Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Why Change Initiatives fail and what we can do about it.

June 6, 2016

According to a study back in 2013 by Towers Watson, only 25% of change initiatives are successful in the long term! (See Victor Lipman, Forbes, Why Change Management Fails)

Quite dismal results when you think of the huge investment made by many corporations to implement change initiatives in their organizations, even more so when you consider that such initiatives are almost always announced as critical for future business success!

Highlights of the study involving approx. 280 large and middle size organizations from North America, Europe and Asia showed that:

  • Employers felt 55% of change management initiatives met initial objectives but only 25% felt gains were sustained over time
  • 87% of respondents trained their managers to manage change but only 22% felt the training was effective.
  • 68% of senior managers said they got the message for change but this fell to 53% for middle managers and 40% for front-line supervisors.

 

These are quite dispiriting figures and seem to show, unsurprisingly, that the lower down you go in the organization, the less informed and therefore less engaged employees are.

Why do these change initiatives fail? More importantly, what can we do about it?

Commentators suggest the following reasons why change initiatives fail:

  • The change initiative goals are not realistically attainable
  • The CEO is not at the forefront of driving the change
  • Senior managers talk the talk but don’t walk the talk.
  • Middle managers and supervisors are not sufficiently informed and don’t really understand the reasons why the changes are needed
  • Management wants a quick fix and doesn’t understand that implementing change is a long-term effort.

These are certainly very understandable reasons and the following solutions would seem the very least we should do:

  • Look at the territory and not the map. Set SMART change objectives.
  • Make sure the CEO is at the forefront and leads the way!
  • Make sure senior managers not only talk the talk but walk the talk by demonstrating the behaviors required to drive the change down into the organization
  • Prepare for the long term. Lead, plan and budget accordingly.

But what about the crew down in the hold rowing hard to the corporate drum beat?

Doing all the things listed above will certainly increase our chances of getting more buy in from grassroots employees but what more can we do?

How can we get grass roots employees to engage more directly and more often in supporting and implementing enduring and sustainable change? How can we harness the power of the grass roots employees to deliver extraordinary results long-term?

This is really the question at the heart of “The Open Organization, Igniting Passion and Performance”, Jim Whitehurst’s account of his leadership journey when he became CEO of Red Hat, a world leader in open source solutions.

open orgThe starting point of Jim’s leadership journey was his realization that the traditional top down, command and control, classical hierarchical organization that he was used to at Delta Airlines could not work for the Open Source culture of Red Hat.

For Jim joined an “Open Organization”, an organization that is not led in the traditional top-down way and that depends on ever-growing collaboration between internal and external communities of contributors who update and improve software (essentially Linux based) by working together, an organization where decisions are taken not top down but bottom up or even from edge to edge of the organization to respond to business opportunities. If Linux is open source and supposedly free, Red Hat is in the business of adding value to free code and providing customers with peace of mind that “their entire system based on Linux is the most stable and secure system on the planet”. And to do that, openness, transparency, participation and cooperation inside and outside the organization is critical.

Moreover, as Jim explains, not only do they need the inputs of more and more employees

Think Outside The Box Tic Tac Toe Concept

further and further away from the centre or from partners and customers if they are to innovate and gain competitive advantage but decisions have to be taken faster and faster. For such organizations, the traditional hierarchical chain of command no longer works because it takes too long, consumes too many resources and because they don’t own the code on which their solutions are based. As he says himself, “you can’t command initiative, creativity or passion”. These are gifts and every day, employees choose whether to bring them to work or leave them at home. Suppliers and customers likewise.

So leading such an Open Organization requires a new management paradigm where decision-making is no longer the prerogative of hierarchy and where decision making is top down but one where decision making is bottom up, where employees are trusted to do the right thing and where management is hands off enough to allow the people in the organization to direct them and make their own decisions.

open org management model

 

I would highlight 7 key leadership principles that are key to managing change successfully in Open Organizations and indeed in all 21st century High Tech, innovative organizations.

  1. Start with Why!

For Jim Whitehurst, you must start with “Why” because starting with “Why” and building a compelling sense of Purpose creates an extraordinary degree of engagement among all stakeholders and catalyzes creativity, innovation and organizational commitment. Jim Whitehurst quotes Whole Foods CEO John Mackey and Babson College Professor Raj Sisodia:

PURPOSE concept

“People are most fulfilled and happiest when their work is aligned with their own inner passions. Personal passion, corporate purpose and business performance all go together”. If you can create a compelling reason for people to participate, they will.

So a compelling Purpose is the first driver of engagement and if your change initiative doesn’t have a clear compelling Purpose that employees identify with, you won’t get the levels of engagement from employees required to drive change successfully.

 

  1. Ignite Passion!

But a compelling Purpose is not enough. Today’s workers want their work to mean something and they want to be part of something that makes a difference. So organizations must activate passion amongst employees to really achieve great performance.

An employee who feels passionately about his company’s purpose will be engaged and

Wherever you go, go with all your heart

motivated to deliver extraordinary performance and go that extra mile. And to get that passion, organizations must be prepared to challenge their people to take initiatives, find ways to innovate and of working together to gain an edge on the competition. As Jim Whitehurst says, if you don’t want passionate people, you can always use robots but robots won’t deliver innovative solutions to unforeseen or new complex challenges!

So the second ingredient in managing change: encourage passion in your employees and give them opportunities to express their passion from Day 1!

  1. Engage your employees from Day One!

As employees today need to understand “Why”, leaders need to engage with their workforce in a much more direct, continuous and positive way. Expecting employees to behave proactively and assume accountability for their decisions means that leaders have to provide much more information and context than ever before and this means much more than simply pushing information down the organization through the usual internal communication channels.

This means constant and ongoing dialogue between leaders and employees at all levels. So in an Open Organization, the leadership role is not undermined or abandoned. Rather, the leader’s role becomes one where he/she constantly provides context and meaning and constantly supports employees in their decision making by “determining the appropriate amount of latitude that each individual is capable of handling, plus develops, coaches and stretches their capabilities along the way”.

This third element of successful change management requires leaders to engage constantly with employees and not only when some change management initiative needs to be implemented. If leaders haven’t been busy building the engagement of their team members from day one, don’t expect to get it when you need to launch an urgent organizational change. It’s too late!!!

  1. Develop Accountability!

In conventional, top-down command and control organizations, Accountability is simple. I am accountable to my boss who is accountable to his/her boss who in turn is accountable to his boss, etc. But as Jim Whitehurst points out, real Accountability is not asking permission to do something or saying “May I” all the time.

It’s about being accountable for a set of outputs after the fact! And if you want employees to accept real accountability, you need to foster a culture that encourages initiative, trust, transparency, information sharing and all the things that allow employees to feel that they have the means and the support from leaders to take reasonable decisions at their level and are willing to be therefore accountable for the results.

 

AccountabilityAbove all, the best way for leaders to develop Accountability is to demonstrate it themselves and walk the talk by actively seeking feedback from all levels of the organization on whatever issues concern team members. Leaders have to listen to and engage with employees on how to resolve the issues raised rather than simply telling them to shut up or accuse them of being obstructionist. One very frequently used way of getting feedback is the annual employee survey and one equally important way of walking the talk is by acting on the employee feedback obtained in the annual survey in a positive way.

As Jim Whitehurst says, feedback is a gift so take the feedback at face value, don’t shoot the messenger or risk disengaging your employees!

It’s all about trust. Employees who trust their managers are more productive and trust comes from open dialogue and from leaders walking the talk!

