Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

unlikely duo with a fresh perspective

March 15th, 2018 No comments

What happens when a four star general joins forces with a Berkley professor to write a book? Based on the first couple of hours that I’ve spent with the book; I believe they’ve created something special. Here is a quote from the first page of the Preface

Although the world has changed, the way we think about leadership hasn’t kept pace. Often the result is suboptimal objectives decided upon too late, measured with the wrong metrics, and implemented with overconfidence by a workforce that is not sufficiently empowered to deliver them.


Wow, talk about not pulling punches!

For the folks that are interested in reading the rest of the Preface, here is a link to some chapters of the google books version:

In the following chapters the authors share a fresh perspective and thinking. I’m heading back to read my book.


Radical Inclusion: What the Post-9/11 World Should Have Taught Us About Leadership by Martin Dempsey & Ori Brafman can be found on Amazon:



Categories: Books, Leadership Tags: ,

diversity is a lot more than just what’s easy to see

March 9th, 2018 No comments


Last week, I overheard a discussion where someone was complaining about too many assholes joining their team. As I listened, it became very apparent that the person was complaining about behaviors and perspectives that where different from their own. When I pointed out to them that different mindsets, opinions and behaviors was diversity, he became very belligerent telling me that diversity was either race or sex. Well Simon, yes, those are glaringly obvious and don’t require any thought which make them easy to spot. We were interrupted and this interchange got me thinking. I started to write this post highlighting how travel, our past, mindset’s and attitudes all impact diversity when I realized that I was missing the point.

No matter how we define diversity, the key is to respect the differences. To ask questions, to understand them and learn about them. While we can decide to return some perspectives to their owners, the key is respect. Respect their perspectives, especially if our’s are different.


Highly effective retrospective technique

September 14th, 2017 No comments

Link to the sample Retrospective Trello board:

A while back, I did a blog post titled Online Brainstorming Technique about using technology to do effective brainstorming sessions. So it goes on that a similar technique can used for Retrospective sessions.

This blog post is an updated version that leverages tooling while still maintaining all of the benefits of the old manual technique; now enables simple and easy access for remote folks and simple record keeping.

If you are anything like me, you will have attended many brainstorming sessions that have gone horribly wrong where:

  • the person with the most senior title rules
  • people position themselves before the brainstorming in an effort to establish some credibility ( in my experience the largest time consumer)
  • someone has dominated the session with their diatribe(s)
  • people who won’t stop talking about their ideas
  • it has deteriorated into a session of I am right and you are wrong and it turned out that they were saying the same thing, just a little differently
  • the most aggressive / loudest person wins
  • people were so intimidated that they did not contribute
  • people belittle the ideas thrown up
  • it becomes more about who’s idea it is rather than what the suggestion is
  • remote employees are not able to participate fully
  • the documentation is always after the fact and late….

The purpose of a Brainstorming session is to capture as many ideas as possible. The term, think outside the box is often used when it comes to brainstorming. It is very common to have a totally unrealistic statement stimulate an idea with someone else that was just brilliant. In an effort to get ideas out quickly and without most of the preamble, here is a mechanism that is quick, fair, enables remote participants, and is personality sensitive.

Pre requisites

  • Online agile planning tool, I will use Trello for this blog post. I am currently biased towards Trello because I have successfully used  for audiences in excess of 100 people.
  • Create a board on your tool of choice so that people can capture their ideas – here is a sample Trello retrospective board
  • Depending on the tool that you use, you might need to adjust the visibility of the board. If you are using Trello and not have Business Class, you will need to create the Team first and then create the board under the Team. I have found that people need to trust each other in order to contribute fully. So be aware of that if there is one person that is not trusted, it will lead to some people holding back.
  • Depending on your tool, you might need to create a group and invite people to board that you created. Depending on the sensitivity of the topic, you might have to limit the visibility; however I believe that every retro should be public and visible to the whole team, even as people join the org because it allows them to see that issues are dealt with in an open and transparent manner.
  • Enable the ability to vote on the cards
  • If you are doing this session with remote folks, I do suggest some form of screen sharing mechanism so that everyone can be focused on the same screen. At minimum, a phone conference mechanism although video does enable the facilitator to be more personal.
  • Using the board, create some existing groups/lists such as the following to streamline the brainstorming session.
    • Timeline
      • laying out the timeline of everything related to the event often leads to observations that would otherwise be missed
    • What went well?
      • Don’t be tempted to skip over this one – wins are always good!
    • What needs improvement?
      • use this list of items that need improvement
    • Start Doing
      • sometimes, people have an ah hah moment and this list gives them the ability to capture and share their thoughts on something that needs to start happening
    • Stop Doing
      • again, observations of behaviors that the someone believes should stop
    • Vent
      • this list allows people to complain, knowing that complaining doesn’t help solve the issue but it does provide a release
    • Duplicates
      • allows duplicates to stored and allowing adherence with the guideline of don’t delete ideas
    • Parking List
      • sometimes things are just too big and need their own retrospective or drill down outside the retrospective
    • Collect Input
      • for items that too complex and need further investigation – just schedule a retrospective for each of these
    • Action Items
      • if there are no actions items – you’re perfect! (if you believe this, why was there a need for a retrospective?)

