Monday, August 29, 2011

Leaders make personal shifts to address the bigger issues.

Everyone has goals; it is the next steps that count.  Ask yourself these questions: ‘For those things to happen, what kind of team do we have to become?  And how do each of us need to change to make that happen?’  ~ Dr. Henry Cloud quoting a confidential client

I've been reading a lot of Dr. Henry Cloud’s more recent writing lately and this week’s quote was lifted from his book, Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality. 

Henry suggests that effective leaders not only see the bigger picture, they also realize that they must focus on the bigger issues, which are bigger than themselves.  “The greatest [leaders] are the ones who have not sought greatness, but served greatly the causes, values, and missions that were much bigger than them.”  Henry quotes Thomas Merton who said, “To consider persons and events and situations only in the light of their effect upon myself is to live on the doorstep of hell.”

Henry’s client, who I’ve quoted this week, is someone who runs the western United States for one of the big telecommunications companies.  He takes his team of direct reports on a retreat every year and they begin with a few questions.  The first is, ‘What would we like to see happen in the next year?’  This gets them to their vision, and the goals.  In this particular year, their goal was admittedly audacious.  They wanted to do so well that the whole company would stop and want to know how they did it.  But, then they asked themselves these questions: ‘For those things to happen, what kind of team do we have to become?  And how do each of us need to change to make that happen?’ 

They went to work making shifts in themselves focusing on their audacious goal and they did so well that the CEO flew out to find out what they did that was different than everyone else, and how everyone could learn from it.  They achieved their vision!

Henry believes that their vision demanded that these individuals make shifts in their practices to meet the demands of reality.  They did not ask reality to shift, but they did the shifting. 

If you’ve had a hard time identifying what you truly value, I think this can be a good test to help make that determination.  I’ve found that if I believe something is really important or bigger than me (like their audacious goal),  I’m much more willing to shift my thinking, or give up getting things my way because I’m so focused on the bigger issue.  Ironically, if I’m fighting so hard to have it my way and am unwilling to shift then I’m probably focusing more on myself than I’m willing to admit.  And I most likely haven’t asked how I need to change in order to address the bigger issue.  As this week’s title states, “Leaders make personal shifts to address the bigger issues.”

Monday, August 22, 2011

Leaders deal with challenging people.

Leaders know that their organization's future is tied to its people.  They are not only voracious about attracting and retaining fantastic people, they have a plan for dealing with challenging people.  ~Bill Hybels, 2011 Global Leadership Summit

This week I’m continuing with Bill Hybel’s presentation from the Global Leadership Summit on August 11, 2011.  Another of the Five Critical Questions leaders must ask was question two: “What is your plan for dealing with challenging people”?

Bill stressed the importance of the leadership team having a collective point of view as to how they would deal with challenging people, and he was very specific.  I think to the surprise of many in the audience.

Bill said that challenging people typically fall into three different categories.

Fantastic Fred.  These are the people who may be quite competent at their job, skill or task, maybe even fantastic.  The challenge is their attitude.  They have a bad attitude and they are spreading that bad attitude to others in the organization.  So, how much time do they give the Fantastic Freds at Willow Creek to get things turned around?  30 days.  They start the conversation immediately, and then they need to see change in 30 days, and if not, Fantastic Fred is asked to find an organization that might be a better fit.

Underperformers.  In some regards this is the easiest category because the underperformers are typically obvious, although not always to the underperformer.  These folks are given a clear explanation of how they are underperforming and what acceptable performance would look like.  Then they have 3 months (no more) to show that they can meet the expectations of their position.

Those lacking talent elasticity.  This is the most difficult of the three categories because these challenging people are good and hard-working; they may have been with the organization for many years.  Unfortunately, the growth of the organization now requires a greater capacity than what they appear to have; in other words, they don’t have the talent elasticity to grow with the organization.  This group is given the longest amount of time to either find a different place within the organization or bring their skills and performance up to the level the organization now requires.  They are given 6-12 months.

