Leader Memos

By Ian Cook

 

These are SHORT pieces that offer practical tips and useful insights to help managers bring out the best in the people they lead.

 


• Save Your People Time and Attention–a Most Limited Resource

• What Jeff Immelt Learned from Leading GE’s Transition

• Expectations, the Burden of the High Potential Employee

• Hey, It Worked for the Cubs Last Year

• Courage-It Comes with the Leader Job

• To Say “No” or not to Say “No”

• “Negativity 2.0”: The Cynical Employee

• Check in on that Employee’s Level of Engagement

• When You Make an Impact Do They Ever Let You Know?

• Cutting Edge Leadership Development



Save Your People’s Time and Attention–a Most Limited Resource

March 2018

In these memos, besides offering my own thoughts, I try to curate for you good ideas that I run across.

Here’s a very worthwhile 30-minute podcast, a conversation with Jason Fried, CEO of Basecamp, the creator of a well known and widely used enterprise-wide organizing, collaboration and communication platform. The title is “Restoring Sanity in the Workplace.”

This is the HBR Ideacast link: https://hbr.org/ideacast/2016/12/restoring-sanity-to-the-office.html

Fried shares some intriguing techniques plus strong beliefs in the area of time, priority, and attention management. (Yeah, I know, pleeze…not another time management spiel.) Check it out anyway.

Here are four points of his that stood out for me (who, by the way, has taught time management…as has just about every speaker somewhere along the way.):

  1. “Library rules” & “no-talk Thursdays”
    We all know–and respect–the rules in play when we enter a library. At Basecamp they operate under the same norms. If you have to talk, you both/all go into a room so designated to have your conversation. Now, they operate this way all the time. People tend to get more done and leave feeling better about their day. Fried suggests you try it out for one day (e.g. Thursday) or even a half day.
  2. Asynchronous communication is the most productiveThey have found that, unless it is a critical issue with a demanding time frame, allowing the receiver to respond to a message in his/her own time makes for a calmer environment and frees people up to do more. Furthermore, most topics or issues are not that pressing. So, this suggests chat rooms and email/text exchanges in place of arranging a particular time to…yes, meet.
  3. Meeting as the last resortI agree with Jason Fried that most meetings are a waste of time. So often they comprise mostly updates on the status of what everyone is doing. And, as he says, most people in meetings don’t accomplish work; at best, they discuss issues which generate work for people to do after the meeting. That said, I do endorse meetings that call for a group of appropriate attendees to examine, in real time, a complex issue and determine the resolution of it. Start regarding meetings as a last resort. It will drive a discipline in you and your team around when and why to gather together.
  4. Forty hours is enough!Fried takes a provocative stand around limiting people to working only forty hours a week. He sees this as a moral issue and part of ethical management practice. If people in the organization adhere to the strategies he lays out, they should seldom have to put in extra hours. In his words, “as a business owner, I don’t feel that I’m entitled to anyone’s nights or weekends.”

Give this one a listen. It will cause you to stop and imagine another way of being in the workplace.
Ian Cook
Best wishes,

Ian Cook

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What Jeff Immelt Learned from Leading GE’s Transition

December 2017

Immelt took over the reins of GE in 2001 and handed them off sixteen years later. During this period he led a massive gradual shift from broad conglomerate to a digital industrial company deeply involved in the internet of things. They doubled investment in R & D, expanded to 180 countries, streamlined admin, shortened cycle times, and decentralized the structure.

