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Monday, April 24, 2006

E-mail + Blackberrys = Frustration

Have you ever been in a meeting and watched people take their attention from what is being discussed to respond to a message on their Blackberry ? Does anybody else find this to be distracting and just plain rude? Are the people using Blackberrys and the messages they receive so important that they must take their attention away from you or others to respond instantly to their e-mail? I think not. These users will claim that they are listening to you and paying attention; however, that has proven not to be the case.

The overwhelming majority (99%) of people can't read and effectively listen simultaneously. The ones that say they can are the ones you need to worry about. They aren’t listening and that can hurt your project.

A recent research report out of King's College, London, claims that e-mail use has addictive aspects and that it causes a temporary IQ drop of up to 10 points-—a bigger drop than that caused by inveterate pot-smoking! Add to the e-mail mix an addictive, on-the-hip, always on device like a Blackberry, and this lapse in intelligence can affect meetings, projects, and your ability to effectively do your job.

Some Blackberry users I know are addicts. Just like a smoker, when the urge strikes out comes the Blackberry. They don't see the harm. They are being productive, responsive, accountable, saving time, money, etc... In meetings or conversations they are a distraction, an annoyance, and not giving you and others their full attention. They are out of touch and oblivious to what is important.

You have seen the scenario; whenever the device buzzes, chirps, or rings everything around them ceases to be important except the message on their device. They must respond and must respond now. Is this behavior acceptable now? If we were having a conversation and you picked up a book and started reading, or turned on a nearby television and started watching and changing channels wouldn't that be a sign that what I was saying wasn't important?

Hopefully one person (besides me) will read this message and change their behavior. When I see senior management or leaders exhibit this type of behavior it makes me wonder how they would feel if I exhibited this behavior when they were talking.

Turn off the Blackberry during meetings or leave them at your desk. . You aren’t that important and neither are the messages you are reading!

End of rant...

Comments welcome

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Leadership Lessons from General Colin Powell - Last in Series

Lesson 13

"Powell's Rules for Picking People:” Look for intelligence and judgment, and most critically, a capacity to anticipate, to see around corners. Also look for loyalty, integrity, a high energy drive, a balanced ego, and the drive to get things done.

How often do our recruitment and hiring processes tap into these attributes? More often than not, we ignore them in favor of length of resume, degrees and prior titles. A string of job descriptions a recruit held yesterday seem to be more important than who one is today, what they can contribute tomorrow, or
how well their values mesh with those of the organization. You can train a bright, willing novice in the fundamentals of your business fairly readily, but it's a lot harder to train someone to have integrity, judgment, energy, balance, and the drive to get things done. Good leaders stack the deck in their favor
right in the recruitment phase.

Lesson 14

"Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt,
to offer a solution everybody can understand."

Effective leaders understand the KISS principle, Keep It Simple, Stupid. They articulate vivid, over-arching goals and values, which they use to drive daily behaviors and choices among competing alternatives. Their visions and priorities are lean and compelling, not cluttered and buzzword-laden. Their decisions are crisp and clear, not tentative and ambiguous. They convey an unwavering firmness and consistency in their actions, aligned with the picture of the future they paint. The result: clarity of purpose, credibility of leadership, and integrity in organization.

Lesson 15

Part I: "Use the formula P=40 to 70, in which P stands for the probability of success and the numbers indicate the percentage of information acquired.” Part II: "Once the information is in the 40 to 70 range, go with your gut."

Don't take action if you have only enough information to give you less than a 40 percent chance of being right, but don't wait until you have enough facts to be 100 percent sure, because by then it is almost always too late. Today, excessive delays in the name of information-gathering breeds "analysis paralysis." Procrastination in the name of reducing risk actually increases risk.

Lesson 16

"The commander in the field is always right and the rear echelon is wrong, unless proved otherwise."

Too often, the reverse defines corporate culture. This is one of the main reasons why leaders like Ken Iverson of Nucor Steel, Percy Barnevik of Asea Brown Boveri, and Richard Branson of Virgin have kept their corporate staffs to a bare-bones minimum - how about fewer than 100 central corporate staffers for global $30 billion-plus ABB? Or around 25 and 3 for multi-billion Nucor and Virgin, respectively? Shift the power and the financial accountability to the folks who are bringing in the beans, not the ones who are counting
or analyzing them.

Lesson 17

"Have fun in your command. Don't always run at a breakneck pace. Take leave when you've earned it:
Spend time with your families. Corollary: surround yourself with people who take their work seriously, but not themselves, those who work hard and play hard."

Herb Kelleher of Southwest Air and Anita Roddick of The Body Shop would agree: seek people who have some balance in their lives, who are fun to hang out with, who like to laugh (at themselves, too) and who have some non-job priorities which they approach with the same passion that they do their work. Spare me the grim workaholic or the pompous pretentious "professional;” I'll help them find jobs with my competitor.

Lesson 18

"Command is lonely."

Harry Truman was right. Whether you're a CEO or the temporary head of a project team, the buck stops here. You can encourage participative management and bottom-up employee involvement, but ultimately the
essence of leadership is the willingness to make the tough, unambiguous choices that will have an impact on the fate of the organization. I've seen too many non-leaders flinch from this responsibility. Even as you create an informal, open, collaborative corporate culture, prepare to be lonely.

“Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible.”

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Leadership Lessons from General Colin Powell Continued...

Lesson 7

"Keep looking below surface appearances. Don't shrink from doing so (just) because you
might not like what you find."

