Leadership Development Carnival: June 2014 Edition

 


Namaste!
Welcome to the June 02nd 2014 Carnival of Leadership Development.

I am thankful to carnival leader Dan McCarthy for allowing me to host this event -  a wonderful collection of very practical insights on Leadership Development. It is always a great privilege to host a Leadership Development Carnival because it allows us to explore so many different facets of leadership at one go. In a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) business environment where technology is constantly changing how people collaborate and work, the paradigms of leadership are changing.

In this edition of Carnival, we have a solid collection of posts that explores the changing face of leadership in the new world. Continuing the tradition, I have also included Twitter handles of the contributors.

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Beth Miller of Executive Velocity asks “Does Your Leadership Fear Transparency?” and says “With the increasing lack of transparency that Washington DC has displayed, it is more important than ever for business leaders to step up and adopt the characteristics of transparency. Your employees crave and want leaders they can trust.” (@SrExecAdvisor)

Dan Oestreich from Unfolding Leadership says, "We think of the system as ‘out there,’ but the most important system to change is the one within.”  You can read more in this his powerful post titled “Having Tea with the Dragon”. (@DanOestreich)

Jesse Lyn Stoner of the Seapoint Center emphasizes on the importance of creating a team charter through her post “Create a Team Charter to Go Faster and Smarter”. She says, “Taking the time to get clear agreements among team members can slow things down in the beginning, but will help you go faster in the long run. It’s a paradox: Go slow in order to go fast.” (@JesseLynStoner)

Dan McCarthy of Great Leadership presents an insightful post “10 Things Your Employees May Not be Telling You.” In this post at About.com, Dan writes, “In the absence of a solid foundation of trust and open two-way communication, here are ten things that you’re not going to hear from your employees.”  (@greatleadership)

Dr. Anne Perschel from Germane Insights shares “The Secret Ingredient of Great Leadership”. We have all read 10 tips, 5 steps, and 4 actions of successful leaders, but we have to look closer to find the secret ingredient of great leadership and outstanding results. (@bizshrink)

Julie Winkle Giulioni  asks “How Well-Populated is Your Pipeline?” She suggests, “Perhaps it’s time to evaluate leaders by the most crucial output for which they’re responsible: the quality of their followers.” (@Julie_WG)

Joel Garfinkle on his Career Advancement Blog shares “7 Competencies Successful HR Executive MUST Know” to be successful. (@workcoach4you)

Jim Taggart at Changing Winds blog submits his recent post “Why Arrogance Leads to Eventual Failure”. In this post he says, “I profile two very well-known companies, which happen to be Canadian (as I am) to illustrate how arrogance by top corporate leaders brought down one company (Nortel) and almost brought down the other (Blackberry), whose new CEO is working very hard to reposition the company to compete in the global telecom market.” (@72keys)

John Hunter of the Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog presents his post “A Good Management System is Robust and Continually Improving” and says, “An organization succeeds because of the efforts of many great people. But the management system has to be created for an organization to prosper as what we all know will happen, happens: people will leave and need to be replaced.”  (@curiouscat_com)

Karin Hurt of Let’s Grow Leaders says, “Micromanaging is a dysfunctional behavior that most leaders fall into from time to time. So how do you know if you’re slipping into the micro management trap?” and presents her post “The Insiders Guide to Micromanagement”. (@LetsGrowLeaders)

Jane Perdue of LeadBig presents “You know you’re not a leader when…” and says “Sometimes leaders need to take a moment, reflect on what they’re doing, and perhaps recalibrate if their actions are leadership material….or not.” (@thehrgoddess)

Mary Jo Asmus at Aspire-CS presents the post “Give them something of value” and says, “Relationships are foundational to great leadership, and value is the common currency that flows between healthy relationships.” (@mjasmus)

Nicholas Bate of Strategic Edge reflects on Leadership in his post “Leadership Reflections Seven”. In this crisp post, he provides useful reminders about fundamentals of great leadership.

S. Chris Edmonds of Driving Results Through Culture says, “GM’s recall delays indicate a corporate culture more concerned with profits than with people. These recall delays are a failure of internal systems, of engineering, and, most critically, a failure of the heart.” Read more in his post “GM’s Heart Failure” (@scedmonds)

Bruce Watt Ph.D of Development Dimensions International presents “Who Would Really Want to be a Leader?” and says, “Is negativity about leadership discouraging future generations from stepping up? In this post, I address our responsibility to select and prepare better leaders, hold them accountable and (very importantly) encourage future generations to pursue leadership.”