So real accountability is a 4th element in ensuring successful change management and again, this has to be from Day One and not only when circumstances require it.

  1. Enroll your thought leaders, not just your managers!

In classical top down organizations, decision-making is simple. The Boss decides ultimately and the hierarchy dictates who gets heard. In Open organizations like Red Hat, this can’t work.

Those closest to the issue rather than those responsible for overall direction of the organization or team, tend to make the decisions. This of course requires collaboration and mutual respect between employees and their managers in a complimentary relationship. Decisions are made on merit. In other words, they are made on the best case put forward and excellence, not position, prejudice, titles, politics or privilege is the criterion of choice.

So the role of leaders is to ensure decisions based on merit can be made by the right people working together on the right things. And how do leaders do this?

They can do this by building an organization that listens to all employees and allows Hand writing the text: Be a Voice Not An Echoeveryone to voice their opinions openly so that gradually, real thought leaders can rise to the top. Organizations of course usually know who their key influencers are (the thermostats as Jim Whitehurst calls them), those thought leaders within the organization who are generally recognized by their peers for their achievements and expertise and whose contribution is vital for the success of any change initiative. But such thought leaders are unlikely to contribute positively if they are being stifled by a command and control type manager or if they witness colleagues being gagged or not being listended to. If you want your thought leaders to participate willingly and if you want to avoid groupthink conformity, proactively encouraging a culture of open expression where everyone’s voice is heard is a (small) price to pay!

So to ensure the success of your change initiatives, listen to everyone from day one!

  1. Nurture creative abrasion!

It’s not enough to show you listen. In conventional organizations, everyone is expected to fall in line and conflict is seen as a threat and usually repressed. But as Jim says, you can’t get the best creativity, initiative or efforts from members of an Open Organization, indeed any organization, by saying “Go do this”. The best ideas happen when teams “hash things out”! Open organizations therefore encourage and accept not only bottom up feedback but also organize and develop strong, energetic internal debates which may even occasion conflict and opposing points of view.

What Jim Whitehouse calls “creative abrasion”, something that involves some level of conflict – a disagreement, contention or argument – works best when it is practiced in a community that has a shared purpose, shared values and rules of engagement that help keep the conflict productive rather than destructive”.

If you don’t encourage such debate, you may well end up with what Jim calls a “terminally nice” culture that ends up in real trouble because you never initiated the difficult conversations required to challenge the status quo and get the meaningful inputs required to turn things around.

And the role of leaders in these Open Organizations is even more important: encourage and manage these abrasively creative discussions where everyone is free to exchange their points of view in a candid, positive way. Jim quotes the former CEO of Xerox PARC who

Disrupt Change Innovate New Business Product Concept Word Collag

said: “you want an organization that argues with you. And so you want to nurture the bottom up but you’ve got to be careful that you don’t degenerate into chaos”. In a way, leaders have to disrupt the conventional way of getting things done if they want to avoid falling in to the “terminally nice” culture that suffocates successful change management!

 

Lots of tools now exist to orchestrate such internal debates and in implementing them, you can use the wisdom of the crowd to police discussions. Indeed, peers themselves will step in themselves if discussions become too virulent, if you really have a community of like-minded employees who share a common goal.

So 6th element in managing change, accept being challenged and proactively promote a creatively abrasive, bottom up feedback culture and do it from Day One!

  1. Involve employees directly in decision-making!

Managing change is fundamentally about decision-making and getting decisions implemented operationally. So change management is not only about big transformational projects but is at the heart of what leaders need to do every day: get their team members to adapt with agility to change and execute effectively.

In a typical command and control organization, the manager says and the employee does but we all know that it doesn’t work like that in real life, especially in Open Organizations, indeed in most 21st century high tech organizations. Leaders need the buy in of employees to execute effectively.

But as Jim Whitehurst points out, classical change management approaches usually focus on the “execution” phase and huge effort is spent on “explaining and selling the changes” top-down to employees, once decisions are made by management at the top.

At Red Hat, they do it differently. Rather than focus on “selling” the execution plan to employees once the plan is hatched, they have moved most of the change management activities into the decision-making process itself and using a host of different feedback mechanisms, get inputs from all levels in the organization before any significant decision is made or implemented. The drawbacks are numerous: the feedback process is time consuming, objectives needs to be explained and understood, leaders have to be prepared to listen and even ready to alter their plans according to the concerns raised and this can be threatening for many managers.

But as Jim Whitehurst points out, the results are worth the effort because the time you

pride acronym concept

lose in preparing your change is gained back in the adoption phase because you have more employees on board and they will follow you “because they trust you and not because you ordered them to”. As we all know, employees feel more ownership in the changes needed when they are involved in the decision behind them!

This doesn’t mean that a company is a democracy. leaders still remain the ultimate decision makers and may have to make difficult decisions despite all the efforts to listen and engage teams. But if you take the time to explain why and can back it up with a rationale, you can still drive progress and get things done.

So the 7TH element in managing change successfully is in switching the change management from the execution phase to the decision making phase and really making the effort to involve employees in the decision making process on an ongoing basis.

Hurry slowly. It’s worth it!

So 7 simple principles for leading change in Open Organizations.

And they obviously work for Red Hat as they have grown from an organization with revenues of $400 million to one with revenues of $1.5 billion. A great achievement.

But in my view, these 7 essential principles of leading an Open Organization can be applied in any organization, Open Source or otherwise, that seeks to foster initiative and creativity rather than running operations on HiPPO – the “highest paid person’s opinion”.

And if they are applied, they will help to build a really collaborative culture where employees are engaged from Day One and change doesn’t need to be “managed” but is an integral part of the leadership and collaborative team work process on a daily basis.

Remember the 7 Principles of leading in change in an Open Organizations:

  • Start with Why
  • Ignite Passion
  • Engage with your employees from Day One!
  • Develop Accountability at all levels
  • Enroll your thought leaders as well as your managers!
  • Nurture creative abrasive bottom up feedback
  • Involve employees proactively in the decision-making process

 

What do you think?

 

What’s killing Employee Engagement and how to deal with it?

May 23, 2016

JFK once said « Things do not happen, they are made to happen » and Mark Hurd, CEO of Oracle may have been thinking of JFK when he chose Employee Engagement as the topic for his address at the opening keynote session of Oracle HCM world in Chicago recently (see The Compelling Case for Employee Engagement).

Employee engagement deals of course with how deeply an employee connects with his/her company and how willing he/she is to « go the extra mile » to get the job done well.

make it happen text write on paperWhen employees are engaged, they think not just “what’s in it for me?” but “what’s in it for us?”.

Employee engagement is of course a “hot potato” for all organizations the world over as between 30% and 50% of employees declare themselves to be disengaged to greater or lesser degrees, depending on the Survey and the region.

So why did the CEO of a global High Tech company chose to handle such a “hot potato” in such a public way?

Engagement: a Productivity driver!

The reason is simple. Mark Hurd chose to discuss engagement, because he considers the topic as not just a noble gesture but a real « productivity » mechanism that contributes directly to the company’s bottom line. And Mark Hurd was ready to admit that increasing engagement from 70% to 80% at Oracle would deliver around 2 Billion USD in savings! That’s a huge impact!

«The team with the best help for their business model usually wins », Hurd continued and we all know that to win outside, you have to win inside. Of course, over the past few

Employee Engagement

years, due to the economic downturn, many companies have compensated for sluggish growth by cutting costs. But as Hurd reminded his audience, there is another way to cut expenses: “raise employees’ productivity and get more output for the same investment”. As Hurd said, “more highly engaged employees do more work, do better work, care more about your customers, they perform better and so does the whole entity”.

