message to Garcia.

I know one man of really brilliant parts who has not the ability to manage a business of his own, and yet who is absolutely worthless to any one else, because he carries with him constantly the insane suspicion that his employer is oppressing, or intending to oppress, him. He can not give orders; and he will not receive them. Should a message be given him to take to Garcia, his answer would probably be, "Take it yourself!"

Tonight this man walks the streets looking for work, the wind whistling through his threadbare coat. No one who knows him dare employ him, for he is a regular firebrand of discontent. He is impervious to reason, and the only thing that can impress him is the toe of a thick-soled Number Nine boot.

Of course I know that one so morally deformed is no less to be pitied than a physical cripple; but in our pitying let us drop a tear, too, for the men who are striving to carry on a great enterprise, whose working hours are not limited by the whistle, and whose hair is fast turning white through the struggle to hold in line dowdy indifference, slipshod imbecility, and the heartless ingratitude which, but for their enterprise, would be both hungry and homeless.

Have I put the matter too strongly? Possibly I have; but when all the world has gone a-slumming I wish to speak a word of sympathy for the man who succeeds--the man who, against great odds, has directed the efforts of others, and having succeeded, finds there's nothing in it: nothing but bare board and clothes. I have carried a dinner-pail and worked for day's wages, and I have also been an employer of labor, and I know there is something to be said on both sides. There is no excellence, per se, in poverty; rags are no recommendation; and all employers are not rapacious and high-handed, any more than all poor men are virtuous.

My heart goes out to the man who does his work when the "boss" is away, as well as when he is at home. And the man who, when given a letter for Garcia, quietly takes the missive, without asking any idiotic questions, and with no lurking intention of chucking it into the nearest sewer, or of doing aught else but deliver it, never gets "laid off," nor has to go on a strike for higher wages. Civilization is one long, anxious search for just such individuals. Anything such a man asks shall be granted. His kind is so rare that no employer can afford to let him go. He is wanted in every city, town and village--in every office, shop, store and factory.

The world cries out for such: he is needed, and needed badly--the man who can carry

-END-

Start collecting your thoughts...

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Take care and enjoy...

JWM

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Does Most Leadership Suck - The Challenge List: 13-Sept-07 Update

13-Sept-07: It's been a very busy week for me.  Sometimes, life just happens...  Fortunately, while I was busy doing my real job, a lot of you were busy collecting your thoughts on leadership and committing them to paper, or at least to post on your Blog.

If you're not familiar with what's going on... Last week, I kicked off a Challenge with the hopes of getting a few replies.   So far, I have had over 35 posts and a ton of comments. As long as I'm getting a strong response, I'll keep updating the list. Also, feel free to publish the list on your site.

I don't think we've reached the end of this conversation so let's see if we can get a broader range of bloggers to participate.  If you who haven't already done so, please tag three of your favorite bloggers with the challenge. 

Take care all...

JWM

THE CHALLENGE LIST: Update 13-Sept-07

Ernie A. Cevallos a.k.a. Perseus
Biz-Think
Thoughts on Leadership

David B. Bohl
Slow Down Fast
Fulfillment and Leadership

Anita Pathik Law
Power of Our Way Blog
Does Most Leadership Suck?

Lodewijkvdb
How to be an Original
Does Your (Personal) Leadership Suck?

Carlon Hass
Possess Less Exist More
Does Your Leadership Suck?

Halina Goldstein
The Inner Travel Journal
If the World Didn’t Suck

Monday Morning Power
Attitude, the Ultimate Power
A Challenge on “Leadership”

Jason
A Miracle a Day
5 Reasons Why Companies Fail To Find Good Leaders

Deb Call
Spirit in Gear
Does Most Leadership Suck? Is That the Right Question?

Jennifer
Goodness Gracious
Leading the Way

Sam Chan
Acquire Wisdom and Live with Passion
Understanding Leadership and
The Art of Leadership

Alexys Fairfield
Unraveling the Spiritual Mystique
Monumental Leadership

Jeffrey Phillips
Thinking Faster
Does Your Leadership "Suck"?

Barbara Sliter
Creatorship
No John Wayne Here...

Michael McKinney
Leadership Now
You Can Change

Judy Martin
The WorkLife Monitor
Delving into the Mind of a Leader

Jenny and Erin
Jenny and Erin
Top 10 Reasons being a Leader Sucks

Lisa Gates
Design Your Writing Life
What Sucks Leadership?

Heather Goldsmith
A Creative Journal
Leadership Prompt

Priscilla Palmer
Personal Development Demands Success
Leadership Tag

Donna Karlin
Fast Company Expert Blogs
Leadership: Acknowledging Leaders

Michelle
Amusing My Genius
Why Most Leadership Sucks..Including Mine

Dr Hal
North Star Mental Fitness Blog
When Leaders Use the Prevent Defense

Daniel Sitter
Idea Sellers
The Role of Leadership in Selling

Martin Spernau
Tindertraum Weblog
All Leadership Sucks Including Mine

Don Simkovich
Hey Don
The Leadership Dilemma

Chris Marshall
Martial Development
You Have the Sensei You Deserve

Priscilla Palmer
Personal Development Demands Success
Good Leadership

Donna Karlin
Perspectives
The Leadership Challenge

Mark
The Naked Soul
Does Most Leadership Suck? - A Challenge

Joan Schramm
Momentum Coaching
Leadership, Empathy and Knowing How to Follow

Ray
Black in Business
Leadership

Steve Roesler
All Things Workplace
Leadership All Week: Accepting the Challenge
- Leadership: It's All About You
Leadership, Choices, and Implications

If you would like to be the first person on your block to receive the latest post from the Leadership Epidemic, be sure to subscribe by RSS or Get it by E-Mail.

