Executive development

Creating a More Effective Organization

Do you look for ideas and innovation from your employees? Does your work require creativity? When you think about these questions, if you look to continue to grow your small business, the answer almost always turns out to be yes. Management is a critical aspect of ensuring growth and continued success. Ed Catmull’s book CREATIVITY, INC is worth your time. Not something I say about many business books.

While this book is about building Pixar and focuses on artistic creativity, his management insights apply to most organizations. The theme of trust runs strongly through the book but always with real business insights and ideas. For example, on the issue of micro-managing:

“One of the biggest barriers is fear, and while failure comes with the territory, fear doesn’t have to. The goal, then, is to uncouple fear and failure – to create an environment in which making mistakes doesn’t strike terror into your employees’ hearts.”

The issues of managing the organization and inevitable failures are another frequent theme.  For example, on leading an enterprise:

“When I say that the fate of any group enterprise, and the individuals with it, are interconnected and interdependent it may sound trite. But it’s not. What’s more, seeing all the interdependencies that shape our lives is impossible, no matter how hard aor long we look. … Acknowledging what your can’t see – getting comfortable with the fact that there are a large number of two-inch events occurring right now, out of our sight, that will affect us for better or worse, in myriad ways – helps promote flexibility. You might say I’m an advocate for humility in leaders. But to be truly humble, those leaders must first understand how many of the factors […]

By |April 17th, 2017|culture, Executive development|Comments Off on Creating a More Effective Organization

May’s WWII and Military Lessons for Your Organization

May is the month we recognize and remember several aspects of our military:

VE Day (70th Anniversary – May 8th) recognizes victory in Europe in WWII.
Armed Forces Day (May 16th) recognizes those currently in service.
Memorial Day (May 25th) recognizes those who died in war.

Memorial Day began as women, individually and in clubs, decorated the graves of Civil War soldiers with flowers. It became formalized, first in the North and then the South, as Decoration Day. Later, soldiers from World War I were added. Eventually it became a federal holiday in recognition of all our military members killed in war.

Leadership and Management Lessons

Military planning is the basis for strategic and business planning in most companies. While military leaders understand that all planning is overcome by events, they also know that smart planning is the basis for success. That is true for your organization as well! Too often we are so busy with reactive work and daily demands that planning drops to the bottom of a to-do list that we already never get to.

A plan will help you succeed faster and better. No small to mid-size organization needs some elaborate plan put together at great time and expense. Book an hour a week, preferably not in your office, and try to capture your vision of the future you want. A one-page summary would be a real achievement. And one that can be readily shared with employees, board members, or other stakeholders!

A recurring lesson, since President Lincoln replaced General McClellan after Antietam, is the importance of execution to success. Your ability to execute is what keeps your future positive. At far too many clients, I have seen the results of endless debates about next steps or conflict avoidance […]

Growth Tips: Networking

You can hardly open your browser or a business publication without seeing something about networking. Why? Studies show regular networkers are more successful in business and in life.

Read more on the Alexandria SBDC blog: http://alexandriasmallbusiness.com/growth-tips-networking-2014/

The Leader’s Role

Whatever your size and growth pattern, here is a quick summary of some of the most critical functions of an executive or founder.

From a McKinsey interview with Richard Bracken, CEO of HCA:
“I’m not fond of trying to sum up something as nuanced as leadership skills, but if I had to say what are some of the fundamental attributes of leadership that matter to me, the following would be high on my list.

First, the attitude of the organization toward change is established by the tone set at the top. For me, that means a continued statement, restatement, communication, and validation of the company’s mission and values, which includes reinforcing its culture. This is the CEO’s first and most important job and a clear requirement of leadership. As leaders, we must not only determine the appropriate strategic course but also define how we, as individuals and as an organization, will conduct ourselves.

Second, and most obvious, leaders must ensure the development and execution of a clear, well-communicated, and appropriately measured operating plan.

Third, effective leaders ensure that the right team, with the right values, is in place to execute the plan and can pivot appropriately when factors change.

Fourth, effective leaders show an intellectual flexibility that recognizes there are different ways to achieve goals and objectives within different environments. To me, it is important that environmental and market changes do not modify the company’s, or the executive’s, basic values.

