What are you focusing on now? After a successful launch, entrepreneurs have a choice. They can sit back and continue to do what they have done so far or they can recognize the need to prepare for what comes next. Read More
Perception: Disconnects, Distortions and Deficiencies
We often hear that seeing is believing, but should we always believe what we see? Our distorted perceptions can be superficial and unduly influenced by past experiences. Architects, IT professionals and security personnel can “see” the same office, but what registers and remains with them varies significantly. Read More
I decided on my doctoral thesis topic after reading Steven Kerr’s 1975 article, The Folly of Rewarding A When Hoping for B, in the Academy of Management Journal (volume 18, pps.769-782). In the decades since this published, one might assume that organizations revised their reward systems to match their current strategy. Unfortunately, many have not.Read More
My neighbor’s dogs explore their backyard but within constrained boundaries. An invisible fence limits them. If they stray beyond the specified area their collar provides either an electrical stimulus or a vibration to restrain them. It only takes a few of these shocking experiences before the dog recognizes how to remain secure. Likewise, leaders or their staffs might restrict themselves to safe areas in their thinking, proposals or initiatives.
Traditional boundaries, existing practices, and known solutions can limit thinking. Certainly adhering to the tried and true protects leaders from unknown external or internal risks, yet this confinement is dangerous when all the rules and expectations are changing.
Leaders can also limit their staff’s thinking. In some environments, innovative thinking becomes a career limiting activity. Keeping your head down, agreeing with the prevailing opinions and, most of all, not rocking the boat, translate too often into unwarranted praise, unearned promotions and a delay in the inevitable.
Executives who truly want innovative and strategic thinking insist on broad analysis, pattern detection, and exploring opportunities. They do this by:
- Discussing their thinking process with others using six mindset buckets to avoid blind spots.
- Avoiding any hint of “scapegoating” by insisting on learning from missteps rather than placing blame.
- Using staff meetings to challenge everyone to address persistent cross-unit issues.
- Specifying that promotions will be given to individuals that demonstrate critical thinking.
- Evaluating current practices by asking what should be done more often or less often as well as what should we start and stop doing.
- Stressing the importance of asking questions including a risk analysis before decisions are finalized
- Appointing a rotating devil’s advocates to ensure that all perspectives have been carefully explored.
- Respecting and recognizing those who are innovative or who encourage innovation in others.
- Encouraging cross-functional and lateral networks.
- Supporting pilot projects and experimentation.
- Allocating time for innovation.
Simply wishing for an innovative culture, or announcing that innovation is a strategic imperative will not change behavior or practices. Consistent actions aligned with support are essential to encourage out-of-the-box thinking. What actions are you taking to encourage strategic and creative thinking? What observable or hidden limits influence your thinking?
Originally published at: http://bizcatalyst360.com/invisible-fences-limiting-constraints/#sthash.wAwP5KXq.dpuf
Organizations often respond to accelerating change with slower decision making. CEB’s study of 3,000 business leaders found that 63% of executive felt decision making was too slow. Making the right decision is not guaranteed by slow decision making practices.
Certainly the increased complexity decisions complexity leaders begs for careful analysis, however, this research study found that slow decision making was not related to in-depth analysis. Instead, the lack of speed was attributed to:
- Inattention to hand-offs between groups,
- Escalating low value decisions up the chain of command,
- Overly complex processes,
- Unbalanced metrics, and
- Faulty decision making delegation.
While this list looks daunting, there are two highly achievable solutions. First, a leader needs to evaluate what decisions should be made and at what level based on clear criteria or guardrails. Some questions that need to be asked include:
- Is it really necessary to have the upper management to approve all decisions?
- Can front line staff resolve issues within specified parameters?
- Is an agile and entrepreneurial culture consistent with a tedious decision review?
In many organizations the temptation to pass the buck up the chain of command thrives. While we espouse delegating to lower levels, delegating up the chain still flourishes. In one organization the CEO made decisions on hiring security guards extending the approval cycle to several months. By the time the hiring decision was made, the applicant had accepted another position. While this is an extreme example, it is smart to evaluate whether your organization employs a wise decision authorization practices.
Too often staff successfully delegates up the chain to their managers as a safety precaution absolving them of the responsibility for making a difficult decision. To stop the process, leaders can refuse to accept the role thrust on them by insisting any decision comes with a final recommendation backed by thoughtful analysis.