Not just a Millennial issue!

What’s more, it is not a generation thing with millennials being somehow more disengaged than Generation Xers or Baby Boomers. As Hurd pointed out, all generations seek more or less the same things, have more or less the same expectations and are more or less engaged.

So what drives Engagement?

So what do employees expect? What drives higher engagement and what can we do to influence these drivers positively?

Research on Employee Engagement identifies many key drivers of employee engagement. Below are a few of those key drivers and some suggestions on what we can do to live up to JFK’s words and make things really happen rather than wait for them to happen! Some of these actions may well be on the Oracle Engagement Action Plan!

1)Company Purpose

Not surprisingly, engagement is not only about money!

Today, employees want to be paid fairly but they also want to work towards a greater

Do work worth doing

purpose and to do work that really matters. At its core, a company’s purpose is a bold affirmation of its reason for being in business. It conveys what the organization stands for in historical, ethical, emotional and practical terms. No matter how it’s communicated to employees and customers, a company’s purpose is the driving force that enables a company to define its true brand and create its desired culture. Quite often however, companies don’t formulate their purpose very well and fail to communicate it from top to bottom of the organization.

More importantly, often, there may be a disconnect between the company’s Purpose and the behaviors demonstrated lower down in the organization. Action speaks louder than words and a bold company purpose has to be backed up by coherent behaviors within the organization. Not only Talk the talk. Walk the talk!

Some key suggestions:

  • Clearly formulate the Company Purpose and communicate it to the organization top down.
  • Start at the Top! Express the Purpose in terms of some key top-level business and management behaviors expected of senior leaders and encourage them to walk the talk!
  • Organizing round tables throughout the organization between managers and employees to define simple meaningful behaviors that express the Company Purpose at local level.
  • Include these behaviors in leadership and employee learning and development programs.
  • Build these behaviors into the annual appraisal process and indeed in the ongoing discussions between managers and employees.
  • Recognize and reward employees who demonstrate these behaviors in positive ways and share with the organization as a whole.

 

2) Company Strategy and Direction

If you don’t know where you are going, you may end up somewhere you don’t want to be and most research shows that employees need to have a clear appreciation of where the company is going and how their own actions are contributing to business results.

This means cascading strategy in a simple, pragmatic way and ensuring that employees’ operational objectives are connected to overall strategy.

Some key suggestions:

  • Make Employee Engagement a strategic objective and define the key KPIs to measure improvements to employee engagement. Hold managers and HR accountable for reaching Engagement targets and monitor on a regular basis.
  • Of course, use all the classical methods to share and update the company strategy: Annual Kick Offs, monthly All Hands, newsletters, intranet, etc.
  • Use the annual appraisal process as a tool to translate the strategy into actionable SMART goals at operational level and to ensure employees connect what they are doing to overall strategy and goals with the help of their managers.

 

3) Leadership

Employees don’t leave companies. They leave managers!

Most research shows a clear and critical link between an employee’s level of engagement

Leadership diagram

and his/her relationship with his/her manager. The better the relationship, the higher the engagement. Employees expect today a positive, mentoring type relationship with their managers and more importantly, expect more autonomy, more opportunity to express their opinions and contribute to decision making more frequently and directly.

Some key suggestions for leaders:

  • Today, employees expect to have a voice! Empower your team members. Explain the strategy and how it translates for your unit in operational terms, encourage your team members to propose their own objectives and discuss with them as and when these objectives need to be aligned.
  • Employees expect regular feedback so meet your team members regularly. Discuss whatever needs to be discussed and position yourself as a coach who wants to help team members achieve their goals. Be hard on the issues, not on the people.
  • Employees need to feel trusted so be transparent and share wherever possible information that helps them understand the business.
  • Delegate and control: delegate responsibility but always control and hold team members accountable. More empowerment means more accountability.
  • Lead by example and walk the talk.
  • Seek first to understand before being understood!
  • Invite your team members to offer solutions and you will find they will have a lot of ideas.
  • Promote a no-blame, continuous improvement approach. If team members can express opinions, admit mistakes and seek to improve, they will be more confident and engage more readily.
  • Say thanks regularly and not necessarily with money.

 

4) Relationship with peers

Most research suggests that a positive work atmosphere and good relationship with peers is critical to employee engagement.

The better and stronger these relationships are, the higher the level of engagement. And the best way to promote great relationships is to develop great teamwork!

Some key suggestions:

  • Ensure clarity of purpose – Employees must know what they are trying to accomplish, why, how well, and with what priorities and constraints both as a team and individually and where the two intersect.
  • Ensure clarity of roles – Talent and responsibilities must be well-matched so employees feel challenged but with a fair shot at excellence.
  • Ensure clarity of process – Employees must understand how the game is played, know where things stand, know how they can best contribute, believe decision-TEAM - Together We Can Manage, acronym business conceptmakers are informed and fair, and believe they can influence the process if things are going awry.
  • Recruit eagles and teach them to fly in formation! On boarding is critical and engage with new starters as of day One!
  • Use the annual performance review as a way of updating on roles and responsibilities and on monitoring skills required to do the job on an ongoing basis.
  • Encourage Cooperation and not Competition. Reward cooperation as much as possible because effective teamwork delivers exponential results above anything star performers can do!
  • Keep things simple and put people first.
  • Defend your team in times of trouble. It’s a great way to build trust. All for one and one for all! When things go wrong, examine first the process and see how the team can improve together.

 

5) Continuous Improvement

Research consistently shows that engaged employees not only want to do a great job today but want to improve continuously and expect their organization to promote a continuous improvement culture.

One concrete way of promoting a continuous improvement mindset is by constantly seeking employee feedback and involving employees not only in identifying the problems but also in offering the solutions.

Some key suggestions:

  • Promote a culture positive to feedback. Deploy an annual survey of course but don’t wait for the once in the year audit results to find out what employees think. Seek feedback frequently and multiply the channels for obtaining feedback.
  • Feedback is a gift. Engaged employees want to contribute and care about what they are doing so accept the feedback, however critical it may seem. Don’t seek to punish or reprimand and don’t prejudge why employees respond the way they do. Take the feedback as it is.
  • Involve managers, team members and HR not only in analyzing the results but also in defining the action plans together so that all parties are part of the solution not the problem.
  • Recognize and reward teams for continuous improvement suggestions that are implemented successfully and share throughout the organization.

 

6) Career development

Engaged employees have high expectations with regard to how their careers are being developed and want to believe they can grow with the organization.

Some key suggestions:

  • Use the Annual Performance Appraisal as a Career Plan for each employee and to discuss strengths and development needs, roles and responsibilities, how to stretch the employee in his/her current role, what roles the employee can target as a career step and what skills are needed to succeed the move. Set loose career goals with each employee and discuss progress year on year.
  • Promote a learning and development culture. The annual performance review is the best place to set some SMART learning objectives for each team member to help him/her progress on his/her career plan.
  • Learning doesn’t only need to be classroom based and can also involve coaching, new assignments and responsibilities, special projects, etc.

 

7) Compensation & Benefits

Most research shows that employees expect to be treated fairly compared to their

Equity theory business diagram illustration

colleagues in terms of compensation and benefits and expect decisions concerning compensation and benefits to be taken as objectively as possible.