He shared seven key lessons in the Sept/Oct issue of Harvard Business Review. While the transformation he fostered was way, way larger than you or I will touch, Immelt’s guidelines are worth a skim:

  1. Be disciplined and focusedabout where you are going and what you need to let go of. For GE, it was to become a highly value adding technology-driven industrial company.
  2. Immerse yourself in and reflect uponthe realities, obstacles, trends, changes etc. you will need to navigate. Part of this included classic “wandering around.” Before you proceed further, you must arrive at the firm personal belief that change is absolutely necessary for the sustainability of your enterprise.
  3. Frame the transition as a life-and-death movefor the company. Communicate this repeatedly and forcefully so that your employees understand the urgency.
  4. Commit to yourself and to others to go all the waywith the change and reflect this in your actions. Immelt did this through a major, cross-GE initiative to embed sensors in their products and develop the analytics capability to manage the data.
  5. Hang in. Things never go as planned. There will always be set backs, resistance from select stakeholders, and unforeseen obstacles. A big one for GE was none other than the recession of 2008.
  6. Stay agile,not knowing all the answers and ready to pivot when necessary. This is really tough to do. You are focused and committed and yet need to be able to change course. It’s yin & yang in play simultaneously.
  7. Embrace the new.It may be a new culture, a new way of operating, and new people brought on board with different backgrounds, expectations, and perspectives.

As I read the full article it struck me it takes a certain kind of leader to perform these seven actions: the character strengths of steadfastness and tenacity combined with the humility to adjust or even let go of specific objectives.

This is why I choose the approach of The Leadership Circlewhen helping leaders and their teams raise the ceiling of the results they are able to create.

Ian Cook
Best wishes,

Ian Cook

 

What I’m Reading

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

by Yuval Noah Harari

Like his earlier book, Sapiens (which, ideally, you read first), Harari provokes our thinking and expands our view of possible futures.

Humankind has for the most part obliterated or found the ability to obliterate war, famine, and plagues. The challenges of the next frontier, says the author, are twofold: (1) continually extending our life spans by pushing back death (what he calls the “flagship project of the coming century”) and (2) enabling humans to find true and sustained happiness.

Immortality (1) and eternal bliss (2) – doesn’t this sound a lot like being a god? But when we humans try to reengineer ourselves through artificial intelligence, synthetic body parts, algorithims, biochemical interventions and the like, we risk undermining our humanist dream and quite possibly losing control.

Harari winds up partly optimistic and partly pessimistic. I came out of the read leaning more to the downside of all this. See where you come out.

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Expectations, the Burden of the High Potential Employee

August 2017

Do you have a high potential leadership development program in your organization?

Do you have a “HiPo” reporting to you?

Have you yourself been identified as high potential?

If you answer “yes” to any of the above, I suggest you check out The Talent Curse: Why High Potentials Struggle–and How They Can Grow Through Itin the May-June issue of Harvard Business Review. I have delivered sessions to various HiPo programs over the years but this article raises an issue that I have never considered.

Here is the article’s core message: When someone is designated as “high potential” an array of high expectations are laid upon them by upper management. Wanting to live up to these expectations, the HiPo starts playing it cautious, avoiding the risk of failing and worrying more about their image than their actual performance and growth.

According to the authors’ research, many HiPos, once so designated, stop demonstrating the refreshing drive, passion, and high risk/high achievement behavior that captured management’s attention in the first place. To quote the authors, “Paradoxically, being recognized as talented robs them of their talents.”

But this isn’t true just for the “stars,” is it? It applies to all of us. Once we decide to please and curry the favor of our managers, we shift into a child/parent type of relationship with them. We give up our power, our uniqueness, and most importantly, our authenticity. We no longer are able to be contribute our best.

What can be done to avoid this dynamic? How can we preserve the tremendous value that ensues from having an exceedingly talented individual develop to his or her full potential?

As a HiPo yourself, remember that while you have talent, you are not your talent! Bring your full self into work: your warts, your weaknesses, your assertive side, and your unique way of being in the world. Focus on performing at your best and learning as much as you can from challenging–and yes, sometimes risky–assignments. It takes courage to resist the pressure to conform to others’ versions of how you should be.

As a manager of a HiPos, be conscious of your own expectations of them. Are you restricting them to how you think they should be and act? Allow them to blossom into their full potential and add enormous value to your enterprise. This means challenging them with special assignments, lateral jobs, etc. but at the same time allowing them to “fail.” As we all know so well, stretch learning often comes from falling short, assessing what happened, and moving forward with new understanding.

