Saturday, September 24, 2011

New Models Thinking

Physician, Libertarian and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul says he would have a “Secretary of Peace” in his cabinet. Now that's what I call 'New Models Thinking.'

We are in a global crisis at this moment in history. More than ever before, we need new thoughts, new ideas, new models.

And this includes models of leadership. We need new models for leaders and leadership development.

In my view, we need more leaders like Dr. Paul. Leaders who:

- Stick to their principles
- Speak truth to power
- Hold to a higher standard
- Call everyone to a better quality of life

Watching the Republican debate the other night, I was struck by the sharp divide between the 'Same Old' candidates and the 'New Models Thinking' candidates. The 'Same Old' ones want to tweak our existing processes. The 'New Models' Thinkers are looking to new ways. They are ready to initiate radical ("at the root") change. They want to innovate and take America out of the crisis.

Recently, media watchers like Jon Stewart and Bill O'Reilly have commented on the media's aversion to Ron Paul. It's really simple. Ron Paul is a radical. As Thomas Kuhn pointed out in his classic work on the nature of scientific revolutions, the next paradigm (and its herald) is resisted, ridiculed, and attacked before it gains acceptance.

Or as Jonathan Swift once wrote:

~ "When a true genius appears in this world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him."

Imagine a "Secretary of Peace." What other new world-changing leadership roles can you imagine?

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Saturday September 24, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Leaders Honor Their People

We have all read the quote from ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu about a leader, but have we ever read the entire quote? Here it is.

~ A leader is best when people barely know that he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worst when they despise him. Fail to honor people, They fail to honor you. But of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aims fulfilled, they will all say, "We did this ourselves."

Did you notice the sentence that almost never is quoted?

~ Fail to honor people, They fail to honor you.

Whoa! Let that sink in, folks.

So, what can a leader do to honor people?

- Listen to them

- Let them fly

- Lift them up

This may be the killer app of leadership that we have been waiting for.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Tuesday September 20, 2011

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Running Conversations

Have you tried twitter chat yet? I participated in my first one the other day. It was like running in a race with a group of people that are having a spirited discussion on a given topic. Hard to keep up. Yet, exhilarating at the same time.

The invitation came from careers expert Alexandra Levit who tweeted me, asking: "Hi Terry! Are you free Friday at 1PM ET to drop into my Twitter chat on workplace productivity? Would love your expertise!"

I said I'd love to. So I went and researched what a twitter chat was and how to participate. It turned out to be a simple process using tweetdeck.

What was not so simple was the experience itself! As the participants arrived, folks started tweeting their hellos and replies to the questions posed by the moderator. And whoosh! the chat was rolling. I jumped right in and found it to be a rush.

A flood of ideas, each in under 140 characters (the twitter limit) swept by, but all containing the hashtag quickbasechat. With that hashtag, I can go back and review the comments written by all the chat participants. Here is just a few of some of the best ideas for the topic "Leadership Productivity Hacks:"

- On Delegation: When delegating, clearly state expectations and what the employee will get out of it, and follow up regularly. (from Alexandra Levit)

- On what Leaders can do to Energize their teams: Leaders lead , they don't control. My best bosses let me fly and were always there when I needed them. (from Deborah Shane)

- On Boundaries: "Create boundaries otherwise nothing will get done. Shut door, block time on calendar + temporarily shut smart phone/emails." (from Vickie Salemi)

- On overcoming Procrastination: "Procrastination is at its toughest when you haven't begun, so start with a small task to gain momentum." (from Alexandra Levit)

Thanks again, Alexandra! I am looking forward to my next twitter chat.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Sunday September 18, 2011

Friday, September 09, 2011

What Does OD Mean. . . to You?

Rowena Morais, the Malaysia-based editor of HR Matters, asked me to weigh in on an article she is writing for the October issue. The question she is asking many HR thought leaders is this:

~ What does OD mean to you? What are the things that you believe the person tasked with this role should look to manage and resolve?

At its essence, Organization Development (OD) is about change. Change that renews and strengthens the organization, enhancing its capacity to pursue and reach its goals.

Years ago, one of the seminal figures in OD, Dick Beckhard, defined it this way: "Organization Development is the planned effort to increase organization effectiveness and health through interventions in the organization's “processes,” using behavioral-science knowledge."

The intent of organizational change, then, is to improve the operating effectiveness of some part of the organizational system (or the whole system), improve the results, and improve the capabilities of the organization.

Whether the projects address such diverse topics as leadership development, succession planning, merger integration, diversity, culture change, strategic planning, team building, or performance management, the common denominator is change. And the person tasked with an OD role is an agent of change.

Therefore, the effective OD practitioner is ever mindful of the change goal, understands the nature of organizational change, and utilizes change models. The effective OD practitioner is a consultant who manages OD projects by managing expectations with sponsors and clients, as well as those affected by the change, and other key stakeholders such as Human Resources.

Because change causes uncertainty, stress, and even conflict in the organization, the effective OD practitioner is ready to help facilitate the conversations needed to help people navigate their transitions to change.

In the field of change management, they say that 75% of organizational change initiatives fail. Why? For any number of reasons. The bottom line is that changing the way that an organization works is far easier to talk about than it is to actually do.