However, research also suggests that while compensation is a contributing factor in employee disengagement, it is rarely a critical factor, especially when it comes to deciding whether to go or stay!

Some key suggestions:

  • Be transparent on the process. Explain the rules upfront to all employees concerning how compensation & benefits plans are built, how salary increases and bonus awards are decided, by whom and with whom, when and where and give employees the opportunity to share their expectations early with their managers before decisions are finalized.
  • Train managers of course in the fundamentals of Comp & Ben and how to discuss with employees the salary review process.
  • Promote a “Total Compensation” approach which highlights all the different components of the employee’s compensation and not just base and variable.
  • Don’t forget other Benefits because Base pay is not everything and research often shows that employees are ready to forego a raise for a good perk such as a health plan or retirement plan! Research also shows that for most employees, pay and benefits do not pay a significant role in decisions to change job. Culture and values, career opportunities and senior leadership have a more direct impact on employee satisfaction and therefore on employee retention! Food for thought.

So lots to do and great challenges indeed to reinforce employee engagement from a leadership and organizational point of view.

Of course, employees have their own part to play in developing their engagement levels and we’ll discuss in a later blog.

Like the painting of the Eiffel Tower, it’s a never-ending battle but one that is worth the effort and investment!

What do you think?

Unveiling the Tesla Model 3 – Answering the question Why?

April 8, 2016

On March 31, 2016 last, Elon Musk unveiled the new Tesla model 3 and from a Leadership point of view, what is really compelling is the way he chose to  do it.

Rather than  trying to sell the Model 3 to his audience by  answering the question “What” and focusing in detail on the car’s technical specifications as a traditional car maker would have done, Elon Musk chose first to answer the question “Why” Tesla are doing what they are doing.

For Tesla is about much more than just making good cars. Tesla has indeed a much more compelling mission which is expressed through 2 key goals:

  1. Accelerate the transition to sustainable transport by building an affordable and attractive 100% electric car;
  2. Save lives by building a car which emits no toxic gases. As Musk reminds his audience, 53000 people die each year in the US alone due to toxic gas emissions from combustion cars and Tesla are helping to attack this urgent public health issue in a direct and concrete way.

These are indeed compelling goals that speak to everyone and I am sure Elon Musk and his management team have no problem motivating their employees to engage with this compelling higher purpose which is so impactful on people’s lives and on the planet.

Indeed,  Elon Musk wastes no time reminding us that “it is really important to accelerate the transition to sustainable transport for the future of the world“, given the increase in CO2 levels and that it doesn’t make sense to continue to produce cars that emit poisonous gases!

So Tesla’s mission is  not simply to make cars. Tesla’s mission is to address these very TESLA LOGO
serious issues of climate warming due to excessive CO2 levels and alarming death rates due to car pollution by making cars that are good for the climate and safe for people. By buying a Tesla electric car, customers are of course not simply buying a car but they are also saving the planet and saving lives. What a powerful mission statement!

These are fantastic and great reasons for buying a Tesla and certainly much more compelling than the traditional arguments used by the established car makers! What’s more, any fears future Tesla users may harbor linked to battery range or recharge times are significantly reduced when compared with the idea that buying a Tesla will save lives and save the Planet.

Elon Musk also reminds us that Tesla started off as a small team with few resources and this adds to the sense of a highly united band of pioneers who have beaten the odds through a clever strategy of starting out small and building gradually towards the final objective of producing the first great 100% high volume, affordable electric car. This is a very convincing argument for all the early adopters who want to participate in a truly great  endeavor that goes beyond simply buying a product.

And of course, Tesla is disrupting the car industry and forcing the traditional car makers to  play catch up. As Musk says, Tesla is breaking the mould and car makers like Chevrolet and Nissan have since launched similar programs in pursuit of Tesla, even though Tesla has not been producing high volumes up to now. Small in volume but big in impact! David is beating Goliath!

Elon Musk remembers to thank his customers for buying the initial  Tesla models: the Roadster, Model S and Model X and these initial customers have provided the resources to fund the design and development of the Model 3. So Tesla users are not simply customers but are above all pioneering champions who are helping to make the Tesla dream a reality and by doing so, help solve very serious global  issues. Really powerful reasons for switching to Tesla!

Musk suggests future Tesla customers needn’t worry about order availability because the factory in Fremont has huge spare capacity to meet increased demand, having produced 500 thousand + cars in the past!

Concerning batteries, the Tesla Giga factory being built is the biggest such factory in the world where more lithium ion batteries will be produced than in all the other factories in the world combined!! Astonishing!

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Tesla Giga Factory will produce more Lithium Ion batteries than all other factories combined worldwide!

Finally, Musk describes the key features such as acceleration speed, range, autopilot hardware, interior space, head room, leg room, cargo room, interior roominess, etc using simple words that speak to all. You can even fit a  7ft surf board inside! How different to the traditional technical vocabulary quite often used by traditional car makers.

And of course, the Tesla service network is growing fast and the Tesla network of supercharging and destination charging points will increase significantly by end 2017 when the first Tesla Model 3 will be delivered, guaranteeing customers the freedom to go wherever they want to go.

For Musk, cars are about Freedom and that is indeed a very contrarian message when you think how cars in recent years have become synonymous with traffic jams, gridlock, pollution and illness and to such an extent that they are increasingly being locked out of most large urban centres.

So the dream is becoming reality and Tesla is showing that it is possible to produce a great electric car despite all the obstacles from a technology, industrial, consumer, infrastructure, ecological point of view.

An extraordinary and fascinating example of how to drive change, disrupt a seemingly inertia ridden, highly conservative industry and indeed transform an every-day object that is seen as expensive, dangerous, technical, dirty, highly constraining,  etc. into one which is attractive, easy to use, simple, beautiful, exciting, user-friendly and delivers freedom.

And the 300,000 + customers who have ordered a model 3 since the unveil representing more than 11 billion USD in future sales would certainly seem to agree.

Brilliant! Fascinating vision! Putting the passion back in manufacturing. A great example of how visionaries like Elon Musk are helping to widen the cone of innovation and disrupting industries which up to now have seemed impervious to change!

Go Tesla!

 

The Power of Purpose

February 22, 2016

Check out this very enjoyable and thought-provoking speech by Robert E. Quinn from the Ross Business School at the University of Michigan  in which Robert reveals very simply how we can all bring positive change around us. The secret lies in discovering our sense of a higher purpose!

As Robert Quinn explains, “when we embrace a sense of a higher purpose, meaning increases in our lives. When we increase meaning in our lives, we increase our sense of empowerment. When we feel more empowered, we take more actions and when we take more actions, our positivity goes up.

Increased positivity allows us to see things in new ways, make new associations, build more positive, enriching  relationships around us. More enriching relationships helps free up untapped potential. When we have sense of a higher purpose, we are willing to step out of our comfort zone and do things we didn’t want to do before, take those difficult decisions and face those conflicts we avoided before”. Empowering!

Why some succeed where others fail. Start with “Why” and not “What” or “How”!

November 5, 2013

Why do some succeed where others fail?
Why are some organizations so successful where other organizations fail ? Why for example is Apple so innovative year after year after year whereas other computer manufacturers such as Dell or Gateway have failed in various initiatives to diversify?

Why should customers buy your products or services in a market place where your competitors have the same access to talent, the same agencies, the same marketing tools, the same market conditions, the same resources, the same technical expertise? What makes you different?