As the authors’ study revealed, the stress of feeling that they have to be perfect and that every opportunity is, in fact, a test may very well drive your brightest and your best right out the door.

Then, what a wasted investment. What a needless gap in your leadership pipeline. And what a loss to your future cadre of leaders.

Ian Cook

Best wishes,

Ian Cook

 

What I’m Reading

The Second Machine Age,

Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies

by Erik Brynjolfsson & Andrew McAfee

The (human) losers to IBM’s Watson in that famous Jeopardy show back in 2011 called themselves “the first knowledge-industry workers put out of work by a thinking machine.” We all are wondering how fast and to what extent AI (artificial intelligence) will render the rest of us redundant.

This book came out in 2014, a precursor to so many that have followed. The authors conducted research and held in-depth conversations with a wide range of experts who are making the new technology and implementers who are putting it to work in the world today. This led to three broad conclusions:

  1. We are at an inflection point (think hockey stick graph) where astonishing progress is happening in digital technologies. The “first machine age” began with the invention of the steam engine and the industrial revolution really started to take off.
  2. The coming digital transformation will, by-and-large, bring about beneficial changes. They do caution us, however, about the potential downside of the new technology getting into the hands of people who seek to take our stuff or who wish us ill will.
  3. It will not be a smooth transition to a truly digital world. There will be winners and losers, especially in the area of gainful employment. We will need to find ways to adapt to these changes, not try to stop–like modern day King Canutes–the march of technology. The general idea is to run with the machines, not compete with them.

In the end, Brynjolfsson & McAfee are optimistic about outcomes for we humans.

Of course, not everyone who writes in this arena is of a similar mind…

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Hey, It Worked for the Cubs Last Year

June 2017

I am so completely NOT a baseball fan. But even I couldn’t avoid at least vaguely tracking the Chicago Cubs as, ever mindful of it’s 108-year drought since its last championship, they slogged through to Game 7 against the Cleveland Indians. And they only just broke this centennial+ “curse” in the bottom of the 10th inning to win the World Series.

There is a book about the rebuilding of the Chicago franchise, Cub’s Way. Not being a fan, of course, I didn’t read it. But I did read a recent article in Fortune Magazinenaming the club President, Theo Epstein, as one of Fortune’s 50 World’s Greatest Leaders for 2017. Here’s the link: http://fortune.com/2017/03/23/theo-epstein-chicago-cubs-worlds-greatest-leaders/

Epstein gained fame by guiding the Boston Red Sox to six playoff appearances and two World Series titles over just nine seasons including, ironically, ending the Sox’ 86-year championship drought. To do so he leaned heavily on the “moneyball” approach of using detailed technical data and extreme metrics to select and develop the players.

In Chicago, instead of simply repeating the metric-heavy analytic strategy–which any club could replicate–Epstein added something that other teams couldn’t so easily copy. As a result, the advance of the Cubbies from cellar dweller to World Series champs was accomplished in only five years.

Epstein sourced new players and retained them based not only on their baseball prowess and but also on the quality of their character and their level of self-motivated discipline.

  • How do they handle adversity, on and off the field?
  • What do their friends say about them? What do their enemies say?
  • What’s their family background?
  • What motivates them to excellence? Money, fame, or something more internally driven?
  • To what extent will they fit into and help create a positive culture within the team?

The idea was to rebuild the franchise on the powerful chemistry that would emerge when such exceptional individuals come together for a common purpose.

How often in our own organizations we hire and promote people based pretty much exclusively on their technical knowledge and ability. So, here’s a suggestion. Before we formulate our talent acquisition and development strategies we should pause and pose the “WWTD” question…

…“What would Theo do?”

Ian Cook

Best wishes,

Ian Cook

 

What I’m Reading

Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations,

by Thomas Friedman

Tom Friedman’s genius is that he can take a complex array of variables–typically economic, social, technological, cultural, and political–and show how they interplay as a system.

According to the author, the three elements that are accelerating and converging in this century, each one of huge consequence in its own right, are:

  • technology (in the form of Moore’s law),
  • globalization (of markets and information), and
  • climate change.

