Because so many of our blog posts apply to both management and leadership, we often lump the two together. Of course this doesn't mean the two are the same thing: Management is about the efficient maintenance of the status quo, about ensuring that things run effectively as planned, whereas Leadership is about going beyond the status quo and driving change, growth and innovation.

Every organisation and every manager must strike a balance between fulfilling the demands of management and the imperatives of leadership. It's a simple fact that those that don't do so will have trouble both functioning and surviving.

When an organisation loses this balance by placing a disproportionate amount of time and resources on fulfilling management responsibilities, they often fall into a state of active inertia. Without forward-thinking leadership, people become inwardly focused and blind to the realities of the market, unconscious prisoners of organisational routines that can be next to impossible to break. (And that's assuming that you can ever convince them that they should break their routines!) In fact, people get so used to doing things a certain way that when confronted with adversity, they dig in deeper because they simply lack the clarity and ability to consider alternate approaches beyond what they already know. Many actually believe that the problem is with reality, not them!

A few years ago, in trying to describe how this phenomenon was affecting her company, a senior manager of one of our corporate clients said to us, "Trying to get things done around here is like swimming through peanut butter." It's hard to express it much more clearly than that!

Active inertia is a dangerous state for any organisation, and for those that are in it, it can be a nightmare to get out of because it stifles initiative. It takes a serious jolt of leadership to do so, something that reboots and reinvigorates the way that people in the business understand their environment so that they take notice of the 'red flags' that warn of the need to change the way they do things. It takes leadership to get people thinking about where they are as an organisation, where it's going and how it will get there.

Are your people swimming through peanut butter? Is getting things done in your organisation difficult? Have you allowed your business to fall into a state of active inertia? It's a question that people in organisations big and small must ask themselves because the consequences are real and very damaging. To neglect your leadership responsibilities is to doom your people to a deep pool of peanut butter!

Posted: 23/08/2011 4:25:08 PM by Andy Klein | with 0 comments
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Two weeks ago we posted the first part of a conversation with Bud Boughton in which we explored why so many leaders fail to take action. In Bud's mind, this is most often attributable to a fear of failure.

This week, we share excerpts in which Bud offers his opinion on what leaders can do to ensure that they cultivate an environment that embraces taking measured risks.

How can leaders get over their fear of failing and take action?

Maybe everybody doesn't have it, but I think it comes down to finding the entrepreneurial spirit deep inside of you that says, "We need to believe in what we're doing." Think of Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks. If he walked into his parents' living room and said, "I'm going to start a coffee shop chain that sells drinks for $4.25", his parents would have thought he was crazy! The same is true of Frederick Smith, the founder of FedEx. Who would have ever thought that you could put together an overnight package delivery service that would literally have 747s flying all over the world, pulling into depots where packages would be unloaded and rerouted onto other planes... and it would only cost customers $23? In both cases, and in the case of the most successful business models, the founders were not only willing to think outside of the box, but they so firmly believed in their vision that they could set any fear aside and take action.

It's probably easier for a fledgling company to embrace this spirit. But what about mature companies – you can even point to the modern-day versions of Starbucks and FedEx. How can leaders in these businesses engender a culture that isn't imprisoned by 'the box'?

That's a great point. Interestingly, in the case of Starbucks, they realised in the last few years that they had grown too fast and made some bad decisions. So they adjusted back and closed a number of Starbucks worldwide. About a year ago, they even went so far as to close every US location for one day to regroup with all employees and discuss how they would move forward. Think about that – that's unheard of! But you know what? Someone saw the need to do something very, very different, so they did it, and now Starbucks has turned their situation around.

Where does the creativity required to make these changes come from within an organisation?

I think it comes from anyone. There's tremendous value in getting cross pollination between the different generational groups, such as matures, baby boomers, Gen X's and Gen Y's. There are big cultural differences between each, but in the workplace, we have to get them working together. The young people need to sit down with the older people, and those older people need to let themselves be educated about the Gen Y's. Ask the Gen Y's, "If we were to come up with a new service, what would you suggest and how would we do it?" For example, I can tell you that many of the innovations in Internet banking weren't thought of by 60 year-olds. They were probably younger people who said, "Why should I have to go to the bank? I should be able to do any of this from my computer or mobile smartphone!"