Start with “Why” and not with “What” or “How”
Simon Sinek, author of “Start with Why: how great leaders inspire everyone to take action” answers these questions in a very clear and simple way. The reason why some organizations succeed where others fail is for one simple reason: those who succeed are those who think, act and communicate in a totally different way and follow what Sinek calls the principles of the Golden Circle. Successful and inspirational leaders start by defining “why” they do what they do before explaining what or how they do it.  In other words, they define their purpose clearly and act and communicate aligned to that purpose. They communicate from the “Inside out”.

The Golden Circle

Communicate from the “Inside-Out”
Most organizations communicate from the “Outside-In”: they describe what they do, how they do it and then expect or hope customers to make a decision based on the facts presented. In fact, many organizations proceed this way because they don’t know “Why” they are doing what they are doing.

But this “Outside-In” approach as Sinek point out is very uninspiring and doesn’t capture the minds and hearts of the largest audience and certain doesn’t set us apart from the rest. Indeed, if you don’t know “Why” you are doing what you are doing, how can you hope to inspire others to buy your products or follow your lead?

Rather provocatively and counter-intuitively, the goal of business, Sinek reminds us, is not to do business with people who need what we have, the goal is to do business with people who believe what we believe.

When we communicate from the Inside Out and get others to buy in to our Purpose, we speak to the fundamental drivers of human decision making, the “emotions” and we inspire those who think the same way as we do, feel the same as we do, see the world as we do, who are ready to trust us because we share something in common more than simply a basic business need.

Apple is so innovative because it succeeds in inspiring those of us who share the same purpose and see the world as Apple sees it. Apple doesn’t first try to sell us technology or extra functionalities. Indeed, their products as a whole are perhaps no better than those of its competitors. But what they do best is sell a vision and a purpose which many customers buy in to perhaps even despite the short comings of the products themselves.

Indeed, the Golden Circle principle can be applied to all areas of human endeavor.

Hire people who share the same goals and values
From a Human Resource point of view, when seeking to build a great team, we shouldn’t simply seek to hire people who can simply do the job. As Sinek says, attracting people who want to work for the paycheck is not enough. We must seek to attract people who believe what we believe, who share and identify with the goals and values of the organization because only those who share the same goals and values will go beyond the simple actions required to earn the paycheck and will engage fully with the organization, especially when the going gets rough. How do we find those people? By talking about who we are and by communicating from the “Inside-out”, we will attract more people who share the same values as us.

The perhaps apocryphal advertisement supposedly placed by the Irish Arctic explorer, Sir Edward Shackleton in the Times newspaper illustrates how building a strong and effective team depends on much more than simply knowing how to perform the tasks required. The ad is supposed to have been published as below:

“MEN WANTED: FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY. SMALL WAGES, BITTER COLD, LONG MONTHS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS, CONSTANT DANGER, SAFE RETURN DOUBTFUL. HONOUR AND RECOGNITION IN CASE OF SUCCESS. SIR ERNEST SHACKLETON”

Perhaps this ad was never indeed placed but it captures what all high achieving teams really need. Going the extra mile, making the extra effort depends on much more than simple technical competencies and in Shackleton’s case, his team survived because they shared the vision, the same goal and values.

Leadership by authority versus Leadership by inspiration
From a leadership point of view, Sinek makes the difference between those who are in leadership positions because they have power and those who are leaders because they manage to capture the hearts and minds of their audiences. Power is not enough to inspire others and all the great leaders in history, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, JFK, Churchill (to name but a few), were effective leaders because they managed to capture the hearts and minds of their audiences through a shared vision and purpose rather than through any exercise of pure power. As Sinek so provocatively suggests, leaders inspire us to follow them for ourselves and not for them, because they personify what we believe.

Check out Simon Sinek on TedTalks for a fascinating and charismatic presentation of his views on how answering the question “Why” makes such a big, big difference.

The science of ethical persuasion: 6 key principles

November 2, 2013

Whatever our role in the workplace, be it a sales person, product development manager, marketer, customer support manager, accountant, HR, even CEO, much of our success at work will depend on our ability to influence and persuade others to say yes to our requests.

Whether we are seeking to sell more products and/or services, bring new products or services to the market place, influence company strategy, introduce new tools, change behaviors in the workforce, develop new techniques and ways of working, explore new markets, much of our success will depend on our ability to get others to say yes to what we are proposing.

How to persuade others and get to yes has often been considered as an art only accessible to a few who are gifted with a special ability to influence others.

This may indeed be the case that some people have special gifts and can intuitively influence and persuade others to say yes.

However, the good news according to Robert Cialdini, Professor in Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University, is that persuading others is, in fact, a science based on 6 simple principles and these principles can be studied, learned and put to good use in a an ethical and honest way.

We no longer have to rely on gut feeling, hunches, intuition when we want to persuade others to say yes. We can learn and adopt effective persuasion strategies based on 6 clear principles.

Even more surprisingly, successful persuasion techniques based on these 6 principles allow us to make small and quite often costless changes to our persuasion strategies which can deliver quite significant results, allowing us to build positive, productive and long-term relationships with those around us, be they customers, colleagues, employees, friends, spouses, children, etc.

So what are these 6 principles?

Robert Cialdini defines them as follows:

1) Reciprocity: we are always more willing to say yes to someone who has already said yes to us. If someone invites us to a party or has done us a favor in the past, we feel obligated to reciprocate. Robert Cialdini gives the example of a restaurant where a small gift (a mint or a sweet) by the waiter increases the amount of the tip left by a customer. If we want to use this principle to influence others, we should be the first to give, we should personalize the gift and the gift should be unexpected. Simply put, we should give before we expect to receive.

2) Scarcity: People are more motivated by the idea of loosing something rather than the idea of gaining that same thing. Robert Cialdini mentions the case of the work he did with US Hi-Fi equipment manufacturer BOSE where by changing the marketing message from one which emphasized newness of the product to one which emphasized what the customer risked loosing if he/she didn’t opt for the new product, Bose increased the sales by 45%.

3) Authority: we are always more ready to follow the advice and say yes to people recognized as experts in their field. Doctors and dentists have long known this and usually post their diplomas in their consultancies to remind patients of the legitimacy of their expertise. Cialdini gives the example of how a real estate agency applied this principle to its business by instructing its receptionists to mention to callers the length of experience of its real estate agents before putting them through. This simple technique reinforced the confidence of callers and future customers and led to significant increases in business.

4) Consistency: a basic fundamental trait of human psychology is that we constantly seek to be consistent and congruent with our own personal values when we make decisions. This means that we seek to ensure that future decisions are congruent with previous commitments. So the challenge is to get people to make small commitments in writing if possible which will then lead them to make further commitments later on down the line on bigger issues.

5) Liking: we are more likely to say yes to people we like and Cialdini points out that there are three factors which lead us to like other people:
– We like people who are similar to us
– We tend to like people who pay us compliments
– We like people to seek to cooperate with us to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes

So when we are seeking to influence someone and get to yes, establishing a sincere and positive bond with the other person by bringing to the surface shared values, behaviors, experience, interests will help us build confidence and trust with the other person.

6) Consensus: when trying to persuade others, we don’t always have to rely on our own powers of persuasion but we can seek to demonstrate what similar others are doing. We are all indeed influenced by what our peer group are doing and how they are deciding. Especially in situations where there is uncertainty as to what to decide (how to vote, what product to choose, etc.), if we can show to someone that people similar to him/her have already said yes to our proposal, we increase our chances of getting to Yes. Cialdini gives the example of how Barack Obama’s team went about presenting the audience of their candidate’s supporters as being made up of all the spectrum of society (rich and poor, young and old, ethnically diverse, well-dressed, poorly dressed, etc.) and this strongly influenced indecisive voters to row in with their peer group and vote yes for Obama.