Jon Mertz of Thin Difference presents an interesting take on VUCA world through his post “VUCA Times Call for DURT Leaders”. He says, “We work in Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous times. To lead effectively through VUCA, we need to be Direct, Understandable, Reliable, and Trustworthy. Five leadership practices will enable our DURT approach.” (@ThinDifference)

Alan Robinson, Ph.D of The Idea Driven Blog shows how leaders can prepare for uncertainty by embracing flexibility through his post “A High-Performing System Helps You Face an Uncertain Future with More Confidence.” (@alangrobinson)

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership blog presents “Looking for a leader?” and says, “If you’re looking for someone who will make a good leader, here are some things to look for.” A very interesting list. (@wallybock)

Frank Sonnenberg of Frank Sonnenberg Online suggests, “It’s better to learn from the mistakes that other companies make, than from your own.” and presents “50 Insane Mistakes Companies Make”. (@FSonnenberg)

Susan Mazza of Random Acts Of Leadership says, “Most "to do" lists are often more a compilation of "should do" lists rather than "must do" lists – and the difference between the two determines whether you are clear about your goals and able to achieve them.” Read more in her post “3 Steps to Transform Your To-Do List” (@SusanMazza)

Lisa Kohn of Chatsworth Consulting Group, presents Managing yourself out of the picture on The Thoughtful Leaders™ Blog where she shares why leaders should make themselves dispensable in order that their teams can survive without them. (@ThoughtfulLdrs)

Randy Conley of Leading With Trust presents “After Your Trust Has Been Broken – 5 Ways to Avoid a Victim Mentality” and says, “Suffering a breach of trust can be a traumatic experience that sends you into a tailspin of self-pity and victimization. This practical article offers five concrete steps you can take to avoid a victim mentality.”  (@RandyConley)

Neal Burgis, Ph.D. Practical Solutions presents “Can You Lead Through Your Discomfort?” and says, “When leaders normalize discomfort, you invite your work culture to embrace feedback and change.” (@Exec_Solutions)

Paul LaRue of The UPwards Leader shares "Leading Change-It’s Not about You" on The Lead Change Group blog and says, “This post serves as a great reminder of the humble leadership that ought to happen, where leaders are the first to admit to their employees that they don’t have all the answers, they don’t have all the ideas, and that they need everyone to be engaged and feel valued in order for there to be true success.” (@paul_larue)

John Stoker of DialogueWORKS Blog gives detailed, thoughtful instruction that will help all leaders develop more effective, productive, and meaningful relationships with their direct reports. Read more in this post “Do You Bail Your People Out? Rescue Management Diminishes Employee Accountability” (@DialogueWORKS)

Anna Farmery of The Engaging Brand says, “Stress is down to two things – control these two factors and you can conquer the world!” and shares the post “How The Best Leaders Deal With Stress” (@Engagingbrand)

Steve Roesler of All Things Workplace asks a question, “What does your CEO consider important when discussing talent?” The answer, in his post, “Tell The Truth About Talent” is thought-provoking.(@steveroesler)

Dana Theus of InPower Blog says, “Leadership is all about being able to see success, and help others see it and find their motivation to pursue it. But what happens when leaders see things differently? We don’t often take the time to think about the leadership gifts our gender gives us, but take a few moments to learn how others view success.” and shares the post “Do Men & Women Vision Success Differently?” (@DanaTheus)

Mary Ila Ward of The Point Blog shares “I’m spending a lot of money on this: Getting and Measuring Bang for your Buck through Leadership Coaching” and says, “Thinking about getting a leadership or executive coach or have one? Coaching has been cited to be both effective and efficient for certain organizations, but how do you know if coaching will pay off for your organization?  Read this post to learn how to measure for efficiency and effectiveness of coaching.” (@maryilaward)

Bill Bliss of Bills Blog breaks down the art of delegation into its value-added parts. Readers will never question the benefits (and bottom line impact) of delegation again after reading this post. Find more in the post “Delegation is the Killer App for Leaders” (@coachwmbliss)

Dr. Dean Schroeder of Dean M. Schroeder Blog demonstrates how leaders can realize a sustainable, substantial competitive advantage in the marketplace – and create a more engaged workforce in the process. Find out more in the post “Organizational Improvement: It’s Not a Sprint, It’s a Journey” (@deanmschroeder)

Miki Saxon of MAPping Company Success shares “Ducks in a Row: Robert Sutton—Scale Means People” and says, “It’s important to understand that a company has no existence beyond its people who are united in a shared vision and their efforts to reach a common goal—to scale a company you must scale its people.(@OptionSanity)

That’s it for this month’s edition. Thank you to all the bloggers who submitted their posts this month and I hope you enjoy reading/learning from these brilliant posts!

