The mistakes and discipline of leadership

[Celebrate your Mistakes November 17, 2011]

We’re taught to do things the right way. But if you want to discover something that other people haven’t, you need to do things the wrong way. Initiate a failure by doing something that’s very silly, unthinkable, naughty, dangerous. Watching why that fails can take you on a completely different path. It’s exciting, actually.

[Leadership & Discipline November 14, 2011]

The difference between good and great often comes down to discipline. So my question is this – how disciplined are you as a leader? Context, fluidity, and other nuanced behaviors are positive traits to embrace so long as they don’t serve as an excuse for a lack of discipline. I’m not suggesting that leaders should be robotic or static in approach – quite to the contrary. Implementing a framework of discipline allows leaders more flexibility not less. While subjecting yourself to the rigor of discipline is not easy, it is essential if you want to maximize your effectiveness as a leader. The best leaders I know are extremely disciplined people – they simply do the things others are not willing to do. Are you disciplined in all facets of your life, or just those which come more easily to you?

More wisdom from Tim Ferriss

[Filling the Void: Thoughts on Learning and Karma November 16, 2011]

From the man who brought us the 4 hr work week.

“What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.
-Viktor E. Frankl, Holocaust survivor, author of Man’s Search for Meaning”

Good take on the Penn State thing IMHO

[On Penn State and Leadership November 17, 2011]

“John F. Kennedy tells us, “Our privileges can be no greater than our obligations.” In the end, even the best of us are flawed, but when we err, we can still gracefully accept the consequences of our mistakes, even if they’re not always fair. We can make whatever amends are possible and work to ensure that our mistakes can never happen again. That’s not justice, but it’s what great leaders do. It’s what great people do.”

Let’s talk numbers in leadership

[Not All Metrics Are Created Equal November 17 2011.]

“Measurements in this category are where an organization truly becomes productive with analytics. These sets of metrics focus on the measurements surrounding things that develop talent, create engagement, build teams, manage the customer experience, improve customer satisfaction and increase brand equity. Getting to the qualitative level of performance measurement is difficult in that it is often necessary to overcome a set of traditional leadership behaviors and beliefs.”

Proof of surfer dudes’ superior knowledge of life

[The Surfer's Guide to Personal Development November 15, 2011]

“Surfers have a different relationship with the ocean than most people do. Rather than admire its beauty from the sidelines, we feed off its energy because for most of us it’s a second home. We’re more comfortable in water than on land. It’s much more than a sport, but our calling in life. Every session leaves us with powerful life lessons and today I just wanted to share a few of my most important ones with you.”

Coming out of the closet

I guess there is no way of beating around this certain bush now.

For a long time I have hidden behind learning tango as “a leadership experiment”.
But this is now way beyond being just a creative way of pushing the boundaries of Focus Energy Balance Energy instrument feedback activity.

Sure – I still learn things about my leadership and leading in general, every time I take a tango lesson.

But it is time to come out of the milonga closet now.

I like it.

And it is not just a leadership experiment now. It is…. a hobby.

The sign that finally pushed me over the edge was when I bought my first pair of dance shoes a few days ago. You cannot walk in them, and it really hurts if you try to jog in them.

These shoes are made for dancing only. Period.

I cannot rationalize them away as being “also very good for biking” or “rather practical when it comes to running”.

Alas – tango is now my hobby. Bring on the mockery, I can take it. ;-)

Going in circles

Lately I find myself going in circles.

Three lessons in a row I have been practicing leading in tiny little circles around my own axis/ass. This combined with a lethal move called sacados, where I can either (if successful) swoop a foot out and make a beautiful, dramatic course adjustment… or (if not so successful) swoop a hard shoe straight onto the calf or across the achilles tendon of my follower/teacher Anna. Or – the only slightly better worst case: Me breaking her stride flat out causing her to fall backwards with her legs crossed.

These kind of result options tend to make me very very very cautious.

I asked if she was “fully insured through the company”. She laughed – thought I was joking.
I said “this may hurt quite a bit”. She laughed – thought I was joking.
I explained that “I quite possibly will hit your tendon with the sharpest side of my hard dancing shoes”. She laughed – thought I was joking.

