Category Archives: Change Leadership

Leadership, Courage & The Small “t” truth

Group of Multiethnic Business People in Meeting

In a prior posting my business partner, Debra Bowles, expressed the courage it took to speak her small “t”  truth in front of her executive peers in response to a CEO’s inquiry.  I am often struck by the use of the word courage in business today and curious if the word is used in a way that encourages leadership in a positive manner or whether it is so loaded with mis-meaning that the actual experience of courage is impaired.

One reason that courage may not convey a felt sense is the dictionary’s definition reflects idealized social attributes or affected social attributes instead of human ones. Words such as pluck, nerve, valor, daring, and guts… are nice ideals, but all of us know from experience, that when courage is called for it is much more impactful and transcendent than the dictionary definitions.

So what gives?  When is leadership courageous and when is it not? read more

The Power of the small “t” truth

Truth

I was raised to respect authority, almost to a fault, and my Dad spoke most of the Truth in our family.   I was a senior executive in a large organization for 14 years and there was much Truth spoken with great belief and force.  I am intentionally using a capital T because to me it designates an opinion or belief that is spoken with strong conviction, yet is rarely open for other opinions, input or honest dialogue.   Capital “T” Truth can stifle innovation and collaboration with a single sentence.

In the Four-Fold Way, Angeles Arrien developed four principles to provide clarity for thriving in today’s complex world of constant change.1 Her third principle is: read more

Move Your Own D@%# Needle

 |  Change Leadership, Leadership

Change - Barometer

There’s a phrase that many in business have been using for some time now. Typically it’s a manager in a leadership role telling someone else that they need to “move the needle.” That is, they need to cause some change, they need to increase revenue and/or reduce the cost associated with increasing said revenue. There is a call to action, “Let’s get something done.”

I understand the manager’s motivation. We get evaluated on whether or not we move the needle. But that’s not all there is to it. read more

Self-Awareness Drives Corporate Performance

 |  Change Leadership, Leadership

Canoe

How self-aware are you? Do you know what your blind spots are? What skills do you excel at? What traits make up your personality and drive your behavior?  These are important questions for anyone wanting to practice authentic leadership.  And, it’s not just important for the individual leader. It’s critical to organizational performance.

A recent study conducted by The Korn/Ferry Institute demonstrates companies with the greater percentage of self-aware employees consistently outperformed those with a lower percentage (Zes and Landis, 2013). The study found that “poorly performing companies’ employees had 20 percent more blind spots than those working at financially strong companies” and “Poor performing companies’ employees were 79 percent more likely to have low overall self-awareness than those at firms with robust ROR (rate of return).

I’ve advocated for leaders to work to become more self-aware for a long time. Self-awareness enables us to live and lead with greater authenticity and intention. It also is foundational for strong emotional intelligence and resilience. The study by Zes and Landis illustrates the benefits to the organization as well as an individual leader. When we encourage leaders to grow their self-awareness, we create a development culture and learning organization and in turn improve an organization’s performance.

In my new book, The Hero’s Journey: Toward a More Authentic Leadership I invite leaders to undertake a journey to greater self-awareness. When we become more self-aware, we grow our capacity for greater self-management and self-determination. In the end, we become more authentic and impactful leaders. Now the data show benefits at the macro level of an organization. Organizations that encourage leaders to grow in self-awareness and foster a culture of ongoing learning and development (not just training) are building competitive advantage.

The questions I posed at the start are worthy of reflection. To begin to explore them and answer them is to take a step on the hero’s journey. It’s a step that will change your life if you let it. It can also change the lives of the people around you, and in time, it will change your organization.  What are you waiting for? As Kabir said, “Wherever you are is the entry point.”

photo (c) Depositphotos.com/Yanc

The Problem with Performance Reviews

 |  Change Leadership, Leadership

annual-review

I’ve always been troubled by performance reviews. I didn’t like them when I was working inside an organization. I don’t like them now that I consult with organizations. There, I’ve said it.

I have two problems with performance reviews. One, they look backward. Given the pace and complexity of business today, looking backward isn’t very useful. It’s too late. If someone isn’t as engaged as we would like or performing at the level we believe them capable of why would we wait until a quarterly, semi-annual, or (God help us!) annual review meeting to talk to them about it? By that time the review conversation is devoid of meaning and more or less a formality that neither person wants to do.

Second, performance reviews focus on the person “being reviewed.”   Why do we assume that the person is the problem? Because it’s easy; that’s why. When we focus on the person we are saying that their engagement and performance are totally up to them. That is simply not the case; and, it lets the leader off the hook. When people are not as engaged as we want or not performing as we would like, it’s just too easy to make the person the problem.

