Wouldn’t it be great to have enough power to move the world?

By Mary Lippitt | July 22, 2011Power Levers

Archimedes was on the right track when he said many years ago, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” Selecting the right lever for the situation is something a successful leader does, if not by second nature, by learning. There are many different power levers – some too unwieldy and some too weak. Finding the right one for the situation requires analysis.

Just like a ships’ captain must continually verify the ships course, it is essential that a leader stop and review the situation to make sure the lever and associated actions they are using are the most effective. No one wants blowback from being overpowering or ineffectiveness by using too little. This is a pull-use of the power lever, where the leader pulls their employees to action instead of pushing them into action.

When specific decisions need to be made quickly, the authority lever that flows from position power or the power to command is appropriate. However, when creative thinking or a high level of commitment is needed, relationship power or systems power yields better results.

Since we learn power levers from others, many of us overlook valuable options. The goal of Leadership Power Levers, is to identify the type of power that will provide the greatest success in any given situation. Misuse of a lever can shatter reputations, sour relationships and cause trust to evaporate. Take the time to identify which lever is appropriate given your context. Then you will have the opportunity to move, if not the world, at least your organization.

Wondering which power levers you are using? Please contact us for a free Leadership Power Levers analysis and find out what your options are for enhancing your power!

Effective Leaders Know When to Hold and When to Fold

By Mary Lippitt | June 7, 2011effective Leaders

If leaders keep on doing what they have always done, they will get the same results, which is a recipe for disaster. Both leaders and poker players need to know “when to hold and when to fold.” Effective leaders need to decipher the internal and external environment and adjust plans to actual reality and opportunities.

US Airways’ Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s success in dealing with total engine power loss with a clear decision to land in the Hudson River stemmed from his ability to prioritize goals. In his biography, Sully talks about “goal sacrificing” having to select which goal is the most critical to act on. He accepted the loss of a multi-million dollar plane to save lives. He was able to make that decision only because he was clear about his priorities and the situation.

How effective are your leaders in dealing with change or handling unanticipated problems? Are your leaders prepared to make mid-course adjustments or do they keep on trucking with their plan on a pre-determined route no matter what is happening around them?

Concentrating on results, or leading with the “end in mind,” is one of Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.He stresses the importance of starting with the “end in mind.” But what happens when the start, middle or end changes? Staying the course or achieving what is no longer desirable should not be seen as an accomplishment. In fact, it can threaten an organization’s survival. Leaders who know how to keep their “eye on today’s key prize” based on current circumstances are those who succeed.

A solid understanding of the six business priorities helps leaders adjust to critical priorities and avoid being blindsided by “unanticipated” events. It is not just in hindsight that financial executives should have recognized that giving 90 to 95% mortgages was too risky. Experts were warning about a real estate bubble, and yet leaders continued to make mortgages. One bank executive summarized his decision making process by saying that “I know this thing will blow up, but as long as the music is playing, I have to dance.”

As Peter Drucker observed, “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.” Can your leaders deliver the right results are at the right time in the right way and at the right cost? We cannot expect leaders to control events, but we can expect them to act wisely.

Effective leadership requires not only personal awareness and skills, but also business insight and judgment. Captain Sully knew how to prioritize his goals. He did not try to save the plane, and he did not try to make it to an alternative airport. He understood his resources, his situation, his team, and his key goal, resulting in a lifesaving landing. Are you doing all you can to help your leaders understand the critical goals and what it will take to achieve them? It should be your critical priority right now.

Breaking News! 50 Year Old CEO Found Sleeping in Crib!

By Mary Lippitt | May 31, 2011Organizational change, change management

I bet a few thoughts popped into your head when you read the title of this post.

  • What?!
  • Ridiculous!
  • Who in their right mind?
  • Err…how big was the crib?
  • Wait, I thought Charlie Sheen was in his 40’s?