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The Foundation of Collaborative Leadership

In an industrial age, people went to factories and worked together to produce the outcomes. When required, they collaborated in person. Supervisors commanded and controlled others and leadership was often equated with “taking power”. Factories depended heavily on rigid top-down hierarchies and people were viewed simply as dispensable workers.

With technological advances, our world of work changed dramatically. Today, we seldom do anything alone. With rise in knowledge oriented work, people in small and geographically distributed groups work together to create value through their expertise and creativity. There is no raw material, there are only people.

In this world of work, collaboration is not optional. In fact, effective collaboration is the backbone of how work gets done today. Most successful projects and teams I have seen have one thing in common – effective collaboration. They had one more thing in common – that one person with vision who believed in collaboration – a collaborative leader.

In this series of posts, we will look at what goes in to make collaborative leaders and their indispensable traits. Mary Parker Follett defined management as “the art of getting things done through people” and collaborative leadership embodies and extends this belief. It is about bringing diverse group of people together, have them share a common vision and provide them an eco-system where they effectively work with each other to produce desired outcomes optimally.

At the very foundation of collaborative leadership are respect for people, individual competence and engaging communication. Let us take a closer look at these.

Respect for People:

Effective collaboration starts with a simple belief that people are not “resources” or “capital” – they are not just a variable cost to your company. They are essentially humans who bring their self-esteem, emotional skills and intellectual capabilities to accomplish their work. That they want to be trusted, communicated with and inspired. Karen Martin, my friend and author of the recent book “The Outstanding Organization” says, “Organizations are not machines – they are fundamentally and irreducibly made up of people.” Respect for people imply that a leader is interested in (and enjoys) dealing with people, listening to them, help them navigate through challenges of work, solve their problems and invest time in developing their skills. Respect for people also means that a leader is able to provide the required space to people without compromising on the accountability. It means that a leader looks at conflicts as a way to improve.

Competence:

Collaboration is almost never a substitute of competence. At an individual level, a leader cannot foster collaboration and solve team’s problems without having the necessary skills and capabilities. For a leader, competence does not necessarily mean only technical skills. It also means higher visibility into work and how it fits into larger scheme of things. It means knowing how to communicate effectively and deal with problems. Competence also equates with an individual’s integrity – the extent to which thoughts, words and deeds of a leader are uniform. An integral leader quickly builds trust which is the currency of a collaborative team.

Engaging Communication:

If trust is the currency of a collaborative team, communication is the way to build it. It is only when a team frequently communicates, provides clarity, clarifies vision, shares ideas, extends their lessons and outlines problems clearly that they can really collaborate. Leaders in a collaborative environment need to be transparent and conscious about cultural aspects of communication. They need to offer a compelling view of the future (vision) to engage the energies of people. Along the way, they need to reiterate the vision, keep the team focused and resolve conflicts. They also need to be aware that communication is not just about what they speak, but also about what their actions speak.

With these fundamental elements in perspective, we will explore essential traits of collaborative leaders and related examples in the subsequent posts.

Join in the conversation: How would you define collaborative leader? What are your thoughts on how people are treated within organizations today?

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Photograph by: Tanmay Vora, A Family of Darters, Khijadia Bird Sanctuary

Fostering Autonomy in a Team: 7 Lessons

“…leadership may be defined as: the ability to enhance the environment so that everyone is empowered to contribute creatively to solving the problem(s).”Gerald M. Weinberg

People do their best work when they are “intrinsically motivated” and one of the most important intrinsic motivator for people is autonomy in work. People need a space to perform and they need a say in how their work should be performed. Workplace autonomy feeds self-esteem and fosters creativity.

