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Three Simple Rules for Leading Constructive Change

Concept of leadership.

The best definition I’ve ever heard of effective leadership goes something like this:

A good leader doesn’t make people do what he (or she) wants; a good leader makes others want what the leader wants.

In other words, leadership is about engaging people’s hearts even more than their minds. If your staff shares your vision of what’s possible, understands why what’s possible is desirable, and shares your desire to make that vision come alive, they’ll do what they need to do to make it happen. Show them the future, share your passion about the journey, and get out of their way (but stay close by in case they need coaching or advice).

That all sounds good. But in my experience that’s only the beginning. Read more

Making 2016 Matter: New Year’s Resolutions that Change Behavior

Happy new year's puppy.

It’s that time of year; all of us are focusing on the future and defining new goals for the new year. If you are like me you want to use the start of the year as a platform for raising your sights and becoming more successful, more likable, healthier, and better looking (might as well include that while we’re at it).

But if you are like most people, a month from now you will probably be discouraged, depressed, and angry at how you’ve failed once again to achieve those lofty goals. Committing to and then not achieving New Year’s resolutions has become a rather unpleasant annual ritual.

Well, I have one overarching resolution this year (which I fully intend to accomplish):  it is not to make resolutions I won’t achieve. This year I’m focusing on being realistic; for me, getting half a loaf (or even a single slice of bread) is a whole lot better than going for the whole thing and ending up with nothing. Read more

Making the Invisible Visible

conversationsAlan Webber suggested over 20 years ago that the core work of knowledge-based organizations is conversation – the creation and exchange of ideas, information, knowledge, and even wisdom (see “What’s So New about the New Economy?Harvard Business Review, January-February 1993).

Then Webber asks and answers a really important question about the role of management in a knowledge-based business:

If the new work of the company is conversation, then what is the job the manager? Put simply: to create an environment where employees can have productive conversations rather than counterproductive ones, useful conversations rather than useless ones.

In my humble opinion, we should be spending far more energy than we do focusing on the quality of corporate conversations, and on teaching managers at all levels how to start and foster meaningful conversations that ultimately produce value for both customers and employees. Read more

Leadership: It All Depends – but on What?

direction confusionWhen someone asks you what leadership style or approach is most effective, the only legitimate answer is, “It depends.” But the next question has to be “Depends on what?”

And that question has probably driven more research and PhD dissertations than any other issue in the field of management.

So I’m going to attempt to answer it here in less than 750 words, based on both my personal experience and a landmark study conducted almost 50 years ago by Ken Blanchard (yes, that Ken Blanchard) and Paul Hersey.

Their research, and the “Situational Leadership” model they developed was first published in 1977 in a book called Management of Organizational Behavior (now in its 9th edition, with Dewey Johnson as a third author).

I believe the Hersey-Blanchard model of leadership remains incredibly powerful and relevant today, but I haven’t seen many references to it recently, so I want to refresh your understanding of it (and mine too, for that matter). Read more

The Way We Were: Why the Future of Work Will Be So Different

Future Exit Sign 000018627375XSmallWe have just celebrated Memorial Day weekend in the United States. It has been an opportunity to reflect on our good fortune as a country, but more importantly to give thanks for the millions of servicemen and servicewomen who sacrificed their lives to protect us in way too many wars.

But this time of pausing and reflecting also got me thinking about how the working environments where most of us spend most of our waking hours have changed over the past twenty years – and will change even more going forward.

Those of us of a certain age can remember when our families sat down in front of the big box in our living rooms that brought us the 6 o’clock evening news. We shared that experience with our neighbors near and far; most of the country absorbed that information at the same time, and from one or the other of the three major networks that brought us all the television news and entertainment.

And most of us had one telephone somewhere in the front hall or living room; but we only used it for short, functional conversations with our neighbors and nearby relatives (calls were billed by the minute, after all). Once a year we might call a distant grandparent for a short “Happy Birthday” or “Happy Holidays” message; long distance calls were prohibitively expensive and the sound was often tinny and full of static.

