Monthly Archives: June 2012

What Is Your Leadership Built On?

 |  Consulting, Leadership

In his most recent article for Forbes, Dov Seidman poses the question, “What ideas are you building your company on?” Thanks, Dov, for always lobbing softballs!

It’s a great question. And, it sets up a couple others for leaders inside companies. What ideas are you building your team on? What ideas are you building your life on? But, I digress. Here is my answer to Dov’s original question.

“My colleagues and I at Ecstasis are growing a company founded on the notion that leadership enables positive transformation [of the organization and of the teams and people within them]. Our name, Ecstasis, refers to the act of radical transformation associated with poesis, which German philosopher Martin Heidegger refers to as a “bringing-forth, the blooming of the blossom, the coming-out of a butterfly from a cocoon, the plummeting of a waterfall when the snow begins to melt.” The last two analogies underline Heidegger’s example of a “threshold occasion”: a moment of ec-stasis when something moves away from its standing as one thing to become another, an experience of real and profound transformation.

We strive to support leadership in their work of enabling positive transformation by encouraging more reflection and through that the construction or discovery of the thresholds that lead to a better experience and result for the organizations we work with and the communities in which they operate.”

I’d love to hear your answers to Dov’s question or mine. Regardless, I hope your next threshold opens to amazing possibilities.

About Greg:

Dr. Greg Giuliano is a change leader, innovator, and trusted thinking partner in the area of change leadership. As Founder and Managing Principal at Ecstasis, LLC, a leadership and organizational development consultancy, Greg uses his experiences as a business leader and former psychotherapist to engage with clients all over the world to co-create change leadership strategies that enable success.

Greg’s multi-sector consulting career includes experience with Cisco, Apollo Group, CITI, Philips, AAA, QuickLogic, Goodwill Industries, Red Lion Hotels, and Oxfam GB among others. Greg became a leader in the fields of leadership and change with innovations to individual practices, group learning processes, and social technologies that facilitate individual and collective reflection, dialogue, and positive change.

Follow Greg on Twitter: https://twitter.com/greggiuliano

The 3 Rs of Sustainable #Leadership

 |  Leadership

As we rush headlong into our days we may miss the reality that many of us are doing more at the cost of “being” less. Remember the old western movies when the stagecoach driver gets shot and he drops the reins and the horse are galloping wildly toward the edge of the cliff? Someone has to climb up to the driver’s seat and then jump down into the midst of the horses and grab the reins to regain control of the horses, slow the stagecoach, and avert catastrophe! Who’s driving your stagecoach? How fast are you going? Are you heading toward a cliff?

I’ve written before about the fact that we are all leaving a legacy. What legacy are you creating? Are you racing through your work as a leader and your life? Is it time to be more intentional? Is it time to regroup, refocus, and reenergize? Many in the northern hemisphere are planning some time off this summer. How can we use this wonderful gift of time off, that so many in the world can only dream of, to regroup, refocus, and reenergize ourselves so that we make a more positive impact and leave a more positive legacy?

At the end of “The House at Pooh Corner” by A.A. Milne, Christopher Robin is telling Pooh that he won’t be able to do “nothing” anymore. He wonders if Pooh will think of him when he’s out in the world not doing “nothing.” Pooh promises he will and Christopher Robin promises he will be there too [in spirit]. And the story ends with the message that in that enchanted place in the forest a little boy and his bear will always be playing.

If we are going to spend most of our time out in the world not doing “nothing,” we need to treat time off as sacred, and use that time to regroup, refocus, and reenergize ourselves so that when we are out in the world not doing “nothing” we can remain grounded, centered, and intentional in our thoughts and interactions with those we lead. It is in the sacred time of doing “nothing” that we can find refreshment, rejuvenation, and reconnection with ourselves, our unique journey, our meaning and place in things.

Leadership demands we bring ourselves fully to our interactions with others. We can’t do that if we don’t have a firm grip on the reins. We can’t do that if we’re racing toward a cliff. We can’t do that (well) if we aren’t grounded, centered, and intentional about who we are and what we want.

If you’re fortunate enough to have some time off, you have a responsibility to use it well. Regroup! – Remind yourself of who you are. Refocus! – What is your meaning and purpose? Reenergize! Slow down and reconnect with your truest inner voice.

