Archive for the 'Leadership' Category

The wrong question

Enjoyed the recent HRINZ conference in Wellington. The ‘Restoring the Trust’ theme was right on from the current economic environment Well run with a provocative series of speakers especially Roger Steare (Ethicability) , Vanessa Stoddart (Air New Zealand) and  Fermin Diaz (Mercer). The conference ran like clock-work. Well done to Beverley Main and the HRINZ team.

I did take issue with David Thompson (Beyond the Dots) who talked about Talent Management. I think I may be in a minority of people who object to the idea of identifying the few talented ones in an organisation! I don’t think I’m being a socialist here. The whole approach is based on the wrong question – ‘how do we identify and support our talent?’. If you ask the wrong question, you will come up with the wrong answer. Focusing on a relatively few high performance individuals is dumb.

Here’s one of the reasons why. Lets say your talent program identifies 10% of your organisation as talent. If your program raises their performance by 50% (which is hard as they already are high performers) the net organisational gain is a mere 5%.

I think a better question is – ‘how do we unlock the talent throughout the organisation?’ Because if you can raise the performance of the rest of your organisation (the 90%) by just 10% (which is easy as they are low performers) the net organisational gain is 9%. An 80% improvement on focusing on the talented few (ie. 9% instead of 5%).

I’m not an HR professional, but I think …

The problem is that talent management sounds like a good idea. But if HR is to build trust with business, it needs to stop advocating strategies that are fundamentally flawed and will not deliver value to their business. Eventually the results will speak for themselves and Talent Management will fail to meet it’s expectations. That will damage HR’s credibility and reliability which in turn will damage trust.

My second point here is about the art of questioning. Such a powerful and under-utilised skill. Our individual credibility is communicated as much though the questions we ask as though the stories and experiences we share. But take care not to ask the wrong question. Give the right question some consideration.

Of course, I could be quite wrong. Happy to heard alternate points of view.

Boldness has genius

All leaders should read this.

Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would not otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man would have dreamed would come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now.”

W.H. Murray

The Scottish Himalayan Expedition

Amen.

Opinion

I’m back at my Meisner acting class. Barbara likes to say:

an actor without an opinion is like an athlete without a game plan!

It’s a powerful idea. Actors who have strong opinions have presence. You can’t take your eyes off them! Their scenes are compelling.

Is it a powerful idea in business? An opinion could be a vision, mission, strategy or a value. But opinions sound like they are more personal, less corporate. Personal opinions have a stronger influence on behaviour – in acting, in business and in life.

Should leaders have stronger personal opinions?  Is this what makes them so effective? I often wonder if we are developing  a cohort of senior managers in leadership competency, only to find they don’t have a personal opinion on what leadership means to them. Their leadership understanding and knowledge doesn’t translate into compelling action. I think leadership should start with a strong personal opinion on life.

Perhaps also, it is easier to trust people with strong opinions?  You may not agree with their opinion.  But strong opinions make people more purposeful, have a stronger presence and more predictable in their behaviour.

Strong opinions may be powerful, but they may also be dangerous. It obviously depends on what the opinion is. But more dangerously, opinions start to define how you see and experience the world in ways that reinforce themselves. Always dangerous in a rapidly changing world.

Perhaps we can all have strong opinions that are loosely held? Is that possible?

Meaning

Liked this old clip of Viktor Frankl. Another thought provoking clip from ted.com. Even though it’s almost 40 years old!

Enjoy

Less is More

A quote from Antoine de Saint Exupery.

“You know you have achieved perfection in design, not when you have nothing more to add,

but when you have nothing more to take away”

Nice!

In control

A client spoke recently of ‘getting in control’.

Made me think of the reality and usefulness of control.

Perhaps control is an illusion that doesn’t help in a rapidly changing environment. Reminded me of Patricia Ryan Madsen’s improvisation manifesto (see earlier post).

Think what may be more important is awareness and the courage to respond to whatever comes along. Being in the moment, as it were.

If you’re Wellington based, I recommend Barbara Woods Meisner acting class. She teaches actors to be believable and compelling in any given imaginary situation. You may not want to act, but as a leader it sure helps to be believable and compelling. You’ll learn both with Barbara.

Barbara is contactable at msbarbarella@hotmail.com

Progress

It’s often refreshing to read the Harvard Business Review. They seem to understand how to communicate incisive business ideas in a very engaging way. It was particularly refreshing to see Teresa Amabile’s contribution to Breakthrough Ideas for 2010 (January-February 2010).

The number one motivator (by a long way) for motivating people is Progress. (ie. the feeling of making progress in one’s work). That’s based on the Amabile/Kramer multi-year study of hundreds knowledge workers. I’m calling it Achievement.  I think we’re on the same page.

What I’m arguing is that the best investment an organisation can make is in supporting it’s people to achieve something that aligns with the strategic direction of the organisation. There are no silver bullets, only fundamental questions.

Everyone should ask themselves:

  1. Given the current situation, what specific achievement should I be focused on? What specifically constitutes progress?
  2. How would this be meaningful to me?
  3. How do I enroll the people I need to support this specific achievement/progress?
  4. How do I create a sense of momentum that motivates myself and the team?
  5. What does reality look like? Am I making progress?

Worth thinking about!

Because you know. The greatest opportunities for leadership development, learning, motivation, change, engagement, value, etc – lie in front of us in the work that we do.  It is just a matter of how we think about it.

ps I’m back after a summer recess! You’ll be hearing more from me.