January 2012

Excerpts from an article on the value of appreciation.

Feeling genuinely appreciated lifts people up. At the most basic level, it makes us feel safe, which is what frees us to do our best work. It’s also energizing. When our value feels at risk, as it so often does, that worry becomes preoccupying, which drains and diverts our energy from creating value.

[W]e’re not fluent in the language of positive emotions in the workplace. We’re so unaccustomed to sharing them that we don’t feel comfortable doing so. Heartfelt appreciation is a muscle we’ve not spent much time building, or felt encouraged to build.

Whatever else each of us derives from our work, there may be nothing more precious than the feeling that we truly matter — that we contribute unique value to the whole, and that we’re recognized for it.

Let me take a moment to appreciate each of you who reads this blog.



Here’s a helpful and short article on time management.  What makes it noteworthy is its focus on so-called time-saving technologies and the recommendation to create a “to-don’t list.”

Here’s the premise.

The gadgets and technologies we use to get stuff done come with their own built in distractions. You often have to deal with conflicts and breakdowns in the technologies themselves. Worse, you also have to deal with the unprecedented glut of advertising, promotion and other competition for your attention while you’re using them.

The solution offered is to create a well-ordered to-do list.  Yeah right.  If it was that easy everyone would be organized and nobody would have a time management problem.  What I like about this article is the addition of a “to-don’t list” and time-blocking the items on it.

The addition of to-don’ts got me thinking.  In the article the author uses to-don’ts as a way to limit the amount of time you spend on non-productive tasks (i.e., distractions).  Reflecting on this I realized that it is beneficial to have a default to-don’t list.  What are your biggest time wasters during the day?  I’m a news junkie so a to-don’t for me is not to log on to my iGoogle site.  I love iGoogle but it is full of time wasting distractions for me.

The other recommendation is to block time.  I know people who block off their entire day to prevent people from inviting them to meetings.  This is not what the author has in mind.  Time blocking enables you to set aside a specific length of time to complete a specific task.  Simply estimating the amount of time it takes to complete a task will have a positive impact on your ability to manage your time.

Limiting your effort on a task will cause you to focus and enable you to move on to other tasks when the time is up.  To be successful at this you must stay within the time block.  When the time is up.  Stop.  If you still have work to be done put the task back on your to-do list, set some to-don’ts and estimate the amount of time it will take to complete.  Then move to your next task.

One last piece of advice.  Before you finish your day, review your to-do list.  How well did you do?  Did you get all your tasks done in the time you allotted?  Did anything remain on your do-do list after the time block was up?  Are there any lessons you can learn about the time required to complete certain tasks?

I believe you will find this approach will give you more control of your day and help you learn how long it actually takes to complete certain tasks.  This requires is a commitment to identify and limit your non-productive activities, stay within time blocks you set, and to review your daily activities every day.

The January edition of Talent Management magazine has an article on retaining top talent.  In it the author lists the grim reality of lost talent.

direct replacement costs of a departing employee can reach as high as 60 percent of that employee’s salary, according to the 2008 Society for Human Resource Management Foundation report “Retaining Talent.”

Other costs stem from failure to achieve organizational goals, interrupted strategy execution, loss of successor and leadership backup, loss of organizational knowledge and customer relationships, turnover and recruiting expenses, expense of leader time filling open positions, slowdown during transition, overload of other leaders who provide backup and floundering or disengaged work teams.

Losing top talent doesn’t have to be inevitable.  How do you prevent it?

The Bailey Group, an executive coaching and consulting organization, measure employee engagement via nine drivers.  Missing some or all drivers in an organization can result in employee engagement decline and increased flight risk.  They are:

  • Trust in leadership
  • Manager/supervisor relationship
  • Co-worker relationships
  • Job satisfaction/enjoyment
  • Connection to vision or clarity of purpose
  • Pride in organization
  • Development opportunities
  • Utilization of strengths
  • Discretionary effort or self-directed contributions to the organization

Daniel Pink writes in his book Drive that people are motivated by self-direction, learning, creativity, and the desire to make the world a better place.  I posted an entry on the book here.

Creating a culture based on the factors listed above is easier said than done.  It requires openness.  It requires a person to sincerely seek input from all levels of the organization.  It requires deliberate and focused effort to use that input to make changes.

If you are worried about retaining or attracting talent consider how you can integrate the items above into your daily interactions.  Ask your employees how they feel about each of these items.  Show you are really interested in their feelings.  Just raising the topic alone will show them your commitment.  If you are genuine, the employee will tell in the way you approach the topic.

This post on learning from mistakes is thought-provoking.  It will only take a couple of minutes to read.

I think she gives chance too much credit over outcomes and chose an example that does not translate well to business (playing the lottery).  All that aside, success doesn’t come without risk and risk does not come without the possibility of a negative outcome.  In many cases a negative outcome is considered a mistake.