Participant Guidelines

  1. one idea per card (ideally 8 or less words) You can use the card description for more data or explanation.
  2. do not discuss what you write down
  3. have fun
  4. respect all ideas
  5. do not judge (especially your own ideas), just put them on a card
  6. think outside the box
  7. ideas can be added at any time time during the session (especially during the discussion)
  8. don’t delete any ideas

Instructions for the Brainstorming session

  1. Ensure that everyone understands the participant guidelines. How do you know this? Ask.
  2. Everyone needs to capture their issues as a card in the Issues list. One idea per card and if your idea needs data or explanation, you can include that in the card description.
  3. Prioritize the issues by moving the higher priority cards to the top of the list. Feel free to add more to the list as people understand other cards. Merge duplicate cards and move the old cards to the Duplicates list.
  4. Brainstorm – review the cards in the Issues list and add ideas on how put ideas on cards. One idea per card and if your idea needs data or explanation, you can include that in the card description.
  5. Read what others have put up remembering it is about the idea and not who created the card
  6. Put more ideas up, especially if they were stimulated by what you read.
  7. Now group the similar themed suggestions together. It sometimes helps to create additional list/groups in order to collate the similar themed ideas together. I have also color coded ideas with similar themes.
  8. Move the the duplicate cards to the Duplicates List, leaving one card on the list. It might be necessary to change the title.
  9. Have everyone vote on their top five items.
  10. Arrange the cards with the highest number of votes to be at the top of the lists.
  11. Variations
    1. Option 1: Now discuss all of the ideas; as an active participant, it is your responsibility not to belittle any idea or person. I put this step in as a transitionary step. As people get more comfortable with this approach, this step should be eliminated because it favors the talkers and over shadows the introverts. That being said, it also enables the talkers to think and do as a team, you will need to time box this step or it will never end. Create cards with Action Items for the next steps or actions to bring the ideas to fruition.
    2. Option 2: This is the more effective method. Have the team create create cards with Action Items for the next steps or actions to bring the ideas to fruition.
  12. Some suggestions will require additional input to be collected and they can be moved to the Collect Input list.
  13. To help with the flow from idea to Action Item, word tag the idea or color code it

Helpful Hints

  • To help the folks in the group that need time to think and process, it is advisable to include the brainstorming topic in the meeting invitations.
  • Provide a link to the topic and these instructions as part of the advanced notification.
  • Do not shoot the messenger!  Brainstorming is all about getting the most hair brained ideas out.  Remember that your crazy idea can stimulate someone else’s thinking that results in that killer idea.
  • Do not be afraid to screwup. Please refer to the point above.
  • The ideas can now be evaluated on the merits of the idea and not who’s idea it is.
  • If you have written it down, you do not need to talk about it too. It might make you feel better but it is also taking up time. This is especially difficult for first-timers.
  • For the discussion phase: Some folks need to talk in order to think. It helps to have these folks remote as they can mute themselves while they talk.  don’t worry, because you’re on a conference call it comes naturally. I would also suggest time boxing the discussion; you will see there is a rhythm and when folks start to repeat themselves, it is time to cut it off and move on.
  • It is pretty common to have similar ideas, so just merge them and move the duplicates to the Duplicates list.
  • Some folks will not be able to move off their points and will attempt to convince others that they are right. remind them that they are not respecting the ideas of others and are assuming that they are right. All ideas need to be able to stand. If explanation is needed, then add the collateral to the card.
  • For folks that are used to discussions, they might feel that this method is impersonal or that their voice is not being heard. For these folks, explain to them the purpose of this technique is to capture everyones input as efficiently as possible and they should not focus on the busy exercise of them being able to talk.