So how or why are these principles “ethical”?

As Robert Cialdini points out, when needing to persuade others, the difference between influencing others and manipulating others lies in genuinely looking at the situation for one or more of these principles that truly exist in that situation.

Do we genuinely have expertise on such a matter? If so, it is legitimate for us to want to bring this to the surface.
– Is there genuine consensus on a given option? If so, it is legitimate to want to bring such consensus to the surface.
– Is there genuine similarity? Do we really share something in common with the other person? If so, then it is legitimate to build on this similarity to build trust.

Cialdini calls this approach the detective’s approach as it involves investigating thoroughly the situation and bringing to the surface the principles that are real and appropriate to the situation or problem to be solved.

However, if you are not a legitimate expert and you mislead the other person by pretending to be something you are not, then this becomes manipulation. You may succeed the first time in fooling your customer but you won’t get away with it a second time. Robert Cialdini calls this the smuggler approach. Just like a smuggler, you import into the relationship illegitimate and false values and behaviors and such an approach is bound to fail as no long-term relationship can be based on deceit.

As Robert Cialdini points out, the most surprising thing about his research into the science of persuasion is that the most successful persuaders spend more time preparing how they will make their value proposition based on some or all of these 6 principles rather than on structuring what they will offer. The most effective persuaders act as gardeners and prepare the ground thoroughly using these 6 principles before they try to plant the seed!

Listen to Robert Cialdini to understand how you can put these principles to good use, be more persuasive and build more positive, rewarding and long-term relationships in an ethical way with customers, colleagues, employees, friends, family members and all those with whom you need to get to Yes!

How to change the world: the art of enchanting others

August 21, 2011

Driving change: enchanting others
We all seek to change or contribute to changing positively if not the whole world then at least that small part of it we inhabit. At work, after all, that is what we are paid to do.

Guy Kawasaki, former evangelist at Apple and influential business author, has a lot of challenging ideas on how to set about bringing change and in his latest book, “Enchantment, the art of changing hearts, minds and actions“, he presents some very simple and provocatives ideas on how to influence others at a personal level so as to make change possible.

The key for Guy Kawasaki is simple: to lead change, you need to enchant others.

He defines enchantment as the process of delighting people with a product, service, organization or idea. The result of enchantment is voluntary long-lasting support that is mutually beneficial.

Simply put, if we enchant those we need to influence (customers, partners, colleagues, bosses, subordinates, share holders, etc), we will get their voluntary buy-in and engagement, which is always much better than resorting to command-and-control techniques or other forms of coercion or constraint which may deliver short-term results but never generates success long-term.

The first step: build your likability
For Guy Kawasaki, the first step on the road to enchantment is building your likability. On a subsequent post, we’ll look at how we can apply Guy’s principles to customer-focused business organizations but for he moment, let’s focus on how Guy feels we as people can build our own likability at a personal level.

Building your likability: 4 key factors
To build “likability”, Guy puts first things first and reminds us of that age-old rule that you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Making a first impression depends on 4 factors:

1) Smile at people.
Nobody ever managed to enchant anyone by being grumpy and smiling at someone sends a very clear message about your state of mind. The key to a pleasant smile is to think pleasant, positive thoughts and as Guy says, when you meet people, “fire up the orbicularis oculi muscle that surrounds your eyes and make crow’s feet so that you light up the room. In other words, do your best to imitate George Clooney.
2) Dress appropriately. How you dress shouldn’t conflict with what you stand for. Don’t overdress (which may be interpreted as saying I am more rich and powerful than you) or be too informal(which could be interpreted as saying I don’t care and I’ll do as I please). If you’re in a supervision role in an informal organization, you may need to wear that tie because it is expected of you. Above all, dress in a manner that makes you feel comfortable. As Guy Kawasaki says, it’s hard to enchant people when you’re uncomfortable and besides, there is something enchanting about a person who is who he/she is and lets it rip.
3) Perfect your handshake. Humourously, Guy refers to a mathematical formula invented by Geoffrey Beattie of Manchester University to evaluate the quality of a good handshake which goes as follows:

Where e is eye contact(1=none, 5=direct), optimum value 5; ve is verbal greeting (1 =totally inappropriate, 5= totally appropriate), 5; d is Duchenne smile – smiling in eyes and mouth, plus symmetry on both sides of face, and slower offset (1 = totally non-Duchenne smile or false smile, 5 = totally Duchenne), 5; cg completeness of grip (1 =very incomplete, 5 = full), 5; dr is dryness of hand (1=damp, 5 = dry), 4; s is strength (1 = weak, 5 = strong), 3; p is position of hand (1 = back toward one’s own body, 5 = in other person’s body zone), 3; vi is vigour (1 = too low/too high, 5 = mid), 3; t is temperature of hands (1 = too cold/too hot; 5 = mid), 3; c is control (1= low 5= high), 3; and du is duration(1 = brief; 5=long), 3.

However, if we take a common sense approach, this formula translates pragmatically as follows. When you meet someone, Guy Kawasaki reminds us that we should:

Make Eye contact throughout
Make an appropriate verbal greeting
Make a Duchenne smile à la George Clooney
Grip the person’s hand a give a firm squeeze
Stand a moderate distance from the other person not so close as to make him feel uncomfortable and not so far away as to make him fel detached.
Use a medium level of vigor
Hold the handshake two or three seconds

This may seem over complicated and mechanical but in the high-tempo, fuzzy, distended organizations we all work in where a lot of communication is by electronic means, it is very important to remember that you can only enchant someone if you establish personal contact and emails can’t replace a simple handshake backed up by a positive smile.

Enchantment - Increase Likability

4) Use the right words. Words communicate your attitude, personality and perspective. Wrong words give the wrong impression. So Guy Kawasaki offers the following recommendations:
use simple words. If you use complicated words people need to look up in the dictionary, you know you’ve failed. Keep it simple.
use the active voice because it expresses action and determination.
Keep it short. The shorter you make your speeches, the better. People lose interest quickly.
Use common, unambiguous analogies. Especially in international environments, where different cultures need to work together, always try to find a common denominator in terms of words and analogies.

Increase your likability by defaulting to yes
Once you get the fundamentals right, Guy Kawasaki offers lots of other advice on how to develop relationships with stakeholders around you. For example, he reminds us that enchanting others depends most of all on proximity. As he puts it, the “single most important factor in determining whether or not you connect with another person is neither personality nor mutual interests – it is simple proximity”. So wherever you are, get up and EBWA: enchant by walking around. Or again, don’t impose your values, pursue and project your passions, find shared passions, create win-win situations. Above all, the final way to become likable is to default to yes by adopting a yes attitude. As Guy Kawasaki says, to make a default to yes work, you must assume people are reasonable, honest and grateful for indeed, most people are and one can live one’s life in one of two ways, either think people are bad until proven good or think they are good until proven bad. You will enchant more people if you believe they are good until proven bad. Or as common sense teaches us, expect the best from people and you have more chance of getting the best. Expect the worst and you increase your chances of getting just that!

Read Guy Kawasaki for more insights on how to change the world by enchanting those around you.

In the video below, check out Guy Kawasaki discussing further his ideas on the art of enchantment.