A 50-year-old CEO sleeping in a crib is as ridiculous as a leader who insists there is no reason to change from the tried and true.

Organizations, like people, have a life cycle. Too often, leaders fail to correctly identify where they are in their organization life cycle and fail to make the adjustments necessary to accommodate changing circumstances, technology, competition and customer requirements; instead, clinging to one concept of leadership, a concept that no longer works.

In so many areas of life, consistency is considered a benefit or virtue. Not so when you’re talking about leading today’s organization. The demands of a baby, much like the demands of a new business, necessitate a constant devotion and involvement to keep pace with changing requirements. Whether a parent adequately adjusts to the teenage years or a leader flexes to meet changing customer expectations, agility counts.  If an organization’s leader stays mired in tradition or a parent gets stuck in one parenting stage, the opportunity for evolutionary change is lost.  The only option left then is radical shifts.

Entrepreneurs are famous for being too “hands on” and end up resisting the natural growth of their firm. They miss the need for professionalism as part of the organization life cycle. Leaders of mature organizations make a similar mistake by refusing to see the need to reinvent their firm, product line or processes. Holding on too tightly to the past is a recipe for failure, much as trying to hold on to a college student can invite turmoil.

Change is often easier to identify in a child than in an organization. The child’s need for new clothes or their changing interests and preferred technology are obvious. Organizational change may not be as clear as the rising marks on a door frame or wall, but change is ongoing and leaders must identify it and adapt.

The impact of the recession has created a fixation with cost cutting, waste reducing, and redundancy hunting. While these methods likely paid-off for many firms, sticking to them over the long term is ill advised. Companies and leaders who have the ability to recognize the change in their organizations have the ability to lead that change and stay ahead of the curve.  Adopting a firefighting mode in a crisis mode appears heroic.  It isn’t, and it invites disaster.

Leaders need to recognize their organization life cycle and help guide the organization through the natural changes.  Shifting may be the antithesis of consistency, but it is the bedfellow of excellence.  Make sure your leaders do not dig in their heels and fail to see how cycles impact them, much like the toddler who is in the “no” phase.

What signals have you used to successfully identify where your organization is in its life cycle?

Motivational Power: Who Wants to be a Donkey?!

By Mary Lippitt | April 12, 2011Motivation Leadership

It’s time to update the carrot and stick approach. A cartoon of a donkey hitched to a wagon with a stick in front of it with a carrot enticing the donkey highlights the problem of trying to influence action without thinking about ramifications.

For centuries, dangling the carrot in front of the hardworking donkey or threatening the animal with the stick were two types of motivational power leaders used. Just as technology has advanced, we must expand this narrow view. Encouraging our leaders to rise to the challenges of new workforce expectations, requirements, and levels of competition requires more than a carrot or a stick.

Employee motivation, be it positive or negative, is a direct result of the appropriate use of power by a leader. Power is a bit of a dirty word that inspires a love-hate relationship. On one hand, it is connected to strength, forward motion and inspiration. On the other, it is often connected to despots, tyrants and evil bosses. The love, or carrot, of power reflects the ability to motivate others to achieve goals. The negative, or stick, stems from the forceful use of power over others that yields distorted behavior, corrupted decision making, or reduced initiative. Bearing both of these associations in mind, the use of power accomplishes goals and stirs engagement among employees.

While it is convenient to only have to evaluate two options: punish or reward, motivating both people and animals is much more complicated. The assumption is that we are just a “dumb” means to accomplish a goal diminishes us to the single task of cart hauling.

The fast reaction to the carrot or stick overshadows more sustainable options. Everyone may welcome a bonus but after a month, what is the power of the monetary incentive? Feeling like your contributions led to successful goal achievement, a sense that people trust and respect your experience, or the recognition that your insights made a critical difference in gaining support offers long lasting benefits.

How have you reacted when a “stick” strategy is evident? What motivates you? What type of motivational power have you used to bring out the best in others?