When time is a factor, I have had the participants complete steps 1 to 3 before the meeting. Alternatively, I have also split into two meetings by completing steps 1 to 4 at one meeting, sorted the ideas out off line and then conducted the discussion at a followup meeting.


Link to the sample Retrospective Trello board:

To copy the board for your own use:

  • Click on the Show Menu link in the top righthand corner of the board
  • click on the …More option just above halfway down
  • click on the Copy Board option

Feedback on how to improve the board is very welcome!!

The best leaders are open

June 21st, 2016 No comments

According Robin Sharma’s book Leadership Wisdom from The Monk who sold his Ferrari the best leaders are open. Here is an excerpt from the book.

To truly win people’s support and deep commitment to your future vision, you must communicate as much key information as possible to them.  The more they know know about what you are doing, the more they’ll invest in where you are going. Just as with aggressive listening, being open and sharing ideas with people is a mark of respect.  Having the decency to quickly and accurately inform them of the things that will affect them will shows them that they are important.  It shows them you value them.  And when you constantly keep lines of communication open, your employees will begin to value you as a leader, so much so that they will not want to let you down.  That’s when the magic starts.

Providing clarity in an open and transparent manner consistently is Leadership. 

Categories: Leadership, Quotes Tags:

Leadership and Management Quotes

November 12th, 2015 No comments

I started reading a book titled: Leadership: Elevate Yourself and Those Around You – Influence, Business Skills, Coaching & Communication (Leader, Effective Teams, How to be a Leader, Teamwork, Public Speaking, Team Management) by Ross Elkins and bass on the first couple of chapters have led to this blog post.

Here are some quotes regarding Leadership:

A leader makes decisions and sets up goals, then he or she will lead his or her team members toward those goals. A leader has a group of followers. With collaboration, communication and trust, they stand united and face every challenge together to achieve their desired goals

Leadership can be defined as the process of influencing the behavior of one’s subordinates, without making them feel like they are working under a dictatorship

And some quotes regarding Management:

manager is someone who wants their employees to work for them. Managers have subordinates or employee

Managers have a position of authority vested in them by the company, and their employees work for them and largely do as they are told


I am still reading the rest of the book but wanted to share the quotes above.






Categories: Behavior, Leadership, Management, People, Quotes Tags:

Crisis: Chaos to Resolution

October 14th, 2015 No comments

SparkPilot_Chaos_OrderCrisis situations tend to be great breeding grounds for confusion and chaos. The good news is that it is fairly easy to stop this natural state. A Leader and a sound and tested crisis management plan.

In this post, I share a simple high-level methodology to handle a number of crisis situations. The model is pretty simple and consists of breaking the situation up into phases with distinct goals for each phase. In the real world, it is pretty common to have to go back to phases that were already completed as more information is found or especially when there are multiple issues. For each phase, there are two themes. Issue(s) and communication.

1. Identify

This is the first phase and marks the start of the crisis management effort. The first step is to do a quick triage and to determine what additional skills are needed. This initial scoping will enable the Incident Commander to determine who needs to be engaged to help isolate the issue further.

Now because the issue has been identified, it is easy to notify customers that there is a known issue and that the team is engaged.

2. Isolate

Based on experience, this is the step that requires the highest level of discipline because of the common behavior for folks to try and solve the issue(s) instead of trying to isolate the issue. It is important to isolate the issue to lay the groundwork in order to stop this issue from occurring in the future.

In this phase, the team needs to isolate the issue(s) down to the granular component(s) that is/are causing the issue(s). As more information is gathered, it enables the Incident Commander to engage or release the appropriate Subject Matter Experts (SME) on the team.

When it comes to customer communication, I prefer to communicate the actual current state until the issue(s) are isolated, even if it is not possible to provide an estimate on when the situation will be resolved. Therefore, when entering into the Isolate phase, I like to notify the customers that the team is engaged and starting to isolate the issue(s). As progress is made, provide progress updates to customers. However when progress is slow, switch to timed update methodology and provide customers with updates on a predetermined interval. There are pros & cons to each of these approaches and therefore you will need to select the mechanism that suits your business needs the best.

3. Restore

Now comes the steps to mitigate or restore the situation to “normal”. The million $ questions is what is normal? The definition of “normal” is best defined before the crisis and I prefer a checklist that can be used to determine if the situation has returned back to a fully functioning state.