There is much in the book to inform and provoke the thinking of leaders. The impact these three elements are beginning to have on work, learning, production, innovation, etc. should concern us all. But it should concern especially those in leadership positions at or near the top of their companies, not-for-profits, and government institutions.

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Courage-It Comes with the Leader Job

March 2017

I have been enjoying the first season of the Netflix production, The Crown. It’s about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, starting around the time of the death of her father, King George VI.

Early on there is a poignant flashback scene where the King gets his young daughters, Elizabeth and younger sister Margaret, to swear that they will always put one another first. They swear.

Flash forward to Elizabeth on the throne and Princess Margaret deeply in love with Group Captain Peter Townsend, a senior attendant to the British royal household and recently divorced. Margaret asks the queen to consent to Peter and she marrying. Elizabeth, impressed by the depth of her sister’s feelings, pledges to support the marriage, on the condition that the couple wait two years, until Margaret has turned 25 and no longer requires the Queen’s formal consent.

The couple patiently remains apart for the two years. But then a glitch appears. It turns out that, as head of the Church of England, Elizabeth must, constitutionally, support and honor the tenets of her church. One of those tenets: Christian marriage is indissoluble. Elizabeth finds herself in an impossible position.

After days of agonizing over her dilemma, Elizabeth has the excruciating task of informing her dear sister that she cannot now honor the promise she had made. She is not able to give her approval and, furthermore, if Margaret proceeds she will be stripped of her royal privileges and income.

The stab of feeling betrayed cuts into Margaret like a knife. And the agony of guilt floods through the Queen as she stoically standsby her duty as monarch. It’s a powerful scene in the TV series that portrays a pivotal leadership moment calling for high courage and steadfastness from Her Majesty..

The lesson? Leadership is not just about vision, strategic intelligence, and inspiring people to follow. It also, on occasion, calls upon the leader to find within themselves a level of courageous authenticity that others rarely have to demonstrate.

Here are a few examples: Hanging tough when others are losing faith in your stretch organizational goals, turning around a toxic workplace culture, confronting poor performers, and…finding yourself thrust into a point-of-choice situation where either decision will violate your core values and perhaps your very integrity.

Long may you reign, leaders.

Ian Cook

Best wishes,

Ian Cook

 

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To Say “No” or not to Say “No”

January 2017

Are you a “go to” person–too often–in the eyes of your boss?

Are there times when you want to decline a task but don’t know how to say it?

When is it smart to say “Yes?”

We all get extra assignments delegated by our boss. Sometimes they are thankless tasks. Sometimes they are “drudge work.” Sometimes we are genuinely too busy. Sometimes we resent always being the one called upon to step up.

Then again, often assignments carry positive outcomes for us…to learn and stretch, to work with new people, to build our reputation, to do a favor for our boss, to honor the trust being placed in us.

As a general rule, I think saying “yes” whenever you can is a smart career move. It solves your boss’s immediate problem and builds your brand as a team player. Never saying “no”, however, can hurt you in at least two ways:

  1. Jeopardize your ability to deliver on your expected job outcomes and standards.
  2. Build for you a different brand: doormat.

Here’s the audio link to a great podcast (#517, March 2016) from Harvard Business Review IdeaCast. It’s called “Saying ’No’ to More Work.” It will give you lots to think about as you determine how best to respond when someone higher up says to you…

…“here’s something else I’d like you to handle” offer.”

Ian Cook

Best wishes,

Ian Cook

 

What I’m Reading

An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization

by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey

I love how this provocative book opens:

Most people are doing a second job no one is paying for. [They] are spending time and energy covering up their weaknesses, managing other people’s impressions of them, showing themselves to their best advantage, playing politics, hiding their inadequacies, hiding their uncertainties, hiding their limitations. Hiding.

We regard this as the single biggest loss of resources that organizations suffer every day.

For whom of us does this not ring true? But imagine what it would be like to work in a place where we didn’t have to operate like this.

