Tag Archives: Teams

Book Review: Good Boss, Bad Boss

good-boss-bad-boss-book-cover

In an email exchange, Professor Robert I. Sutton (author of the highly acclaimed book, “The No Asshole Rule”) asked me if I was interested in seeing a “galley” of his upcoming book, “Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best… and Learn from the Worst” (due out September 2010). According to Dr. Sutton, “galleys” are “essentially cheap paperback versions of the book that usually have a few typos and may need a little more editing” sent as advanced copies “to the press and other opinion leaders.” I responded that I’m eagerly anticipating the arrival of his book and would love to have an advance copy.

I am a fan of Dr. Robert Sutton. I follow his blog, Work Matters regularly and enjoy his writing style. Because I’m fascinated by workplace psychology (I write the WorkplacePsychology.Net blog), I am always interested in articles and books that have a good mixture of research and practical writing and applications. In other words, cut through the bull and tell me what I need to know and make sure that what I need to know is backed by evidence and research. Last year, a book I read (“The Cost of Bad Behavior: How Incivility Is Damaging Your Business and What to Do About It” by Christine Pearson and Christine Porath) met this practical application + evidence-based criteria.

Here’s a little history for those not familiar with Dr. Sutton’s previous book. “The No Asshole Rule” is about the harm done by jerks or assholes in the workplace and what to do to survive working with or for an asshole and how organizations can get rid of or better yet, screen these individuals out before hiring them in the first place. As he explained, while words like bullies, jerks, creeps, tyrants, etc. could have been used, the word “asshole best captures the fear and loathing I have for these nasty people” (Sutton, 2007, p. 1).

Ok, let’s move on to “Good Boss, Bad Boss.”

Dr. Sutton says that as more people shared with him their asshole stories, about working and dealing with assholes (as a result of reading or hearing about “The No Asshole Rule”), he realized that everything came back to one central figure — the boss. It was from the countless workplace asshole stories and the desire to share how to be a skilled boss or how to work for one that led Dr. Sutton to write “Good Boss, Bad Boss.”

The book cites a University of Florida study that found employees with abusive bosses were much more likely than others to slow down or make errors on purpose (30% vs. 6%) [the technical term for this is “counterproductive work behavior”]. When you purposefully slow down your work, it’s called production deviance. Employees with abusive bosses also hide from their bosses (27% vs. 4%), not put in maximum effort (33% vs. 9%), and feign being sick (29% vs. 4%).

“Good Boss, Bad Boss” is about the best bosses and what they do. It’s not about incompetent or even mediocre bosses. As Dr. Sutton puts it, it doesn’t matter if you’re a boss whose team brought in the highest sales number or a principal of an award-winning school, if you treat people badly, you don’t deserve to be called a great boss.

Good bosses need to have the right mindsets by embracing five beliefs:

(1) Following Lasorda’s Law? Finding the balance between over-managing (or micromanaging) and under-managing. Good bosses understand when to exert more control vs. when to back off, and when to coach vs. when to discipline.

(2) Got Grit? Good bosses think of managing in terms of a marathon, not like a sprint. Effective bosses can communicate a sense of urgency without treating things like one long emergency.

(3) Small Wins? Having long-term goals is important, but good bosses also know that the day-to-day efforts and small accomplishments also matter. The best bosses are those who can break down problems into bite-size, achievable pieces for their employees.

(4) Beware the Toxic Tandem? The Toxic Tandem is made up of the boss’s obliviousness (to what their employees need, say, and do) and self-centered ways and the idea that followers closely watch their boss’s words and actions.

(5) Got Their Backs? Good bosses protect and fight for their employees. These bosses take the heat (from upper management) when their employees screw up.

Good bosses have their fingers (and ears) on the pulse of what their employees are thinking, feeling, and acting. These bosses know that to be successful they have to spend time and energy to reading and responding to employees’ feelings and actions. Good bosses also possess self-awareness, being highly aware of their strengths and weaknesses while striving to overcome pitfalls that may sabotage their performance.

“Good Boss, Bad Boss” warns that there is no panacea. There is no magic formula to what makes a good boss, and anyone who “promises you an easy or instant pathway to success is either ignorant or dishonest — or both,” says Dr. Sutton.

“Good Boss, Bad Boss” ends by asking and suggesting the audience think about two questions. These two questions should be something good bosses focus on daily:

(1) Would people want to work for you and would they choose to work for you again if given a choice?

(2) Are you in tune with what it feels like to work for you?

Summary: “Good Boss, Bad Boss” is an insightful and well-researched book. Following in the footsteps set by The No Asshole Rule, “Good Boss, Bad Boss” delivers a knock-out punch to those asshole bosses whose cluelessness continues to harm both their employees and the overall organization. Using the power of storytelling, Robert Sutton masterfully weaves together research and stories about good and bad bosses and behaviors in the workplace that led to their successes and failures. If you want a magic pill or quick solutions on how to be a great boss and avoid being a bad one, this is not the book for you. However, if you value the power of insight and self-awareness as part of an on-going process toward becoming a great boss, then you’ll love “Good Boss, Bad Boss.”