Back to the customer communication, with the checklist, you can communicate to the customers that you are on step 3 of 9 or whatever the counts are. To get the durations of each step, this information should be collected during the test runs or other similar crisis situations.

4. Repair

This step is where the issue is repaired should the root cause not be addressed in the Restore step. This step also covers the elimination of any mitigations performed and returning the state to the fully operational state.

Remember that some customers would like to know when this step has been completed.

5. Eliminate

The Best Customer Impacting Incident is the One that didn’t happen!! Therefore, in order to make this statement come true, it means that the team needs to learn as much as possible from all crisis situations and apply these lessons learned to any possible future states. So, it is important to analyze the situation and to define action items with clear owners for each action item. This step will eventually ensure that the situation is eliminated. I prefer to use a formal retrospective review of the crisis situation. This process is very similar to the typical ITIL post mortem but is more collaborative and integrates much better in an agile or continuous operational state.  I will be publishing a blog post on a very effective retrospective technique within the next month or so.

Ideally the information gleaned from the retrospective can be used to formulate a customer communication. Unfortunately, this is not always possible; provide customers with some type of report so that they do not have to speculate and operate in the dark. Then continue to perform the due diligence in the background. This enables a data-driven followup with customers, should it be needed.

Crisis Leadership

October 11th, 2015 No comments

SparkPilot_CrisisLeadership always matters and in a crisis situation, leadership matters even more! When running a service, one of the most critical times is when the service fails and someone will need to step up and take the lead. Without someone taking the reigns, I have seen a mariad of situations arise and as such I am sharing a very high-level definition of the key focus areas for crisis leadership role often called an Incident Commander or Crisis Manager.

Assemble the team

The very first responsibility of this role, is to assemble the team with the skills needed to restore the service ASAP. Then if the problem shifts or there are multiple issues, it might be necessary to adjust the composition of the team to ensure that the skills needed are available. Sometimes in a long running situation it might also be necessary to perform shift changes including the Incident Commander.

Communicate, communicate, Communicate

A service without customers will not last for long and as such it is imperative that the situation be communicated in a clear and concise manner on a regular and predictable rhythm. My preferred communication rhythm is either 15 minutes or 30 minutes and needs to be defined as part of the Standard Operational Procedure (SOP).

Maintain Focus

Ensure that the team maintains the necessary focus needed to restore the service. It is my experience that engineers who don’t know what to do after 5 minutes of thought time will still not know what to do after 25 minutes of thought. Bring in another engineer who is able to operate more effectively under pressure. As such, I would suggest that the Incident Commander operate according to a predefined process to handle the situation where slow or no progress is being made. This enables the Incident Commander to engage other engineers to help expedite things as part of the SOP and not making it personal. This is one of the most difficult tasks an employee can be asked to perform because most folks do not want to wake up others in the middle of the night.


Do a job right or don’t bother! This is really easy to say yet extremely difficult to adhere to in a crisis situation. It boils down to Leadership and someone flying this flag. In most cases people will follow the lead.


The best idea tomorrow really doesn’t help us solve today’s crisis situation. I am big fan of using countdown timers to create the stimuli needed to engage additional team members or escalate to executives.





So you want to be a People Manager

August 26th, 2015 No comments

Over the years, I have had many conversations with folks that considered the option of moving into people management.  For the purposes of this blog post, I am going to assume that as a new manager, you will be a team lead with people reporting directly to you.

Put others first

This is a big one and one that does not come easily.  Are you prepared to put the welfare of others ahead of your own?  e.g. When someone on the team messes something up and causes an issue, will you point them out and throw them under the bus?  Or will you take the heat and work with them to improve?  Are you prepared to wait for the team to succeed even if your boss wants you to deliver the project today?  Are you willing to work someone on improving their skills even if you can perform the task quickly and accurately in a fraction of the time it will take them?


Are you able to communicate what you need done in a manner that they understand and want to deliver?  This is critical because if you are not able to communicate what needs to be delivered in a clear and understandable manner, the team will not know what needs to be delivered.


Do you have the patience to let them make mistakes and learn?  Or even more difficult, do you have the patience for them to take twice as long to complete a task than you could do it yourself?

Tough Love

I used the term “Tough Love” here on purpose because I do not mean firing someone.  If you want to fire or tell people what to do, then you just failed on #1 because you are putting your wishes above those of others.  What I am referring to here,  is the ability, and willingness, to have difficult conversations that are beneficial to the person. A great example of this is appropriate dress code when meeting with customers.








