Are You Part of the Problem, or Part of the Solution? Putting “Lead” Back into Leadership

Are You Part of the Problem, or Part of the Solution? Putting "Lead" Back into Leadership by Laura Stack #leadership #productivity

Many people split the world into dualities: You're either this or that. Positive or negative. On or off. Black or white. But in reality, human behavior occurs mostly in the shades of gray between any two extremes. So when it comes to leadership, I hate to say, “You're either part of the problem or part of the solution.” But it’s easy to see how it could be true. “Lead” means “go first.” So followers look to a leader for examples of how to behave and what to do. According to research by anthropologist Lionel Tiger, most baboons look at their leader every 20 seconds to see what they're doing. My Australian Shepard Lily follows me around the house and even while seemingly dozing, keeps an eye on me for cues of what to do. When we go for a walk, she continually looks at me for signals. … [Read more...]

Six Quick Mediation Tips To Help Others Work Through a Conflict

Six Quick Mediation Tips To Help Others Work Through a Conflict by Laura Stack

"An ounce of mediation is worth a pound of arbitration and a ton of litigation." -- Joseph Grynbaum, American mediator. In any group greater than two people, you'll inevitably have conflict. (Even two people may prove one too many on some issues.) So it should come as no surprise that your team members will occasionally rub each other the wrong way, resulting in conflicts that come to you for resolution. In most cases, you can all sit down and reach a reasonable agreement after a little give-and-take discussion—assuming everyone wants to work it out. Or, if the disagreement seems petty, you can just make a quick decision and tell everyone to get back to work. But some conflicts are too deep-rooted or antagonistic to dismiss so easily. In those situations, you'll need a set of … [Read more...]

Technology Unchained: Embracing The New Without Risking the Downside

Technology Unchained: Embracing The New Without Risking the Downside by Laura Stack #leadership #productivity

"Once a new technology rolls over you, if you're not part of the steamroller, you're part of the road." -- Stewart Brand, American writer and editor of the Whole Earth catalogue. According to legend, in 1779 a British weaver named Ned Ludd destroyed two stocking looms in a fit of rage. Ever since, his name has been synonymous with those suspicious about or fearful of new technology. But Luddites have always been with us. No doubt, scribes in ancient Sumeria sneered when young upstarts started writing on that newfangled paper stuff instead of traditional clay bricks. After all, why change what works? Ironically, the Internet overflows with stories about how new electronic technologies might doom society as we know it. The commentators fear our electronic helpers will atrophy the … [Read more...]

That Little Extra Something: Harnessing Your Personal Creativity at Work

That Little Extra Something: Harnessing Your Personal Creativity at Work by Laura Stack

"We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down." -- Kurt Vonnegut, American author. If it hadn't been for drive-thru banking, fast food would be a lot less convenient. Years ago, a McDonald's vice president was visiting the drive-thru window at his local bank when he thought, "Why couldn't this work for our restaurants?" The rest is history. McDonald's integrated the drive-thru idea into its new stores, and now lots of restaurants use drive-thru windows, including Starbucks. If a store doesn't have a drive-thru window and you're in a hurry to get a burger or a mocha latte, you probably won't even stop there. This represents just one example of the value of unleashing your personal creativity on a work problem. It costs you nothing extra, … [Read more...]

The ABCs of Motivating Your Team

The ABCs of Motivating Your Team by Laura Stack #productivity #leadership

"New Employee Incentive Plan: Work or get fired." -- Hand-lettered sign seen behind the counter of a rustic country store. According to a recent story in Inc. magazine, Brian Halligan, CEO of software marketing firm Hubspot, has a singular way of handling go-getter employees who present him with great ideas with the potential to improve the company's bottom line. He fires them. The punchline? He fires them from their “day jobs.” He then appoints them as the CEOs of their own change initiatives, something like little start-up companies within the company. Halligan refers to this as his Mini-CEO Program, and he does it to both decentralize the company and empower team players. You can bet it motivates the heck out of his employees to do their very best for him, so they'll have a shot … [Read more...]