The problem with being a relaxed casual guy who cracks a lot of jokes: Nobody will listen when you actually try to warn them.

Three lessons later my teacher is still relatively unharmed. I have become much better at going around in tiny circles, fighting down motion sickness nausea, while lunging my food in a damage-defying air cut straight across the back of her calves. Not once – I tell you – not ONCE has she been badly injured.

Give me ten – fifteen more years and I’ll master this tango thing.

Twenty, tops.

How to translate leadership and management

I noticed something interesting a few weeks ago.

I have been trying to learn a choreography in tango, to be able to lead through a whole tune. So Daniel at Tangokompaniet has been working with me on this same choreography for a long long time (btw – if I EVER hear Carlos Di Sarli’s “Pobre yo” again it will be way too soon).

After finishing learning the choreography before summer, I recently tried it out with Anna. That’s when I noticed the interesting thing. The way I tried to lead the exact same choreography to the exact same song – just didn’t work.

Well – it was not a complete disaster. But several things that I thought I sent very clear signals about, were actually not at all as clear any longer.

So – with the help of Anna – I adjusted those signals so that they were clear to her too. Tiny details that translated it into signals that just worked better between her and me.

And then we changed a few small things about a circular thing, and made some more thorough changes to the ending. For some reason the ending felt rushed, and we skipped a thing and prolonged another. And then the whole choreography felt good again. Still basically the same choreography, but minor changes here and there were needed to create the same flow with a different partner.

Now – being a sucker for reflection – I of course had to analyze the shit out of this. Which I have done. The most obvious thing is that when I coach managers I often meet people who try to lead ALL co-workers the same way, and fail. Or I meet managers who move up the ladder (or sideways) and suddenly notice that the tools of management/leadership that has propelled them forward suddenly are ineffective. Not useless, just less effective than they used to be. The flow or the edge is gone.

Notice my “change process description” above (in italics). There is a whole bunch of clear learning points for me: on how and when to use feedback, on the need to tweak some things and totally revamp other things, on how I define flow and the good tango/leadership.

I could just as easily have decided that She Must Adapt To MY Choreography, but then we would have lost the flow, and the whole process would have felt less motivating for her to perform well.

Yet – many managers do just that. They decide that “THIS is my management style, and it WORKS”. And then people around them follow. But they do not show their true talent – nor do they feel motivated. For that – a manager must listen and adapt.

To be a clear and decisive leader – one has to do a whole lot of translating what has always worked before into what will work here and with these people.

Learning a choreography with one person, and then switching to another person – is a very interesting and humbling exercise in leadership. It really DOES take two to tango.

(On a completely different note: I just saw that Tangokompaniet is starting its autumn beginners’ classes in the next few weeks. If you practice there you are most welcome to bring your own leadership reflections here! :-)

Making the tough calls

So. I started following yet another blog. I am up to 25 now.

This one seems to have a lot of potential. I like Tine Thygesen’s no-bullshit approach to leadership.

Go to Dare, Do!

Tango groove at the office

Since I am alone at the office this morning – and most likely the whole day – I have decided to go all in with old school tango music.

On today’s menu:
Alfredo de Angelis
Carlos di Sarli
…and just a tad Astor Piazzolla.

It is hard to find this music depressing. Energetic and uplifting. Exactly what is needed on a Monday morning at the office! ;-)

Note to self: We need bigger speakers here at the office.

Leadership, Motivation and Personal Development for this week…

1. [Five Reasons Remarkable Leaders Are Master Gardeners 11/04/2011]

This time of year people across the northern hemisphere are preparing for a popular hobby. Whether it is flowers or food, people are thinking about, planning for, and actually planting their gardens. Some of these gardens are meant simply to provide beauty, others to put healthy and needed food on the table – most all are done as a labor of love by the gardener.

2. [Want to Lead? Don't Fit In 3/04/2011]

“Fitting in” is a big deal, and in many organizations it’s seen as the way to career longevity.