References

Pearson, C. & Porath, C. (2009). The cost of bad behavior: How incivility is damaging your business and what to do about it. New York, NY: Portfolio.

Sutton, R. I. (2010). Good boss, bad boss: How to be the best… and learn from the worst. New York: Business Plus.

Sutton, R. I. (2007). The no asshole rule: Building a civilized workplace and surviving one that isn’t. New York: Business Plus.

Perfect Phrases for Communicating Change

Perfect Phrases for Communicating Change by Lawrence Polsky and Antoine Gerschel is a nice and useful book about how to effectively communicate change to your employees. More importantly and for situations in which you’re at a lost for words, this book serves as a handy guide with suggested phrases to use.

Sometimes books take on a novel theme where authors mix stories with what they really wish to communicate with the reader. This book leaves out the stories part which, in my opinion, is great because it is a short book.

In fact, although the book is 165 pages, it is actually about 26 pages worth of highlights for how to lay the foundations for communicating change with the other (roughly) 139 pages listing “ready-to-use phrases.” Polsky & Gerschel outline the launch, execution, and sustain phases of change. They address balancing information, emotions, and action. I really like the section on “Three Common Mistakes Leaders Make When Communicating Change” where the authors list: not telling enough, not listening enough, and not telling the truth enough. There’s also an “Easy-to-Use Checklist for Change Messages” to help managers draft and polish their communication message to their employees.

In the book, readers will learn about the phrases to use when:

  1. Articulating new company initiatives
  2. Responding to questions
  3. Easing workers’ fears
  4. Clarifying employee roles and responsibilities
  5. Addressing resistance and performance issues

One of my favorite ready-to-use phrases section is “Coaching for Skills.” In this section, the book offers ready-made phrases to assist managers/supervisors in coaching employees about skills. Here’s an excerpt:

This new strategy will shift the parameters of your job. Accordingly, there are new skills you should acquire/refresh. Do you have any thoughts about what new skills you will need in order to succeed within this new strategy?

Because the new strategy is a significant departure from what we have done before and because a thorough understanding…are key to your success in the company, I invite you to:

(Here’s one example of a response) familiarize yourself with our new strategy documents/resources. If you come across any piece…that you are not clear about, ask me.

Summary:

“Perfect Phrases for Communicating Change” by Lawrence Polsky and Antoine Gerschel is a useful guide for managers desiring to communicate change (both verbally and in writing) to their employees. There are hundreds of phrases that can be modified (or used verbatim) depending on the business needs. You’ll want to keep this guide within arm’s-length as you will find that this lightweight book contains practical as well as powerful phrases on how to best communicate with your workers during times of change.

* Amazon and Barnes & Noble carry this book for $7.88 (as of this post date).

SIOP-Coaching at Work

The following (in italics) is taken VERBATIM (word for word) from the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP). The original posting is called, “Coaching at Work: All Coaches are not the Same.

Disclosure: I am currently in an Industrial and Organizational Psychology program and am a member of SIOP.

I have done this because, in the process of studying about “coaching,” there seems to be quite a bit of misinformation. This information from SIOP helps to clear up some common misunderstandings about what coaching is and isn’t and what type of coach is best suited to help clients. Rather than trying to interpret or rephrase what SIOP wrote, I felt it best to just include their own wording (below in italics).

Do you have a coach at work? Do you think of your current boss or project manager as a coach? Your direct manager is just one type of coach available to you in the workplace. Yet there are many other kinds of coaches and types of coaching if one knows where to look. Different people, particularly at different stages in their careers, can benefit greatly from different types of coaches.

Regardless of the type of coach, however, all coaches share one goal: equipping people with the skills, knowledge, and opportunities that they need to develop their capabilities and achieve success. The most common types of coaches that focus on individuals relative to their work are personal coaches, career coaches, leadership coaches, and executive coaches. Each of these types of coaches varies by the business knowledge and depth of specific training required by the coach to perform effectively on the job, the formality of the coaching effort, and the degree to which the work organization is proactively involved with or interested in the outcomes.

Personal coaches help individuals by sharing insights and lessons from their own life experience. A personal coach is comparable to a mentor with one difference the individual who wants the help usually initially approaches the coach for help. In contrast, a mentoring relationship can start with either the mentors initiative or the coachees. Personal coaching helps to cultivate an individuals skills and may tap into their unused potential. Personal coaches must build trusting relationships with their coachees. This trust allows both the coach and coachee to share personal experiences, which often include success stories but also may include disappointment or failures. This intimate sharing can serve to energize the coachee and give them the drive to succeed. If an individual finds fortunate circumstances at work, a personal coaching relationship may be developed with a leader within his or her organization. But if that relationship does not materialize, a personal coach may be found in other aspects of life, such as sports or community activities.