In recognition of the dangers and pitfalls in this work, another seminal figure in OD, Herb Shephard, published his Rules of Thumb for Change Agents, a compendium of wisdom for OD practitioners that includes the following:

- Stay Alive: Staying alive means taking risks "as part of a purposeful strategy of change, and appropriately timed and targeted. When they are taken under such circumstances, one is very much alive." Shephard adds: "Staying alive means loving yourself. Staying alive means staying in touch with your purpose."

- Start Where the System Is: "Starting where the client is can be called the Empathy Rule. To communicate effectively, to be able to build sound strategy, the change agent needs to understand how the client sees himself and his situation, and needs to understand the culture of the system."

- Don't Work Up-Hill: In this section, Shephard offers several practical guidelines for OD work including Starting where it is most promising, Working in a team, and Understanding how systems work.

- Keep an Optimistic Bias: When facing conflict, the change agent must help the parties resolve their differences, if possible. "Individuals and groups locked in destructive kinds of conflict focus on their differences. The change agent’s job is to help them discover and build on their commonalities. The unhappy partners focus on past wrongs, and continue to destroy the present and future with them. The change agent’s job is to help them change the present so that they will have a new past on which to create a future."

- Capture the Moment: "One captures the moment when everything one has learned is readily available, and when one is in touch with the events of the moment."

Reading Shephard's principles, you sense that the effective OD practitioner is a blend of consultant, detective, facilitator, mediator, designer, and artist. It's no wonder that OD is hard to pin down, hard to "sell," and hard to do well. It's no wonder too that the field of OD attracts such brilliant, passionate, capable, and diverse people.

How would you answer the question: What does OD mean to you?

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Friday September 9, 2011

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Leadership Rulebook Appendix by Chris Glennie

In today's blog post, I am pleased to feature guest blogger Chris Glennie from the UK. His post, titled "The Leadership Rulebook Appendix," follows this intro.

I met Chris recently via social media. Chris is a creative, energetic and motivational leader with experience in general management, professional services, professional, academic, educational publishing and marketing experience, sound strategic judgment and an ability to join the dots across organisations, effect change and get things done.

He has a bachelor's degree from Oxford University and an MBA from the University of Middlesex, where he specialised in organisational culture. After 20 years in academic and educational publishing, Chris has started thinking and writing on a wide range of leadership and management issues at

The Leadership Rulebook Appendix
by Chris Glennie

Don't throw the rulebook out, just add an appendix

The resignation of Steve Jobs as CEO of Apple has filled many column inches on- and offline over the past 3 weeks. Most of these mulled over the 'meaning' of the event for Apple itself and the wider tech industry more generally. But a critical, equally angst-ridden, sub-plot concerned what we can learn about leadership from Jobs and his time at Apple. Because it turned out - whisper it quietly - that he may not have read the HR manual on leadership, and that far from this leading to corporate meltdown, he and Apple did rather well. Cue for hand-wringing.

Well, not so fast. As ever with any complex social phenomenon like 'leadership' there isn't 'one true way' of doing things, so there will, almost by default, be 'exceptions'. But I think it is worth reflecting on this particular 'outlier', so with Terrence's prompting, here are my top 3 starters for the Leadership Rulebook Appendix.

1. Jobs was an entrepreneur. He created Apple. OK, he went and came back, but it was still his baby. I don't mean to suggest that's a carte blanche to behave appallingly, but have you ever been around entrepreneurs? These guys create something from nothing - and if they fail, to nothing they may return. The drive, passion, commitment and committed-ness that comes with that act of creation is very often married to a behaviour set that might not come straight out of the manual. Think: it matters to them in ways that we as 'employees' never rarely experience.

2. He was a visionary. He probably would have been hopeless working his way up a corporate ladder (see under: entrepreneur), but he created the future (well, actually the present, but you know what I mean). Researching this blog, I realised that much of 'leadership' theory focusses on 'process leadership'; by this I mean the kind of leadership that drives more productivity from a team, higher sales, great NPD (or, in a similar vein, the kind of leadership that will get people to leave the trench with you and charge the enemy guns). That's not to be devalued. But to see a crack in the fabric of the daily continuum and drive a business through it, that's something else, and whilst it might leave a blank on the ‘people skills’ section of the job application, it creates awe and, with it, a motivated - and forgiving - followership.

3. He wasn’t about Steve Jobs. I don't know Apple or Jobs, but it seems clear from what I’ve read that his occasional falls from grace were driven by wanting the best products and the best experience for Apple customers. It wasn't about the ego. And so it seems that his attitude was replicated in the creation of a culture wholly focussed on customer experience and executional excellence - which is really what he was about - rather than his behaviour creating a culture where random acts of tyrannical or over-bearing management were acceptable. Notwithstanding that Apple is a secretive organisation, there seems to have been no commentary suggestion that Apple's culture is in any way dysfunctional.

The leadership story of Steve Jobs and Apple is one where a particular set of people and circumstances coincided. My belief is that it worked because he was the founding genius of the business, and that whilst working with him closely every day might have been trying (think Winston Churchill), he could nonetheless reach out to the wider community in an inspiring fashion. He did the 2 key things leaders need to do to be considered great: he created followers, and he was successful. It's amazing how the latter impacts the former - and how different a series of conclusions we would be drawing if he hadn’t been!

Written by Chris Glennie. Posted by Terrence Seamon on Thursday September 8, 2011