Measuring success of our Leaders

December 26th, 2012 No comments

I receive daily emails from the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute and they sent this quote out late December.  I have been thinking about it quite a lot.

The criterion for measuring the success of our leaders should be how well they serve everyone that has a vested interest in the success of the enterprise.

Bill George



My Thoughts

  • We are being measured, whether we want to be measured or not.  Are we helping set how we believe we should be measured?
  • How well are we serving those with a vested interest?  Who has a vested interest?  I can think of a number of people in large corporations that have forgotten that we are here to serve….
  • We are here to ensure success.  Not to stroke your ego Mr. Colleague / Boss /  ……………………………..  <- place for you to add title / name


If you don’t know Bill George, here is a link to his bio.





Categories: Leadership, Quotes Tags: ,

Mother Hen at Work

June 14th, 2012 No comments

I recently received a call from an ex-colleague, whom with I hadn’t spoken with in almost a year.  She wanted to talk about an open position on my team, which surprised me because she did not have the skills that we were looking for.  However, she wanted to talk about someone else who she knew had applied for the position and was hoping to get an offer, let’s call him Joe.  I was floored when she then started to tell me that Joe was part of her brood and she just wanted to make sure that this was the right thing for him.  This went on for quite a while with me scheming about I could get off the call ASAP.   Then she started to tell me that I needed to treat him right or the Mama Bear in her would come out.  Wow!  At first, I was ready to hangup but then I realized that she did not mean this as threat and it was just her expressing her concern.  Nice but………….. Mother Hen Image

This made me think back about a similar situation a couple of years back where a where Jane, was irritating her workmates.  They felt that she was constantly trying to tell them what to do.  In their opinion, it was always about what she wanted to do and she would not respect their opinions.  Jane was not happy either and spoke to me about it.  Here is where we landed.  She was a single mother of three and therefore at home she had to be “the strong one”.  This meant that she was so used to issuing instructions to her kids and not listening their responses. It was the only way that she was able to keep control of them. When questioned by the kids, her response was:  “because I say so”.  In the work environment, she often saw questions from her colleagues as personal attacks and that they did not listen to her.  During our discussions, she realized that listening was very different from them doing what she said.  She also realized that she just wanted to be heard but her home role had skewed what she wanted and she was expecting her colleagues to do what she said.  She changed her expectations and things flourished from then on.

So, based on these two situations, I might be coming across as anti-Mother Hen.  This is not true, all I ask is that the Mother Hen identify first whether the person/people that they are communicating with recognize them in the role of Mother Hen.

Let’s contrast these two environments


  • It is the parent that generally provides the leadership and guidance.
  • The parent role equals total authority and the de facto leader so it acceptable to make unilateral decisions that affect them.
  • Because I say so, can be an age appropriate response, especially in a crisis or where confusion prevails.
  • We are parents by birth.
  • Parents define the acceptable behavior boundaries in the home.


  • The leadership and guidance could be anyone, peer, manager….
  • Our colleagues choose to follow our leadership or not.  It is their choice not ours.
  • We are appointed to our roles, either because that is our role or because someone else says that we have the qualifications.  Generally the role is formal.  i.e. engineer, nurse, manager?  I don’t think the mother hen role exists.
  • A formal span of control exists.  Do you have the authority to make decisions on their behalf?
  • Laws, corporates guidance, people’s culture and their expectations of us define the acceptable behavior boundaries in the office.


So before you assume the Mother Hen role outside the home, please think of the following:

  • That person that you mothering / herding, did they ask you to mother or herd them?
  • The person that you are interacting with, do they recognize the Mother Hen role in the office?  Do they see you as the Mother Hen?  And more importantly, how do they judge you as the Mother Hen?
  • Is it appropriate for you to play this role now with me?
  • Know your limits and the person’s boundaries and do not overstep them and just to make sure, ask.



Simple Approach / Plan for Change

June 2nd, 2011 No comments

How to drive change in a predictable and reproducible manner has been a topic of discussion with three of my mentees.  Why predictable and reproducible?  The answer is simple, when you shock people, they tend to stop and evaluate what is going on before moving forward.  So if our behavior is predictable, then we will not shock them.  As leaders, we are expected to reproduce results consistently and being able to do it once, just makes us lucky.