An Everyone Culture will appeal particularly to senior leaders whose organization faces a marketplace or domain of service that is fraught with rapid change, uncertainty, and complex forces. The authors challenge enterprises to shift their culture toward one of openness where it is safe to admit when you don’t know and when you have pulled back–out of fear–from taking a strong stand or giving your authentic feedback or point of view.

They present three companies that have achieved this. These firms start with the assumption that people want to learn and get better, are wired to grow. Their way of operating presents learning opportunities every day. Within a culture of unparalleled candidness, all employees engage in helping themselves and others overcome their limitations and blind spots and improve their mastery of increasingly challenging work.

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“Negativity 2.0”: The Cynical Employee

December 2016

It’s one thing to have to deal with a negative team member, one who sees the worst in everything, who dwells on “what’s wrong” rather than considering “what’s possible.” You can gently begin to confront them by asking ask what they would like to see instead.

But what if your employee is not just negative? What if he or she is downright cynical?

Cynicism is a deeper and more virulent form of negativity. The cynic distrusts the motives of other people and expects negative outcomes in most situations. Where the negative person says, “it won’t work” or “he’s not up to the job,” the cynic declares “it won’t work because nothing like this ever does” or “he can’t lead the department because he’s just out for his own self-interest.”

Embedded in the cynic’s words is a feeling of contempt, of bitterness. They express the perceptions of someone who has lost faith in the honorable intentions of others or in a life that can and frequently does generate positive outcomes.

It’s wise to keep in mind, of course, that chronic cynicism in a staff member may well reflect deeper psychological issues that require the services of someone who is clinically trained.

Short of that situation, however, you may try a couple of these approaches:

What causes you to say (or believe) that?

Where did you learn this to be the case?

How can you be so sure (of what you are saying)?

Is it possible that you are missing something in your assessment?

Would you be open to looking at things through another lens? What would it take to consider another point of view?

The strategy here is to first get the cynical employee to see how absolute and unyielding their belief is about the individual or the situation in question. It’s hard to believe but most cynics are not consciously aware of how dogmatic they are. Nor do they realize how their rigid negative views hamper their effectiveness as an employee and team member.

Only when you succeed in raising their awareness of their cynicism and its impact can you invite them to explore alternate versions of the “truth.”

Jack Gibb, the author of the book Trust, said that the key life question is whether or not I trust that the universe is a friendly place. The cynic, sadly, doesn’t.

Ian CookBest wishes,

Ian Cook

 

What I’m Reading

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
by Yuval Noah HarariThis is not a book about leadership but about the people leaders lead (and are): humans. It provides a wide expanse of our development as a species, through three transformations.First, the Cognitive where we not only experience the physical reality of our environment but the imagined realities of stories, gods, nations, institutions, money, etc. Then, the Agricultural when we settled down in one place, farmed the land, and fostered the emergence of institutions, hierarchy, work specialization, laws, writing, trade, and the ability to feed a huge growth in population. Finally, the Scientific revolution, where humans came to accept that, rather than being at the mercy of the gods, they are capable of making progress through discovery and the manipulation of the elemental forces of nature.The author weaves in the pervading, ultimately global influences of universal “orders”: monetary, imperial (nation states and empires), and religious.It can only help us, as leaders, to better understand the deep-rooted forces of cultural evolution that have come to shape us and the social environment in which we work and live.

 



Check in on that Employee’s Level of Engagement

November 2016

You have an employee; let’s call him Jeremy. Jeremy has been a solid performer until this past year when he has been gradually losing energy in his work. He still does an OK job but lacks enthusiasm for it. He’s more going through the motions. He no longer brings new ideas to his work.

But when he talks about the industry, the organization’s challenges, or even another function within the enterprise, you see his old sparkle re-emerge.

The Gallup organization has famously found over the years that roughly only 30% of employees are truly engaged in their jobs. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Jeremy might be less than involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace. (Gallup’s definition of “engaged.”)

As his manager, what can you do?

You can’t single handedly transform the corporate culture or carve out new promotional pipelines in the company. You can’t get the executive leaders to show that they genuinely care about all the staff.