In addition, some mid-level managers expect to be consulted on every decision fearing that a risky precedent be set. Unfortunately, this means they are swamped with minor issues prohibiting them for handling significant concerns. The ability to set guidelines for common decisions not only frees up their time but also empowers their staff. Decision documentation by staff can quickly clarify the decision parameters enabling timely action. Decisions need to be made as close to the individuals impacted as possible.
Second, reassess and streamline current decision making practices. Is it best for decisions to be reviewed sequentially by level instead or can it be open for concurrent review? Would establishing a response timeline expedite decisions instead of letting something sit on a vacationing person’s desk? Can key players get involved in the process early so that their input is included from the start? Is there clear evidence that the current review process adds value? Layers of unnecessary protocol accumulate over time and must be updated or the organization will drown in bureaucracy.
While an actual decision merits the most attention, the decision making process must also be examined to ensure smart and timely decisions. Getting it right late may mean a lost opportunity, an incurred risk or a tarnished brand.
Key Words: Decision-making, Organization Change, Leadership, Communication
Advertisers use sound bites to capture attention and promote interest. Recently our leaders both political and non-political adopted the use of clever snippets that might be witty but they are not clear. In fact, they often produce confusion, rather than dispel it. A catchy phrase may entertain, but it rarely enlightens. As we all know from misreading email messages, words have multiple meanings that obscure intentions and plans.
Improve your Communication Skills
Every leader aspires to be a great communicator who gains acceptance, builds commitment and ensures stellar outcomes. To achieve this goal, however, leaders need to avoid seven derailing fallacies.
- Communication and promotion are not the same. Promotion’s goal is to excite emotion in the short term. Communications goal is to establish common ground and connect for the long-term.
- Information sharing is not communication. Communication ensures that the message both spoken and unspoken is understood, trusted, accepted and acted upon. Information consists of data which may or may not be accepted or utilized.
- Holding your cards close to the vest is great for poker, but not for building trust and gaining committed to achieve desired goals. Withholding information produces bewilderment and leads to passivity. It may also indicate a lack conviction and a need for confirmation before committing to a decision or action plan.
- Communication should be consistent and complete. It should not be tailored by staff level. Assuming that senior staff deserves and can handle full disclosure while front line staff wants only a limited positive spin has been disproven time and again. This assumption, often referred to the “I’ll steer and you just pedal” philosophy, was discarded years ago when quality circles, process improvement and safety ideas illustrated that entry personnel can master complexity and ambiguity.
- Communication cannot gloss over errors or mistakes. Even the emperor with no clothes eventually admitted to reality. Deception, obfuscation, and omission reduce respect and create divisions. It only amplifies uncertainty. Owning up to what went wrong is the first step to making things right.
- Communication must not be mind-boggling. It must be tested for clarity. Napoleon stationed a private outside his tent and asked the private to read his communiqués. If the private could not understand a portion, he rewrote it. Even an Emperor knew he needed clarity and uniform understanding of proposed plans to be successful.
- Repeating a message using different venues (large group and informal settings), formats (presentation and Q&A) and media (verbal, written and digital) improves not only understanding, but also acceptance.
Will following these guidelines really pay-off? It has for many leaders. Organizations with highly effective communicators produce almost 50% higher returns to shareholders over a five year period. This improved results from reduced rework, key talent retention, less conflict, greater productivity and better resource utilization. Improve your communication effectiveness by retiring the sound bite and applying sound communication practices.
Keywords: Communication, Influence, Leadership
Originally published: http://bizcatalyst360.com/sound-bites-can-bite/
Stick to your knitting guidance offers many benefits, but also snares many into stagnate thinking. Developing a strong core is vital to both your in business and personal health. However, strict adherence to a core-only mentality often leads to narrow thinking, which can result in undue reinforcement of existing patterns, squelching innovation and avoiding diversification.Read More
First let me clarify that I am not a great bridge player. I will never strive to play duplicate bridge or play with Warren Buffet or Bill Gates. Nevertheless, I like the games’ challenge and its practical leadership lessons. While finite with the number of cards, players and rules, it is also dynamic and complex. Here are six lessons to help leaders win more rounds.Read More