Embracing Chaos: The Reality of Modern Leadership

Embracing Chaos: The Reality of Modern Leadership by Laura Stack #productivity

"I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people." -- Mahatma Gandhi, Indian leader "Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people." -- John D. Rockefeller, American industrialist. everything changes. That's the ironic paradox at the heart of our profession—and at some level, it's become essential to the continued growth and development of American business. Change stirs things up, cross-fertilizing ideas and aerating the waters of creativity. We may enjoy equilibrium—and humans certainly find it more comfortable not to have to scramble—but inactivity soon sours into stagnation. You can't rest on your laurels, because some hungry young company will always be pushing the envelope and trying to steal … [Read more...]

The Politics of Motivation: Who Really Owns Engagement?

The Politics of Motivation: Who Really Owns Engagement? by Laura Stack #productivity

"As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others." -- Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft. leadership actively encourages engagement can testify to its effectiveness. The basic recipe for ensuring engagement is surprisingly simple, though the ingredients and the precise amounts of each can vary according to the workplace and team. At the very least, any engagement initiative must include these factors, flowing from the leadership to the workforce: Knowledge of the organization's strategic goals. Clarification of the employee's place within that framework, and why their work matters. Sincere and explicit encouragement to take the initiative. Empowerment without unreasonable censure. A willingness to trust. Delegation of authority as well as … [Read more...]

Active Alignment: Strengthening Your Team Via Goal-Setting

Active Alignment: Strengthening Your Team Via Goal-Setting by Laura Stack #productivity

“A goal is a dream with a deadline.” -- Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich As a leader, you bear most of the responsibility for whatever your team, division, department, or organization becomes while under your supervision. Yes, the performance of individual team members can determine your crew's success or failure; and yes, organizational rules may constrain you somewhat. But nonetheless, the onus is on you to make sure your people produce. If your team fails, you've failed. Of course, if your team fails, you can try to simply duck any accountability, as many business leaders have done in recent years—or you can face the music, as Lee Iacocca did in the 1970s and 1980s. More than once, Iacocca cut his own annual salary to $1 a year while cleaning up Chrysler. It was his … [Read more...]

Open Door Or Closed? Balancing Approachability Against Authority

"Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence." -- Leonardo da Vinci. "Nothing traps you in the urgency of the moment like availability." -- Sam Raimer, Baptist pastor and blogger. Anyone in a leadership position, from an office manager to a church pastor, has to carefully balance authority with approachability. Which should take precedence, if either? At one time, the answer was simple: authority was always preferable. But the workplace has changed radically in the last half century, and management experts have been debating the concept of the "open door policy" for decades. Some advocate its adoption on a wide scale, while others insist it can utterly destroy a leader's productivity. Given the wide latitude here, where should you strike the balance? In general, here are some … [Read more...]

The Leader’s Dilemma: No One Should Be Indispensable — Not Even You

"The graveyards are full of indispensable men." -- Charles DeGaulle One of the basic tenets of popular business advice, publicized even by industry leaders like Forbes, is that you should strive to make yourself indispensable to your boss. But just like pop culture, pop business advice can be, well, weird. Worse, it can damage your career. I understand why some people would advise workers to become indispensable in their roles; and given the current economic situation, it's even more understandable that some would listen. But that doesn’t make it good advice. Think about it: why would a manager promote away the one person their team literally couldn't do without? Indispensability = stagnation for the worker. From the management perspective, it limits team productivity, because it … [Read more...]

“That’s Not My Job”: The Lamest Excuse in Business Today

"If you ever answer someone important with "That's Not My Job," you will be RIGHT! It won't be your job when you're terminated for being unimportant or useless." -- Judd Weiss, American business blogger. The most profoundly unhelpful phrase in modern business consists of just four syllables: "That's not my job." While uttering this phrase is rarely grounds for dismissal, perhaps it should be—especially in these days of uncertain economic conditions and an ever-changing marketplace—when teamwork matters more than it ever has before. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, the members of a workplace team must hang together, or they'll surely hang separately. Just one person refusing to do you what need to have done can damage team productivity. But human beings can be remarkably selfish, so you'll … [Read more...]

Managing UP: Maximizing Efficiency for Your Boss’s Sake

"Hire people who are better than you are, then leave them to get on with it . . . Look for people who will aim for the remarkable, who will not settle for the routine." -- David Ogilvy, British advertizing executive; often called The Father of Advertising. Most people regard management as overseeing and directing the work of subordinates: giving orders, delegating tasks, providing guidance, and making sure everyone consistently produces quality output. Of course, that is a fair textbook definition. But management doesn't always flow downhill—great employees manage UP as well. In recent years, the theme has become an increasingly popular one in management circles. Basically, managing up hinges on actions that make life easier for both the boss and the employee, offsetting the boss's bad … [Read more...]

Roll Up Your Sleeves and Lead By Example

“Never separate the life you live from the words you speak.” -- U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone. As a leader, you're also a teacher: both in the leadership-by-example sense and in the instructive sense. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What you are speaks so loudly, I can't hear what you are saying." Employees learn partly by watching you and partly by receiving instruction. Unless you're a spymaster or a military commander, never ask anyone to do what you aren't willing to do yourself. For example: 1. Arrive early and stay late. Ever had a boss who rolls in at 10, then heads out at 5 after telling everyone to stay late to hit the big deadline? How’d that work out for you? Isn’t that double standard inspiring? Don't ask someone to work long hours if you refuse to. But on the opposite end of the … [Read more...]

Making Time for Strategy and Tactics

"All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved." -- Sun-Tzu, Chinese strategist. "Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action comes, stop thinking and go in." -- Napoleon Bonaparte, French general and (later) Emperor Which function should demand the lion's share of a leader’s time: short-term tactics, or long-term strategy? The short answer, as is often the case, is “it depends.” Good leadership requires a continual balancing act. On the one hand, you've got to keep the team fueled up and running smoothly on a day-to-day basis; on the other, you have to set strategic priorities and plan for the future. For those at the executive leadership level, the stakes become especially high. Let's look at a few points … [Read more...]

Nailing It: Helping Others Implement Your Strategy

"The best CEOs I know are teachers, and at the core of what they teach is strategy." -- Michael Porter Your value as a leader stems largely from your role as team visionary, the person who defines the priorities for your group. In the modern workplace, you do this best not by executing decisions, but by engaging your team members’ energies. Your ultimate goal should be to channel their efforts, abilities, and dedication in such a way that they align as closely as possible with the strategic priorities of your organization. So easy to say—but so hard to do. Once you've formulated your strategy, be prepared to focus like a laser and direct every bit of energy you can spare toward implementation. That doesn't mean you have to run yourself into the ground to accomplish this, but you do have … [Read more...]