And finally, I think a good leader is a problem solver. How an organization deals with problems, failures, and missed opportunities clearly defines an important aspect of its culture.”

Read the entire interview at http://www.mckinsey.com/Insights/Health_systems_and_services/Leading_in_the_21st_century_An_interview_with_HCA_CEO_Richard_Bracken

The 10% Solution

Do you know the difference between an average player and a Hall of Fame player’s statistics is about 10%?

What could you change to become a Hall of Fame executive?

Here are the top areas that even a small improvement in makes a significant difference in your success.

First, a strategic mind-set.

When you lead an organization, there are tons of demands on your time and attention. And yet you must withdraw your attention from daily demands regularly enough to create mental space for thinking about the bigger, more important issues critical to your organization’s success. Schedule the time, block your calendar, shut off all the interruptions – even an hour a week to start will help.

Second, improve your management skills.

Do you really hire effectively? If not, learn how. Attrition is expensive and if you are losing people within the first two years or have high turnover, it is usually bad hiring that is the cause. Next, how do you manage performance? Are your goals and expectations clear? Do your actions and systems support what you say? Do you provide regular feedback? Far too many managers and executives hate conflict and dislike managing people. But it is critical to your success.

Third, keep learning.

Reading, professional meetings, and networking all provide ways to keep current with trends which will influence you. They provide new ideas and, often, challenge your thinking. Insights from totally different arenas can provide just the stimulation you need to solve a vexing problem or create a new service.

You too can be a ‘Hall of Fame’ leader!  Will you do the work to become one?

The Missing Link: Listening Skills

Probably you have not been told to ‘shut up and listen’ lately…but do you really know if you are a good listener? Or why that is important to your own and your organization’s success?

The old line that ‘god gave us two ears and only one mouth for a reason’ reflects the common problem: most of us do not listen well. Research shows that in the USA a far higher percentage of managers are extroverts than is the overall workforce. And many extroverts are better at talking than listening.

Listening well is a critical skill: good listeners are

more likely to learn of potential problems and solutions early;
better at assessing employees, job applicants, and potential partners or vendors;
more aware of changes which may affect them.

Good listening skills require some attention and effort to learn and use. They take an effort to turn off one’s own internal discussions, to think about what one is doing in a conversation, to ignore one’s phone or other distractions, and to change one’s talking habits. But your listening skills can be improved. And this will help with your personal life as well as your business!

Tips for more effective listening include:

listen for understanding of both what is said and what underlies the words or tone.
turn off your tendency to be defensive or think of your reply while the other person is speaking.
engage yourself fully in listening: make eye contact, say an encouraging word or nod periodically, take notes as needed.
ask relevant questions: for further information and to clarify your understanding of what you think you heard.
don’t interrupt or assume you know what the rest of the statement will be.
don’t give advice unless asked to.

Start by making a real effort […]

Growth Starts “At Home”

Many of us understand the importance of building the capacity of our business, but ourselves? Not so much. Developing your skills and knowledge are important. Developing your personal capacity for resilience is critical.

Resilience allows you to push past difficulties, cope with tough times, and maintain your health. All those are vital to any entrepreneur, not to mention to most humans!

Sure you already know what you should be taking care of (yourself, your health, and all those new year’ resolutions)… so how do you understand and build your personal resilience quotient?

First, learn how your brain works.

Do you understand how you react to challenges? How your temperament influences your actions? I see executives all the time who are so tied up emotionally in some problem that they are sense-less or crazy-making.

Understanding personal style and temperament can help you be more effective – and resilient. If you understand these, you can choose to change when you need to or to cope better with issues that you face.

If you know that what drains your energy and what bolsters it, for example, you can work smarter. One easy introduction is the free Keirsey Temperament tool. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is another.

Read the amusing economics book “Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely to see how and why we so often over-estimate small risks and are not rational about our decisions. It will help you think smarter the next time you are making a business move, hiring staff – or buying chocolates.

Brain science is rapidly developing—a little attention and you can use yours to help you grow, to develop greater capacity, and to be resilient.

Second, evaluate past experiences.

We rarely use our past difficulties to inform our present. You’ve had times where you overcame an obstacle or dealt with something you […]