In fact, the person’s engagement and performance levels are impacted by the actions of leadership. Does the person have the level of clarity they need? Do they understand the vision and mission of the organization and the team? Do they know what they are responsible for and being held accountable to deliver? Do they have the resources they need? Do the communication patterns and other processes support the person’s success? Are they seeing high engagement and high performance modeled by their leaders?

Low engagement and poor performance are, more times than not, a symptom of poor leadership and not a sign of lacking aptitude on the part of the person undergoing a performance review. Our job as leaders is to give people with known aptitude (that’s why we hired them) what they need to make the best contribution they can.

It’s time to ditch the performance review once and for all and replace it with contribution management and coaching. Let’s look forward instead of backward. Imagine if we confirm the person understands the contribution we want and need them to make. Imagine if we ask them what they need from us as leaders in order to make that contribution. Imagine we agree to provide more clarity or work to shape an atmosphere that will help them be more successful.  Imagine we hold one another accountable to follow through with our commitments. Imagine that we check in on a regular basis to gauge progress. Imagine how the person feels by not being labeled the problem and by being seen as a valued contributor. Imagine how much faster we can go when we are looking forward.

The performance review process was a well-intentioned idea for a time that has passed. It’s time for a change leadership revolution that tosses the performance review and replaces it contribution management. Leaders need to be equipped to engage their people in timely and meaningful coaching conversations to discuss contributions, make requests, secure commitments that enable them to maximize their contributions. Let me know if you need help.

Own Your Reality and Lead

 |  Change Leadership, Leadership

Micah True, also known as Caballo Blanco was an ultra-runner made “famous” in Christopher McDougall’s best-selling book, “Born to Run”. When Micah took people running with him in the Copper Canyons of Mexico, before the run he’d have them put up their right hands and repeat this oath:

“If I get hurt, lost, or die, it’s my own damn fault. Amen”

I was reminded of this a couple weeks back as I toed the starting line for the Born to Run 50K. We all had to swear the oath just before the starting gun. I reflected on the oath for more than a few miles (I had the time). Micah’s oath is not just for trail runners. It’s for leaders.

We own our reality. Our experience is determined (most of the time) by our choices. This is true in life and it’s true at work. As leaders we do not get to play victim. We do not get to say, “If only…, then I could…” We have to know what result we want and what experience we want and make the choices that will create our desired experience and deliver our desired results. If we don’t have what we want, it’s our own damn fault. If my people aren’t engaged, I own that. If my people aren’t performing, I own that. If my relationships with my boss, my peers, or my employees are strained or stressed, I own that.

We have a choice. Every day. Embrace the question. What will you do to change your experience and get the results you want? You can’t change anyone else. If you change how you engage the moment you’re in and the people you’re engaged with, you begin to change your reality. If you don’t, well, at least you know whose fault it is.

6 Vital Skills for Strategic Thinking

 |  Change Leadership, Leadership

(NOTE: This post is an excerpt from a longer White Paper on Strategic Thinking. If you’d like a copy of the White Paper, private message me with your email. Cheers, Greg)

Lead Change

Leaders change things. At least we’re supposed to. We’re supposed to drive the business from A to B, move people from groups to teams, and develop ourselves from leading by default to leading by design. In a nutshell, our job as leaders is to recognize and overcome stasis when we must. We must encourage ec-stasis – transformation of the status quo so that the business and our team can achieve success. To lead change we need to be able to think strategically.

Static Thinking

The problem before us is that strategic thinking is not something that comes naturally to many or most of us. For most of us, our thinking tends to be focused on the near term. We think about the tasks before us today or those that need to be completed in a week, a month, or perhaps a quarter. There is also the reality that, without discipline our thinking and decision-making is reactive and influenced by our capacity (or lack thereof) for emotional self-management. Another factor in our inability to think strategically is the fact that as we age we lose our sense of curiosity. We become knowers instead of learners.

These tendencies, a short-term focus, reactivity, and a lack of curiosity combine to thwart our desire to think and act strategically. The implication is that we experience a gap between strategic thinking and strategic doing (intelligent action) and we develop a pattern of thinking and doing that is counterproductive to driving successful change. We race from A to B downloading old solutions onto current situations. We develop the “ready, fire, aim” mindset and our thinking and doing become more and more operational or tactical as we do what is most expedient in the near term and soothes the heightened emotional state we are in due to our reactivity. A serious consequence of this pattern is that we become static, fixed in time and space. The longer this pattern goes on the wider the gap between strategic thinking (when it occurs) and strategic action can become. So if it is not natural for us, how do we develop our capacity to think and act more strategically?