Why should you have a specific plan to deal with challenging people?  If you don’t, you’ll discourage your best performers and run the risk of losing them.  One commonality among the three categories of challenging people is they aren’t really happy people.  Maintaining status quo isn’t going to change that.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What are you naming, facing and resolving?

Leaders name, face and resolve the problems that exist in their organizations.  ~Bill Hybels, 2011 Global Leadership Summit

In 1995 the Willow Creek Association (founded by Bill Hybels) launched the first Global Leadership Summit.  Today, well over 100,000 leaders attend the annual event at over 185 locations and in more than 70 countries.  As is custom, Bill Hybels opened this year’s event that took place last week with a thoughtful, insightful and practical presentation of Five Critical Questions a leader must ask.

The quote for this week is one of the five critical questions Bill posed to the massive audience of leaders.  “Are you naming, facing and resolving the problems that exist in your organization”?

Bill included in his presentation a lifecycle diagram to help identify, or “name” the problems in our organizations.  Below is my attempt to recreate the diagram so please forgive my crude drawing, but the concept is what matters.  Bill told us to go through all of our products/programs/services, etc. and place them on the diagram.  Are they accelerating, booming, decelerating or are they tanking?  When something begins to decelerate it’s getting tired, new ideas need to be infused to move it back to accelerating and avoid tanking.  In other words, address the problem.
I would add one possibility that Bill did not mention so I’m inserting my own opinion here.  I don’t think everything that begins to decelerate should be moved back to being accelerated.  Sometimes ideas, programs, products, services, etc. have truly served their purpose and it may be time to end it before more time and resources are invested while it’s tanking.

Most important, naming and facing problems is the first step to resolution.  All organizations have an elephant or two in the room.  Are we ready to name them and face them?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Leaders make necessary endings.

"Getting to the next level always requires ending something, leaving it behind, and moving on.  Growth itself demands that we move on.  Without the ability to end things, people stay stuck, never becoming who they are meant to be, never accomplishing all that their talents and abilities should afford them."  ~Henry Cloud, Necessary Endings, pg. 7.
Necessary Endings.  I thought that was a great book title and since I was familiar with the author, Dr. Henry Cloud, I was even more intrigued.

In my work as a consultant, I work with clients who are attempting to grow their organizations.  But many times growth ends up being a process of piling on, more and more.  

The title of the second chapter of Necessary Endings is "Pruning: Growth Depends on Getting Rid of the Unwanted or the Superfluous."  Dr. Cloud uses the analogy of pruning to describe what he really means by necessary endings.  He says that a gardener will intentionally and purposefully cut off branches and buds that fall into three categories:

1. Healthy buds or branches that are not the best ones

The caretaker constantly examines the bush to see which buds are worthy of the plant's limited fuel and support and cuts the others away.  He prunes them.  Takes them away, never to return.  He ends their role in the life of the bush and puts an end to the bush's having to divert resources to them.  In doing so, the gardener frees those needed resources so the plant can redirect them to the buds with the greatest potential to become mature.  Those buds get the best that the bush has to offer, and they thrive and grow to fullness.

2. Sick branches that are not going to get well.

Some branches are sick or diseased and are not ever going to make it.  For a while, the gardener may monitor them, fertilize and nurture them, or otherwise try to make them healthy.  But at some point, he realizes that more water, more fertilizer, or more care is just not going to help.  For whatever reason, they are not going to recover and become what he needs them to be to create the final picture of beauty he wants for the bush and the garden.

3. Dead branches that are taking up space needed for the healthy ones to thrive.

Then there are the branches and buds that are dead and taking up space.  The healthy branches need that room to reach their full length and height, but they cannot spread when dead branches force them to bend and turn corners; they should be growing straight for the goal.  To give the healthy blooms and branches room and an unobstructed path to grow, the dead ones are cut away.

Cloud says that executing the three types of necessary endings, as described above, is what characterizes people who get results.

I'll write more about Necessary Endings in future weeks.  In the meantime, for my own business as well as working with clients on strategic planning, pruning will become a critical piece of  thinking strategically and creating growth initiatives.