Career coaches generally have strong expertise within an individuals chosen career field or industry. Career coaches, as with personal coaches, may be found inside or outside of ones current organization. For example, a junior finance manager might look toward a chief financial officer or controller to advise them on strategies to advance their finance career. This senior career field coach might work in the same organization as the junior manager or could be employed elsewhere. Career coaches may connect their coachees with senior contacts for networking purposes, or may provide advice on joining professional associations and obtaining valuable certifications. This often occurs in career coaching efforts through outplacement firms.

Leadership coaches focus on developing the management and leadership skills of an organizations high potential talent. Leadership coaches may either serve as team leaders actively mobilizing a work team toward common goals, or may serve as a leadership coach through a formal leadership-coaching program. Leadership coaches develop their coachees by serving as a model for individual accountabity, inspiring trust, and leading-by-example. Leadership coaches strive to provide real-time feedback regarding their protgs management style and tactics, so that the coachee can adapt quickly to different situations. Leadership coaches also typically schedule formal feedback and development sessions with their coachees throughout the year. Leadership coaches serve as a growth engine for the next generation of organizational leaders. Leadership coaches primary duty is to develop the bench strength of capable leaders at every level of the organization. Formal leadership coaching programs exist in several major U.S. Corporations. Successfully executed leadership coaching programs provide the human talent for corporate succession planning efforts.

Executive coaches work exclusively with senior leaders and their teams to build individual leadership competencies and to promote effective working relationships that improve overall business performance. Executive coaches focus on developing strategic thinking skills, broadening emotional competencies, expanding coalitions and networks, and building organizational culture through living the corporate values. An executive gains the greatest benefit from an executive coach if that executive becomes self-aware. Self-awareness suggests the executives willingness and ability to look at his or her strengths and liabilities and to seek help where there is need to compensate for what is lacking. During the process of executive coaching, the executive comes to understand what they do best and also where they might benefit from coaching. Many CEOs pride themselves on being master coaches of their managers and promoters of company values. They tend to support the use of external and internal coaches in their organizations to enhance executives development and achieve business results.

When an individual or company begins to looks for coaches, the best outcome is likely to be achieved when there is a match between a companys desired involvement in the coaching effort, the formality of the process, and the purpose of the coaching effort. In particular, leadership and executive coaches require greater business acumen, a broader understanding of the organizational context in which an individual works, and more rigorous training in leadership skills development, group dynamics, behavioural change and organizational culture and performance. Industrial and Organizational Psychologists are specifically trained in understanding, measuring and motivating individuals in the context of work. Please refer to the Consultant Locator section on the SIOP website (www.siop.org) to find the right coach for your needs.

Reference

Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP). Coaching at Work: All Coaches are not the Same. Retrieved from http://www.siop.org/Workplace/coaching/coaching_at_work.aspx

How Leaders Can Help Employees Find Meaning at Work

Note: If you have trouble viewing the video, you can watch it on YouTube.

In this video Dave Ulrich, co-author of “The Why of Work: How Great Leaders Build Abundant Organizations That Win,” talks about how organizations can be places where people find meaning in their lives.

“Work is one of those places where people can find meaning and purpose.”
“What is it that helps people find meaning in their work setting?”

Ulrich says that when people find their meaning that not only do they feel better about themselves and their own work improves, but the organization is more successful. Employees are more productive, customers get better value, and investors get better results.

[From the WhyofWork website]: Leaders need to attend to shaping meaning at least three levels: 1) for the organization as a whole; 2) for them as individuals; and 3) for each of their employees.

1) At an organization level, leaders need to forge the vision and values that will guide and infuse all aspects of the organization, tying the organization’s broadest sense of meaning directly to customer needs, investor values, and community interests.

2) In addition, leaders need to discover their own “language” of meaning: What types of experiences and perspectives help them find passion for their work, guide their pursuits, and infuse their workday with energy and delight?

3) Leaders also need to become multi-lingual in the languages of meaning, understanding the range of motivators and experiences that create meaning for the variety of employees they interact with each day.

The Ulrichs (2010) share 7 Principles of Abundant Organizations:

1. What am I known for? (Identity)

Principle 1: Abundant organizations build on strengths (capabilities in an organization) that strengthen others.

“Great leaders help individuals align their personal strengths with the organization identity (firm brand) and with customer expectations” (p. 53).

2. Where am I going? (purpose and motivation)

Principle 2: Abundant organizations have purposes that sustain both social and fiscal responsibility and align individual motivation.

“Great leaders recognize what motivates employees, match employee motivators to organization purposes, and help employees prioritize work that matters most” (p. 81).

Leaders need to ask: What are the insights we need to succeed as an organization? What achievements and goals will keep us in business? What types of relationships will help us get our work done? What human problems are we trying to solve? What are the most pressing motivations of this organization? (Ulrich & Ulrich, 2010).

