Showing posts from July, 2016

Leaders, You Teach in Everything You Do

So much is written about leadership! Qualities of leaders. Traits of leaders. It's all interesting, to be sure. But, at the end of the day, you may be thinking: If you want to be a leader, what should you do?
Here is an important principle of leadership for starters:
Everything you do teaches.
This leadership principle says, Teaching is more than just words. Your actions speak just as loudly. If you want to "lead by your example," then watch what you do.
In view of this principle, an effective leader is highly mindful of his or her own behavior, actions, and choices.
Whether you are a parent, a teacher, or a manager, everything you do, everything you say, has the potential for leaving an impression on a child, on a student, on an employee. These impressions will influence what people do as a result.

If a manager wants improved communication, he needs to communicate effectively.

If a manager wants improved engagement, she needs to be engaged in her work.

Whatever you do (…

It's Not About You

Good ideas come from the margins. I think I first encountered the concept of marginality in Organization Development a long time ago (early 70's) in discussions about collusion.

In 1988, in a strong critique of the state of OD, Margulies and Raia commented that OD consultants are "in bed with" their clients. They wrote:

"It is our belief that OD practitioners have become an integral part of this collusion. Many practitioners have succumbed to management pressure for the quick fix, the emphasis on the bottom line, and the cure-all mentality; they have failed to maintain "marginality" in their roles as consultants and helpers to management- they are for all intents and purposes "in bed" with their client-systems; and more important perhaps, they seem to have lost sight of the core values of the field..."

From what I have learned, marginality is a choice that we make. A relational stance toward our clients. A way to provide clients with outsider p…

Do I Contradict Myself?

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

This excerpt, from the poem Song of Myself by Walt Whitman, opens up a vast thought for me about potential, about possibility.

For instance, we are taught that contradiction is bad. "Don't contradict me, young man." Or "You are contradicting yourself." So what?

What if both positions are possible? What if both positions are right? What if ambiguity is a path to wisdom?

I'm coming to the thought that we contain so much more than we know. It's a thought that runs counter to our socialization. We are taught to think of ourselves as units. We break things down, diagram things, and put things into boxes. We are taught binary thinking.  On or Off. Black or White. In or Out. We tend to think in terms of limits, in terms of scarcity.

What if we actually had no limit, no edges, no top, no bottom, no sides? “If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything e…

The Angel in the Marble

What do you see? Not right in front of you. But what do you see in terms of possibilities? "I imagined the angel in the marble and I carved it until I set him free" -  Michaelangelo There is a power within all of us that goes unnoticed and underutilized by most of us, much to our detriment. I'm speaking of the Imagination. We all have imagination. It comes with the package, so to speak. As children, we are incredibly imaginative, concocting stories, weaving fantastic voyages, pretending and play-acting like wee little Shakespeares! What becomes of our imagination as we grow up? Some hold on to it. Poets, artists, composers, dreamers. Consider the quote above, attributed to the great artist Michaelangelo. That he could look at a raw hunk of marble, and "see" the potential for an angel within it, is testimony to the faculty we possess called imagination. Imagination is a power we all possess. It's our ability to see what is not there, but could be. It is the …

What's Stopping You?

"The first step toward getting somewhere is deciding you are not going to stay where you are." After thirty years of living at one address, we are moving. As you might imagine, you accumulate a lot of stuff in thirty years.The  house is filled with boxes, holding dishes, photo albums, books, holiday ornaments, and much more, all awaiting the moving men. So far, it has been a quite a journey. We have made more trips to Good Will than I can count! Thanks to craigslist and freecycle, we have given away furniture, toys, books, chimes, and all sorts of home goods. Thanks to family and friends we have stashed artwork in cellars and Christmas decorations in basements. We have entrusted precious family heirlooms, like the Cop Bear, to one of my brothers. As we have burrowed into our own personal archaeological dig, we have unearthed treasures of our past, such as my father's box of personal effects including a talisman from Italy that he brought home from the war. As exciting as…

There is NO substitute for experience

I've noticed that organizational change practitioners really really really want to learn! That's good. Because managing organizational change is NOT for amateurs. "When it comes to managing organizational change,  there is no substitute for experiential learning." - Dr. E.J. Sarma There is much to know about organizational change. There are theories (e.g. Kurt Lewin's force field analysis) and models (e.g. John Kotter's eight steps). There is research (e.g. Argyris) and best practices (e.g. Prosci). But as good as they are, that is all in the head. I have said in the past that the most important credential for anyone practicing in this arena is that they MUST have direct and personal experience of organizational change. Otherwise how could they possibly know what people are going through? Having gone through a major change in an organization (e.g. a merger, an acquisition, a downsizing), the practitioner will know it in her gut and in her heart. With such a …

The Way to Build a Better Company

On LinkedIn, consultant Jeffrey Deckman wrote: "The only way to build a better company is to invest in building a more capable workforce."  To which I said, Amen!  A company is its people. Deckman's statement leads to a question:  In today's companies, what are the key capabilities needed in the workforce? One of those key capabilities, in my view, is leadership. Leadership is not about level or title. It's about the capability an organization needs to mobilize energy in the desired direction toward success. Breaking this capability down into components, here are some of the most vital aspects of leadership. Character - Many thinkers, from Plato to Stephen Covey, have tried to distill the qualities of a leader. The key qualities, in my mind, are those that are most related to demonstrating leadership in an organization. Qualities like focus, being proactive, vision, commitment, respect, and caring. There are many more, I am sure. Character is vital to leadership b…

Culture Change by Design

Many are thinking about changing their organization's culture to make it more innovative, more customer focused, even more healthy. All good goals, in my view.

But can you really change the culture? Experts on corporate culture have differing views.

Where does culture come from?  The culture of an organization is the way it is due to the history of the company, stretching back into the past. Culture is a reflection of the founders and past leaders, decisions that were made in the face of early obstacles, and practices that became "the way we do things here." 

The way a culture is now is because of the way things have been done. 

To change the culture therefore requires changing the deep structures that underpin the present behaviors. This is a significant undertaking. There is no quick fix. No fast transformation.

I am reminded of a culture change project from 2011 that made headlines in the media.  Back in 2011, Lowell McAdam, the newly named CEO of Verizon Communications, a…