Take care and enjoy...

JWM

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Does Most Leadership Suck – The Challenge List

10-Sept-07: More updates to the Challenge List.  If you have committed to writing a post for the Challenge, you still have time to get it on the list.  Send an e-mail of post a comment with a link and I'll add your post the next time I update the list.  And remember, the conversation depends on all of you tagging your favorite bloggers to participate.

9-Sept-07: More updates to the Challenge List.

7-Sept-07: More updates to the Challenge List.  If you would like to see your favorite blogger posted here, be sure to tag them with the challenge.

Take care all...

JWM

Earlier this week when I kicked off this Challenge, I thought I might get a few replies. Boy was I wrong. So far, I have had a ton of comments and over 22 posts and a commitment to many more.

Before I get to the list, let me say, two things have really surprised me. First, the range of response I have received. When I originally sent out the challenge, I purposefully tagged a variety of sites with vastly different audiences and backgrounds. If fact, as I have privately told many of you, the variety of Blogs was so broad I was afraid some Bloggers would feel the challenge was so far off their topic, that they would take it as pure spam. As it turned out, some of the best posts came from the most unlikely bloggers. Second, so many people who commented that they weren’t really into the “Leadership Thing” turned around and provided some of the clearest leadership thinking I have ever seen. People never cease to amaze me.

It has been a real pleasure getting to know so many people and I’m looking forward to hearing from the rest of you. To that end, and to keep this conversation going, I will be tagging bloggers for the remainder of the week. I encourage each of you to tag the bloggers you would like to include in the challenge; but please, no spamming.

There is no real order or arrangement to the Challenge List; it is more or less in the order that people have let me know they had written a post. If you can think of a better way to organize the list, post a comment and I will see what I can do.

THE CHALLENGE LIST: Update 7-Sept-07

Ernie A. Cevallos a.k.a. Perseus
Biz-Think
Thoughts on Leadership

David B. Bohl
Slow Down Fast
Fulfillment and Leadership

Anita Pathik Law
Power of Our Way Blog
Does Most Leadership Suck?

Lodewijkvdb
How to be an Original
Does Your (Personal) Leadership Suck?

Carlon Hass
Possess Less Exist More
Does Your Leadership Suck?

Halina Goldstein
The Inner Travel Journal
If the World Didn’t Suck

Monday Morning Power
Attitude, the Ultimate Power
A Challenge on “Leadership”

Jason
A Miracle a Day
5 Reasons Why Companies Fail To Find Good Leaders

Deb Call
Spirit in Gear
Does Most Leadership Suck? Is That the Right Question?

Jennifer
Goodness Gracious
Leading the Way

Sam Chan
Acquire Wisdom and Live with Passion
Understanding Leadership and
The Art of Leadership

Alexys Fairfield
Unraveling the Spiritual Mystique
Monumental

Jeffrey Phillips
Thinking Faster
Does Your Leadership "Suck"?

Barbara Sliter
Creatorship
No John Wayne Here...

Michael McKinney
Leadership Now
You Can Change

Judy Martin
The WorkLife Monitor
Delving into the Mind of a Leader

Jenny and Erin
Jenny and Erin
Top 10 Reasons being a Leader Sucks

Lisa Gates
Design Your Writing Life
What Sucks Leadership?

Heather Goldsmith
A Creative Journal
Leadership Prompt

Priscilla Palmer
Personal Development Demands Success
Leadership Tag

Donna Karlin
Fast Company Expert Blogs
Leadership: Acknowledging Leaders

Michelle
Amusing My Genius
Why Most Leadership Sucks..Including Mine

Dr Hal
North Star Mental Fitness Blog
When Leaders Use the Prevent Defense

Daniel Sitter
Idea Sellers
The Role of Leadership in Selling

Martin Spernau
Tindertraum Weblog
All Leadership Sucks Including Mine

Don Simkovich
Hey Don
The Leadership Dilemma

Chris Marshall
Martial Development
You Have the Sensei You Deserve

Priscilla Palmer
Personal Development Demands Success
Good Leadership

Steve Roesler
All Things Workplace
Leadership All Week: Accepting the Challenge

 

If you would like to be the first person on your block to receive the latest post from the Leadership Epidemic, be sure to subscribe by RSS or Get it by E-Mail.

Take care and enjoy...

John

Monday, September 03, 2007

Does Most Leadership Suck - The Challenge

All Thinking Bloggers

As many of you know, I am in the midst of writing a ChangeThis Manifesto titled “Why Most Leadership Sucks, Including Yours”. While I have some definite opinions on why this is the case, I know that not everyone feels the same way I do. As such, I am trying to develop a more-complete and balanced understanding of what other people think. To accomplish this task, I am challenging Bloggers to post an entry supporting their position. In my first round of challenges, I am tagging all of the great Blogs that made it on Priscilla Palmer’s Personal Development List.

