Monday, November 17, 2014

Please follow me to a new blog platform

Blog followers,

I have migrated my blog to a new platform.  Follow the link below and sign-up to receive email notices each Tuesday Morning.

Please email me if you have any problems.  I am not a technology expert; therefore, I chose not to try and transfer the Blogger followers to the new platform.

You can also find my blog which is now embedded within the Greystone Global website at

Thanks so much for following!

Dr. Kathryn Scanland

Monday, November 10, 2014

Veterans can teach us, a lot, about leadership.

How do you build a sense of shared purpose among people of many ages and skill sets?  By listening and learning—and addressing the possibility of failure.   ~Four-star General Stanley McChrystal

Given it is Veteran's Day, it seemed only fitting to learn about leadership from a Four-star General.  

Because of the many military images that have been burned into our minds from Hollywood, when we think of military leadership we tend to think of officers shouting orders and rank dictating process and strategy.  Like much of Hollywood, this doesn't reflect reality but it certainly drives revenues.

On a number of occasions I've done research and searches on servant leadership for various clients.  What still seems to catch me off-guard is the number of servant leader examples from the military.  Actually, most of the real life examples I find are from our armed services.  Simon Sinek's most recent book, Leaders Eat Last, is based upon military leadership.  It's even in the title, officers always let the enlisted men and women eat first.  In the military, it's common practice for officers not to eat until everyone else does.  They sacrifice personal interest and self-serving actions to support their team.  This is symbolic of what drives many of their decisions.

In that same spirit, Four-star General Stanley McChrystal delivered a TED Talk that I use periodically in leadership training to dissuade the idea that servant leadership is a "weak" form of leadership.  The following was excerpted from McChrystal's talk:

Instead of giving orders, you're now building consensus and you're building a sense of shared purpose.  
I probably learned the most about relationships.  I learned they are the sinew which holds the force together.  I grew up much of my career in the Ranger regiment.  And every morning in the Ranger regiment, every Ranger – and there are more than 2,000 of them – says a six-stanza Ranger creed.  You may know one line of it, it says, "I'll never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy."  And it's not a mindless mantra, and it's not a poem. It's a promise.  Every Ranger promises every other Ranger, "No matter what happens, no matter what it costs me, if you need me, I'm coming."  And every Ranger gets that same promise from every other Ranger.  Think about it.  It's extraordinarily powerful.  It's probably more powerful than marriage vows.  And they've lived up to it, which gives it special power.  And so the organizational relationship that bonds them is just amazing. 
I came to believe that a leader isn't good because they're right; they're good because they're willing to learn and to trust.  This isn't easy stuff.  And it isn't always fair.  You can get knocked down, and it hurts and it leaves scars.  But if you're a leader, the people you've counted on will help you up.  And if you're a leader, the people who count on you need you on your feet.

Well said, General McChrystal! 

Not only do we owe a thing or two to our veterans regarding our knowledge of leadership, but we owe them a huge debt of gratitude for our freedom.  Let's each go out of our way this week to thank a veteran for both their service and what they've taught us about leadership.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The pain of incompatibility!

Only when our pain gets excruciating are we willing to humble ourselves and consider new actions that might allow us to successfully progress in our new situation.  ~Robert E. Quinn

Dreaded incompatibility!  I recently experienced technology incompatibility and discovered a number of parallels with organizational incompatibility.  I had a fairly long stretch, four years—especially in technology years—of having no compatibility issues.  Then it happened.  I have several old laptops that I use for travel and making presentations.  So I don't make it a priority to upgrade the software on those computers.  Well, the operating system on those computers is Windows XP, and as of the end of October, Microsoft no longer supports XP which means those computers are now more susceptible to viruses, etc. and any new software likely won't be compatible, which I'm already beginning to experience.

I could try to fight these circumstances and call Microsoft and demand that they support XP, indefinitely.  I'm fairly confident that approach would have no success whatsoever.  For me to get beyond this season of incompatibility, I need to change.  I need to upgrade my laptops to Windows 7.  However, I can't be overly aggressive and jump to Windows 8 because I've already heard from a client that their LCD projectors aren't compatible with Windows 8.  I need to find that compatible sweet spot and then hope I can make it last for another four years.

We've all heard the statement about the 21st century, "the one constant is change."  And organizations are at the heart of this phenomenon.  That means organizations too, find those moments when they reach the point of incompatibility.  It could be the transition away from a founder, trying to grow too fast, responding too slowly to market trends, mission creep, lack of focus, a generational shift in the workforce, etc. 

It's clear the organization has reached incompatibility because it's simply no longer working.  The incompatibility may be visible in low morale, a lack of trust, financial challenges, apathy, or scapegoating. 

Like my technology incompatibility issue, at one time Windows XP was the most current operating system and all worked wonderfully well.  But what once enabled my technology to thrive has become the bottleneck of not only progress but basic functionality.  The only way beyond it is for me to change. 

I see organizational leaders reach this point of incompatibility and try, sometimes desperately, to change everyone or everything else. 

Robert Quinn in Deep Change: Discovering the Leader Within provides a different perspective.  Quinn says, "The real problem is frequently located where we would least expect to find it, inside ourselves.  It means someone must be enormously secure and courageous.  Culture change starts with personal change.  We become change agents by first altering our own maps.  Ultimately, the process returns us to the 'power of one' and the requirement of aligning and empowering oneself before successfully changing the organization."

Technology incompatibility or organizational incompatibility, they both require us to change.