3. Whom do I travel with? (Relationships and Teamwork)

Principle 3: Abundant organizations take work relationships beyond high-performing teams to high-relating teams.

“Great leaders help employees build skills for professional friendships between and among teams” (p. 103).

4. How do I build a positive work environment? (Effective work culture or setting)

Principle 4: Abundant organizations create positive work environments that affirm and connect people throughout the organization.

“Great leaders recognize and establish positive work environments that inspire employees, meet customer expectations, and give investors confidence” (p. 125).

5. What challenges interest me? (personalizing and contributing work)

Principle 5: Abundance occurs when companies can engage not only employees’ skills (competence) and loyalty (commitment), but also their values (contribution).

“Great leaders personalize work conditions so that employees know how their work contributes to outcomes that matter to them” (p. 157).

6. How do I respond to disposability and change? (Growth, learning, and resilience)

Principle 6: Abundant organizations use principles of growth, learning, and resilience, to respond to change.

“Great leaders relish change and help employees grow, learn, and be resilient to bring new life to their organizations” (p. 185).

7. What delights me? (Civility and happiness)

Principle 7: Abundant organizations not only attend to outward demographic diversity but to the diversity of what makes individuals feel happy, cared for, and excited about life.

“Great leaders move away from hostility and intolerance toward multiculturalism through problem solving, listening, curiosity, diversity, and compassion and by bring creativity, pleasure, humor, and delight into their organizations” (p. 219).

References

The Why of Work. Further Reading. Retrieved from http://thewhyofwork.com/index.php/books/why-of-work-further-reading/

The Why of Work. The Method. Retrieved from http://thewhyofwork.com/index.php/books/why-of-work-the-method/

Ulrich, D. & Ulrich, W. (2010). The Why of Work: How Great Leaders Build Abundant Organizations That Win. New York: McGraw-Hill.

The Power of Praise and Recognition on Organizational Success

Note: If you have trouble viewing the video, you can watch it on YouTube.

In this video Chester Elton, co-author of The Carrot Principle, talks about how to use the power of carrots (praise & recognition) to motivate your employees and maximize business results.

In “The Carrot Principle” Gostick and Elton maintain that unlike the latest leadership fads, principles don’t go out of style. A principle is “not a program [or] an activity” (p. 192), but a constant.

Drawing from more than 200,000 interviews, the book highlights the relationship between recognition (carrots) and individual and organizational manager success (Gostick & Elton, 2009).

The authors created a recognition model based on 4 elements: Goal Setting, Communication, Trust, and Accountability. Next, the model introduces recognition as an “accelerator,” increasing supervisor relevance and employee engagement leading to improved business results (Gostick & Elton, 2009).

Gostick & Elton (2009) assert that in order to boost engagement and create organizational results, recognition should have two things:

(1) Alignment (“recognizing what matters most”) – which is what matters most in your organization. This includes the desired objectives, values, and culture.

(2) Impact (“recognizing people the right way”) – which is having inclusive programs that are clearly understood and meaningful to the employees and making sure that it is based on performance.

“Recognition accelerates business results. It amplifies the effect of every action and quickens every process. It also heightens your ability to see employee achievements, sharpens your communication skills, creates cause for celebration, boosts trust between you and your employees, and improves accountability” (Gostick & Elton, 2009, pp. 192-193).

Reference

Gostick, A. & Elton, C. (2009). The Carrot Principle: How the Best Managers Use Recognition to Engage Their People, Retain Talent, and Accelerate Performance. New York: Free Press.

Coping With Fear-Lessons for Business and Life

In his book, Rules of Thumb, Alan Webber talks about one of the rules in his book: When things get tough.

Rule #1: When the going gets tough, the tough relax.

In crisis management, I teach people that fear is normal and natural. In fact, what matters most is our behaviors in these stressful, frightening situations that strongly determine the difference between a safe or disastrous outcome. If it weren’t for our ability to experience fear, we would not be able to survive for too long in this world. Just think about the number of times your own fears warned you of impending dangers (a car coming dangerously close to yours on the freeway, a stranger who seems a bit creepy, etc.). Most of us are familiar with the “fight-or-flight response,” which experts describe as a physiological arousal response in which the body prepares to fight or escape a real or perceived threat (Donatelle, 2009). Although this instinctual response is designed to help us, if overused, it can actually damage our bodies.

Simply stated, although it’s normal to be afraid, if you live a life based on fear, you will hurt yourself and those around you.

In Webber’s case, his fear was of failure, of being embarrassed, or appearing to ask a stupid question. The person he was scheduled to interview, Helmut Schmidt (a former German chancellor), was “notoriously difficult.” It was completely understandable that Webber was fearful of this guy “dismissing my questions as stupid” (Webber, 2009, p. 3).