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is the slogan of the complacent, the arrogant or the scared. It's an excuse for inaction, a call to non-arms. It's a mind-set that assumes (or hopes) that today's realities will continue tomorrow in a tidy, linear and predictable fashion. Pure fantasy. In this sort of culture, you won't find
people who pro-actively take steps to solve problems as they emerge. Here's a little tip: don't invest in these companies.

Lesson 8

"Organization doesn't really accomplish anything. Plans don't accomplish anything, either. Theories of management don't much matter. Endeavors succeed or fail because of the people involved. Only by attracting the best people will you accomplish great deeds."

In a brain-based economy, your best assets are people. We've heard this expression so often that it's become trite. But how many leaders really "walk the talk" with this stuff? Too often, people are assumed to be empty chess pieces to be moved around by grand viziers, which may explain why so many top managers immerse their calendar time in deal making, restructuring and the latest management fad. How many immerse themselves in the goal of creating an environment where the best, the brightest, the most creative are
attracted, retained and, most importantly, unleashed?

Lesson 9

"Organization charts and fancy titles count for next to nothing."

Organization charts are frozen, anachronistic photos in a work place that ought
to be as dynamic as the external environment around you. If people really
followed organization charts, companies would collapse. In well-run
organizations, titles are also pretty meaningless. At best, they advertise
some authority, an official status conferring the ability to give orders and
induce obedience. But titles mean little in terms of real power, which is the
capacity to influence and inspire. Have you ever noticed that people will
personally commit to certain individuals who on paper (or on the organization
chart) possess little authority, but instead possess pizzazz, drive, expertise,
and genuine caring for teammates and products? On the flip side, non-leaders
in management may be formally anointed with all the perks and frills
associated with high positions, but they have little influence on others, apart
from their ability to extract minimal compliance to minimal standards.

Lesson 10

"Never let your ego get so close to your position that when your position goes, your ego goes with it."

Too often, change is stifled by people who cling to familiar turfs and job descriptions. One reason that even large organizations wither is that managers won't challenge old, comfortable ways of doing things. But
real leaders understand that, nowadays, every one of our jobs is becoming obsolete. The proper response is to obsolete our activities before someone else does. Effective leaders create a climate where people’s worth is determined by their willingness to learn new skills and grab new responsibilities, thus perpetually reinventing their jobs. The most important question in performance evaluation becomes not, "How well did you perform your job since the last time we met?" but, "How much did you change it?"

Lesson 11

"Fit no stereotypes. Don't chase the latest management fads. The situation dictates which approach best
accomplishes the team's mission."

Flitting from fad to fad creates team confusion, reduces the leader's credibility, and drains organizational coffers. Blindly following a particular fad generates rigidity in thought and action. Sometimes speed to market is more important than total quality. Sometimes an unapologetic directive is more appropriate
than participatory discussion. Some situations require the leader to hover closely; others require long, loose leashes. Leaders honor their core values, but they are flexible in how they execute them. They understand that management techniques are not magic mantras but simply tools to be reached for at the right times.

Lesson 12

"Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier."

The ripple effect of a leader's enthusiasm and optimism is awesome. So is the impact of cynicism and pessimism. Leaders who whine and blame engender those same behaviors among their colleagues. I am not talking about stoically accepting organizational stupidity and performance incompetence with a "what,
me worry?" smile. I am talking about a gung-ho attitude that says "we can change things here, we can achieve awesome goals, we can be the best." Spare me the grim litany of the "realist," give me the unrealistic aspirations of the optimist any day.

Next time I will publish the last of General Powell's Leadership Lessons

Monday, April 03, 2006

More Leadership Lessons from General Colin Powell

All the lessons below were taken taken from a presentation by General Colin Powell. I will publish more of them here in the coming days and weeks.

Lesson 4

"Don't be afraid to challenge the pros, even in their own backyard."

Learn from the pros, observe them, seek them out as mentors and partners. But remember that even the pros may have leveled out in terms of their learning and skills. Sometimes even the pros can become complacent and lazy. Leadership does not emerge from blind obedience to anyone. Xerox's Barry Rand was right on target when he warned his people that if you have a yes-man working for you, one of you is redundant. Good leadership encourages everyone's evolution.

Lesson 5

"Never neglect details. When everyone's mind is dulled or distracted the leader must be doubly vigilant."

Strategy equals execution. All the great ideas and visions in the world are worthless if they can't be implemented rapidly and efficiently. Good leaders delegate and empower others liberally, but they pay attention to details, every day. (Think about supreme athletic coaches like Jimmy Johnson, Pat Riley
and Tony La Russa). Bad ones, even those who fancy themselves as progressive "visionaries," think they're somehow "above" operational details. Paradoxically, good leaders understand something else: an obsessive routine in carrying out the details begets conformity and complacency, which in turn dulls everyone's mind. That is why even as they pay attention to details, they continually encourage people to challenge the process. They implicitly understand the sentiment of CEO leaders like Quad Graphic's Harry Quadracchi, Oticon's Lars Kolind and the late Bill McGowan of MCI, who all independently asserted that the Job of a leader is not to be the chief organizer, but the chief dis-organizer.

Lesson 6

"You don't know what you can get away with until you try."

You know the expression, "it's easier to get forgiveness than permission." Well, it's true. Good leaders don't wait for official blessing to try things out. They're prudent, not reckless. But they also realize a fact of life in most organizations: if you ask enough people for permission, you'll inevitably come up against
someone who believes his job is to say "no." So the moral is, don't ask. Less effective middle managers endorsed the sentiment, "If I haven't explicitly been told 'yes,' I can't do it," whereas the good ones believed, "If I haven't explicitly been told 'no,' I can." There's a world of difference between these two points
of view.