leadership posts

Steve Jobs Challenged Us To Believe

What do you believe in? There are an abundance of articles and incessant talk about corporate vision and values. In fact, it seems as though every annual strategic planning session devotes some time to reviewing or revising those beliefs. And yet how many leaders actually run the company, AND make decisions, AND plan the path, AND focus the organization every day based on THEM?

Steve Jobs did. And while in his role as Apple CEO, he gave us all the gift of demonstrating those beliefs in everything the company did and said and produced.

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Good Job! 8 Essential Ingredients of Positive Reinforcement

Well-motivated employees are typically more creative and productive. As a result, positive reinforcement can be one the most effective tools leaders possess to change behavior. Yet there are two factors working against them. First, most managers have been trained to pay attention to what’s wrong rather than what’s right. It takes conscious effort to see what’s right and then link that positive action to a positive outcome.

Second, communication studies show that employees need to hear four positive comments to counteract a single negative. That’s right, 4 positives = 1 negative! When managers are already prone to focus on wrong versus right, that’s an extremely difficult ratio to achieve.

Given those factors, it’s clear that the tool of positive reinforcement requires thoughtful planning and consistent action. Leaders and managers alike need to understand the power of positive reinforcement, what it means to their organization, and how to apply it in a way that’s consistent and effective.

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The Accountability Conundrum

We hear it all the time … that dreaded phrase … the one that conjures up fear, trepidation, annoyance, irritation …

“We need to hold people accountable!”

It’s a loathsome missive, this “accountability.” It’s so packed with emotional land mines that just talking about it is like skating across spring ice. Being HELD accountable feels like being blamed, and HOLDING SOMEONE ELSE accountable is annoying.

Of course, we can’t just ignore the problem and hope it will go away. Instead, let’s improve the concept!

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What are your odds?

It’s easy to be confident that you’ll meet your 2011 goals – after all, you have 12 new months ahead of you. But in his book 8th Habit, Stephen Covey provides a sobering analogy: 37% of employees have a clear understanding of what their organization is trying to achieve and why, and only 1 in 5 employees has a clear “line of sight” between individual tasks and the team’s goals.

Now comes the sobering part: what if a soccer team had those stats? Only 4 of 11 players on the field would know which goal is theirs, and only 2 of 11 would know what position they play and what they’re supposed to do.

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Taming the Elephant in 2011

2010 has been the year of the great stall. The world marketplace has shifted dramatically, and our society can’t stop talking, reading, and writing about it. Yet many of us haven’t gone much further than talk. We haven’t done anything yet. The decisions, changes, and actions needed to actually deal with the new marketplace have been missing in action.

Why doesn’t anything seem to be happening? Fear — that insidious feeling that grips the gut with unrelenting tenacity has been ruling the day.

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You know the saying about assumptions. Why are you still making them?

Assumption testing has always been important in organizations. Right now, however, it’s more critical than ever. Markets are evolving so fast that the wrong assumptions can be fatal.

Worse yet, an organization’s inability to routinely identify and test assumptions is a cultural defect that can be very difficult to correct.

Rick and I often see this problem when we participate in leadership meetings held by our clients. During these meetings, we frequently hear executives mistakenly state assumptions as if they were facts.

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The Cost of Chaos

During the first week of the new year, when we tend to gaze optimistically at the road ahead, a headline from the Associated Press announced “Americans’ job satisfaction lowest in 22 years.”

The article then went on to say “That is the lowest level ever recorded by the Conference Board research group in over 22 years of studying the issue. If the job satisfaction trend is not reversed, economists say, it could stifle innovation and hurt America’s competitiveness and productivity. It also could make unhappy older workers less inclined to take the time to share their knowledge and skills with younger workers.”

Well, that got my attention! Of course there are many reasons for the decline, including the worst recession since the 1930s and the fact that downsizing has created more work and more demands on the workers who’ve survived the cuts. That doesn’t change the fact, however, that such a decline has somber implications for businesses, and executive teams need to address this issue in their organizations.

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“We have a great strategy but have trouble executing it.”

Have you had this thought lately?

“This year we’ll include a wide range of employees to assist in developing our revenue strategy. People will feel involved, they’ll fully understand the reasoning behind why we’re moving in this particular direction, and they’ll have ownership of the strategy. In fact, this is so important we’ll even hire an outside facilitator and conduct the strategy sessions off-site so there will be no distractions. The result will be a well thought out plan for moving the company forward. Perfect.”

Not really. Because, as we all know, the challenge of implementing that strategy is what trips us up. We put a great deal of time and energy into developing a strategy, but daily tasks, emergencies, and problems cry out and divert us from strategic initiatives. Six months down the road we’re sitting in a meeting struggling with familiar issues, and the great strategy we developed is long forgotten or ignored.

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