Thursday, February 22, 2007

Situational Leadership

I've recently been searching for a new position with more and different managerial responsibility. During one of my interviews I was peppered with some really tough questions.

One of the final questions was, "If you were in a meeting and had a major disagreement with what someone was saying, how would you respond?" I said something about having to read the person and make a guess about which of several approaches would be better. Some people are fine if you just directly oppose them. Other people don't deal well with that, and you need to ask questions that get them to realize on their own why they are wrong. A lot of my answers were this way, and towards the end of the interview someone in the room asked if I had received "situational leadership" training, because that is the approach I seemed to take.

I went through 'Situational Leadership' training nearly twenty years ago and sent my managers through the same program just a couple years ago - and I try to be a situational leader. The 'One Minute Manager' gives a brief overview, if you've ever read it. New management fads come out every year. I always read up on them, but disagree with much of what they say. Many of these books always make management and leadership seem so simple, and imply that if you just focus on one thing (the fad) then you will be a great manager. I don't think that is true.

Management and leadership are complex because people are complex. Rather than stick to one style or form, leaders should be able to analyze a situation and determine what type of response is best given the parties involved. Sometimes you have to be more directive, sometimes a hands off approach and a pat on the back will get you further. Other times just being more of a trainer and mentor works best. No one will be as effective in each approach, but should at least have it in their repertoire.

I bring this up because I often get tired of seeing these fad books every year, and sometimes I think I should just quit reading all that hype. But now I see it in a little bit different light. Each fad, each style, each book, has some truths in it, and I try to go through it with an open mind and take away what is important. It's important to stay on that lifelong learning path.

I am making a mad dash to re-read my Situational Leadership books. It was one of the most insightful models of doing the right things, at the right time and being flexible enough to be effective with people at every level of their own personal development.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Do You Have the Luck of the Irish?

Are you "lucky"? Well, that may just depend on your state of mind – at least according to a British psychologist, Professor Richard Wiseman. I was reading about a study he had done of 400 people from all walks of life, half of whom considered themselves "lucky" and the other half classified themselves as "unlucky." It seems that those people who considered themselves lucky had certain differences in how they thought and acted from the "unlucky" group.

The lucky people were relaxed, open to new things and new people, and were quick to spot opportunities. Unlucky people tended to be more tense, stuck in routines and afraid of anything new, and unwilling to take a risk. Lucky people trusted their gut instincts and had a positive attitude – they expected good fortune or a good outcome. And, as you can guess, the unlucky ones always expected the worst.

When something unfortunate happened to the lucky ones, they were able to deal with it in a positive way. They did this by imagining that things could have been worse, and didn't dwell on their misfortune, but took control of the situation. The unlucky ones of course brooded on their misfortune, and it only confirmed to them how "unlucky" they were.

"There are only two types of person who cannot become lucky," Wiseman suggests. "There's the person who is happy to be unlucky, for whom misfortune is a central part of their identity. And there's the person who's not prepared to put the work in; there's a lot of effort involved in applying the principles."

So that old saying about "you make your own luck" could turn out to be true. Here are a few tips you might want to try, to increase your own "luck."

  • Write down six new things to try out (anything from a new food, or a visit to a new place, or a new hobby) that you can accomplish in a month.
  • Be more open to talking to people you don't know.
  • Start your own "network." The more people you know, the more ideas and opportunities you have access to.
  • When you get up in the morning, assume that the day will be a good one and everything you do will turn out for the best.
  • Keep a "luck" journal. At the end of each day, take a few moments to write down only the positive and lucky things that happened.

After a month, you can't help but recognize all the good things that are happening.

Good luck!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Up, Up with Virtual People

"The old model, where you used to chase people to invest in real estate might not be the most effective way to be successful. There's a recognition that if I can retain the intellectual capital of people doing work for companies in other locations, it brings value to our region." That's what Greg Northrup, president of the Western Michigan Alliance told Business Week in a new story on the changing face of economic development. The region is working to "woo virtual workers, or professionals who can work from their homes or other non-office settings, regardless of the employer's location," according to the story. The full story is here. Another article about telecommuting is here.

Is this an approach that will be successful? Has the time come for a new approach to attracting residents instead of and in addition to new business? Keep an eye on Grand Rapids, MI to see what happens next!