Fighting Your Corner: Protecting Your Team in a Competitive Workplace

Fighting Your Corner: Protecting Your Team in a Competitive Workplace by Laura Stack #productivity #leadership

"The healthiest competition occurs when average people win by putting in above average effort." -- Colin Powell, former four-star U.S. Army general and Secretary of State. As Tarzan liked to remind Jane after a hard day's work, it's a jungle out there. The business world has become more competitive than ever, given the global market and the exploding Chinese and Indian economies. While that also provides more opportunity, because the pie has grown bigger, we still have to scramble for our slices. We all require agility, efficiency, and speed if we're to get what we need. But it's a jungle in here, too. A large organization by necessity consists of numerous teams, often competing for their chunk of the company slice. With limited internal resources, if you don't fight for your team, you … [Read more...]

How to Lead By Stepping Back: Five Steps to Delegation

How to Lead By Stepping Back: Five Steps to Delegation by Laura Stack #productivity #leadership

"The best executive is one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it." –- Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States. If you're a reader of my blogs, newsletters, and Tweets, you'll know I've returned repeatedly to the topic of delegation over the years—and for good reason. As a leader, there's no more effective and productive way to handle all your responsibilities. Leadership positions come weighted down with more than their fair share of tasks, because by definition a strategic initiative is more than one person can handle. Effective leaders must parcel out that work and a good deal of the associated authority, so they can continue to think strategically and get things … [Read more...]

Brushing Up On Your Personal ROI: Improving Your Leadership Skills

Brushing Up On Your Personal ROI: Improving Your Leadership Skills by Laura Stack #productivity #leadership

"Do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of." -- Benjamin Franklin, American Founding Father. Despite what some seem to believe, few of us leap into our careers with our abilities fully formed. Yes, exceptions exist: writer Robert A. Heinlein sold the very first story he ever wrote, then proceeded to rule as one of the Big Three science fiction writers for close to 40 years. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a child prodigy, seemed capable of plucking melodies out of the air. But they were exceptions, and as the saying goes, the exceptions prove the rule. Most of us must grow into our jobs—even leaders. Leadership may come easily for you, but it’s always good to brush up on your skills: 1. Continuous use. Complacency ruins teams, killing productivity. Rather than issuing … [Read more...]

The Need of the Hour: Managing vs. Coaching

The Need of the Hour: Managing vs. Coaching by Laura Stack #productivity

"Seek opportunities to show you care. The smallest gestures often make the biggest difference." -- John Wooden, American basketball player and coach. Despite what some people may think, being a manager is no walk in the park. In fact, the combination of mental work, social interaction, project juggling, time management challenges, high pressure, responsibility, and variability makes it among the more demanding types of work any person can take on. The hours are terrible and the stress is inevitable. But if organizations expect to accomplish anything of consequence, they must have managers, from the front line supervisor on up. While a manager may not directly produce whatever it is an organization makes, they do facilitate and organize team productivity, clearing the way for others to … [Read more...]

Consistent Improvement: Four Ways to Take Your Team from Good to Great

Consistent Improvement: Four Ways to Take Your Team from Good to Great by Laura Stack

"No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking."— Voltaire, French Enlightenment writer and philosopher. While perfection may not be possible, there's no reason not to strive for it—as long as you don't focus so tightly on that goal you can't actually accomplish anything. Instead, by continually improving your systems, processes, and productivity over time, you’ll go from mediocre to superior. I realize some readers might look askance at this idea, since just about every CEO in America has read Jim Collins' 2001 book Good to Great. If upgrading from good to great were easy, then why do everyday companies still outnumber the great by a factor of hundreds to one? Surely, if the process worked, we'd have seen a flood of great companies by now—and clearly, we haven't. But … [Read more...]