However, rather than letting his fear get in the way, Webber decided to jot down some notes to himself on a yellow legal pad. On it he wrote: “Relax! Smile! This is a blessing, a treat, and an honor. It’s not a punishment to be endured.” After all, “[h]ow many people get to sit across from a world leader and ask him questions?”

Webber’s advice, applicable to business and life, is this:

“Anytime you approach a task with fear you are at least a double loser. First, you color the work with fear and increase the chances of failure…Second, you guarantee that you won’t enjoy the experience. Whether you succeed or fail, wouldn’t you like to remember the experience as one you enjoyed, not one you suffered through?” (Webber, 2009, p. 5)

“Don’t let fear undermine your chance to do that one thing you’ve wanted to do.” -Alan M. Webber

References

Donatelle, R. (2009). Health: The basics (8th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Pearson Benjamin Cummings.

Webber, A. M. (2009). Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business without Losing Your Self. New York: HarperCollins.

The 4 Character Strengths of a Leader

My wife often tells me about her late father. Because he passed away long before I ever met her, I never had the honor to meet or know him. The stories she shares about her memories of him are priceless and each one of her stories has left an indelible mark on my heart and mind.

The other evening, she told me of an employee who came to work for her dad. My wife’s father was both an electronic engineering professor in Japan and president of his own electrical systems design company. He hired a young man who came to Tokyo right after junior high. Without much education under this young man’s belt, the professor took the boy under his wings and began teaching and mentoring him about the electrical systems design business.

Far from the perfect employee, the young lad accidentally burned a customer’s house and an entire floor of a new building in the same year! While the young man was panic-stricken, the professor was a patient teacher who modeled self-control in crisis situations. He took the employee aside and calmly talked to him. He then, as president of the company [formally called “daihyo-torishimariyaku” or 代表取締役 or informally called “shacyou” or 社長], would apologize to the customer and pay for the cost of the repairs. If this had happened today, the employee would have been fired or sued or both.

He knew that even though this young boy didn’t have the highest level of education, he was a hard worker and because the company president valued hard work, he paid this young man (who had no high school or college education) a salary higher than that of someone with a college degree! The company president went above and beyond his role as boss and even helped pay for a portion of this young man’s new house. Some might think this foolish to be so generous and place such trust in someone so inexperienced and uneducated. But, I believe the professor and shacyou had the character strengths that allowed him to nurture this boy’s growth and development, as an employee and a human being.

When my wife’s father died, the employee shared that his heart was broken. Many loyal students and employees attended the funeral. To this day, many years after the professor’s death and about 40 years from when he was hired as a 15 year old boy, this employee still works for the family business. Now that’s loyalty.

In “Leading with Character,” John J. Sosik talks about the character strengths that leaders must develop in themselves and others to create and sustain organizational growth and performance. Sosik mentions the 23 character strengths (grouped under six virtues) that are foundational to good character: wisdom and knowledge, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence.

The president of the company [“daihyo-torishimariyaku” or 代表取締役 or “shacyou” or 社長] exemplified FOUR character strengths that modeled leadership and created employee loyalty at its finest:

Humility: Most people never knew about all of the professor’s awards and recognitions until they visited his home, only to be pleasantly surprised by the numerous accolades under his name.

Forgiveness & Self-Control: He possessed forgiveness and self-control by not going ballistic when the employee destroyed an entire floor of a brand new building (the second incident within a year).

Kindness: The professor and company president demonstrated, through his kindness, that his employees matter much more than the tasks that he asked of them. This was evident in the respectful way he treated the employee who burned down a customer’s house.

We often read or hear about leaders who are mavericks, with personalities and egos to match. But how many business owners or leaders do you know who display the character strengths of humility, forgiveness, self-control, and kindness?

“Do not trust all men, but trust men of worth; the former course is silly, the latter a mark of prudence.” -Democritus, 460-370 BC, Greek philosopher

Reference

Sosik, J.J. (2006). Leading with character: Stories of valor and virtue and the principles they teach. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.

There Are Simple Answers

Ronald Reagan was known for his communication skills. In fact, his nickname was the “Great Communicator.” I came across part of the quote below in Weiss’ (2006) book and really like what former President Reagan said about simple answers.

“They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers.” -Ronald Reagan

As a consultant and trainer with experience in education, mental health, crisis management, and training & development, I have encountered difficult and complex situations. But, no matter how confusing or overwhelming the problems may sometimes seem, I have always believed that the answers were not. NASA astronauts and brain surgeons have jobs that are complex. Most jobs, however, are not. You either do it or you don’t. You move ahead or stand still. You make a decision or don’t. And yet, people tend to add an unnecessary layer of complications to sometimes uncomplicated problems or issues.

From my experience, I think many of us already know what we need to do (at home and in the workplace). It is the FEAR that keeps us from following through with actions. For instance, I have talked to people who were unhappy about certain aspects of their lives. Some, for example, lament how unhappy they were to be where they’re at in life. They complained that they hate this or that, and yet as much as they complained they never actually did anything to change their circumstances.