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

C.R. plans to cut 70 jobs and $7 million in City Budget

While Davenport's City Council, Mayor, staff and citizens consider the next budget, Cedar Rapids is experiencing some real problems. It seems their tax base is stagnant, services are duplicitous and not as efficient as they should be. They're raising property taxes as well as cutting services. I don't envy the CR council when it comes time for citizen input!

About the job cuts, Mayor Kay Halloran declared, ``It's not fun.''``But as we reorganize and become more efficient, it may not be necessary to have as many positions,'' the mayor continued. ``We're trying to keep the margins as tight as we can.''

While Davenport is adding to their services, as they should be in the Police dept. especially, other cities are being forced to make tough changes. Our city has done a good job in balancing the budget, adding services and avoiding additional fees and taxes.

Although there is always room for improvement we should be thankful our city budget is in pretty good shape. It does good to look around when we start to examine the way the city funds are being spent.

Your thoughts?
Addendum: Davenport is proposing a slight hike in the sewer rate fee which amount to about $1.65 per household per month. This rate hasn't been increased in 15 years and shouldn't be too hotly contested. At least I wouldn't think so.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

CNBC Announces Executive Leadership Awards

The third annual Executive Leadership Awards were announced last night on CNBC. The show itself was an hour long and not that exciting, as you might imagine.

The stories behind each of the winners are fascinating though. CEO's that have had the vision, confidence and hard work necessary to lead extraordinary companies and set the example for corporate America. Take Herb Kelleher at Southwest Airlines. They've been around 35 years now, have always run a profit and have a lot of fun doing it. In the AIRLINE INDUSTRY, no less! These folks represent the best of the best.

Here are the winners:

The stories we see of corporate executives on the front page too often are steeped in Enron-like ethics. There are a lot more leaders like the ones above who are in it to make a difference for their customers, their employees and common shareholders. These are role models, grooming the next generation of leaders to carry on the tradition of American excellence.


Monday, February 5, 2007

Define and Deliver Your Elevator Speech!

As you know, an elevator pitch is a super-short explanation of an idea, a business, or a person which is designed to create further interest. Over at the Idea Sandbox blog, Paul Williams shares how the intros to television shows have mastered the elevator pitch.

Paul cites numerous examples from Star Trek to My Name is Earl to Bosom Buddies which all support his TV Intro as Elevator Pitch idea. Paul also highlights how the intro to every A-Team episode is a well-crafted elevator pitch. Notice how this intro quickly explains the premise of the show and compels us to watch further to see what happens.

A-Team intro:"In 1972 a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem. If no one else can help. And if you can find them. Maybe you can hire... The A-Team."

Work on your elevator pitch before your next networking event, sales call or interview and you'll be halfway home to closing the deal!

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Bears Win!

The Bears are about to turn the Las Vegas odds makers into more humble human beings.

The Bears will win in a surprisingly high scoring game, coming back in the second half 32-29. The Bears' defense will harass Peyton Manning all day long, causing three interceptions. The defense will score two TD's and Devin Hester will return a punt for a TD as well. Rex Grossman will have an uninspiring, but turnover free, game throwing for just 150 yards.

Bonus Prediction: You'll have to wake me up for the start of the third quarter, having nodded off to the Prince halftime show.

Go Bears!
Addendum: I guess the professional prognosticators were better than me! I did get 1, almost 2, predictions right. I nodded off at halftime and Devin Hester did run back a kick for a score.
Hats off to the Colts this time around. They were definitely the better team this day!

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Innovative Leadership: Progress at Warp Speed

If you’re going to get your organization to make radical changes that will slingshot it warp speed ahead of your competitors, it’ll be due to dedicated, passionate, and visionary leaders who think and act boldly. That’s the essence of innovative leadership!

Latest estimates tell us there are over 500 different definitions of “leadership.” Perhaps the only common denominator of those is that a leader has followers. Although an executive or manager can be a “leader,” leadership is more a role and state of being than a position or title. Leadership is not about systems or procedures. It’s about people—about motivating, inspiring, directing, and developing them for peak (goal-oriented) performance.