Click on the link below to discover Guy Kawasaki’s trip to Ireland and his discovery of the ancient hill of Tara, Newgrange burial chamber (older than the pyramids), Guinness brewery and the Long Room in Trinity College Dublin.

Guy Kawasaki visiting Ireland

Imagine yourself leading: be the change you want to see in the world!

February 12, 2011

At the heart of all human performance and engagement  is a fundamental desire to serve a purpose greater than ourselves. The world is changing so fast and so many barriers are collapsing. And yet, so many people are still so much in need. Never before perhaps has the world required positive leadership, not just from politicans but from all walks of life and especialy from ordinary people who have extraordinary powers to change things for the greater good. Many political leaders have already led the way by challenging the established order of things for the better: Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Gandhi to name but a few. Business leaders have also taken the lead: Warren Buffet and Bill Gates for example. One common value unites all: each leader walked the talk and led by example. What’s more important is that you can’t resolve problems with the logic that caused those problems in the first place and the world needs new, fresh, innovative ideas. And those new ideas can come from everywhere and from anyone.

As Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see in the world”.

Check out XPLANE for inspiration on leadership.

What are your thoughts on leadership and change?

Finding your leadership compass – 5 key principles to help you become an authentic leader

November 1, 2010

In 2008, former CEO of Medtronic and current Harvard Business School Professor, Bill George presented his thoughts on leadership and what makes a good leader to Google employees as part of the Google leadership series. Delivered 2 years ago in the early days of the most dramatic economic crisis since the great depression of 1929, the arguments Bill George presented in his speech then are even more relevant today, now that we are even clearer on the human, economic, industrial and financial consequences of a crisis brought about the reckless behavior of a few financial institutions “too big to fail”.

Bill George indeed begins by stating the obvious : the financial crisis is also a leadership crisis because it was brought about by individuals who preferred short-term, personal, gains to long-term organizational goals. For Bill George, organizations have been choosing the wrong people for positions of responsibility for too long and charisma has taken precedence over personal integrity and the desire to put collective before personal goals.

Basically, organizations have been choosing takers and not givers and examples abound of individuals who succeeded in the short-term but who put their organizations in dire circumstances in the long-term (only they weren’t there to take the blame). Given the consequences of the crisis we are now enduring, it is easy to understand why so many people may have lost all confidence in the whole idea of leadership and this crisis of confidence makes Bill George’s ideas even more relevant for anyone seeking to develop effective performance in organizations today.

For Bill George, leadership cannot be equated with the simple wielding of power or being able to command others to do one’s bidding. Leadership is about responsibility to others and to the organization and being conscious of the impact of one’s decisions on the well-being of the organization and of its members.

 

For Bill George, as for Peter Drucker, the old hierarchical, leader-follower, top-down, command-and-control, management model has failed and cannot work in today’s global, flexible, high tech organizations staffed by highly educated, white collar workers.  Knowledge workers do not respond to command and control management techniques and as they often know more than their bosses, refuse to be dictated to in the way blue-collar workers once were. Hungry to maintain their expertise, knowledge workers expect more opportunities and won’t wait in line patiently for promotion or new roles, preferring to move on if necessary to develop their careers and expertise.  Finally, money is no longer a key motivator and as we all spend most of our time at work, we need to find purpose and meaning in what we do at work.  If we can’t find that purpose or if leaders can’t help us find that purpose and meaning, we will become disengaged and demotivated.

So leaders today need to be attentive to 4 key drivers of performance and engagement:

1)   Alignment: as people need to find meaning and purpose in what they do, leaders need to be able to align employees in their organization around a common mission and set of values.  Team members will be more engaged if they adhere to the organization’s mission and if they can identify with the values espoused by the organization they belong to.  A clear mission is a magnet that attracts employees and allows them to work together as a team effectively. Neglect your mission statement and you run the risk of disengaging many of your employees.

2)   Empowerment: leaders are not defined by the power they wield but by how they  empower others to act effectively. In many organizations today, the people with most influence are not those with the most power. Leaders need to be able to recognize this and ensure that those with most influence and expertise are empowered to use that expertise and influence effectively. Empowerment is key to the sustainable development of all high tech organizations today because as Bill George points out, the key to sustainable development is innovation and creativity, which in turn depends on a corporate culture that frees up talent and allows employees to take measured risks to develop new and innovative products. The larger the organization however, the greater the risk of a command-and-control organization taking over as the organization struggles to maintain coherence through the application of rigid rules and procedures. The best way to counteract such a counter-productive culture is to try to segment the organization into small, flexible units that allows for more creativity and innovation.

3)   Customer service: for too long, the message from the financial sector has been that creating share-holder value is the ultimate goal of any corporation but as Bill George points out, any organization which has this as a goal is doomed to fail because the only way to provide share-holder value is by providing customer service and by providing the products and services the customer wants.  Organizations will only be ultimately successful if they meet their customers’ needs.

4)   Collaboration: the challenges facing all organizations today are complex and require unique collaborative skills within and outside the organization. No organization today is strong enough to stand alone and must be able to foster effective cross-functional team work with and effective collaboration with different organizations in the community at large.

So with these four key requirements in mind, Bill George looks at the leadership question and asserts that leadership concerns us all because each of use in our own way can make a difference, not in a history making way like Nelson Mandela, but in a very simple way at our own personal level by the way we interact with our own environment.

Bill George delivers a very personal message because when he says that we can all make a difference, he challenges us all to discover what makes us passionate and once we have made that discovery, to plot our lives aligned to that passion. Bill George urges us all to use our life to make a difference and this is what real leadership is about: making a difference. Personal values are therefore at the centre of Bill George’s views on leadership.

How can one develop such value-centered leadership and make a personal difference at our own individual  level?

Bill George defines 5 principles of value-centered leadership:

1) Know yourself and this means developing your self-awareness. Leadership does not come from the outside but from the inside, is about the person and we can all be leaders in our own way providing we know who we are, what we stand for, where we want to go, what our strengths are, what our motivations are, what positive forces driving us are. To develop our self-awareness, getting good feedback is vital: from peers, subordinates, bosses,etc…

2) Know your values and base your actions on your values. As you progress your career, you will be more and more confronted by difficult and ambiguous situations and your ability to decide effectively will depend on how clear you are on what you can and cannot do as per your set of personal values.

3) Know what your sweet spot is and strive to find a role in the organization which centres on this sweet spot. Bill George defines your sweet spot as the coming together of your intrinsic motivations with your capabilities. Our intrinsic motivations are those fundamental motivations that satisfy us and drive us on and are different from the official motivations such as earning more money or being promoted. If we can manage to  match our intrinsic motivations and our capabilities in an organizational role, we will increase our chances of being more effective. Traditional management approaches look on individuals in terms of strengths and weaknesses and try to match these strengths and weaknesses of an individual with particular organizational roles. Bill George, however, believes that it is much more effective for an individual to undestand what his/her intrinsic motivations are, what his/her capabilities are and then seek out an organizational role which allows the individual to optimize those intrinsic motivations and capabilities. Find a role that allows you to play to your strengths so that your weaknesses are irrelevant.

4) Build a team around you that will give you good and unbiased feedback.  Others can help us improve and it’s important to put in place different ways of sharing ideas with others. Bill George mentions having a mentor or creating a support group as two ways of getting such feedback and providing mutual help. Professional life has many ups and downs and others can help us adopt the strategies to survive the storms of professional life.