To accept this challenge, write a post describing your thoughts on why most leadership sucks. If you don’t agree, that’s fine too. I’m not looking for people who agree with me. I’m looking for a better understanding of what people think. It is better to get a hundred honest posts with different opinions than the same number of “Yes-Man” posts that don’t move the question forward. So, if you disagree with me, post why.

As the replies come in, I will build a Challenge List linking back to all of the posts that you write.

So, if you are up to the challenge, write a post, link back to the Leadership Epidemic send me an e-mail or drop me a comment and let’s start a conversation.

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Take care and enjoy...

John

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Road Less Traveled

“Life is difficult”
- The Buddha

M. Scott Peck, begins The Road Less Traveled with these three words, taking the reader past the first step of an eternal journey.

Most people would classify The Road Less Traveled by as a psychologically based, spiritually centered, self-help book. And, that is a good start. However, I like to think of it as something bigger; something with a more important calling than a simple self-help book.  I see it as a primer for the development of leaders. In The Road Less Traveled, Dr Peck speaks of Will, Discipline and Love. I believe these three attributes provide the foundation of every successful leadership-followership relationship.

Will: desire of sufficient magnitude to generate action.

Will is achieved when you have found a point of alignment between your mind and your heart; a monumental task that requires discipline and Love.

Discipline is easy to understand; at least we think it is easy? In Peck’s view, discipline is a set of tools that enables us to work through the difficulties, the suffering, of becoming complete people. Discipline consists of Delaying Gratification, Accepting Responsibility, a Dedication to the Truth and Balancing.

We have all heard the motto, “I will do today what others will not do so that I may have tomorrow what others will not have.” You would be hard pressed for find a better way to state the principles of Delaying gratification.

Accepting responsibility is perhaps the most difficult aspect of discipline. Unless you take responsibility for something, you will not own it. If you do not own it, you can’t do anything with it. Accepting responsibility ensures that you own the things that you are responsible for so you can do what you need to do.

Dedication to the truth is a willingness to accept a life of being personally challenged, to live with the knowledge that you will not always know what is best, necessary or important. A dedication to the truth requires that you live a self-examined life, a life worth living, and that you adjust your worldview when you receive new information.

You achieve Balance when you transition from a life governed by rules to a life governed by principles. When the rules no longer constrain you actions, the challenge becomes to achieve balance between competing priorities within the framework of principles; balance provides flexibility.

Love? That word “Love” confuses many people because they mistakenly believe it is the “in love” feeling they have experienced when they were attracted to someone. When Peck says “Love”, he is not talking about the blind emotion that people feel when they are “in love”. Rather, he is talking about the action and commitment required to become fully developed to fulfilling individual potential. He is talking about a sobering love that does not always feel good, that requires hard work and a willingness to bypass the immediate for the future and good for the great.

Discipline and Love provide the tools necessary to find the answers that say yes to both your mind and you heart, answers that enable you to achieve the will required to do great things.

You can directly relate the majority of your successes, the achievement of your desired outcomes, to the application of your will. Further, you can directly relate the majority of your failures to your inability to apply your will in the area under consideration.

The ability to develop your will and focus your effort is the single most important skill you can acquire. Let me say that again. Developing your will and focusing your effort is the single most important skill you can acquire.

If developing your will is the single most important skill you can acquire, the second most important skill you can acquire is the ability to lead. Fortunately, once you developed the self-discipline required to harness your will, you will have the foundation required to become a capable leader.

Leadership: the process of generating desire of sufficient magnitude within followers to generate action in the absence of the leader.

In other words, leadership is the act of developing and transforming the will of the follower so that it matches the will of the leader. Like developing your own will, developing and transforming the will of others is a monumental task; a task that requires the same tools: discipline and Love.

Because leadership depends on discipline and Love, all leadership opportunities are an act of developing a relationship. The sole objective of this relationship is the alignment of the heart and mind of the follower with such clarity that when they exercise their will, the actions accomplished will support the will of the leader.

Most leadership sucks because when faced with a leadership opportunity, most people refuse to accept the full responsibility of the opportunity and fail to exercise self-discipline, maintain a dedication to the truth and a sense of love. When faced with a challenge, most people fall back to the rules of conventional wisdom and lace the flexibility required to achieve a balance between competing interests. In short, most leadership sucks because most leaders do not exercise the will required to be great.

Did I mention, “Life is difficult”?

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Take care and enjoy...

John

Personal Development List

Earlier this week, Priscilla Palmer at PriscillaPalmer.com tagged "The Leadership Epidemic" on her Personal Development List.  Thanks to Cam Beck at ChaosScenario for pointing her my way.  Priscilla started this list with her top five Personal Development blogs.  This morning the list was over 275 blogs strong.  I'm still working my way through the list and I'm finding lots of great blogs; some I would never have visited if I hadn't run the list.

I would like to add the following blogs:

Scott Berkun at the Berkun Blog

Travis A. Sinquefield at Disorganizational Behavior

David Zinger at Slacker Manager

While I'm pointing to Personal Development sites, let me make another plug for ChangeThis.  Some people might view this as a transparent grab for additional votes, but it is more than that.  The more I get into the Manifestos at ChangeThis the more I love that they provide an opportunity for real people to make a difference.  That being said, I'm pushing ChangeThis to add more Manifesto options.  Specifically, I would like to see invitations for multi-writer Manifestos like Dramatic Impact: The Effect of The Silent Revolution.  If you would like to see more multi-writer Manifestos, let the nice folks at ChangeThis know by sending them a comment on their Contact Us Page.  While you're at it, be sure to tell them that John sent you.