I define leadership as the ability to get followers deeply committed to fulfilling a vision, objective, or course of action that they believe is achievable and worthwhile. An innovative leader, though, is an exceptional and rare one; a person who promotes and focuses maximum effective creativity from followers to achieve remarkable breakthroughs in the organization. These “galvanizers” get people to attack things they’ve only longed for and dreamt of previously. Look at the successful leaders in any industry today and you’ll see 11 common characteristics.

Characteristics of Innovative Leaders

Fast and action oriented. Speed, responsiveness, and agility are everything to innovative leaders who analyze situations, make decisions and act on opportunities. They find shortcuts to slash red tape. They’d rather make a wrong decision than blow a potential opportunity by cautiously sitting still and playing it safe until all the data are in.

Immersed in progressive change. Innovative leaders build organizations and foster a culture of on-going, never-ending change. They ensure that their organizations continually learn, adapt, evolve, and improve. Their first objective is to deal with turbulent change around them, then become master of that change.

Future-obsessed. The beckoning horizon ahead excites them. These leaders visualize their organization’s future and plot its course. They’re always asking, “What next?” “Where else?” They create the future by visualizing it now.

Masters of motivation and inspiration. Vanguard leaders first get people excited, then committed, and finally moving swiftly. They tap into secret chambers of the minds, hearts, and souls of people and know which “buttons to push” to activate their staff’s pride, faith, hope, drive, and perseverance. Innovative leaders make their followers feel special as if they were an elite exclusive team fulfilling some noble destiny. They help their employees fulfill a deep longing for creativity and innovation. They impart a sense of invincibility, power and control over their situations. These leaders accomplish two overwhelmingly important things: they make people feel good about themselves and they make them feel good about what they’re accomplishing.

Passionate. Innovative leaders are incredibly driven. And that rubs off on their followers. They express emotions freely and showcase their excitement about new ideas and change.

Super-salespeople and evangelists. The secret of innovative leadership is not authority, but influence and loyalty. President Dwight Eisenhower noted, “You do not lead by hitting people over the head—that’s assault, not leadership.” Innovative leaders persuasively communicate an optimistic, bright, enticing picture of the future for their followers. They elicit support along the way. They’re “dream merchants.” They keep the dream alive by referring to the grand vision or goal at every opportunity. They convince people to get on board and stay on board.

Rule breakers. The only rule they have is, “There are no rules.” Bureaucratic thinking, even in small organizations, focuses on strictly (oftentimes “blindly”) following rules, regulations, methods, procedures, formulas, policies, and playing it safe. It’s about “running a tight ship.” Unfortunately, it stays in the harbor a lot and that’s not what ships are built for. Innovative leaders get followers to discard their policy and procedures' manuals and, instead, create common sense, flexible, and ethical guidelines to creatively operate. Set sail!

Mountain climbers. What do Alexander the Great and Steve Jobs have in common? Both got their “troops” conquering more territory by repeatedly giving them challenging battles to fight and mountains to climb. But before the arrogance of complacency of victory set in, they announced yet another new and exciting goal—a new peak—to reach. “Are you ready for a bigger game?” they ask their followers. By creating on-going inspiring short-term visions and galvanizing followers to rush toward them, will innovative leaders keep interest and motivation peaked at all times.

Opportunists. Innovative leaders aggressively seek out and grab ideas and opportunities before others are even aware of their existence. They study trends, technological developments, and are well-rounded readers. They’re always asking themselves questions like, “How does ‘this’ apply to my organization?” How can I use it or get ideas from it?”

Builders. You can’t build good products in poor factories. The factory of creativity is the organization’s culture and operating climate. A major role of the leader is to create an environment where imagination, smart risk-taking, aggressive initiatives, and bold tactics are encouraged and rewarded. As builders, they design their organization’s infrastructure to support every aspect of innovation by helping to create or modify the organization’s collective values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors.

High-gain risk-takers. You won’t find innovative leaders thinking small. Their plans are grandiose; their actions big and daring. They seek large gains and aren’t afraid to take smart calculated risks. These are people who create industries and fortunes, not by cautiously holding back, but by boldly leaping far ahead of the average crowd.

Innovative leadership is the highest form of leadership because of the huge contributions made in the lives of employees, customers, and community. Innovative leaders take their companies to far away, exciting destinations. Let the journey begin!