3. [Traits and Behaviors: Four Evidence-Based Suggestions 9/04/2011]

Most approaches to explaining leadership effectiveness focus on either leader traits (e.g. personality, intelligence, gender) or leader behaviors (e.g. directive, participative, charismatic, servant leadership). Both approaches have been shown to have merit, but how do traits and behaviors work together, and is one approach better than the other?

4. [Are Strong Leaders Always Good Managers? 5/04/20114]

There are many people that talk about leadership and management and feel that they’re the same thing. I tend not to be one of those people. Whereas I acknowledge that for someone to be truly great they need to have a good understanding of each of these and know how to use them, I also recognize that these two things don’t always mix. For instance, just as I know for sure that not all managers are great leaders, I know that not all strong leaders are great managers.

5. [Is communication skill the most important leadership attribute? 22/03/2011]

This article offers a downloadable book for improving communication skill. This is such a critical soft skill of good leaders that we should all take time to develop our communication skill. The book is not free, but it is quite inexpensive and numerous reviewers have touted it’s quality. Check out some of those reviews.

This weekend’s reading on Leadership, Motivation and Personal Development

New reading suggestions from my assistant Rini in India.

1. [One Powerful Tip for When You Feel Like Giving Up on Your New Habit]
Changing a habit can be hard. To make the habit stick you have to keep going until it becomes not something you do through willpower but something you feel drawn to doing. This can take 30 days or more of taking action each day.

2. [What We Say Vs. What We Mean – Are Bad Words REALLY Bad? (Video) ]
So can words be really good or bad?
We’re really, as society, very hypocritical on the subject. We always say “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” But really, that’s B.S. We teach people that curse words are bad. For example, you can’t drop an “F bomb” in church, or on YouTube. You can’t say “oh f*ck!” You can, of course, say “oh crap!” or “oh fudg

3. [7 Rocks That Are Holding You Back in Life]
As a life coach I speak to a lot of clients who have obstacles, which they perceive as holding them back, to getting to where they want to go in life. These obstacles prevent the change that clients want to see. Sometimes these obstacles seem like massive rocks that just cannot be moved, no matter how hard they try.

4. [The Three Hs of Talent]
A person’s talent can be defined as his special natural ability or aptitude, or his capacity for achievement or success. Talent can also be seen as someone’s gifts as well as the things he does well and is passionate about. While many have found their talent, many more have not and for as hard as this process may be, using talent is often more difficult than finding it.

5. [Better Than Free]
The internet is a copy machine. At its most foundational level, it copies every action, every character, every thought we make while we ride upon it. In order to send a message from one corner of the internet to another, the protocols of communication demand that the whole message be copied along the way several times. IT companies make a lot of money selling equipment that facilitates this ceaseless copying. Every bit of data ever produced on any computer is copied somewhere. The digital economy is thus run on a river of copies. Unlike the mass-produced reproductions of the machine age, these copies are not just cheap, they are free.

Quick reading on Leadership, Motivation and Personal Development

Once a week, my great assistant Rini in India provides me with a handful of links to posts on blogs. We have agreed on the theme (Leadership, Motivation and Personal Development) and the format (a link and a summary).

Since I always appreciate these weekly links, I thought I should share them with you from now on.

1. [What Can We Learn From the World’s Most Admired Companies? 27/03/2011]
FORTUNE magazine recently released its annual list of the World’s Most Admired Companies and as we do every year, my colleagues and I at Hay Group took a deep look at the companies that made the list to determine what makes them “tick,” how they earn the admiration of their peers, and what organizations and leaders can learn from the practices of the “Most Admired” companies.

2. [What makes a writer a writer? 27/03/2011]
During my time as a professional blogger and as a social media consultant, I have come across many business owners who “fancy themselves writers.” While I applaud anyone who has honed the craft of writing and who is well-versed at stringing words together, it is an art form.

3. [How to Avoid the Business Proposal Question Trap]
Whether you’re in front of a group or across the desk, you want the best possible chance for your proposal to succeed.

4. [Just be good at the one thing you do well 23/03/2011]
Authors, speakers, bloggers: Don’t get caught up in the Triple Threat Conundrum. If you can speak, soon, you are asked to write a book. If you write a business or advice book and it sells, you’ll be asked to speak. If you do either, you’ll be expected to blog well, terrifically Tweet and master Facebook and/or LinkedIn. Whew.