When we make time to regroup, refocus, and reenergize, we walk the path of leadership with greater intention and leave a legacy of our own choosing and making.

Just let go. It will all be here when you get back.

Here’s a little song to start you on your way.

About Greg:

Dr. Greg Giuliano is a change leader, innovator, and trusted thinking partner in the area of change leadership. As Founder and Managing Principal at Ecstasis, LLC, a leadership and organizational development consultancy, Greg uses his experiences as a business leader and former psychotherapist to engage with clients all over the world to co-create change leadership strategies that enable success.

Greg’s multi-sector consulting career includes experience with Cisco, Apollo Group, CITI, Philips, AAA, QuickLogic, Goodwill Industries, Red Lion Hotels, and Oxfam GB among others. Greg became a leader in the fields of leadership and change with innovations to individual practices, group learning processes, and social technologies that facilitate individual and collective reflection, dialogue, and positive change.

Follow Greg on Twitter: https://twitter.com/greggiuliano

The Inconvenient Truth of Leadership Development

 |  Leadership

It would be terrific (and terribly convenient) if leadership development occurred uniformly in a two or three day workshop. It would be great if our organizational change efforts happened instantaneously and all the result of a single email announcement from the boss. That should suffice, right? Wrong. I’d love to be able to run 100 miles with no training or build up too. Instant, easy, and pain-free change is a pipe dream. It just doesn’t happen that way.

Leadership development, like organizational change occurs over time. There is no clear path to leadership. Rather, leadership is a path. A path that requires focus of attention and intention; it is a daily practice. It’s like the old joke, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.”

A senior leader I’ve worked with says that every day he lives and works in a fast paced, ever-changing world where delivering results is job one. He puts it like this:
“Unless we are open to changing the way we approach our business, we could very well find ourselves in a ‘we can’t get there from here’ type of situation. So we continue to change our processes and structures to allow us to capitalize on the opportunities before us. That requires real discipline and adjustments for each of us as individual leaders in the organization. We need to be willing to provoke change in ourselves in order to do what we need to do to get what we want. It’s that simple.”

It is not enough to focus on results. Such a narrow focus leaves little room for innovation and creativity to play a role in moving the organization forward. A results-only orientation leads to a “Ready, Fire, Aim” culture in which we introduce a prior and ready solution, which is based on past experience, to a new challenge or opportunity. A results-only orientation becomes costly to the company in the long run, as people self-select out of teams and organizations where the focus is solely on results.

Successful leaders see the desired results and they have the awareness and will to open the process up to possible change and adaptation in order to achieve the desired results. They are willing, on a personal, team, and organizational level to encourage the self-scrutiny that addresses who we might need to be in order to make it all happen. They are willing to put in the time to practice. Through accepting that leadership is a practice and that development and change take time, they find the courage to take the first step on the path of leadership. Sometimes over and over again.

Today think of one thing you’d like to get better at as a leader. Maybe you want to ask more questions. Maybe you want to slow down before you act. Maybe you want to spend more time having 1:1s with your team members. Post a reminder to yourself and start. How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

About Greg:

Dr. Greg Giuliano is a change leader, innovator, and trusted thinking partner in the area of change leadership. As Founder and Managing Principal at Ecstasis, LLC, a leadership and organizational development consultancy, Greg uses his experiences as a business leader and former psychotherapist to engage with clients all over the world to co-create change leadership strategies that enable success.

Greg’s multi-sector consulting career includes experience with Cisco, Apollo Group, CITI, Philips, AAA, QuickLogic, Goodwill Industries, Red Lion Hotels, and Oxfam GB among others. Greg became a leader in the fields of leadership and change with innovations to individual practices, group learning processes, and social technologies that facilitate individual and collective reflection, dialogue, and positive change.

Follow Greg on Twitter: https://twitter.com/greggiuliano

Leadership Development is a No-Brainer

 |  Leadership

A 2007 McKinsey report (“Management Practice & Productivity: Why they matter”) on the impact of effective management practices on productivity has gotten a lot of attention on twitter recently and is yet another example of the power of leadership. The key finding of the study should be a clarion call to all organizations to double down on leadership development and ensure that leadership across organizations have the mindset, skill set, and tool set to drive business success and develop the people they lead.