It's an all-hands-on-deck mentality. And what better way for people in leadership roles to rally their troops than to invite their ideas and their participation?

I believe that every day is filled with opportunities to learn new things. People should always look to be students, to adopt an attitude in which they're willing to change and learn new things: it keeps you fresh, thinking younger, more productive and more successful. But some people aren't comfortable with doing that. They're either intimidated by it or they're fearful that they'll be judged if they fail. It's very real. I think you need to take advantage of all of the brain cells that are out there. Put everyone in the same room and say, "We all live in the same world, how do we do things better?"

I'm not the first person to say this, but senior managers have to get out of their office and walk the floor more. At one of my prior jobs, our chairman had practically isolated himself with a corner office and a private parking spot; he had no exposure to people. So I suggested to him that he should personally distribute pay checks once a month throughout the whole building so he could thank people, shake their hands, ask how they were doing and get their opinion on what the company could be doing better. Those are the people who understand the situation the best because they're closest to the customer, they're closest to product development issues, they're closest to everything. So many senior managers fail because they're so busy with their discussions about strategy and numbers that they forget that the nature of the business is how to deliver the product or service better and produce more satisfied customers. And sometimes to get inspiration to achieve these ends, it means you have to walk the floor and talk to people.

A huge thank you to Bud for taking some time to offer his thoughts on these topics – we hope you found it as interesting as we did! If you have any thoughts to add, feel free to share in the comments below.

 


Author of two books and numerous articles, Bud Boughton is a former senior executive and thought leader who as a sales coach and leadership development consultant is wired to do one thing – improve performance. A former American football coach who has sold for three Fortune 500 companies and was an officer of a publicly traded company, he brings a wide range of experience to his clients. An outstanding professional speaker, go to www.budboughton.com for more information.

Posted: 16/08/2011 2:19:08 PM by Andy Klein | with 1 comments
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For anyone following the Christine Nixon saga as she releases her book and the Australian media continuing its questioning of Nixon's actions during the Black Saturday disaster, it has provided yet another opportunity to consider a leader's role and what kind of responsibility they must bear for the success or failure of their people. (Not that we ever seem to have this debate in cases of success!) Without pulling any punches, Nixon has branded the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission (VBRC) a "witch hunt" and accused the media of having a "fattist" agenda.

To date, Nixon has denied explicit accountability for what happened that day, this despite the VBRC's Final Report saying, "Although many of the functions associated with each individual's role might have been delegated to subordinates, these people were still ultimately accountable." In an interview with Leigh Sales on ABC1's 7:30, after Nixon did her best to turn blame onto a media agenda, Sales makes a direct inquiry:

Sales: "If you hadn't made those misjudgments, if you hadn't gone out to dinner, if you hadn't failed to inform yourself, if you hadn't failed to check the warnings being given to communities, then those newspapers would have had nothing to criticise you over. So I come back to the point: is it not your own fault to begin with?"

Nixon: "Well, I'm not sure that that's the case, Leigh. I mean, you're suggesting that all of those things, if they had have been done differently, I still wouldn't have been blamed."

Funny that Nixon doesn't even entertain the chance that disaster could have been prevented (or at least mitigated) if she had done things differently! Such an attitude, from any leader in any organisation, could hardly inspire a lot of confidence in their people.

So, like Rupert Murdoch not too long before her, Nixon clearly fails the "willingness to accept accountability" test. And also just like Rupert Murdoch, Nixon seems to be playing the "trust" defense:

Murdoch told British MPs, "I hold responsible the people that I trusted to run it and the people they trusted."

Nixon told the VBRC that she had faith in the people around her, adding, "The last thing any emergency team needs in the grip of a crisis is the boss breathing down their necks, second-guessing their decisions, or suddenly charging in to wrest control."

Here we'd like to pause and consider Nixon's rationale that she didn't inject herself into management of the crisis because she didn't want to interfere with her people, who she claims to have had full faith in. If this truly was Nixon's thought process on the night of 7 February 2009, it's at the very least an interesting notion to entertain because as we know, effective leaders place their trust in their people.

