leadership

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.

An enormous amount of time and energy gets devoted to solving problems within organizations, all under the pretence that solving those problems is the best way to achieve success, superiority, a competitive advantage and greatness. The challenge is that growing organizations are constantly changing, which inevitably leads to new and more interesting problems to solve. It’s an endless cycle of focusing on problems that means it’s impossible to solve our way to greatness.

Fortunately, there’s an alternative to the traditional problem-solving approach. Appreciative Inquiry was developed by David Copperrider and his associates at Case Western Reserve University in the mid ’80s. It focuses on doing more of what does work: uncovering the high moments in an organization’s history and using the commonalities of those experiences to build a plan to replicate those wins for the future. Sounds like more fun than constantly problem solving, doesn’t it? Here’s how it works and how it can be applied to your business.

In an effort to avoid conflict, leaders and team members often conceal their true feelings, withhold their opinions or outwardly agree and go along with the crowd while inside they are vehemently opposed.

For some, this lack of candour also extends to hoarding information or avoiding communicating with others entirely, in an effort to save face or get and stay ahead of the pack.

Strength of the strategic plan and the ability for executives to collaborate cross-silo with their teams depends considerably on trust and respect within and between teams. The willingness to come forward with authenticity and transparency is key to building up that trust and respect.

In Jack Welch’s book Winning, he describes a lack of candour as businesses’ “dirty little secret.”

When you start working on the action plans for your strategic objectives for the year, one of the most important steps is to understand the order of priority of your objectives.

You might think you know what needs to happen first, but your team might not agree with you. The key is to spend time together as a team to rank the order of your objectives using a technique called the Hoshin Star (a variation of matched-pair analysis).

Originally developed for total quality management, the Hoshin Star helps leaders understand the cause and effect connection between objectives to determine the underlying order of importance.

Using this tool to prioritize strategic objectives can serve two purposes: