Sunday, February 24, 2008

Organizational Potential: Real or Imagined?

One of my favorite parts of the day is when I get my summary of what discussions are taking place in our member executive roundtables. The roundtables were set up to provide with members another channel to exchange ideas and information on business issues and challenges and get to know each other better in the process. In reading over the exchanges, not only do I always learn something, but I am also reminded of just how powerful the sharing of ideas and experience really is.

Over the past week or so, there has been a fascinating discussion going on started by George Bradt, founder of Prime Genesis and author of The New Leaders 100-Day Action Plan. He began by saying:
My working premise is that transformational leadership is about inspiring and enabling people to do their absolute best, together, to realize a meaningful and rewarding shared purpose...So, how have you done that? What advice do you have for others seeking to turn their organization's potential into something meaningful and rewarding?
George clearly touched a nerve as the responses poured in from all points of the compass and as you might expect with observations and comments ranging across a broad spectrum. One of those who put in his two cents was member Kerry Bensman. I thought what he had to say was not just powerful, but powerfully put, so I asked him if I could pass it along and he generously said I could. For the sake of space, here are a couple of the highlights from Kerry's post:

Your question presupposes a couple of basic assumptions. One is that the organization has unrealized potential. Another which is more important is that it has the ability, experience, and expertise to embrace a vision and drive towards it. (Of course, how often have any of us listened to the newest twist on a vision statement only to have the organization driven in a different direction.)
Working harder and smarter is not always the answer. In the computer business, we had this saying: "It always works well in Powerpoint"
There is real buy-in and there is "fake" buy-in. Your top performers know the difference and they also know where the weak links are. Unless the organization believes you are being realistic and is not being set up for failure,the entire effort is DOA.
I worked for a general manager who had an interesting philosophy. He set the goals so we could over achieve. Why, I queried? "We all feel better being 102% of goal rather than 98% of goal. Does wonders for everybody." he responded.
I have never forgotten that. No one likes to feel they are pulling an oar they are chained to in the galley along with Ben Hur.
Both George and Kerry are right of course, but I was particularly struck and with Kerry's reminder that what "works well in PowerPoint" really doesn't matter unless those who are tasked with making the vision come alive are committed to and led by leaders who understand that while words can inspire, they need to come with the investment in the training and tools to really make it happen.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Communication: The Key to Everything

Traits I have always admired: Intelligence and a sense of humor. Maybe the reason is because I don't exactly lead the pack when it comes to either, I don't know.

What I do know is that the Editor-in-Chief of our Growing Business Link partnership with The Economist and resident consumer electronics groupie Robyn Greenspan has both in abundance, and since I am guessing she bought neither of these things online like she does almost everything else in her life, they must come from the Greenspan genes. Lucky her.

Anyway, Robyn does a lot to make not only me smile on a daily basis, but most of us in the office benefit from both her intellectual insights as well as her sense of humor all the time. Today's example I thought would be fun to share here.

She tells me that her mom sent her this stellar example of the importance of effective communications. Where her mother found it we know not, but I'm glad she did and that Robyn knew I would love it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Career Flak Jacket

For those of us who are career management junkies, the name Peter Clayton is very well known. Peter is the force behind Total Picture Radio which he morphed from his original venture called His tag line now is "The Voice of Career Leadership" and if you explore the information and interviews that you'll find at TPR, I think you will agree, it is a very apt description.

One of Peter's recent interviews was with Kirk Nemer who heads up a website called which provides legal and HR consulting services. Given some of the horror stories many of us have heard (or worse still experienced) over the years, it is a site and service whose time has come if not overdue.

Anyway, Nemer's company conducts a survey each year that forecasts layoffs and the forecast for this year is certainly not encouraging. Bottom line, the forecast is for a 37% increase.

Time, of course, will tell if the economic sky is really falling, but whether it really is falling or is just cloudy, Peter's interview with Nemer is very much worth a listen not so much for the reading of the economic tea leaves, but for his insights into the issues facing those who might see the writing on the wall.

In my experience, one of the strategic mistakes that I think many of us make when it comes to trying to protect ourselves in these situations is that rather than following the old axiom of "the best defense is a good offense" people choose to hunker down hoping that the bullets will pass overhead.

We have told our members for years that like it or not, no one cares about you more than you, and when it comes to managing your career, proactive is always better than reactive.

Another way of looking at this sort of thing is to understand that the degree to which you give yourself more time, the higher the probability that you will have more options available to you. Hardly a surprise.

What still surprises me, however, is how many people still don't act but continue to keep their heads down and wait for the world to happen to them. It sad to say, but over the years I have talked to more people than I can count who have said to me in one form or another "I just can't believe that I didn't do something about this sooner."

Friday, February 08, 2008

Nice Way to Start the Weekend

I come from a generation where it was a major "no no" to blow your own horn. That said,however, I would by lying if I didn't own up to the fact that when others blow it for you that it doesn't feel good because as we all know, it does. So when I opened my email today and found the announcement that ExecuNet was once again a winner of the WEDDLE's User's Choice Award it was a nice feeling to say the least.

It isn't that we haven't had our share of recognition over the years, including all the cards and letters I got recently from members, colleagues, and friends offering their good wishes on our 20th anniversary this year, but when the kudos come outside one's circle of friends, it can't help but bring on a smile.

Addiing to the warm feelings was when I read more of the background information such as, the awards are, to quote the press release, "...the only recognition in the $6+ billion global online employment services industry where actual users-job seekers, employers and recruiters-get to pick the winners."

In addition, the release also went on to say "... that there are now over 40,000 employment-related sites operating in the U.S. alone and an equal number operating elsewhere around the world."

My math skills ended in the 8th grade, so I stopped there, but knowing that there are just 30 sites on such a big list, it was a nice way to start the weekend.

Friday, February 01, 2008

The Straight Poop

When you ask leaders where they actually learned their leadership style, a typical response is “from other leaders.” We have been taught to emulate the qualities and styles of those we wish to resemble. If that is called role modeling, I'm on board with that, but I think sometimes many of us stop there rather than realizing that other input is pretty important too. To that end, in recent times, attention is turning toward employees as individuals from which leaders can learn a lot.

I recently read an article in The Wall Street Journal that suggested that leaders turn to their organizations’ lower-level employees — or followers — for guidance. The article notes how such a strategy has worked for well-known businesses as Best Buy, United Parcel Service and Hewlett-Packard. It also cites two recent books on this subject: Followership by Barbara Kellerman and The Starfish and the Spider by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom.

The authors suggest that companies turn to these employees and listen to their ideas to create new ways to drive growth and continued organizational success. They should know what’s happening within the company and be allowed to make solid contributions.

The argument of course is because these individuals typically work in the trenches, they can be more knowledgeable about day-to-day operations. They likely know much more about customers since they have more direct contact. They probably also know what the competition is doing. I sign up for that too, and have to say that this has been my experience as well.

I have always thought it important to gain a fresh perspective, especially when faced with a challenge.

When you are faced with a need for answers, where do you turn?