In our microwave mentality, we sometimes want it and want it now. We turn to self-help or leadership books and read blogs (like this one) for answers. The bottom line is that the “answers” are sometimes quite simple. The toughest part is not figuring out the “answers,” but rather, mustering up the courage to act.

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” -Confucius

Reference

Weiss, J. (2006). The quotable manager: Inspiration for business and life. Layton, UT: Gibbs Smith.

Motivating Your Employees

How do you motivate your employees? Harvard Business Review’s Answer Exchange offers some nice tips:

  • Make pay fair and competitive. Your incentive system should align your organization’s desired performance with the rewards that employees value.
  • Demonstrate trust in your employees. Remove some controls. For instance, ask employees to create their own plans or schedules. Or put an employee in charge of something you would normally handle. By trusting employees to do their jobs well, you inspire them to meet your expectations.
  • Introduce challenges. People often can handle tasks that are more complex and demanding than their job descriptions require—and than you expect. When presented with tougher assignments, employees usually rise to the challenge.
  • Encourage some people to become experts in subjects that interest them and that provide real value to the organization.
  • Eliminate fear from the workplace. Encourage open communication and information sharing.
  • Preserve employees’ dignity. A little respect and forthright communication go a long way. For instance, handle critiques of employees’ performances with tact; avoid humiliating them at all costs.
  • Reform or remove slackers. Disgruntled or otherwise disengaged people can put a damper on the enthusiasm and creativity that every company and every team needs to improve performance. Give them coaching, move them into more suitable positions, or dismiss them.
  • Empower people and avoid micromanaging. Give employees what they need to succeed and don’t get involved unless necessary.

Reference

Originally posted on HBR Answer Exchange (now defunct); Adapted from the book chapter Motivation: The Not-So-Secret Ingredient of High Performance, Harvard Business Press

Leadership, Southwest Airlines, and Malice in Dallas

Note: If you have trouble viewing the video, you can watch it on YouTube.

This is a hilarious video (watch his aerobic workouts) produced by Southwest Airlines for its Employees about “Malice in Dallas,” the legendary charity arm wrestling match between “Smokin'” (he was literally smoking and curling Wild Turkey liquor) Herb Kelleher and Stevens Aviation’s “Kurtsey” or “Killer” Kurt Herwald to settle a dispute over Southwest’s “Just Plane Smart” slogan. The match was held on March 20, 1992 at the now-demolished Dallas Sportatorium. In this video, Herb’s and Herwald’s training regimens are detailed.

This classic video and the “Malice in Dallas” story epitomize leadership that is genuine and personal. The video’s humor mirrors the same zany quality of Herb himself and, in my opinion, is what made him such a magnetic leader. I could not stop laughing watching his workouts.

Below is a short article I wrote two months ago. I wrote it because I was curious about Southwest Airlines and about Herb Kelleher. I also wanted to research and write about Southwest Airlines because its headquarter is in Dallas, Texas and I’m from Dallas. Most of all, it gave me a sense of pride to learn more about a well-respected company in my own hometown.

Overview: Leadership at Southwest Airlines

The co-founder of Southwest Airlines, Herb Kelleher (now Chairman Emeritus), led Southwest Airlines to success. Beneath his fun-loving persona is a hard-working, empathetic and determined leader.

Significance

Southwest Airlines is remarkable because it is the only airline to maintain a profit every year for 31 years. In “The Southwest Airlines Way,” Jody Gittell says this record is unparalleled in the airline industry.

Leadership Style

Kelleher’s hands-on leadership style earned him the respect and admiration of employees, according to the book “Essentials of Management.” He made people feel important by remembering their names and sending out birthday cards. In “Lasting Leadership,” Peter Cappelli, a management professor, says that Kelleher was great at boosting employee morale, an ability that’s rare in a top executive.

Misconceptions

Although known for his crazy antics, like appearing in public dressed as Elvis and the Easter Bunny, Kelleher is “as regimented and determined as an army general,” one who is competitive and “deadly serious about success,” states “Essentials of Management.”

Fun Fact

The authors of “Entrepreneurs, Managers, and Leaders” tell an amusing story about 63-year-old Kelleher arm-wrestling with 38-year-old Kurt Herwald (in the “Malice in Dallas” arm-wrestling match), the weightlifting CEO of an aircraft maintenance company. They were battling for the rights to use the slogan, “Plane Smart.” After his defeat, Kelleher joked that had it not been for his wrist fracture, cold and athlete’s feet, he would have won.

[“NUTS! Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success,” by Drs. Kevin & Jackie Freiberg, has a detailed account of the arm-wrestling match. You can also read the “Malice in Dallas” story on the Freibergs’ website.]