Here are a few things I have learned (from my experiences and seeing other leaders perform) on fostering autonomy in your team:

  1. Recruit right: That’s where it starts. It is important to ascertain that a team member is capable of handling things, take independent view of work and drive it accordingly. You can only foster autonomy when you have team members who you can rely on. Look for professional integrity while hiring, because that is at the core or self-organization.
  2. Have a strong purpose: Smart people subscribe to a compelling purpose. If the purpose of your project/initiative does not excite people, they will not be able to give their best.  Clarity of purpose also enables people to proactively align their actions and thinking in the best interest to achieve the purpose. In agile terms, a strong purpose that is bought in by all in the team is also referred to as “shared vision”. Strong purpose and clear goals automatically establishes a demand for performance.
  3. Do “Smart Delegation”: Smart delegation plays to people’s strengths. Delegating tasks that allow people to expand their capacity to deliver ensures that people put their best skills and experience to use. Smart delegation is also about setting the ground rules/expectations and setting team members free to take work related decisions within given boundaries and/or organization constraints.
  4. Offer/arrange for help: When people try to organize their work, they will definitely need help. Either you, as a leader, can offer direct help or arrange for help. How much team members help each other in difficult situations is an indicator of team strength. When people know that help is available, they will also be willing to extend help. It works in fostering autonomy where a lot of problems are taken care of at the team level. Good and timely help gets impediments out of the way and ensures progress.
  5. Monitor progress, not people: Monitoring people is easier, but it does not help. As a team lead, your primary role is to monitor progress, not people. Small wins on a daily basis can be a great motivator for people. When people know that progress is important, they will do what is needed to ensure progress.
  6. Retrospect: Once in a while, it helps to look at the journey so far along with the team. Retrospective helps team in sharing lessons, best/great practices and solutions. It fosters collaboration, strengthens the team, accelerates learning and equips them to take better decisions.
  7. Always respect: You can only expect a team member to work independently when they trust. Without respecting people, you can never build trust. Respect people, respect their views, listen to them and respect their time. Sometimes they will falter, take wrong decisions, make mistakes – but that’s what makes them human. Dealing with people without grace is #1 killer of individual autonomy.

A leader’s role in building a self-organized team is that of a catalyst who ensures that team is aligned to organization goals. A leader also maintains boundaries for a team and creates/maintains an environment where team members thrive, grow and contribute effectively.

Related Posts at QAspire

5 Ways To Build Trust (Lessons from a Conversation)
Leaders Cannot Be Blamers: 3 Things
Creating a Learning Organization: 10 Actions For a Leader

Lessons in Using Checklists for Managing Processes

Most quality management theories and modern management practices rely heavily on checklists as an important tool to get things right the first time. Checklists are a great aid to our memories, because they document important points that we would have learned by doing things. Another way to define a checklist is that it is a list of possible indicators which helps us identify risks. Some people also prioritize items in their checklists.

Why checklists?

I was thinking about why engineering disciplines focus so heavily on checklists? Here are a few reasons I could think of:

  • Checklist can be a progressive database of your knowledge on building certain type of systems.
  • Checklists are excellent guides for others to perform the same activity in a consistent fashion with little instructions.
  • Checklists help in controlling quality of the products in verification stage.
  • Checklist standardize the operations and serve as great reminder to get the most crucial activities done.
  • Checklists can serve as a training/reference material for new comers.
  • Checklists are a great communication tool.

In essence: "Checklists seem able to defend everyone, even the experienced, against failure in many more tasks than we realized. They provide a kind of cognitive net. They catch mental flaws." says Dr. Atul Gawande, author of the book “The Checklist Manifesto”

The Problem with Checklists

Checklists mean standardization – and often standardization is blamed for killing creativity. People get blinded so much by checklist that they stop innovating, experimenting and learning. In this context, I read a review Dr. Gawande’s book written by Dr. Philip K. Howard at Wall Street Journal. The review says –

The utility of formal protocols, according to organizational experts, varies with the nature of the activity—some activities are highly systemized, like engineering, and others dependent on the judgment and personality of the individual. Spontaneity and imagination are important in many jobs, including teaching and management of all kinds. Dr. Gawande seems to assume that formal checklists will be an unalloyed benefit. But most people can think of only one thing at once: If they’re thinking about a checklist, they may not be focusing on solving the problem at hand. Many tasks require trial and error—not checklists designed to avoid error. "Hell, there ain’t no rules around here," Thomas Edison famously said. "We’re trying to accomplish something."

My Learning?