Experience has taught me that I can greatly increase the chances of success by reducing the number of variables or unknowns.  As a result, I use a pragmatic approach with as little process as possible and keep things simple, thereby making things easy to explain and easy to understand.  For more mature or process heavy personalities or organizations, this approach might not be acceptable.

This approach works as long as the plan takes into consideration the unique situational requirements and evaluates progress / results on a regular basis.   This means that you only need to change where needed and not reinvent the wheel every time.

So, to the plan.  There are four key areas of the plan.  The first is Awareness followed by a Planning phase before the Execution phase.  A much forgotten phase is Monitoring or measuring the progress, or destruction.  Here is a visual representation which hopefully makes things clearer.



In this phase we need to become aware of the problem or issue.  If is it is a behavioral issue, someone might provide us with feedback.  If it is a business opportunity, this might be a customer or prospect sharing with us their business challenge.

Recognizing this phase:

  • Becoming aware of a situation that we were previously unaware of.  The Ah Ha moment.
  • Finding out that there are different perspectives to the one that we have.  Most often we personalize this and say that person has a different opinion.

Manager’s Note:

  • If you need to provide someone with behavioral feedback, it is important to focus on the behavior and not your judgement.
  • This phase can be traumatic, be patient with your people and help them through it.


  • Often we tend to ignore or deny the incoming data / perspective because the situation does not match our preconceived idea or notion of how we want it to be.  Ignorance is bliss, or is it?
  • This phase can be traumatic and depending on the implications or if the situation it may have an emotional on us.



If we don’t know where we are going, how are we going to get there?  In some cases we also need to take a look at where we are and then determine the gap between where we are and where we want to go before we start down the road.  I am not advocating analysis paralysis but at lest know what you are going to do.  A very important element of this phase is what are measurements are we going to use to determine if our execution phase is working or not.  The monitoring phase will help you determine if the plan is working or not.

Recognizing this phase:

  • Deciding what to do and what not to do.
  • Providing clarity around where we are going or what we need to do.
  • When people ask what needs to be done.

Manager’s Note:

  • clarity, clarity, clarity
  • Sometimes you need to place a bet and make a move rather standing still and looking around.
  • Continue to gather feedback.
  • Being in a management position, does not always give you the right to dictate the plan.
  • Ensure that the plan is being communicated in a manner that people understand it.
  • It is OK for the plan to be different to how you would do it.  Diversity is great!!


  • Not doing anything because waiting for the data. (analysis paralysis)
  • Omitting this step.  If you don’t plan, the execution phase will be delayed while people work out what they need to do.
  • Not using data to define the path forward.  Be careful about perceptions because they depend on the person and the filters that person uses.
  • Bad or no communication does not make it a bad plan.  In some cases, the plan may lay out the lesser of two evils and therefore it will be unpopular.



This phase is all about delivering the results as defined by in the plan.  If you, or the people executing the plan, are not clear about what needs to be done, go back to planning.

Recognizing this phase:

  • There is work that needs to be done.
  • The plan is defined and now needs to be executed.

Manager’s Note:

  • Do not get in the way of the execution.
  • Being critical of the execution.


  • Losing focus
  • The execution elements where not simplified or fragmented enough to be executed because they are still too large or complicated.



This often overlooked phase is key because it provides us with the safety net for the planning and execution phases by monitoring  how the execution phase is really addressing the need.

Recognizing this phase:

  • The execution is in full swing.
  • People are providing feedback on the progress, or lack thereof.
  • Not knowing if are making progress or not, it’s time to monitor.

Manager’s Note:

  • Monitoring is not a step that people like.  In most cases, they do not like to be measured.
  • Feedback is a form of measurement, it is just subjective.


  • In most cases, we are not very good monitoring ourselves.
  • Skipping this step means that you never know how you are progressing.
  • Not having milestones or metrics means that progress is subjective.
  • Not having a baseline before you started executing means that you do not know if your are having a positive or negative impact.


Categories: Behavior, Leadership, Management Tags:

April 30th, 2011 Comments off

Leadership becomes necessary to business and communities when have tough challenges to tackle, when they have to change theirs ways in order to thrive or survive, when continuing to operate according to current structures, procedures and processes no longer will suffice.


-Ronald Heifetz-


Categories: Leadership, Quotes Tags: ,

Is it about the Leader or the Followers?

March 9th, 2010 No comments

Wow, here is quite an entertaining yet educational video titled Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy.