But you can start by reaching for the low hanging fruit. You can talk with Jeremy about his current job. Here are several questions to consider asking:

  1. What part of your job do you like the best? What parts give you the most satisfaction? What is it about these aspects that you like?
  2. When you feel happiest in your work, what part of your job are you doing?
  3. What part do you like the least, tasks perhaps that you tend to avoid or do not look forward to?
  4. What’s missing in your current job that, if present, would make it stimulating/fulfilling/challenging. (pick one or more)
  5. If you could alter your job to make it more attractive to you, how would you change it?

These set you up for a conversation about what’s working (#1 & 2), what’s not working (#3), and what needs to be changed (#4 & 5) if Jeremy is to become re-engaged in his work.

Of course, it may not be possible to redesign his existing job sufficiently. But, then again, it may. Either way, you will have started him thinking about what’s present and what’s missing for him.

And you will have interrupted his doldrums and invited him to take accountability for his lack of engagement. Now both of you are in a position to explore what’s possible to help this essentially good employee get on the productive path once again.

Ian Cook

Best wishes,

Ian Cook

 

The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune, and Survival in the Ae of Networks by Joshua Cooper Ramo What I’m Reading

The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune, and Survival in the Age of Networks
by Joshua Cooper RamoYou hear a lot of talk about the unpredictable environments in which today’s leaders must operate. A popular catch-all term to describe this is VUCA: volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity. Working effectively in such an environment is, in fact, what leader development using The Leadership Circle Profile is designed to address.This book offers a look at what we will have to deal with in the several decades that lie immediately ahead of us. Leaders (and all of us, for that matter) are facing the profound and accelerating impact of the unseen forces of our connectivity across the planet. The author likens the human adjustment this will demand to the shift Europe experienced in the enlightenment and all of humankind went through in the industrial revolution.What he calls the Seventh Sense is the ability to look at any object, institution, established procedure, group, etc. and see how it is being changed by connections.This book will scramble your existing perspective about the future of power and its distribution in all areas of society, including the space in which your organization operates. An important new awareness, especially if you are a senior leader or expect to become one some day.


When You Make an Impact Do They Ever Let You Know?

August 2016

Recently I delivered a plenary presentation at a conference of managers. The title of my talk was “Developing Leaders…on Both Sides of the Skull.” In it I stressed the importance of developing both the “outer game” of skills and behaviors as well as the “inner game” of assumptions and beliefs that drive the leader’s outer behavior.

I told a story about Sally.

Sally was a manager I had coached who was extremely complying, what we would call a “super pleaser.” Her belief was that, above all else, everybody had to like her and think positively about her all the time.

As a consequence, she would not confront poor performers about their work. She avoided delegating legitimate tasks to her staff for fear that they would become angry with her. But she wasn’t a happy camper herself because she ended up staying late and taking work home…the work of others.

In her coaching we explored these assumptions and the negative impact they were having on her and on her department. She decided to take a courageous step and assertively address the poor performance of an employee. She also handed off some tasks to other staff. To her great surprise they did not push back angrily but received the feedback well and the work handoff without complaint. And here’s the best part: they began to respect her and work harder…for her!

After my presentation a woman approached me and said, “I want to thank you for your speech. I got a lot out of it.” I said, thank you, I’m glad you did.” “No no,” she said, “you don’t understand. You see, I am a Sally and I realize now that I don’t have to be that way.”

My heart jumped into my throat. When she moved on I thought to myself, “Man, this is exactly why I do this work. I wonder how many others in the audience today were touched by my talk but never came forward to tell me. Probably more than I realize”

It’s not just speakers who get to make a difference in people’s lives. Managers do too. And they have many more opportunities than a single keynote.