The key finding: “Across all the firms in the research, a single point improvement in management practice score is associated with the same increase in output as a 25 percent increase in the labor force or a 65 percent increase in invested capital. We found this observation is true even after controlling for a host of factors like the firm’s country, sector and skill level.” (Bloom, et al, 2007)

To see leadership development as a cost and not an investment is an outdated mindset. Not having a comprehensive leadership strategy that complements and supports the business strategy creates a risk to organizations that must be seen as a corporate governance issue.

A culture of strong and shared leadership across an organization increases productivity by ensuring the alignment and engagement necessary for high performance. It’s leadership that reduces risk and creates competitive advantage.

What I especially like about the report is the fact that it is strong leadership and management practices across organizations and not just at the top that create real impact. It’s about leadership, not leaders. While we need a strong leader at the top of the organization or a team; we need all people managers, indeed, even individual contributors, to think and act like leaders.

Watch a soccer match and observe the continual shifting of leadership from player to player depending upon who has the ball, what the situation is, and what the team is trying to do at that moment. No one on the field is the owner, the General Manager, or the Coach; but during the game, the players share leadership. We need to build that level of leadership capacity in our organizations. It’s not a luxury or an expense; it’s smart business. You’d think this would be a “no-brainer” by now. It’s not. The organizations that invest in growing their leadership capacity will win. Those that don’t, won’t.

About Greg:

Dr. Greg Giuliano is a change leader, innovator, and trusted thinking partner in the area of change leadership. As Founder and Managing Principal at Ecstasis, LLC, a leadership and organizational development consultancy, Greg uses his experiences as a business leader and former psychotherapist to engage with clients all over the world to co-create change leadership strategies that enable success.

Greg’s multi-sector consulting career includes experience with Cisco, Apollo Group, CITI, Philips, AAA, QuickLogic, Goodwill Industries, Red Lion Hotels, and Oxfam GB among others. Greg became a leader in the fields of leadership and change with innovations to individual practices, group learning processes, and social technologies that facilitate individual and collective reflection, dialogue, and positive change.

Follow Greg on Twitter: https://twitter.com/greggiuliano

#Leadership to Get Us Unstuck

 |  Leadership

We are stuck. We have woven our economies inextricably together. And yet, governments around the world seem to be attempting to address the challenges we face as if national boundaries are not porous and we are not forevermore interconnected as a species sharing the same planet. We are operating from old models of organizing ourselves (18th century) and pulling old solutions (19th-20th century) out of the drawer to deal with never-before seen problems and challenges (21st century). No one should be shocked that we can’t seem to find our way out of the current global economic crisis.

Our inability to shift our thinking politically and economically keeps us divided and keeps us stuck. Every living system has the capacity to adapt, and reorganize in order to survive. There is a way forward. It will require a macro-level shift in terms of governmental policy and economic thinking and a micro-level shift in terms of the mindset and skill set of our leaders. Like the proverbial frog in almost boiling water, we are reaching the point where it may be too late to jump out and save ourselves.

There is one glaring and wonderful exception to the stagnation and division that grips our political and economic institutions. That exception is the emerging social model fueled by social media and the ability and desire of people to connect and interact. Imagine if the emerging social model were truly leveraged and adapted for positive use by conscious, connected, and concerned leaders and organizations? The lessons of the explosion in social media and interconnectivity appear to be lost on most political leaders and many business and economic leaders as well.

We are trying to put something back together instead of imagining what new form our interconnected world might take. Conscious, connected, and concerned leaders will take us beyond the narrow quest for profit and power and imagine structures, solutions, and systems that are appropriate for our time and for our challenges. We don’t need to just think outside the box. We need to burn it. Bury it. And never build another one. We need to pay attention to the examples already around us of how to accept our interconnectedness, leverage it, and open ourselves up to what is trying to (or needing to) emerge as a result of our connections. This will allow us to imagine a new way forward and energize the transformation that is possible if we only will it to be.