The error in the clip above did not happen when the button was pushed.  It happened years before as noted in the analysis.  It is flawed thinking to consider something a mistake based on the outcome.  Mistakes don’t always happen when you see the result.

Its likely a mistake occurs in the planning stages.  You just find out about it later.  You prepared.  You did your analysis.  You made your plan.  You got input from others.  Somewhere in those preparations the “mistake” was made.  Was it flawed logic?  Was it unrealistic expectations?  Did something unforeseen happen?

I hope you never have to deal with a situation as serious as losing men in space.  However, there is something to learn from this scene.  When this team is problem solving, they are learning.  In a crisis you can’t sit back and document everything you are learning but you should not wait long after the crisis is resolved to reflect.  I like the summation of the article below.

There are costs and benefits of mistakes. Immediately after making a mistake, you see only the costs: you didn’t win; you didn’t get that account; you’re beating yourself up. But the benefits of a mistake are greater than the costs. Failure is a bigger departure from expectations. Basically, it’s the world telling you that you didn’t see it in best way to begin with.  If you ignore that, what have you learned? If I were a CEO, I would say these mistakes are corporate assets, and I paid for these. I need to learn from them.

Multitasking may help us check off more things on our to-do lists. But it also makes us more prone to making mistakes, more likely to miss important information and cues, and less likely to retain information in working memory, which impairs problem solving and creativity.

This post from Harvard Business Review has three tips for improving your focus.

  1. Tame your frenzy.
  2. Apply the brakes.
  3. Shift Sets.

We all have times when we are stretched thin by circumstances.  This should be the exception not the norm.  If you are having trouble focusing or managing your time I encourage you to read the post and develop a plan for putting them into practice.  If you are wondering where you will find the time to develop a plan, make it a priority and follow the tips in the article linked above.

Leadership begins with knowing who you are and what you believe. Authenticity is the need for leaders to be themselves regardless of the situation. For this reason, it is more than self-awareness. It is the ability to share the deepest and truest part of ourselves with others.

The quote above is from a post by a guest blogger on Michael Hyatt’s blog.  If authenticity doesn’t hook you maybe the fact that the blogger is a former FBI agent will.

I believe authenticity is one of the underappreciated aspects of interpersonal relations in general and leadership specifically.  I have posted about it here.

I don’t have time to write more and don’t want to steal the thunder of the author so I commend the post to you and encourage you to give it a read.

It’s time to take a fresh look at leadership development from a design rather than ritual perspective.

Elliott Masie calls out but does not criticize organizational rituals in this article.  A new year is a good time to reflect on your organization’s “rituals.”  Here’s an example from the article.

For example, one ritual might have well-known leadership experts and authors from top-tier business schools spend half a day with potential leaders, summarizing their latest books or research and telling powerful stories about their work with other corporations. This might cost an organization $10,000 to $50,000. It’s powerful, memorable, fun, stimulating – but it’s still a ritual. Why a half day and not three days? Why bring the person in instead of showing a YouTube video of the same story?

Notice he does not criticize the ritual.  He suggests ways to make the experience more meaningful or utilize the money more effectively through technology.  The article specifically focuses on leadership rituals, but I believe it is healthy to look at all our rituals, personal and organizational, to find ways to improve.

We are planning a week-long event that will cost thousands of dollars to put on.  It will take hundreds of hours to organize.  We expect it to be “powerful, memorable, fun, stimulating.”  Is this what we want?  Are we getting the desired result?  Are we seeing improvement?  How do we measure improvement?

Here are recommendations from the article:

  1. Consider duration and delivery: Most leadership programs, particularly at the senior level, are structured as face-to-face events — usually over five to 10 days — often as immersion programs after someone is nominated as a high-potential employee or promoted to a senior level. From a design perspective, let’s consider alternative durations that are shorter or that stretch over two years. Play with hybrid and blended learning modes that decrease the time in the classroom and increase field-based learning.
  2. Leverage technology: Imagine handing leadership candidates a tablet that would serve as their connection to key expertise and feedback — from coaches to video segments done by other leaders — via live video chat. Add a GPS link between the tablet and the talent system, and provide suggested conversations or lunches with key leadership exemplars as they travel to various corporate offices.
  3. Promote expertise shifts and project-based learning: Imagine using the leadership faculty differently. Rather than using sages on the stage, bring them in to observe and facilitate real-time, project-based learning, where the leadership cadre tackles a major challenge facing the organization.
  4. Create real-time redesign: At the end of the next leadership program, take two hours and ask the learners to redesign the program for the next batch of rising leaders. You will be amazed by what they change. They will not see their experience as a ritual; rather, they will give you fresh input about alternatives.
  5. Random selection: Slip a few people into the leadership program who might have been chosen randomly. In other words, challenge your own assumptions about who might be the next leader. If the leadership training is really impactful, it might be interesting to see its effect on a counter-intuitive leader.

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