Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Recommended Reading

- Goldsmith, Marshall. “Just Let It Go!: Being realistic about what we can and cannot change,” Leader to Leader, no. 58, Fall 2010.

- Donlon, J.P. “Road to Recovery”, Chief Executive magazine, November/December 2010.

- Lublin, Nancy, “Two Little Words”, Fast Company magazine, November 2010.

- Berinato, Scott. “You Have to Lead From Everywhere,” Harvard Business Review, November 2010.

- Simons, Robert. “Stress-Test Your Strategy: The 7 Questions to Ask,” Harvard Business Review, November 2010.

- Useem, Michael. “Four Lessons in Adaptive Leadership,” Harvard Business Review, November 2010.

Good articles abound as we move through the month of November! Here are some that I have read and enjoyed recently.

First, for those of you who enjoy the work of Marshall Goldsmith, a world authority in helping successful leaders get even better, he has written a fine article in the on-line addition of the Fall 2010 Leader to Leader Journal: http://www.leadertoleader.org/knowledgecenter/journal.aspx?ArticleID=837. Here, he talks about the “Great Western Disease” called “I’ll be happy when . . .” and it’s impact on the engagement levels of people running organizations. Drawing on his nearly four decades of being a Buddhist, Goldsmith, one of the 50 great thinkers and leaders who have influenced the field of management over the past 80 years according to the American Management Association, notes that many leaders believe that achieving a goal will make them happy. Goldsmith on the other hand notes that “the goal line is always moving just beyond our reach.... We need goals to achieve anything in life. What is unhealthy is to focus on achieving the mirage of the future at the expense of enjoying the life we are living right now.” In this thoughtful article, he explores this idea of goals, setbacks and decision making. For those of you who want to look in the mirror and do some personal work, this is a good place to generate some important reflection and thinking.

For those of you seeking an interesting article about organizational transformation, I suggest you read “Road to Recovery” by J.P. Donlon in the November/December 2010 issue of Chief Executive magazine: ttp://chiefexecutive.net/ME2/Audiences/dirmod.asp?sid=&nm=&type=Publishing&mod=Publications%3A%3AArticle&mid=8F3A7027421841978F18BE895F87F791&tier=4&id=4AAFC1964D3A4CD8A4286D6924E93000&AudID=F242408EE36A4B18AABCEB1289960A07. Here, we encounter a fascinating interview of Allan Mulally, President and CEO of the Ford Motor Company, discussing how Ford had to transform itself in order to be more competitive and profitable. For anyone who wants to grasp the significance of vision, strategy and brand, particularly the importance of a clear brand promise, then read this article soon. It will embolden you to make better choices in the short and long term.

In the November 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine, I really enjoyed the article “Two Little Words” by Nancy Lublin: http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/150/do-something-two-little-words.html. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, she reminds us that Thanksgiving used to be about giving thanks rather than turkey, football, and the sales on Black Friday. In this short but thoughtful article, she reminds us of the basics, namely saying thank-you to interns and all of the other “little people” like the FedEx guy, the UPS guy, the cleaners, the people who repair the copier, etc. None of her suggestions cost money but they sure do make a huge difference. A great reminder during the busy weeks ahead.

In the November 2010 issue of the Harvard Business Review, I thoroughly enjoyed the interview of Admiral Thad Allen called “You Have to Lead From Everywhere” by Scott Berinato: http://hbr.org/2010/11/you-have-to-lead-from-everywhere/ar/1. Allen’s insights into credibility, decision-making, mission statements, and leadership are superb. His perspectives on crisis management are excellent. This article is very much worth the time to read.

In the same issue, I found the article called “Stress-Test Your Strategy: The 7 Questions to Ask” by Robert Simons, the Charles M. Williams Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, to be very helpful: http://hbr.org/2010/11/stress-test-your-strategy-the-7-questions-to-ask/ar/1. The author explains that in order to identify the weakest parts of our strategy, we need to ask some very tough questions. His seven questions help leaders understand where there is confusion and inefficiencies. The seven questions are as follows:

- Who is your primary customer?

- How do your core values prioritize shareholders, employees, and customers?

- What critical performance variables are you tracking?

- What strategic boundaries have you set?

- How are you generating creative tension?

- How committed are your employees to helping each other?

- What strategic uncertainties keep you awake at night?

When I reflect on these questions, I find them to be very helpful and good. They alone could be the first step in either preparing for an excellent strategic review or as part of an annual strategic planning process. Either way, the article is sound and a nice foundation for building clarity. I suggest you pick one or two questions and pose them during your next face to face team meeting or coaching session.

Finally, I suggest you read “Four Lessons in Adaptive Leadership” by Michael Useem, a professor of management and Director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in Philadelphia, in the November 2010 issue of the Harvard Business Review: http://hbr.org/2010/11/four-lessons-in-adaptive-leadership/ar/1. As the author points out, a culture of adaptability is vital to survival within the armed services. As business executives cope with increasing unpredictability, the lessons learned from the military can be quite helpful. Having spoken on the differences between technical change and adaptive change at numerous From Vision to Action Executive Round Tables and having referenced the work by Ron Heifetz on this same topic, I was delighted to find some new ideas about adaptive leadership by Michael Useem. The essence of the article revolves around four key points:

- Meet the Troops. “Creating a personal link is crucial to leading people through challenging times.”

- Make Decisions. “Making good and timely calls is the crux of responsibility in a leadership position.”

- Focus on Mission. “Establish a common purpose, buttress those who will help you achieve it, and eschew personal gain.”

- Convey Strategic Intent. “Make the objectives clear, but avoid micromanaging those who will execute on them.”

As the author notes, “We fight very different battles in business. But the armed services provide exceptionally powerful schooling for engagements that are likely to make a difference. By looking far afield, we can often better see what is close to home.” I could not agree more. Take the time to read, share and discuss this article with your senior team.

As always, please share with me any good reading you have discovered. I look forward to hearing from you.

Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257

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