Author: Mike Desjardins

My good friend and "co-conspirator," Dan Pontefract (follow him on Twitter), has written the book Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization. Over the past three years, the team at ViRTUS and I have had the distinct pleasure of working with Dan and his team to put the Flat Army philosophy into action at TELUS.

Dan was nice enough to send me a press copy in advance of the book release so I thought the very least I could do is to write my version of a book review. So here it is, all of my favourite quotes and excerpts from Flat Army, the ones that resonate with me most in the first few chapters:

Chapter One

  • In a report entitled Global Leadership Forecast conducted by DDI, with over 14,000 leaders, DDI's research indicated that, 'organizations with the highest quality leaders [a]re thirteen times more likely to outperform their competition in key bottom-line metrics such as financial performance, quality of products and services, employee engagement, and customer satisfaction."
  • Further to that quote DDI asserts that, "organizations with high quality leadership [are] up to three times more likely to retain more employees than their competition; they also [have] more than five times the number of highly engaged leaders."
  • Approximately 70% of employees aren't as engaged as they should be at their place of work.
  • In a 2011 press release, the Center for Talent Innovation reports that 37 percent of Gen X employees are looking to leave their current employers within three years.
  • The natural tendency of any baby-boomer-aged leader is to lead through the demonstration of power and will.
  • It is time to connect the dots between leadership, engagement, learning, technology, and collaboration.
  • ...when back by transformation leadership (and leaders), employees thrive on the basis of "self-identity, belongingness, self-efficacy and responsible attitude."
  • From Organizations Don't Tweet - People Do, "If you really want an engaged workforce, treat [people] as fellow grown-ups working together for a shared purpose.

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One thing you learn quickly when you work in a large organization is that positional power doesn't actually carry the weight you think it might. When you need to catalyze resources from across the organization to achieve your strategic objectives, influence becomes paramount.

Learning the art of influencing includes understanding how to influence your peers without wielding positional power. It can mean the difference between moving closer to achieving your strategic objectives and struggling for the resources and attention you need to get things done.

First and foremost, when it comes to the art of influencing, it's important to understand where the line is between influence and manipulation. The main difference between manipulation and influence lies not in the techniques we use, but in how and why we use them.

The best analogy I can share with you from Star Wars' Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader: they both use the Force; one for evil and the other for good.

Where these two differ significantly is in their intent. Although the two of them both had a great deal of influence, Darth Vadar used the force for self-interest, to gain power. His intention was to fool and control people into doing and believing things for his own benefit – and no one else's. Obi-Wan used the force for good, his interests were always with teaching, helping others and building strong relationships.

So let's focus on the positive approach and talk about how the five principles of influence will help you improve your ability to get things done through the support of others:

Intention. In each situation, know what your intention is behind wanting to influence. Be clear about how your desired outcome benefits the other person/people, the organization, and you as well. A good rule of thumb: consider the other person as a potential ally. This frames the right mindset and attitude for successful influencing, especially in a situation where you may feel nervous or unsure. It also acts as a check-in to ensure that you are not letting personal motivators, like being right, or getting your own way, get in the way of influencing.

Empathy. Place yourself in the other person's shoes and work on understanding the issue or opportunity from their perspective. This requires you to drop the focus on what's in it for you and place it squarely on what's in it for them. Here are some questions you can ask to help empathize: What are their needs? What organizational forces are at work for them? What is going on for them? What common ground do we have? What drives them? Spending time considering the other person is not only key to successful influencing, but also ensures you have more than your own interests at heart.

A large portion of our team spent the day today planning out the future of our business using the LEGO Serious Play methodology. What an amazing, inspiring, and creative way to help craft the intricacies of our Wildly Courageous Decision to be the Apple of...

Every year, PROFIT Magazine turns successful entrepreneurs into the heroes of Canadian business through its Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies program. Now, to mark its 25th year, the ranking is expanding to celebrate 500 of Canada’s best and brightest companies. Once again, ViRTUS is proud to be a sponsor.

If your business has grown by just 50% or more in the past five years, apply now at PROFIT500.com.

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MikeOne of the things CEOs ask consistently is how they can foster more strategic thinking in their organizations.

Simply saying “I want to see you thinking more strategically” isn’t direct or specific enough to help guide people in the right direction. Thinking strategically is essentially a way of being – a mindset, a way of looking at things and linking them together.

Here are eight things you can do to improve strategic thinking.

Understand value creation and differentiation. Leaders understand the business and industry they are in, but it’s more than that. You need to understand how the industry adds value to customers and how your business differentiates that value equation from your competitors.

Connect “me to we” to “they to us” (operations to strategy). As a leader you need to be able to understand the overall corporate direction and strategy in the context of your team and your own personal areas of responsibility. Think of it like this: the strategic moves we make today are setting up the operational successes we have in the future. So the better understanding you and your team have of the connection between corporate goals and the work they do day-to-day, the more likely they and you are to focus on longer-term priorities versus staying mired in operations and shiny objects.

Here's a possible framework to structure weekly team meetings within your business and keep them on track and worth attending.

  • Personal update: everyone shares the good, bad and ugly of what's going on with them. This helps explain everyone's context and helps build trust.
  • Top three: have everyone in the room state the top three things they're focused on over the next week.
  • Stuck points: have everyone list what the key thing is that's holding them back. It can be resources, health, time, people, information, technology – anything.