5. [We Need People Who Can Lead Regardless Of Their Title 26/03/2011]
The success of any organization be it a business, non-profit, educational institution or government, depends on its people. All the fancy strategies, creations and technology mean absolutely nothing without people to make it happen. In fact, people have to develop those strategies and make decisions about using them. People have to create the products and services offered. People have to decide the quality and service standards of the organization. People have to design and maintain the technology. That’s on top of the people who make the products, deliver the service and provide all the administrative support. People are the organization.

Uninstalling dictators

For the women. Men beware.

Hanna Rosin gave a very interesting facts and figures lecture on TED a few months back. It feels apropriate to share it with y’all today, what with today being all women’s very own day. The future of leadership will be in the hands of women. Not because of equality this or equality that, but because of the actual nature of work in our economies.

Feedback shouldn’t cost anything

So the fiveyearold son came home from kindergarten the other day, with a Valentine’s heart. The teachers have written down what the other kids appreciate with him.

Here’s the translation:
- Runs fast
- He is nice
- Kind
- Funny
- He is strong
- We like him
- Handsome
- He is fun to run with

Two things struck me.
- When he told me about these quotes from those he spends his days with, he shone with pride and happiness.
- When I read what those who know my son say about him, I got tears of joy in my eyes.

And then another thing struck me.
- Why do so many managers and management consultants think feedback needs to be more complicated than this? At what stage of growing up do we begin to think that we can do without the occasional heart that shows what people like about hanging with us? When do we get re-programmed into thinking that any form of appreciation or friendly nod needs to be wrapped into carefully designed team building exercises, 360-inventory tools or AT LEAST a more thoroughly constructed feedback session with one note saying “This I appreciate with you…”, another saying “This I think you could improve…” and a third saying “What would help ME would be if you…”

Screw that. If you are a manager, save the money and cut out hearts from cardboard paper and put one on each of your co-workers’ desk. Write their name on it, and what you like about them. Then tell everybody that you are really sorry you forgot to do this during Valentine’s day, and give everybody 15 minutes to walk around and just write anonymous appreciation. Not mandatory, just something that is easy and appreciated.

Try not to make it too complicated. Try not to analyze the result. And for the love of God – try to keep consultants out of the process.


The ultimate Fuck You to bad customer service

After spending yesterday afternoon/evening in the grip of the ultimate Can’t-Get-Anything-Right-company SAS , I was thinking about how to get back at them. I know switching airlines is an option, but most of my time the clients book my flights, so that is not always an option. Instead I twitter about SAS, and generally let them burn in public when they mess up my flights.

A slightly different – and much more effective way of providing tangible feedback – is this (watch it to the end):

Thanks to Pontus at the office for the tip. :-)

Don’t tell your wife

And in the category “Things I never expected to hear myself say to my wife”, I yesterday heard myself say to my wife:

- I’m going to dance tango with Daniel now, but I’ll call you after that.

I know learning is never easy. This is just added proof.


Pushing or suggesting?

Last tango lesson I had a bit of a revelation. My overall problem – as I have described – is that I tend to expect everyone to be self sufficient and not in need of any leadership. So I don’t lead.

But last lesson in tango I realized that when I actually lead, I tend to push instead of suggest a certain action.

In tango this became clear when my teacher turned the tables and let me follow instead of lead. She showed me instead of explaining it, and it became very clear that when I want someone to move in a certain direction I try to “be polite” and show the exact direction by closing down all other options and pushing in the only direction left. But that really is not polite at all – perhaps time effective in the very short run. But to follow that kind of leadership is both irritating and boring.

Just like in real life. I give no options, only explain the path that is best.

I need to practice to not close out any alternatives, but just open one up slightly more than the others.

I know that may not make any sense at all for anyone else. But for me it became crystal clear, and it will affect my work leadership style a lot from now on.

Happy new year!

…and my mobile phone will be off tonight. The getting and sending of SMS and MMS and voice is nice, but I want to look at my lovely kids and my lovely wife tonight – not at the iPhone :-)

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