Subscribe Today or Subscribe By Mail

Take care and enjoy...

John

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Give Me A Hand Making A Change

If you are not familiar with ChangeThis, you are missing some of the best-written and thoughtfully presented ideas available on the web. ChangeThis is about providing a forum for thoughtful, rational and well-constructed arguments on important issues. ChangeThis is about providing opportunities to create one of the most powerful forces in the world, a changed mind.

If you are tired of the conventional wisdom that is being passed off as original thinking, you will love ChangeThis. Some of today’s best selling authors: Seth Godin, Tim Ferris, and Nassim Nicholas Taleb have written Manifestos for ChangeThis. More importantly, ChangeThis has scores of Manifestos written by ordinary people trying to make a difference. You can read more about ChangeThis in their original “Change This Manifest”.

Recently, I submitted a ChangeThis Manifesto proposal “Why Most Leadership Sucks, Including Yours…” and they accepted if for consideration. Currently, it is doing very well in the voting phase, but I need your support to make sure ChangeThis selects my proposal for publication.

To help ensure my Manifesto is selected for publication, please vote for my proposal under the ChangeThis Proposal Page.  While you're there, check out and vote for the other Manifestos you would like to see written.

 

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Take care and enjoy...

John

Sunday, July 22, 2007

What's New Copy Cat...

A few weeks ago, I was at a conference in Orlando and was cornered into defining what I thought leaders did that added value.

I said, "I think it has to do with recognizing and working within the themes that leaders encounter while exercising their leadership responsibilities" that’s the best I could come up with.

I didn’t mean it to be purposely vague, but I don’t know any other way to say it and I would rather leave an honest mess that requires more work than a tidy lie that seems complete.

What I don’t believe is that leaders add value by looking back at all of the apparently perfect step that an industry trail blazer has made over a long and successful career and then distilling those steps into a formula of behavior. While emulating the description of successful leaders may make you look like a successful leader, I don’t think it will make you a successful leader.

If it were that easy, then we wouldn't have so much poor leadership and we wouldn't be embarrassed to say, "I work for a great leader."

I’ll bet a dollar that if you heard someone utter those words, you would think one of two thoughts: that person is a pushover or they belong to a brainwashing cult.

If it were that easy, then we wouldn't have to wait for the history books to tell us who the great leaders where, past tense.

If you don’t believe me, take this short test. Using your knowledge of the characteristics of any set of leaders, prominently positioned in the public’s eye, who is going to be this countries next great leader?

If it were that easy, then so many of the leaders who ascribe to this mythology; who practice what they have been taught; who have the best intentions and desires to enable their organization's success would not find themselves hard pressed to find followers willing to commit to a vision beyond the promise of a steady paycheck.

As I said at the beginning, I think it has to do with recognizing and working within the themes that leaders encounter while exercising their leadership responsibilities.

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Take care and enjoy...

John

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Trailblazer's Story...

Trailblazers don't know the route until after the journey is complete. Follow the most experienced trailblazer as they pick their way through the unknown, and you quickly realize that every decision is a potential mistake a potential path to failure. Even a long series of steps that appear to be moving them closer to their final goal may ultimately dead end with an impasse, followed by backtracking and reconsideration of previously rejected paths.

This isn't to say that a trailblazer's past performance is worthless information or that their experiences and the skill sets they develop don't help them succeed. Rather, it is a reminder that while skill and experience contributes to the multitude of good decisions and small victories that contribute to a successful outcome, no single step or set of steps along the way accurately predicts a successful outcome. Trailblazing is a messy business.

However, if you look at their journey backwards, from the end to the beginning, you will see a different story. Looking backwards, you see the good decisions and the right steps taken not the false starts, missed turns and dead ends. Looking backwards tells you a clean story of a journey all but guaranteed to succeed.

So, which view do you chose? Do you choose the clean end-to-beginning view or the messy beginning-to-end view?

I prefer the messy view. First, because it lets me see more about the trailblazer's decision process how they think, how they get themselves into and out of trouble and how they handled set backs. Second, because it reminds me that success is a story that more-often-then-not is incomplete and more-often-still is a work of fiction, an outright lie.

When you take the clean view, all you see is the lie and lies are not going to help you find your way out of the woods.

I think the same is true for leaders.

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Take care and enjoy...

John

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A Gratuitous Plug for "Leadership Epidemic" Gear...

The other day, in a moment of pure vanity, I decided to make myself a Leadership Epidemic T-Shirt. I think they turned out pretty good. My first rendition, the Maroon T-Shirt in the side bar, and several others are now available at CafePress.

Go check them out… If you like what you see, buy one and let the world know that you’re a follower of the Leadership Epidemic. If you would like something else: a different design, a different product, etc… let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

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Take care and enjoy...

John

Different but the Same...