Categories: Leadership Tags:


February 3rd, 2010 2 comments

I arrived early at a restaurant for a meeting and overheard a discussion while waiting for the others to arrive.   Here is an excerpt from their conversation that resonated with me.

They don’t get it!  They are oblivious to the fact that no one trusts their team. I mean they claim to be transparent but when we need information from them, need have to search for it ourselves.  I think it is short sighted on their behalf when they watch me search, even if we ask them for help and they don’t help.  Then when we find the information that we need, they claim that they are being transparent with us.  Yeah right!!

I discussed this behavior with a colleague and he was familiar with the behavior that was being discussed above.  He labeled it as “discovery driven disclosure”.  He also mentioned that he had experience with behavior in the past and it had been really difficult to partner with that team because  their behavior undermined trust.  As a result, the teams spent a lot of time questioning each other and not so much time collaborating which impacted their ability to successfully deliver a solution.

The comments and followup discussion got me thinking about Trust.

Trust is the basis of all relationships, both personal and professional. We all establish trust with others in our own manner.  We also have our own starting expectations for others when it comes to us trusting them.  Some of us will trust others with little evidence, giving them the benefit and assuming positive intent. Others expect the trust to be earned and start off with a much lower level of trust.

Building on this starting point for trust, let’s look at some of the other elements that influence how we establish trust.  The first one, is how the role that we perform affects the trust level. We all tend to trust people that have “earned” a higher standing.   For example, we expect the chef at a fine restaurant will use fresh ingredients and work in a pristine kitchen when they prepare our food. If that chef is from a Michelin 3 star rated restaurant, then the expectations will be even higher.

The final and most important  element is the impact of our actions.  Therefore we need to be conscious of the impact of our actions or inactions on our trust level.   Be careful of disingenuous behavior, disrespecting others, selfish behavior and of course lack of disclosure or transparency because these behaviors will impact our trust level negatively..

Pulling it together

To help illustrate how all of these areas relate to each other and how they impact the level of trust, here is a formula to help quantify the trust level.

a – Starting Expectations

b – Role

c – Actions

To use the formula, each of these variables needs to be assigned a number of between 0 and 5, with 5 being the highest rating.  Now just rate each of the elements and then total up the numbers.  This will provide you with a qualitative trust rating.  Having some of your customers, partners or employees provide you with their ratings, can be an eye-opening experience.

Regarding the evaluation of the total value.  This will be unique to you and you will need to determine what numbers you are comfortable with.  For me personally, the number needs to be above 10.  I also use the formula by assuming positive intent and therefore if I have not seen any actions or behaviors, I assign either a 4 or 5 and then evaluate again when I have more data.  Using the graphic below, the red area is the high risk area while the green is the safer area, naturally with the ideal being a perfect score.

I finish this post with a quote a Robin Sharma book:  Leadership Wisdom from the Monk who sold his Ferrari.

Being open and truthful also means that you take care of the little issues and skirmishes that come up every day before they escalate into full-blown wars.

Top 25 Companies for Leaders

December 18th, 2009 No comments

Press Release title:  Hewitt Associates, The RBL Group and FORTUNE Announce Global Top Companies for Leaders

Here are some excerpts from the press release that caught my eye:

“even during the economic downturn, Global Top Companies remained committed to building leadership capability within their organizations. In other words, tighter budgets and fewer resources forced these organizations to think and act smarter and more creatively about what really mattered when it came to leadership — but they didn’t lose focus.”

“Strong leadership is a critical element in helping global companies successfully compete, yet many organizations lack the know-how and infrastructure to create a robust pipeline of leaders for future success. Simply put, they lack the discipline to build leaders”

Here are some of the key elements of the companies that leverage Leadership:

  • Leadership remains a critical priority — in good or bad economic times
  • Succession planning is deliberate and consistent
  • Leaders clearly understand what is expected of them as leaders
  • Developing the next generation of leaders is a priority (formal program in place)

According to the panel, the Top Companies for Leaders are:

  1. IBM
  2. The Procter & Gamble Company
  3. General Mills, Inc.
  4. McKinsey & Company
  5. ICICI Bank Ltd.
  6. McDonald’s Corporation
  7. General Electric Company
  8. Titan Cement Company S.A.
  9. China Mobile Communications Corporation – Shanghai Ltd.
  10. Hindustan Unilever
  11. Natura Cosmeticos S.A.
  12. Colgate Palmolive
  13. TNT N.V.
  14. Deere & Company
  15. Whirlpool Corporation
  16. 3M Company
  17. Cargill, Incorporated
  18. Olam International
  19. Eli Lilly and Company
  20. PepsiCo, Inc.
  21. American Express Company
  22. Lockheed Martin Corporation
  23. Intel Corporation
  24. Infosys Technology
  25. FedEx Corporation

The full press release can be found here:

Top 25 Global Companies for Leaders
Categories: Leadership Tags:

Ready to lead?