Expert Insight

In “Lasting Leadership,” Mukul Pandya and Robbie Shell attribute Southwest Airlines’ success to Kelleher and his belief that, “employees come first [and] that a company with happy and productive workers will have happy, paying customers.” As Kelleher said, “You can buy an airplane and a terminal, but you can’t buy the spirit of the people.”

References

  • “Entrepreneurs, Managers, and Leaders: What the Airline Industry Can Teach Us about Leadership”; Anthony J. Mayo, Nitin Nohria and Mark Rennella; 2009
  • “Essentials of Management: An International Perspective”; Harold Koontz and Heinz Weihrich; 2008
  • “Lasting Leadership: What You Can Learn from the 25 Most Influential Business People of Our Times”; Mukul Pandya and Robbie Shell; 2005
  • “Fortune” magazine: “Is Herb Kelleher America’s Best CEO? Behind his Clowning is a People-wise Manager Who Wins Where Others Can’t”; Kenneth Labich and Ani Hadjian; May 2, 1994
  • “The Southwest Airlines Way: Using the Power of Relationships to Achieve High Performance”; Jody H. Gittell; 2003
  • “NUTS! Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success”; Drs. Kevin & Jackie Freiberg; 1996

Leadership and Life Lessons from John Wooden

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best you are capable of becoming.” -John Wooden (Wooden & Jamison, 2007, p. 33)

Note: If you have trouble viewing the video, you can watch it on YouTube.

John R. Wooden, a well-respected, much beloved basketball coach, died June 4, 2010. He was 99 years old. His record ten NCAA national championships in 12 years while at UCLA is unparalleled by any other college basketball coach. Perhaps more than being remembered as one of the greatest coaches of all time (not only just in basketball) he was remembered as a great person. One thing he says he wanted to be remembered for is someone who is considerate of others.

This post showcases two great videos featuring coach John Wooden. The first video (at top), highlights Wooden and his life as a devoted husband and man of strong convictions.

Note: If you have trouble viewing the video, you can watch it on YouTube.

In this second video (above) with Dr. Mick Ukleja of LeadershipTraQ.com, coach John Wooden shares his views on life and leadership. Recounting the lessons from his dad, he shares the important life and leadership lessons he’s learned over the years.

Referring to coaching as “teaching,” he says a coach is a teacher. “You’re teaching more things than just the subject matter.”

Coach Wooden says one of the most important things he learned at a young age was to never try to be better than someone else, but always try to be the best you can be.

  • Focus on those things you have control.
  • Don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t steal.
  • No whining, no complaining, don’t make excuses.


A Few of Wooden’s Pyramid of Success

  • Self-Control – keeping your emotions under control so you can execute whatever it is that you’re doing.
  • Poise – being yourself
  • Adaptability – realizing that situations change and you must change accordingly
  • Intentness – keeping focus on your objectives
  • Cooperation – being considerate of others and know you’re not alone in anything and that there are others with you
  • Skill – Being able to execute properly and quickly
  • Alertness – observing the things around you and knowing the things to do and not do.

“The greatest responsibility is to teach those under me the value of an education. Sport is meaningful for only a short part of your life.”

Coach John R. Wooden was a humbled man and a consummate coach and teacher of life.

“[M]y success comes not from championships, but from the knowledge that I did everything possible to be the best teacher, coach, and leader I was capable of being. The quality of that effort is where I found—and continue to find—success. Those championships were a ‘by-product.’” – John Wooden (Wooden & Jamison, 2005, p. 57)

Reference

Wooden, J. & Jamison, S. (2005). Wooden on leadership. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Wooden, J. & Jamison, S. (2007). The essential Wooden: A lifetime of lessons on leaders and leadership. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Video: Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Note: If you have trouble viewing the video, you can watch it on YouTube.

In this video, Patrick Lencioni author of “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” talks about behaviors that derail teams.

Summary of the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team (from PDF on Lencioni’s website):

Dysfunction #1: Absence of Trust
This occurs when team members are reluctant to be vulnerable with one another and are unwilling to admit their mistakes, weaknesses or needs for help. Without a certain comfort level among team members, a foundation of trust is impossible.

Dysfunction #2: Fear of Conflict
Teams that are lacking on trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered, passionate debate about key issues, causing situations where team conflict can easily turn into veiled discussions and back channel comments. In a work setting where team members do not openly air their opinions, inferior decisions are the result.

Dysfunction #3: Lack of Commitment
Without conflict, it is difficult for team members to commit to decisions, creating an environment where ambiguity prevails. Lack of direction and commitment can make employees, particularly star employees, disgruntled

Dysfunction #4: Avoidance of Accountability
When teams don’t commit to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven individuals hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviors that may seem counterproductive to the overall good of the team.

Dysfunction #5: Inattention to Results
Team members naturally tend to put their own needs (ego, career development, recognition, etc.) ahead of the collective goals of the team when individuals aren’t held accountable. If a team has lost sight of the need for achievement, the business ultimately suffers.