Most organizations, whether they like it or not, are rank-based, hierarchical command-and-control driven entities, or are on the way to becoming so. The only difference is in how obviously they display this reality. The military may be at one end of the spectrum while a bootstrapping, entrepreneurial startup is at the other, but in the end, people working in the organization work for someone else. Ultimately, they are pretty much the same.

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John

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Elusive Concept we Call Leadership

“Managers are people who do things right. Leaders are people who do the right things.”
- Warren G. Bennis

Who hasn’t heard, read or even used one of Warren G. Bennis’ many infamous quotes? Professor Bennis has to be one of the most frequently quoted writers in the realm of leadership thinking; and rightly so, he more or less invented the discipline.

However, lately I’ve begun to wonder if there is any substance to the Bennis perspective or if we have bought into a truckload of sizzle. The problem is, when you get past the Zen-like nature of the Bennis system of thought, best captured by the quote above, your find that you have little more than a book of slogans that draw attention to the idea that leadership is differentiable from management or work. By his own admission, “…leadership remains an elusive concept.”

While Dr Bennis is an expert in the discourse of the seven essential attributes required to lead knowledge workers, the list is little different then a list of attributes you would find desirable for any one in your organization from the door man to CEO. The only differences seem to be the positional power held and the latitude of freedom in the assigned tasked, i.e. sizzle not substance.

There in lies the rub and the purpose of the Leadership Epidemic; the sizzle is a lie, a big lie. In terms of marketing, that’s not such a bad thing. However, the negative impact of the conventional wisdom stemming from this line of thinking has lead to a Leadership Industrial Complex, similar to the Military Industrial Complex referred to by President Eisenhower in his farewell address.

I’m still formulating my thoughts on this subject, but I am interested in hearing what you think. Is leadership real? Is it an activity that you can separate from other organizational activities like management or work? Let me know what you think.

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John

IF (Leader Sucks), THEN Reject() ELSE Consider() END;

After reading the transcripts of the first two Republican debates, I have to conclude that the Republicans are their own worst enemy. The debates inspired me to build a decision tree for identifying potential candidates. While the Republicans inspired this decision tree, feel free to apply it to any Presidential hopeful.

IF Candidate “Advocates Torture” THEN
    Reject()
ELSE
    IF Candidate “Acts like a Clown” THEN
        Reject()
    ELSE
        IF Candidate “Advocates Intellectually Lazy Economics” THEN
            Reject()
        ELSE
            Consider()
        END
    END
END

While I think these decision points are clear, I would like to offer just a bit on why I chose them.

First, if a candidate advocates torture, or its euphemism “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” they do not possesses the moral character required to fill the most powerful position in the world. Any Presidential candidate who does not adamantly oppose these behaviors must be eliminated from consideration. Civilized countries to not use or advocate torture, period, end of discussion.

Second, any candidate who acts like a clown by ignoring science, not planning ahead, overreacting to good/bad news and not being very nice does not have the intellectual wherewithal to make good decisions regarding the commitment of national treasure and the risks of placing our Armed Forces in harms way. Any potential Presidential candidate who does not adamantly support clear-headed rational thinking that can be explained to the average American citizen must be eliminated from consideration.

Third, if a candidate advocates intellectually lazy economics that plays on irrational fear mongering they do not possess the requisite understanding to develop, support and execute diplomacy an economic policy that supports the continued growth and success of a tier-one player in world economy. Any potential Presidential candidate who advocates a policy that moves the economy away from a ruthlessly-efficient, market-driven machine toward a planned economy must be eliminated from consideration.

The common thread of “Unintended Consequences” runs through each of these decision points. Any potential Presidential candidate who advocates a position, based on party dogma, that increase the likelihood of unintentional consequences, when a more thoughtful position with less potential down side is available must be eliminated from consideration.

As far as I can tell, these three conditions eliminate all of the candidates pursuing either a Republican or Democratic ticket.  However, as the political season progresses, I will update the decision tree to reflect the latest decision points that come to mind.  To ensure completeness, if you have any suggestions for additional decision points, send them my way and I will incorporate them into the next version.

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John

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Can a Spin Doctor Cure the Leadership that Sucks?

The value of subtlty communicating an opposing position without alienating the opposition is sorely under estimated. In this regard, Andy Card is priceless. How would you compare?

JWM

Earlier this week on The Daily Show, I saw Andy Card, President George W. Bush's former White House Chief of Staff and Jon Stewart play a variation of an old word-association, parlor game. It went something like this…

Jon Stewart: I’ll throw a characteristic out; you tell me the positive twist on it.

Andy Card: Okay

JS: Okay, I would see “Arrogance”. You would see?

AC: Quiet confidence

[Audience laughter; JS pauses to think]

JS: “Stubborn insistence on not accepting reality”.

AC: I would say, “The capacity to make a though decision without perfect knowledge”

[More audience laughter and clapping; JS take a little longer to pause and think]

JS: Will you be my chief of staff?

Jon Steward closed the segment by saying that Andy Card was the nicest person he had ever met that he didn’t want to like, but still he liked him.

Whether or not you see Andy Card as an enabling catalyst of the Manichean Paranoia described by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Andy Card is a brilliant virtuoso in the art of communicating an opposing position without alienating the opposition. Some might call this spinning the story, but I think there is something more powerful going on here.

What would you call it? Would your organization be better served by leaders who communicate this well? How effective would you be if you communicated this well?

Let me know what you think...