  • Checklists are indispensible in a business setting, specially when dealing with production systems that demand consistent outcomes.
  • Success of checklist approach depends solely on nature of work. You can have detailed checklists for specific engineering activities (where outcomes solely depend on inputs and process). 
  • From a management and leadership standpoint, broad-level checklists can be helpful. However, the focus still has to be on situational thinking, innovation and assessing the variables in the process of managing/leading people.
  • In any case, the importance of experimenting, making mistakes and innovating cannot be ruled out. Challenge for improvement experts is to implement checklist in a way that it does not limit thinking.
  • Checklists are tools. As with all other “tools”, a lot depends on your understanding as a professional to use these tools optimally and achieve desired results.

(Hat Tip to Michael Wade for pointing me to this book review post at WSJ).

11 Things Project Managers & Leaders Should Never Do

If you are a supervisor, project manager or a leader, you should NEVER

  • Detach yourself from the business acumen required to manage and lead. Anyone who calls himself “manager/leader” without knowing the business side of work is living in a fantasy land.
  • Give ambiguous work instructions. It kills productivity and leads to re-work. Take more time to think, if needed. “Some delay” now is better than “lot of re-work” later.
  • Bad mouth your organization in front of your team. Sure, there are things about your company that you don’t like much. Go, talk to people who matter. Team members get terribly demotivated when they hear their boss bad mouthing the organization.
  • Bad mouth a team member in front of other team members. It is a matter of pure common-sense.
  • Sugar-coat problems and hold back the information. Call spade a spade when it is needed. Problems have a bad habit of showing up sometime or the other. When they do, you loose respect because you did not communicate the enormity/magnitude of the problem upfront.
  • Just hear what your people have to say. Listen. Actively listen.
  • Talk constantly about problems, issues and delays. People are smart enough to gauge “who you are” by the “words you use”. Spread the good news and celebrate small successes.
  • Under estimate the power of non-verbal communication. Smart managers/leaders pick up some vital clues about team members from their non-verbal communication.
  • Manage by inducing fear. Thats dictatorial behavior. People grow only when they are “coached”, “counseled” and “enabled”. With fear, they will do everything dispassionately.
  • Use “You” versus “I” language. You are tearing the fabric of your team apart. Foster support and be there when they need you.
  • Under estimate the power of setting right examples. People observe and emulate your behavior. Model right behaviors.

Most project managers and business leaders know these but they lack discipline to follow these simple rules consistently. Great Leaders are no super humans. They are average people who focus like a laser beam and follow simple rules consistently.

Having the fundamental thumb-rules right and following them consistently is the first solid step to success as a manager/leader.

Great Quote – Tasks and Power

It is 1:20 AM, Sunday and I am preparing on subject “Project Management and Quality” for a talk I am going to deliver today at 10:30 AM to fellow project managers at Project Management Institute.

Preparing for this exercise pushed me to think beyond the obvious – and I have some fresh insights on issues related to project management and quality assurance. I am looking forward to this event since I will be speaking at a professional forum to a group of experienced and knowledgeable individuals at PMI. Most of my other speaking engagements so far have been with educational institutes and this one’s going to be different.

While going through some of the references, I came across this simple and powerful quote on tasks and power – it was hard to miss this one on the blog. Here it goes –

DON’T PRAY FOR TASK EQUAL TO YOUR POWERS.
PRAY FOR POWERS EQUAL TO YOUR TASKS.

Very inspiring quote to end my week. Have a great weekend!

Update: The talk at PMI was good, well appreciated and satisfying. I spoke without a powerpoint guiding me (or rather limiting my thoughts). Just could not find time to prepare a PPT. But ideas just flowed in, case studies just came naturally and it was smooth. Amazing how one can go on talking about subjects dear to them.

Great Quote: Learning to say “No”

In my first job, my immediate colleagues cursed me for my inability to say no – and my boss loved me for that! I said yes to everything that was given to me – and then stretched thin to get it done. At times, this even landed me in terrible situations just because I did not say no. I realized, the very hard way, that learning to say no is a very important career skill. This was even more relevant when I started managing projects.

Learning to say no is so crucial to manage clients expectations and avoid scope creep. Today’s quote comes from Schalk Klee’s blog – where he emphasizes that how to say no is as important as saying no. Here it goes –

“Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough.” – Josh Billings

How often do you say no and how often do you say yes to right things?