Ian Cook

Best wishes,

Ian Cook

Neuroscience for Leadership: Harnassing the Brain Gain Advantage by Tara Swart, Kitty Chisholm, and Paul Brown What I’m Reading

Neuroscience for Leadership: Harnassing the Brain Gain Advantage
by Tara Swart, Kitty Chisholm, and Paul BrownOne of the truly cutting edge areas of leadership development has emerged from the field of brain science. I like how the authors position this book as but a snapshot of where neuroscience is today, a step along the journey of an emerging domain of study. Where there is “sufficient clustering of evidence and scientific consensus” they layout what the current agreements lie.They offer a fairly comprehensive coverage of how the brain operates with respect to humans in a leadership role. The brain is concerned first and foremost with safety and survival…to sustain the species, of course. So, we learn a lot about how neurotransmitters respond to perceived threats. Inside our cranium a boss’s expressed displeasure is no different from threat of a physical assault.There are lots of practical tips. For example, to enable our brain to make good decisions, it needs us to be reasonably relaxed, hydrated, engaged in a good balance between intuition and rationality, and able to regulate our emotional states. Each chapter provides an extensive checklist of actions we can take to improve our brain functioning so that we can be happier and wend our way more efficiently through our lives.

 



Cutting Edge Leadership Development

April 2016

I want to alert you to a significant book that was recently published on the topic of developing leaders. “Oh wow,” you say, “one more book on leadership…I can hardly wait.”

Whoa, push your pause button. This is definitely not just “one more book.”

This is the culmination of, combined, over sixty years by Bob Anderson and Bill Adams observing and working with leaders, intensely studying leader development, and assembling a truly cutting edge body of knowledge on the subject.

What they have created is a practical roadmap for raising the capacity of managers in any organization to deal effectively with the increasing complexity of the environment in which they must lead. The challenge is that this complexity is growing more rapidly than our leaders are!

In a tour de force the authors have integrated a number of significant theories and research results into a unified framework. Think of thought leaders like Peter Block, Robert Fritz, Karen Horney, Peter Senge, Robert Kegan, Dan Goleman, and Ken Wilbur. A piece of each of their pivotal works is embedded in the authors’ Universal Model of Leadership.

If you fall into any of the following groups, I strongly suggest that you get hold of this book:

  • Senior leaders who are…
    • looking to grow your own effectiveness
    • interested in fostering the level of collective effectiveness of their top team to where it becomes a significant competitive advantage
    • concerned about the ability of their current leadership pipeline to generate high quality future leaders who will sustain and grow the enterprise
  • Functional specialists in talent development or HR
  • Designers and coordinators of high potential leadership programs
  • Consultants, trainers, OD specialists interested in keeping on the cutting edge of this exciting field.

Here’s my suggestion to optimize your reading time:

The first five chapters, up to page 86, provide a good overview of the model and layout the strong link between (1) leadership effectiveness and (2) business/organizational performance.

Chapters 8, 9, & 10 cover the two key stages of leader development, Problem-Reacting and Outcome-Creating.

Chapter 11 lays out six essential leadership practices that will bring out the best in a leader and move him or her to a higher stage of adult development and, hence, effectiveness with those he/she leads.

We are now focusing our work in leader development using the LeadershipCircle model, 360º profile, and their suite of related tools and programs.

Once you have read Mastering Leadership, I invite you to contact me to discuss the ideas and approaches that registered most–and least–with you.

Ian Cook

Best wishes,

Ian Cook

A Mind for Business by Andy Gibson What I’m Reading

A Mind for Business: Get Inside Your Head to Transform How You Work
by Andy GibsonTruth be told, this segment this time should be called “What I’m About to Read.” I only recently started this book but it looks like a good one on an important topic. I stumbled on it from hearing the author Andy Gibson on a podcast from the RSA (British)I like how he takes us “under the hood” of our skull and into how we think, decide and interact. His chapters cover feeding your mind, mastering your moods, getting motivated, handling pressure, knowing yourself, training your mind, making smarter decisions, influencing people, working collaboratively, and thinking creativelyHe combines modern neuroscience and psychology to uncover habits and practices that help us thrive in our organizations and our lives. The content is broken up within the chapters into short pieces of only a page or so, accompanied by numerous visual representations of the key points being made.