Five Words to Describe Your Leadership

 |  Leadership

We all leave a legacy. At the end of our lives. At the end of our careers. At the end of a meeting or conversation. We leave people with an impression of who we are and what’s important to us. We are defined by the way we show up. The perceptions that drive the conversations about us in our teams and organizations are a reflection of our brand identity with people. These perceptions become our legacy.
Most of the time, most of us leave a legacy by default. We aren’t conscious of the impact we are having. We don’t give our brand or legacy a second thought. And that’s a problem. Because we are leaving a legacy each and every moment.

I’ve learned the hard way, many times over, that not paying attention to the impression I wanted to make, the brand I wanted to project, and the legacy I wanted to leave with others is a dangerous gamble. Reflecting on mistakes I’ve made (and I’ve make plenty) reminds me to live and lead with greater intention.

There is a Dakota proverb that says, “We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.” As we begin this week, let’s resolve to pay more attention to our brand and our legacy, to the tracks we are leaving. Let’s resolve to live and lead with greater intention. What contribution will we make to our teams, our organizations, our communities this week? What will the people around us say about what it was like to be around us this week?

Take a piece of paper and write down the five words you want people to use to describe you this week. At the end of the week, ask someone who saw you a lot to tell you the five words they’d use to describe your behavior this week. Mind the gap. Every week, every day, is a “do-over.” That’s lucky for all of us.

By the way, my five words are generous, poised, creative, competent, and fun. If you see me, feel free to give me some feedback.

Lead Without Holding On

 |  Leadership

The path of leadership is not about experiencing comfort or certainty. Wanting to get the business or the team to a place of equilibrium is what keeps us miserable as leaders. There is no autopilot. If we are constantly seeking to find pleasure or avoid pain we are doomed to suffer endlessly. As long as we believe that there is a silver bullet or cool new technique that will make everything at work (or at home) perfect, it is inevitable; we’re going to be miserable. There is no such thing.

The truth is that things are always in transition; like the seasons as they follow one after the other, change is constant. When we accept that as leaders there is really nothing to hold on to, we free ourselves. Acceptance of this brings a certain peace. As leaders we sign up for this. The things that cause us to be uncomfortable or uncertainty aren’t things that get in the way of us doing our jobs. They are our job!

As the week ends, take a few minutes to recall the situations of the past week that caused you the most discomfort. These are the situations where we have the most to learn. As you think about the week coming up, what shift can you make to be better able to lead without holding on.

If we allow ourselves to let go of the need for certainty or comfort, we may find that leadership can be easier, less complicated, and dare I say, fun. This is where the path of leadership begins and ends.

What Do Leaders Do?

 |  Change Leadership

What do leaders do? The list is long; but in a nutshell, leaders enable positive transformation. Success in business requires leaders to be able to impact and engage people to join in important work that produces forward movement with positive effect. In other words, leaders drive real and profound positive change. The problem is, it’s not always positive change. It’s our job to ensure that it is.

When we think about leading positive transformation we think about the organization. Great! That’s where our attention should go first. It’s our job to move the organization from point A to point B over and over again. Sometimes it’s a short trip; other times it’s a huge undertaking. To lead positive organizational transformation involves setting a vision and strategy and building and executing a smart execution plan.

Many clients we work with ask us to help them as they work to align around a clear vision, strategy, and plan. In almost every case, they want to declare victory before they are done. They’ve set a vision. They’ve decided a strategy. They’ve built a sound execution plan. And, they’re only part way done.

Positive organizational transformation won’t happen unless leaders also focus simultaneously and continuously on people transformation. It is a role of leadership to enable people to move from groups to high performing teams. It would be great if this happened automatically. And, it doesn’t. It would be great if we could delegate it. And, we can’t. Leaders must set the example.

The way leaders set the example for moving from interacting as groups to engaging as high performing teams is through a third positive transformation for which the leader is responsible. Leaders are responsible for modeling self-transformation. We have to be intentional about our leadership and move ourselves from leading by default to leading by design. Our example of self-transformation engages the people around us to follow our example or self-select out. Either way, our example is positively transforming our people and our organization.

When we widen our focus to transform ourselves, our people as well as our organization, we balance our strategy and increase the likelihood for success. Our organizational strategies live or die through the efforts of our people. Leaders enable positive transformation. Positive organizational transformation depends upon our ability to transform our people and our commitment to transforming ourselves. Over and over again. It’s what leaders do.