Dan Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Note: If you have trouble viewing the video, you can watch it on YouTube.

I want to thank WorkplacePsychology.Net reader Chris Webb for sending me a link to this video about Dan Pink’s book, “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.”

What’s so impressive are the visual illustrations done by the artist (also called a “graphic facilitator”) at Cognitive Media to visually capture what the author is trying to verbally communicate about motivation.

The video is a great complement to two earlier posts, 3 Primary Goals of People at Work and What Really Motivates Employees.

If you are like me, someone who loves to “think visually,” you’ll love this video. Thanks again Chris!

The Mechanic in the Organization


In “Organization Development: The Process of Leading Organizational Change” (2010), professor Donald Anderson talks about a model of organizational consulting called “Mechanic Model.” Imagine your car causing you problems (e.g., making a strange noise, surging and stopping, has trouble starting, etc.). So you take it into the nearest car shop (or one you trust) and ask the mechanic to troubleshoot the problem or problems and then fix them. As a consumer relying on the mechanic’s expertise, you don’t care about the technical or detailed explanations of how or why something works or doesn’t work (and you really don’t want to get your hands dirty), you simply want it fixed.

“The mechanic is responsible for figuring out what is wrong and fixing it. If the repair does not successfully solve the problem, the responsibility is the mechanic’s, not ours” (Anderson, 2010, p. 86).

When organizational clients have neither the time nor the patience to deal with problems, they often look for mechanic model solutions. But, Dr. Anderson cautions, this is not a good role for consultants to put themselves in because it’s rarely successful.

Why? Dr. Anderson says that this mechanic model gives consultants such wide latitude and responsibility over both the “problem” and the “solution” to the point that the clients (i.e. the organizations) “relinquish both accountability and responsibility for the problem” (p. 86).

By not getting their hands dirty (i.e., involved), organizations do not recognize their role in the problem and thus fail to gain the “insight into the process of assessing and implementing solutions” (p. 86).

This is a more complex way of saying that they never learn to “fish for themselves” by relying on others.

When I worked overseas consulting to education professionals, I sometimes found myself in this mechanic role. As a young and eager crisis management consultant, I wanted to do all that I could to help the schools, the administrators, educators, and students. However, after several months of repeating, re-teaching, and/or re-implementing strategies I finally realized the limitations of this Mechanic Model mentality.

By being the “go-to guy” or the “specialist,” I inadvertently made the system and employees dependent on an outsider to solve or fix their problems. In psychology, we say this is enabling. It’s a strange predicament to be in because, on the one hand, you want to be recognized for your skills. On the other hand, however, you also want to work to make things better so that when the time comes for you to move on (in my case I relocated back to Dallas to be closer to my elderly parents), the people and organizations are still able to firmly stand on their own without relying on assistance.

Thus, what you want to do is: Work to empower and not to enable.

It took listening, insight, and collaboration with a very capable team of professionals to start the process of empowerment and then later implementing change strategies. I think consultants before me failed to recognize this systemic mindset and found themselves in the mechanic role (just like I initially found myself in).

But the difference between how I eventually succeeded, and others did not, were these things:

  1. Understanding the difference between empowering and enabling.
  2. Believing in those who will take over the helm. Your consulting role is to help people and organizations guide their own ships.
  3. Equipping people with the right tools for their roles within the organization.
  4. Never accepting “I can’t” as an excuse.
  5. Showing people that you care about and respect them.

If I were to pick the top two reasons I believe change occurred, they are: (1) respecting people and taking an interest in their well-being, and (2) giving them the right tools they need to succeed.

Reference

Anderson, D. (2010). Organization Development: The Process of Leading Organizational Change. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

6 Steps to Guide Employees Through Change

In a previous post titled, “Implementing Change and Overcoming Resistance,” I talked about Kotter’s 8-Stage Process to Creating Major Change.

In this post, I’ll pass along another gem from Harvard Business Review’s Answer Exchange and the suggestions for creating a guiding vision to help employees through change.

6 STEPS TO GUIDING EMPLOYEES THROUGH CHANGE:

  1. Describe a desirable future, one that people would be happy to have right now if they could. Include specifics about how the change will improve the business and how the improvements will benefit employees.
  2. Make the vision compelling. The benefits of the change must be clear and the vision must be better than the status quo so that people will gladly undertake the effort and make the necessary sacrifices.
  3. Ensure that the vision is realistic. It must be perceived as achievable.
  4. Focus on a manageable and coherent set of goals.
  5. Build in flexibility so that if the circumstances change, the vision can change, too.
  6. Make sure the vision is easy to communicate. Managers at all levels of the organization need to be able to communicate the vision to their people.

Though some items on this list are similar to those on Kotter’s 8-Stage Process to Creating Major Change, it’s still a nice summary.

Reference

Originally posted on HBR Answer Exchange (now defunct); Adapted from the book Managing Change: Pocket Mentor Series, Harvard Business Press