5) Lead an integrated life: rather than trying to develop specific behaviors for work and other specific behaviors more suited to your private life, try to live an integrated life and be the same person wherever you are, whatever environment you are in.  If the gap is too wide between the persona you adopt in an organization and your private life, this quite often can have a negative impact on your sense of integrity. This of course means knowing what your values are, living by those values and taking decisions according to those values.

For Bill George, if you follow these 5 principles, you will be an integrated leader. These 5 principles act as a leadership compass and will help you to go in the direction you want to go and help you be true to your personal direction. If you do so, you will be true to yourself and have a better chance of being true to others. More than 2000 years ago, the Roman statesman, Seneca, stated that “no wind is favorable to he who knows not where he is going” and in those tumultuous times, Seneca was delivering the same message as Bill George today: you cannot perform effectively if you don’t have a clear personal sense of direction. You must know where you want to go in life, what your values are, what motivates you to get up in the morning, what makes you passionate, what you will do and what you won’t do if you want to be able to lead and work effectively with others.

Develop your own personal leadership compass-without it, you wil get lost as many individuals seem to have done when we consider the events which have led us to where we are today in the midst of the worst financial crisis since 1929. View Bill George speaking at Google University by clicking on the link below.

Bill George: finding your True North

You can also discover Bill George discussing what it takes to build sustainable growth and performance by viewing the video


Making good and timely decisions: 4 key principles

May 23, 2010

We’re all confronted on a daily basis with having to make decisions, both big and small, on a professional and personal level. We have all developed our own rules and criteria for taking decisions, particularly at a professional level where the consequences of a good or bad decision can obviously impact the success of the project we’re working on, impact our team, impact the company’s bottom line. We of course can use different methodologies and processes to help us prepare that decision. However, all of the tools and processes don’t replace the moment when we have to make that decision and we all have to make that decision and take responsibility for the results.

We’ve all worked for managers who have either “fired from the hip” and taken very fast decisions they regretted later on or on the other hand, bosses who continuously put off decisions until they had the right data and although they made the right decision, made it too late and their “analysis paralysis” led to failure. Decision-making is perhaps the key responsibility of every manager as everything comes down to making decisions on what strategy to implement, what actions to take, who to promote, who to recruit, etc.

So what makes a good and timely decision? What simple steps can we follow to try to avoid the trap of either “shooting from the hip” or getting bogged down in “analysis paralysis”?

On a recent visit to Google, Mike Useem from the Wharton School, discussed this question and set out some simple rules which we can allow follow to help us decide as leaders nd make good and timely decisions.

The case of General Gustavus W. Smith

Mike Useem begins his discussion by presenting the case of one General Gustavus W. Smith, a leading officer in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War, who has the dubious privilege of commanding the army defending the Confederate capital, Richmond, from a Union army twice the size for only a day. The Union army was seeking to overrun Richmond and capture Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States. Smith became commanding officer when his superior, General Joseph Johnson, was wounded seriously defending the approaches to Richmond.

Jefferson Davis, present at the scene, asked Johnson who should replace him and Johnson answered that his second-in-command, Gustavus W. Smith was able and competent and so, on the spot, Gustavus Smith won a battlefield promotion. Davis immediately asked Smith what his plan was to stop the Union army. Smith asked for some time to think on the matter. Displeased with the response, Davis nevertheless agreed. Davis returned the next day and asked again what Smith’s plan was. Smith is reported to have replied that he didn’t have one and asked Davis if he had any ideas on what to do. Jefferson replied yes and sacked Smith on the spot, replacing him with Robert E. Lee who was to remain Confederate commander throughout the war. Smith’s indecisiveness led to his downfall while Davis showed quick decision-making by replacing him on the spot.

This anecdote from the American Civil War has many key lessons from a HR and  leadership perspective. Here are but a few key points:

1)    Don’t wait for a crisis to discover if you have the right person for the job. Select and test your talent on an on-going basis.

2)    History doesn’t tell us what the relationship between Johnson and Smith was like but one must ask why Smith did not at least try to implement the strategy of his superior.  Was it because his superior hadn’t shared the strategy with him, depriving Smith of at least a plan that he had already studied?  Whatever the nature of the relationship between Smith and his superior, this highlights the importance of involving direct reports in the elaboration of the leader’s strategy so that the strategy can be implemented even if its owner is incapacitated.

3)    Have a succession plan with multiple successors for key roles. Davis was lucky to have Lee close at hand (Lee was his advisor) but what would have happened if Lee had not been in the role he was in?

For Mike Useem, Gustavus W Smith, demonstrated extreme indecisiveness in a moment of crisis. He had the same background as Lee, the same demeanor, the same qualifications, the same ability to think strategically but not the same decision-making abilities. Robert E. Lee retained command of the Confederate army throughout the war and demonstrated many times his ability to take good and timely decisions.

So what are some of the traits Robert E; Lee may have had which allowed him to make good and timely decisions?

Mike Useem defines 4 key principles which he offers as a template for good and timey decision-making:

  1. Go for the 70% rule: 70% assuredness, 70% confidence, 70% due diligence, 70% consensus.  The more important the decision, the more we tend to want to have all the data, perform all the preparation, increase of confidence of success but the search for perfection is the enemy of decision-making. The more perfection you seek, the more you risk falling into the trap of analysis-paralysis. The figure of 70% is not important and is only a metaphor for setting a level at which you feel you can take your decision as a calculated risk. Although consensus is always best,  it is not always possible to have agreement from all parties and so it is inevitable to have to go with partial consensus.
  2. Be clear-minded and unambiguous about intent. Don’t micro-manager and assume you have good people on your team who will help you achieve your goal.  Set a clear goal and communicate it to all.
  3. Develop a tolerance for first-time errors.  If you adopt the 70% rule above, you therefore need to develop a tolerance for error because errors are inevitable. However, what you can’t accept is the same error twice. Your team members need to demonstrate that they learn from their errors and don’t make the same mistake again. When an error is made, review the error with the team member and ensure that this error won’t be repeated.
  4. Indecisiveness is fatal. A poor decision can always be corrected. No decision will always be too late unless no decision is a decision not to decide. Postponing a decision in the hope that events will deal with the problem is making oneself hostage to fortune.

Finally, if Jefferson Davis demonstrated good decision-making when he sacked Gustavus W. Smith and replaced him with Robert E.  Lee, historians have criticized Davis for being a much less effective war leader than his nemesis Abraham Lincoln, which they attribute to Davis being overbearing, over controlling, and overly meddlesome, as well as being out of touch with public opinion, and lacking support from a political party (the Confederacy had no political parties). According to historian Bell I. Wiley, the flaws in his personality and temperament made him a failure as the highest political officer in the Confederacy. His preoccupation with detail, inability to delegate responsibility, lack of popular appeal, inability to get along with people who disagreed with him, and his neglect of civil matters in favor of military were only a few of the shortcomings which worked against him(paragraph taken from Wikipedia).

This portrait of Jefferson Davis would seem to suggest that to be a good decision maker, you do indeed need to develop your leadership skills  by

  1. applying the 70% rule(don’t get lost in detail for the “devil is in the detail”)
  2. delegating responsibility effectively(as this speeds up decision-making and increases chances of success for many heads make light work)
  3. accepting criticism and opposition (as “contrarian” views ensures that as many bad decisions as possible are avoided)
  4. keeping touch with your internal and external customers by proactive listening and understanding what they expect as a result.

What are your ideas on the subject? What other simple rules would you add to the good and timely decision-making template?

Check out Mike Useem speaking at Google

Making good and timely decisions: 4 key principles


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