Strategic Thinking

Strategic thinking requires a shift in mind set, development of a strategic thinking skill set, and for many of us (at least for a time), utilization of a strategic thinking and doing tool set. When we decide to think and act strategically we are choosing to transform the status quo, to intentionally disrupt the system – we are encouraging ec-stasis.

Transformative leaders who excel at strategic thinking do six things well:

  1. Be Present. Respond rather than react. Develop the emotional intelligence to give yourself time to engage in critical thinking.
  2. Be Observant. See trends and indentify opportunities to work across boundaries to create value. Look for industry and business information that could change the game. Look to expand your network to see farther and wider than you could on your own.
  3. Be Creative. Reframe situations and problems. Look to discover the problems under the problems. Look for the patterns under events.
  4. Be Innovative. Encourage a learner mindset. Question assumptions. Consider multiple scenarios and invite multiple perspectives when exploring possible courses of action.
  5. Be Strategic. Set goals. Align people around clearly defined, achievable actions that disrupt the status quo.
  6. Be Purposeful. Develop plans. Have a preference for action. Decide. Plan. Execute.

The feedback from leaders who work to develop this mindset and skill set has been consistent. Focusing on developing these skills helps leaders grow their capacity for self-management; they become more proactive and less reactive. They become more intentionally curious. They begin to lead in a way that positively disrupts the status quo and creates the possibility for ec-stasis.

Leading change is not easy. If we are going to lead change successfully, we have to begin thinking strategically. To think strategically will require us to change ourselves. Change begins when we decide to develop ourselves. Change occurs when we discipline ourselves to practice a new mindset and skill set every day. The first step to more strategic thinking and doing is to become strategic regarding our own development as leaders. Once on the path, it becomes a matter of daily review and revision. In this regard our strategy for our own development is the same as our strategy for our business and our people; it’s dynamic and evolving.

Three Cs of Transformative Leadership, Part III

 |  Change Leadership, Leadership

“There is a law that man should love his neighbor as himself. In a few hundred years it should be as natural to mankind as breathing or the upright gait; but if he does not learn it he must perish.” These words written by Alfred Adler epitomize the third C of Transformative Leadership: Concern. To lead transformation, we must be concerned for others; we must care.

It is the transformative leader’s awakened consciousness and understanding of our interconnectedness (the first two Cs) that bring forth a way of being and leading that is marked by care, compassion, and real concern for others. The transformative leader cares about others, about her directs, about the community, about the world.

Significant research indicates the positive impact caring and concern can have on the bottom line. The connection between performance and health and productivity is well documented by this point. Therefor, the transformative leader’s capacity for caring must extend beyond the bottom line. We need to care about the people who work for us, with us, and around us. These people bring more than what they do to the corporate enterprise; they bring who they are. The truly transformative leader cares about their lives and acts to engage them in a way that leaves them feeling a sense of belonging and fulfillment in working to help the organization realize its goals. Leadership’s authentic concern for people and the health of the organization yields tremendous benefit: it generates trust, a vital condition for organizational success.

As I have grown older I have come to see that when I was younger I was a big talker (okay, I’m still a big talker.). I had opinions about almost anything and everything. I was especially vocal about social justice issues. I was great at “thinking globally.” I was lousy at “acting locally.” As I have grown, as I have had children, I have had to attend to who I am around this question. Am I a person who cares? Do people look at me and see someone who cares? Do I need to make my circle of concern larger?

Early in my career, I met with someone whom a mutual friend suggested would be a good possible collaborator on a business venture. We met early one day for breakfast. Toward the end of the meeting (he was really interviewing me to see if I was his kind of person), he informed me that he didn’t see us working together because as he listened to my story he didn’t hear me mention service. My immediate reaction was to be taken aback. I hadn’t until that point realized I was being interviewed. I also was amazed that this individual could determine my level of commitment to service based on thirty minutes over juice and coffee.

Once the sting of his judgment subsided, I resolved to attend to my capacity for caring and my history of service. Was I involved in my community? Could I expand my circle of concern? You bet! That conversation helped me become a little more conscious, to see my connection to something bigger than myself, and to strive to make my circle of concern bigger and bigger. My life is better because of that morning. Maybe the questions I faced that morning and still face today are your questions too. I hope so.

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