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Take care and enjoy...

John

Your Leadership Suck Because You Know Too Much...

While I can't say I was inspired to write this post by I Help You Blog's "101 Great Posting Ideas for Your Blog"  I was curious to see what kind of traffic it would generate.  Since most of what I write falls under Idea 7, Post an Alternate Position, I figured it was a fair trade.

If you like what I've written or even if you don't, leave a comment recommending another "Great Posting Idea" from the list of 101 and I will post in the theme of that idea.

Take care all...

JWM

In Survival Is Not Enough, Seth Godin writes how competence and a winning strategy can become a barrier to innovation. If your worldview is “We do it this way because it works and I am going to be the best at doing it that way”, chances are, you are not going to change the way you do it, i.e. competence stalls innovation.

After reading Godin’s essay on competence, I started thinking the same relationship might exist between technical competence and leadership competence, i.e. your technical competence can become a barrier to improved leadership.

Unfortunately, while the principle Godin outlined applied, it was not wholly satisfying; something was missing. A Peter Drucker quote I read early this week gave me a clue to the missing piece.

The most important thing in communication is to hear what is not being said.

- Peter Drucker

To hear “what is not being said”, you must know what the speaker could be saying. If you lack the knowledge of what “could be said”, it is not possible to know what is “not being said”. This implies that you must know a lot about the subject at hand.

For a competent technician, knowing a lot about the subject at hand is their job so, it’s easy for technicians to know what is “not being said”. What about an organizational leader; what happens as you move out of the technical arena and into the realm of leadership where the domain is larger than your ability to know everything?

Well, the focus must change and the focus sits with Socrates; sort of. When Socrates speaks of knowledge, he states that wisdom is limited to an awareness of your own ignorance; with a little twist, awareness of your own ignorance becomes, knowing what you do not know.

Where a competent technician becomes successful by eliminating her exposure to ignorance by constantly work to eliminate what she doesn’t know about her domain of expertise, an organizational leader becomes successful by expand her awareness of the extent of her ignorance, by constantly work to gain knowledge of what she does not know.

This brings me back to my assertion, “The skill set that brought you to the leadership table is not the skill set that will enable you to succeed.” More often than not, technical competency, reduced ignorance and increased knowledge, is a major contributor to admission to the leadership table. However, once seated at the table, you must accept two truths. First, the domain is or will become larger than your ability to eliminate your ignorance. Second, your responsibility as a leader is fundamentally different from your responsibility as a technician.

If you don’t accept these truths and rely upon your old competencies, you will find yourself and your organization on the path to failure.

Here is the Alternate Position:

How much time do you work on eliminating personal ignorance? Would you better serve your organization by becoming more aware of your ignorance, by becoming more ignorant?  I say you should eliminate the barrier of competence, quit working so hard on what you know and start adding to what you don’t know.

What do you think?  Let me know...

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Take care and enjoy...

John

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Confessions of a Company Man

I have to admit something; I am a "Company Man"; not only that, I am a Career Company Man.

What does that mean?

It means that I believe in what my Company does, the essence of which is saving lives. It means I am happy working within my Company's framework of opportunities and responsibilities to include promotions, transfers, salary, personal commitments, training requirements, etc...

In short, it means that I have found a way to align my definition of success with the success of the Company as a whole, the units I support, the departments I run, and the people that work with and for me.

Now, this doesn't mean that I'm a "Yes Man" who thinks my Company is flawless, or always makes the right decision; heads in the right direction; follows the right measures; implements the right procedures, take cares of our people, or meets our Customers needs. In fact, I have a bit of a reputation for telling anyone who will listen, regardless of their position, when I disagree. As a Company Man, it is my responsibility to speak up.

So far, the Company has kept me around and they keep promoting me. Let's hope things stay the same. Because at the end of the day, I have to admit, I love what I do and the continued opportunities and challenges I have as a Company Man.

If you wonder what I do or whom I work for, feel free to check out my profile on LinkedIn.

So, why the confession?

Well, three reasons:

First, because we are surrounded by media: Blogs, newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, etc... that perpetuate the conventional wisdom that says if you're not out entrepreneuring, betting the farm, your kid's college fund and important personal relationships on getting rich and famous then you're not doing anything noteworthy; that you're missing the good life. [It's just not true.]

Second, because I suspect that like me, most of you are Company Men/Women who have managed to tie your definition of success to what you do; working within the framework of an imperfect organization. I believe this is true whether you work for yourself or for a large, multi-national organization.

Third, because if my first two reasons apply to you, your career, like mine, has been a succession of both small and large steps taking you from an undereducated, untrained and unskilled person with some potential to your current position. Along the way, you probably started with a technical role where you demonstrated an unusual level of expertise that transitioned into a managerial role where you demonstrated a good deal of competence that has since transitioned into a leadership role, i.e. you have become a value-adding, Career Company Man.

Now, like me, sometimes, maybe even a lot of the time, your expertise and competence are getting in the way. If you're not seeing it, either you're the exception or you are blind. A dolooar says it's the latter.

Next time, I'll talk about some of the difficulties I've experienced during my transition from technician to organization leader.

Until then, what are your thoughts? Let me know...

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Take care and enjoy...

John

Saturday, March 24, 2007

His Leadership Sucks! Or Does it?