In short, we didn’t have much choice in how we got our information or stayed in touch with out-of-town family and friends. Our world was relatively limited.

And the way we worked was very similar. Read more

An Interview with an “expert” on the future of work (that would be me)

1502171419101371-social-hire-logo_ecI was recently interviewed by Social-Hire as part of their Expert Interview program. It was a wide-ranging conversation about the changing nature of the workforce, the need for a radically new kind of organizational leadership, and how to attract and retain talent in this age of networked knowledge that we’ve created.

Here is a brief excerpt that reflects my perspective on why so many of us are frustrated and discouraged about our work experiences: Read more

WorkTech15 in New York is this week – I can save you $150 on the registration fee

worktechWorkTech is one of the best one-day opportunities you can find for learning the latest insights about the future of work. Phillip Ross and his Unwired Ventures team always  assemble a mind-bending and eye-opening program filled with success stories, thought leaders, and provocative insights.

Architect, industrial designer, and visionary thinker Robert Luchetti will be keynoting the annual WORKTECH15 New York City conference on May 13 & 14, Time and Life Building in Midtown Manhattan (The one-day event is May 14, preceded on the 13th by a special Master Class featuring intensive interaction).

Robert Luchetti and Phillip Stone published “Your Office is Where You Are” in the Harvard Business Review in 1985. In this seminal article, they presented their creation of and predicted the concept of “activity based working.” In his keynote presentation at WORKTECH15, Robert Luchetti will revisit their predictions and take a critical look at what they got right and wrong and present a critique of the current state of the workplace.

Read more

Upcoming Events

We are entering the spring conference season; I’ll be attending and presenting at several important conferences during March and April:

The Future of Work 2015 (at the Ballagio in Las Vegas) March 3-4

“Leading Change: Putting Good Ideas into Practice, in Theory and at Zappos” (March 4, 9:45 – 10:30 AM)

My presentation partner for this session is John Bunch, Technical Advisor to the CEO and Lead Link for Holacracy Implementation at Zappos.com

Special Deal: If you register for the Conference using this link, you can get a special $150 discount off the registration fee! [continue reading...]

“Five thousand people are a whole lot smarter than five”

LargeCrowdSome time ago I heard a story about a CEO who had opened up his organization’s strategic planning process to solicit ideas from all of the company’s 5,000 employees. When asked why he did that instead of relying on his executive committee, he said, simply, “I woke up one morning and realized that 5,000 people are a whole lot smarter than five.”

But that kind of openness is highly unusual among senior executives. Most of the executive leaders I have known and worked with see themselves as the “deciders” and the visionaries whose instincts about what is needed are superior to everyone else’s. Most of them are convinced that’s why they are in a leadership position.

But in large complex organizations it’s not that simple.

As I pointed out last week (“Getting Everyone in on the Action”), there is valuable knowledge distributed throughout every large organization – but it’s usually buried deep within the rank and file, and most executive leaders do not seem interested in seeking it out. Read more

Conversations that Create

Last week I wrote about “Conversations that Connect” – the importance of designing conversations that enable individuals to experience deep personal connections with others. That, after all, is what makes relationships meaningful and lasting.

Brainstorming Now let’s build on that foundation to explore about how to lead conversations that create. Most work in organizations is focused on solving problems or producing new ideas – product designs, marketing campaigns, new ways of understanding why sales are growing or shrinking, cheaper ways of operating the business.

I sometimes think the biggest barrier to effective brainstorming and problem-solving is the tendency most groups have to close in on a solution too quickly. Unfortunately most people have a low tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity; being aware of a gap between where you are and where you want or need to be can be highly stressful.

Understandably, we want to develop a solution as quickly as possible so we can relieve the stress of uncertainty or the prospect of failure. However, the more widely we search for an answer the more likely we are to discover (or invent) a better solution

In fact, many groups are guilty of what has been called the “streetlight effect.” Read more