November 30th, 2009 2 comments

I was asked recently what traits I look for to determine if someone is ready to move into a leadership role, either as a manager or as a thought leader.  This is easy if I have worked with the person because they will display the majority of these traits in their daily actions.

In addition to this post on Leadership, here are some of the traits that I looks for:

  • Consistently demonstrates core values
    • Respect for others
    • Strong work ethic
    • Honesty & Integrity
    • Self motivation
  • Discipline excellence
    • Deep discipline knowledge
    • Ability to mentor & coach others
    • Results focus
  • Leadership
    • Desire to lead
    • Consistently demonstrates accountability
    • Mobilizes others to action
    • Credibility
  • Soft skills
    • Communicates clearly and effectively
    • Self aware
    • Selfless
    • Responds well to feedback
    • Cares for others
      • Helps develops others
      • Demonstrates empathy

And the final item that I look for is:

Are others willing to follow that person’s lead?

Categories: Behavior, Leadership Tags:

Leadership Question

September 1st, 2009 1 comment

A thought provoking question for when you have some quiet time………

Are Leaders there for their Followers?


Are Followers there for their Leader?

Categories: Leadership Tags:

The Changing Face of Management

July 29th, 2009 No comments

Business has changed:  We have moved from business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) to Consumer to Consumer(C2C) model.  20 years ago C2C was pretty much limited to a swap meets.

I believe that the face of management has also changed.  There is a move from the pure hierarchical model where top-down rules to a more social form of leadership where the followers get to choose who they want to follow.

To me, there is a new social era of management where leadership plays a much larger role than before.  This is especially important when working with Millennials.

Here are some  key elements:

  • put your followers first
    • if you put yourself first, they will follow your lead
  • listen to your followers
    • feedback from your followers is important – listen to it!
  • grow your followers
    • provide feedback consistantly
  • trust your followers
  • share information with your followers
  • step out of the way and allow your followers to step into the vacuum – enabling you to move into something else

Hire for Today. And Tomorrow. But remember the investment required.

July 20th, 2009 No comments

I came across this blog post yesterday; it is by F. John Reh and titled Hire Talent, Not Just Skills –

It got me thinking about how hiring the right person can solve both the short term and also the long term challenges that the business is facing.  Even the most talented candidate will require time to acclimatize before they can work on meeting the business needs.

However even with someone with immense talent, in addition to time, it takes an investment from the manager to provide the candidate with regular coaching sessions and also ensure that the opportunities are provided for the candidate.

I have seen managers totally ignore this responsibility and as a result not only does the company lose because it takes longer for their investment in the talented candidate to mature.  The candidate also loses because their career does not progress as they expected, which often creates a negative perception about that company.

The candidate is not without responsibility in this equation.  The candidate needs to evaluate both the managers and the company culture on growth.  After the candidate has joined, they now need to manage their growth and totally embrace the opportunities presented.


April 13th, 2009 No comments

Feedback delivered in an open and respectful manner is definitely a gift.  Assuming that the receiver of the feedback was ready for the feedback, they have now learned some vital information about themselves or their behavior.  Unfortunately in many cases, the creation of the awareness is where it stops.

What separates the winners from the mice, is how they use this new found awareness to their advantage.  The chances of success are greatly increased with help, so enlist the help of the person that provided the feedback.  Get them to define the behavior exactly and also what they believe is the desired behavior.

In many cases it also helps to identify a role model and learn from them.  In the ideal case, enlist the role model to act as a coach or mentor.  Do not forget to enlist the help of peers or direct reports and practice, practice, practice.

If yo do not have clarifying questions, just respond with a “Thank You”.  If you have questions, ask them but do not defend the behavior.  Someone is sharing feedback with you and therefore thank them for that.  If you disagree with the feedback, you need to stay in control and decide how you would like to file it.  Just say “Thank You”.

Categories: Behavior, Leadership Tags: ,

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