Gardening shows may not be your cup of tea, but in Europe, they are very popular. Unfortunately, I don’t have a garden. Actually, I don’t have a yard. However, since I moved to Germany, I have developed a real taste for these shows. One of my favorite gardeners is Diarmuid [sounds like Der-Mid] Gavin. The funny thing is, I don’t particularly like the gardens he builds. At least, if I had a yard, I wouldn’t hire him to build my garden.

So, why is he my favorite gardener?

Simple.

Because he operates from a worldview that is bigger than the work that he does. Put another way, his work, his gardens are an expression of this worldview.

I realized this when I was watching the following scene:

[Diarmuid is talking to a team leader doing some complicated metalwork. They are walking along a stretch of the metalwork that curves around the garden.]

Diarmuid Gavin: That’s really good metalwork.

[The team leader says it would have been more practical to take a direct approach with the work.]

[Diarmuid explains why he likes the work and how it fit’s into the garden’s design and his worldview of gardening.]

DG: I’ll tell you why I spelled that out for you.

Team Leader: Why?

DG: Because you can be stupid, sometimes about that… [Long Pause] No! No! Not stupid… You can be far too practical for your own good… and it stops you doing things… In your own life.

[Later in the show, they have completed the garden and Diarmuid is sitting in the back of the garden talking to the camera about the metalwork.]

DG: Madness is good. Madness is always good to have. It is always good to challenge and to examine our perceptions, and to challenge people’s perceptions of what a garden is.

[Fade to credits]

You may not like his work or how he deals with his people, but you cannot deny that he has a worldview and a focus that is bigger than gardening. Even when people don’t like what he does, they continue to follow him. Here is why.

You can apply Diarmuid’s worldview to more-conventional gardens. His work is an exaggerated caricature of his worldview. As Diarmuid works thought the design, build and presentation of this caricature, you develop an understanding of how he approaches a gardening challenge; his approach becomes part of your approach.

In short, Diarmuid, like all leaders, is a risk mitigator. By following him and incorporating his worldview into their world, the gardening challenged are able to achieve a higher level of gardening success. Where Diarmuid succeeds, they can succeed.

As I stated in Its Not Magic, enabling organizational success is the sole purpose of all leaders.  Simply put, Diarmuid achieves that objective.

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Enjoy...

John

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Regarding a Manichean Paranoia

Manichean: Dualistic, presenting or viewing things in a “black or white” fashion.

This weekend, while catching up on my Daily Show viewing, I saw an interview with President Carter’s National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski. He was talking about his new book, “Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower”.

The Following quote is regarding his view that President Bush is suffering from a Manichean paranoia.

“[It is] the notion that somehow or another, he is leading the forces of good against the empire of evil. The notion that somehow or the other in that setting the fact that we are morally superior justifies us committing immoral acts.

And that, I think, is a very dangerous posture for the country that is the number one global power, but which to lead effectively has to have the support, the trust [and] the confidence of other nations.

The fact is, he squandered our credibility, our legitimacy and even respect for our power. And that is a rather serious indictment.”

At first, I thought Dr Brzezinski had said Machiavellian, but that didn’t make sense. So, I rewound and listened to it again and there it was “Manichean”; not just black or white, right or wrong but dualistic, religious. It is viewpoint driven by a theological argument against all opponents; like the crusade.

Think about that. Zbigniew Brzezinski isn’t talking about an administration. No, he is talking about one man and his belief that the world is black or white, good or evil, for or against him. He is saying that this one man, the Commander in Chief of the most power and most deadly military force ever assembled, suffers under the delusion that anyone not with him must be against him. He is saying that this one man has squandered our rightful position in the world; divided our allies and united our enemies all in a failed attempt to fill a greater role in history then his abilities can deliver.

If these are not fighting words, I don’t know what are. It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with this assessment; what side of the fence you sit on. Either you are mad as hell because Dr Brzezinski is wrong or you are mad as hell because he is right. Either way, if you understand what he is saying, you’re going come out fighting.

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Take care...

John

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Machiavelli and the Organizational Prince

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to sit on a leadership discussion panel. One of the participants asked each of us which book we would recommend as a must read for new leaders.

When I heard the question, my first thought was “The Goal” by Eliyahu Goldratt. Unfortunately, by the time the question came to me, someone had already recommended "The Goal". So, I took a mental inventory of my bookshelf and all I could come up with was “The Prince” by Machiavelli. I keep an old, dog-eared copy of “The Prince” on my bookshelf. I can’t say that I often refer to it, but there it was and I stated talking.

Machiavelli’s advice is one of the first and perhaps the most enduring examples of early leadership theory. Before “Machiavellian” became a bad word synonymous with all things deceptive, “The Prince” offered sound advice for dealing with the medieval world of politics and power struggles. In many ways, Machiavelli’s advice is still sound.

Like it or not, as a leader, you are a Prince; well of sorts. And if you are willing to accept that you are a Prince, then you must know what Machiavelli had to say about being a Prince.

Okay, Machiavelli doesn’t paint a pretty picture and his advice is, well, Machiavellian. However, you must read him. While you may not like his methodologies, if you read carefully between the lines, you will see that Machiavelli knew human nature and more importantly, human behavior.