We'd like to hear from you. Please let us know in the comments:

Did Nixon act appropriately by supposedly placing her trust in her people and allowing them to work through it on their own? Would her presence in the control center have negatively impacted the performance of her people, as she implies?

OR

Despite however much trust she had in her people, did Nixon neglect her broader obligation to oversee her people's work on behalf of the community? Should she have taken a more hands-on role, even if she did end up breathing down some necks or second guessing decisions?

As it always does, it comes down to a matter of judgment. How much trust should you place in your people? And to what degree should you oversee their work? Please let us know what you think.

Posted: 8/08/2011 6:59:48 PM by Andy Klein | with 0 comments
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Bud BoughtonA few weeks back, you may have read our post arguing that business value is determined by the creativity of its people. In the blog, we also explored the stimulus for human creativity, which to us is directly attributable to the quality of management and the quality of leadership.

You may have also seen a comment left on the blog, from Bud Boughton, in which he said (in part),

"Isn't this why so many businesses today are struggling? Inept leadership or the lack thereof is what plagues so many companies. We need to cultivate a new brand of leadership, leadership that is not afraid to think creatively and take measured risks. It is not enough to think creatively, we must cultivate leaders who are willing to take action based upon their creative thinking."

As a form of introduction, Bud has a longstanding relationship with The Fortune Group in the USA as a customer and an advocate. Formally a senior executive of a publicly-traded company, he now acts as a sales coach and leadership development consultant.

We often say that The Fortune Group's approach turns ideas into action, and action into results. As Bud's comment speaks directly to the first half of this – turning ideas into action – we were interested to hear more. Specifically: How can leaders not only inspire ideas but also ensure they're actioned? So in a recent conversation, we asked him to elaborate.

This week we offer some excerpts in which Bud explores his original comment in more detail.

What's the current state of leadership in regards to this issue of thinking and acting creatively?

People give lip service to thinking out of the box all the time. But when it really comes to the rubber meeting the road, it's all about taking action and doing things outside of the box. And I think that's where a lot of people in leadership positions struggle and fail immensely.

If you're going to talk the talk, then walk the walk. In other words, as a leader, if you call your people together for a brainstorming session, say you're going to do things differently and ask for their input, that's great! It will get employees excited and motivated. But all too often leaders allow their people to leave that session and let things go right back to the way they were. Leaders must take the responsibility of ensuring that action is taken – it's the only way to impact bottom line results.

I heard a quote the other day: "If you want to have something you've never had, then you're probably going to have to do something you've never done." That's the essence of what we're talking about: If you truly want to get to a level you've never been to before, if you want to compete more effectively in an environment that's more competitive than it has ever been, chances are you're going to have to do something you've never done before.

Can you offer an example of a company that has failed to take measured risks?

Well, an entire industry that's coming to grips with this failure is banking. For years, especially here in the US, banks operated under the mantra of "build it and they will come." So they blindly built more and more branches and assumed that the organic growth of the market would support their own growth. But with recent regulatory changes that limit the types of fees they can charge and technological changes that have created a demand for Internet banking, the banks have been forced to act outside of their comfort zone. And because they've never cultivated this culture of acting outside of the box, it's something they're really struggling with.

Why do so many leaders fail to act?

The big thing that holds us back from doing something new is that famous four-letter word: FEAR. Fear of the possibility of failing, fear that people may look at us differently. Taking qualified risks has always been part of business and it's something that I think people in leadership and management positions need to consider and find ways to creatively do. By doing so, it motivates their employees and helps them be more productive, more excited and have a greater sense of purpose for where they work.

With the scene now fully set, next time we'll hear Bud's suggestions for how leaders can get over this fear, cultivate an environment of action and how to take qualified risks.

 


Author of two books and numerous articles, Bud Boughton is a former senior executive and thought leader who as a sales coach and leadership development consultant is wired to do one thing – improve performance. A former American football coach who has sold for three Fortune 500 companies and was an officer of a publicly traded company, he brings a wide range of experience to his clients. An outstanding professional speaker, go to www.budboughton.com for more information.

Posted: 2/08/2011 10:23:58 PM by Andy Klein | with 2 comments
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