If you are still reluctant, let me put it another way. If you fail to understand what Machiavelli has to say, you are doomed to suffer at the hands of those who do. Worse yet, you are doomed to cause the suffering of your own people. Simply put, you are doomed to operate in ignorance.

Since "The Prince" is a short book, don’t you think that reading and understanding the message is much easier than being doomed?

When you are done, I still recommend you read “The Goal

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Enjoy...

John

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Its Not Magic, Its Leadership...

Often times we confuse visionaries with leaders; not that they are mutually exclusive but they are not he same. You can say the same of charisma. Perhaps it is a magical experience or encounter when you meet a charismatic visionary, but neither quality is what ultimately makes a great or even good leader.

When dealing with a charismatic visionary, I have only one piece of advice, don’t let the magical qualities blind you to an inability to develop relationships that mitigate risk for the individual players and ultimately for the organization.

Leaders are catalysts and they have one and only one job, enable organizational success. If his or her magical qualities get in the way of accomplishing this one job, look for someone with a little less magic.

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Enjoy...

John

Friday, March 09, 2007

Did You Get Hammered This Week?

Speaking of hammers… This past week I kept running into people that seem to think that “The Hammer” is the ultimate management/leadership tool. By “The Hammer”, I mean their position within the organization.

Now, I have to admit, I found this more than a little interesting. Considering you can’t throw a rock without hitting a book or article published by the Leadership Industrial Complex (LIC) that doesn’t identify positional leadership as the lowest form of leadership power, I was amazed that every time I turned around, there it was.

While I don’t often agree with LIC thinking, I have to admit to being on board with this line of thinking.

As a leader, one of the worst it not “the” worst thing you can do is constantly remind your people that you are the boss and then go about proving it to them by threatening to withhold or actually withholding the fulfillment of their needs and/or wants.

The more I thought about it, the more I have concluded that people do this because reprimand management is their fall back position; when all else fails, they are still the boss. I guess there was a lot of failure or fear of failure going around this week.

If I had to identify the source of most of what I have come to label “reprimand management”, at least the source outside of being a genuinely poor leader, I would have to say it falls on the shoulders of Ken Blanchard. While I don’t believe Dr Blanchard ever intended to promote positional leadership as a fallback leadership tactic, the management style immortalized by “The One Minute Manger” relies on reprimands as a cornerstone of follower motivation.

Here in lies the rub, what represents an appropriate reprimand? At what point does a reprimand cross the line? At what point does a paternalistic scolding, intended to change a behavior negatively effect motivation or commitment?

When Ken Blanchard was doing the underlying research supporting the methods in the One Minute Manager, it may have been a safe bet to use a paternalist approach with a more-or-less homogenous work force. However, with today’s diversified work force coming from different background and myriad expectations of work, you can’t depend on the right connection being made and the right push or change in behavior.

Speaking of behavior, don’t forget, desired behavior is part of that 70% we were talking about last week. It’s a persons back or time, and should not be confused with the competitive advantage that you find in the last 30%.

So, if you can’t depend on your hammer to deliver the 70% of your people that is for sale, how can you even consider depending on it to deliver the remaining 30% that is your only hope of ever being competitive in your market?

In other words, you are on thin ice, and using a hammer to check the thickness may not be the best idea. In fact, in all likelihood, that leadership method sucks.

As I said last week, “If you don’t want your leadership to suck, it’s time to expand your collection of tools.”

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Enjoy...

John

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The 30% Solution and the Leadership Epidemic

This weekend, as I was sorting through my weekly pile of notes, I came across a statistic I had written down. Based on the illegible scribbles attached to the note, I must have been driving when I wrote it.

“On any given day, the typical employee commits only 70% of their productive capacity to the organization’s objectives.”

I’m not sure where I heard or read it. I don’t know if it is true or what “productive capacity” means. All I know is I can’t seem to shake this mystery quote from my mind.

Now, I’m not writing to point out my poor note-taking habits or obsessive tendencies. Rather, I mention it because it reminds me of an idea that lies at the foundation of my approach to working with people.

“You can buy a man’s back and his time, but you cannot buy his heart or his mind; these he must give willingly.”

In my mind, the missing 30% is the part that isn’t for sale. Your people must give this part willingly. It is where leaders succeed or fail.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating that people should or can work at 100% capacity all of the time. You cannot work machines at 100% capacity all of the time, so if your plan calls for squeezing 100% from people, you’re flirting with disaster.

Still, the 30% means something. So what is it?

The answer lies in what brought you to the leadership table.

Look at it like this. The chances are some part of your 30% is what brought you to the leadership table. Perhaps you used part of your 30% to better manage you tasks and improve your personal product quality or quantity. Maybe you used part of your 30% to develop a better understanding of your organization’s underlying value proposition, to “Know the Machine” better than anyone in your department did.

Here in lies the rub. Your experience tells you that success is a function of the 30%. The problem is you can’t base your future success on your 30%. You must base your future success on tapping into the 30% that your people must give willingly.

In short, so much leadership sucks because so many “leaders” try to tap into their people’s 30% with the same tools they used to tap into their own 30%. Rather than take the time to develop a leader-follower relationship that respects the value of the 30% they apply the one-way boss-employee relationship that worked with the one resource the truly controlled.

“When your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”

If you don’t want your leadership to suck, it’s time to expand your collection of tools.

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Enjoy...

John