Tag Archives: management

The SuperManager: A Short Story About the Secrets of An Extremely Successful Manager

The SuperManagerIn just under 100 pages, The SuperManager, by Greg Blencoe, delivers a powerful model for effective management and supervisory skills in the form of a concise and engaging short story.

We follow new-manager Andrew as he is mentored by his original super-manager, Leon. By incorporating “The SuperManager’s Seven Principles” into a narrative, Blencoe removes us to the third person, where we feel not lectured, but entertained.

The SuperManager does a great job of incorporating Experiential Learning into an independent-reading book. It’s akin to a simulation – following along with Andrew (he even takes notes for us!) – making it memorable and enjoyable.

Through the story, Blencoe unpacks his “Seven Principles” in conversational language, accompanied by anecdotal examples – emphasizing the accessibility of effective management skills, and placing them in a realistic and specific context.

The SuperManager makes an excellent take-away for any Management or Supervisory Skills training session. With a section for each “Principle”, it’s something to refer back to as a reminder or refresher for new and experienced managers alike.

The SuperManager is available on Amazon.com

For more information on SuperManagers, visit Greg Blencoe’s blog

The Advantage

Some organizations are really smart.  Their structure, marketing, finances, and technology are all at the highest levels.  Does that make them successful?  Well…sometimes smart isn’t enough.  In The Advantage (Jossey-Bass, 2012), Patrick Lencioni (author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and Death by Meeting) proposes that organizational health can be just as – if not more – important than technical proficiency.  He points out that both good and bad decision-making can be a product of organizational health, though they are often only attributed to intelligence.  He identifies the signs of a healthy organization as minimal politics, minimal confusion, high morale, high productivity, and low turnover.

So how do we make sure that the health of our organizations is not casting a shadow on its intelligence?  Lencioni sets out the Four Disciplines of Organizational Health:

  1. Build a Cohesive Leadership Team
  2. Create Clarity
  3. Over-Communicate Clarity
  4. Reinforce Clarity

He begins by highlighting the role of leadership as played by a team of leaders, and advises the assessment and recognition of personality styles as a starting point on the path to organizational health – creating a solid, trusting relationship between leadership team members.  Once team members understand each other’s personality styles, they can mitigate or put aside points of stress that stem from personal behaviors.  That, however, is not to say that a lack of conflict is a sign of a healthy team.  Lencioni argues that the avoidance of conflict keeps important issues from being discussed at a level where truths are brought forward, and best solutions are reached.  Reaching not a passive consensus, but commitment through conflict leads to accountability – if a public agreement is reached, everyone feels more comfortable confronting deviant behavior.  This commitment to cohesive behavior within the leadership team translates to the rest of the organization as well.

Once the leadership team is operating as a unit, Lencioni urges them to identify or clarify standards of alignment with the following questions:

  1. Why do we exist?
  2. How do we behave?
  3. What do we do?
  4. How will we succeed?
  5. What is most important, right now?
  6. Who must do what?

Providing real-life examples at every step of the way, he guides us through the process of developing a “strategy,” and how this strategy needs to be communicated in order to assure organization-wide alignment.

A great thing about this book is that it doesn’t just hand its readers a strategic plan and push them out of the nest; it explains how organizations change over time, and how leaders can keep them on track through those changes.  The final chapters of The Advantage show how hiring and meeting structure can be keys to maintaining alignment in a healthy organization.  Lencioni provides us with a checklist of all the steps he’s laid out, so that we can see what lies ahead for our soon-to-be healthier organizations at a glance.

The Advantage is, by no means, a guide for only new organizations.  You can teach an old dog new tricks, as long as he’s healthy enough to perform.  Give your organization the advantage of health today!

The Student Leadership Challenge

In The Student Leadership Challenge (Jossey-Bass, 2008), authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner set out the “Five Practices of Exemplary Leaders.”  They are:

  • Model the Way – determine and clarify values, adhere to them, and communicate them to others in a demonstrative, rather than prescriptive way.
  • Inspire a Shared Vision – communicate an image of the future, encourage others to see the possibility of that future, and highlight the communal benefits of positive change.
  • Challenge the Process – be willing to take risks and experiment, to learn from failure, but commit to possibility.
  • Enable Others to Act – create teams, build trust, and learn to rely on the abilities of others.
  • Encourage the Heart – give positive feedback, celebrate values and victories, and encourage happiness and enthusiasm.

Each value is addressed in its own chapter of the book, after which the reader is offered prompts and writing space for reflection.  The final chapter synthesizes these behaviors into the book’s overarching message: “Leadership is everyone’s business.”

The Student Leadership Challenge is populated with personal accounts, collected through interviewing, that illustrate each of the five practices.  By providing real-life examples, Kouzes and Posner demonstrate that leadership is possible on any scale, in any field – from editing a school yearbook to overseeing a medical fellowship program.

While the theme of the book and the subjects of the accounts within are student leadership, the five practices explored are universal fundamentals that can build and enhance anyone’s ability to lead.  We are all born students – with the ability to learn the essentials of great leadership.  As Kuozes and Posner put it, “Leadership is an identifiable set of skills and abilities that are available to everyone.”

Use The Student Leadership Challenge to become the leader you want to be.

The Three Laws of Performance: Rewriting the Future of Your Organization and Your Life

In the Three Laws of Performance, Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan call out three truths of performance:

  1.  How people perform correlates to how situations occur to them.
  2. How a situation occurs arises in language.
  3. Future-based language transforms how situations occur to people.

The purpose of pointing to these three laws is to determine what, exactly, a leader must do in order to maintain the high performance of their team – the Leadership Corollaries (because of Law 1, a leader must…)

The laws and their corollaries acknowledge that subjectivity plays a large part of both the perception and quantification of performance.  They set the leader’s role as someone who takes that subjectivity into account, works toward common understanding, and guides his team’s idea of the future.

The idea of discussing performance in the frame of a desired future is a key message presented by Zaffron and Logan.  Through a collection of real-life stories, they show readers that performance and leadership breakthroughs are possible and that, by understanding the elements of a desired outcome, one can determine the approach needed to reach it.

Zaffron and Logan’s stories serve not only as illustrations of the Three Laws and Leadership Corollaries, but as models for leadership behavior and organizational transformation.  The Three Laws of Performance is a testimonial of possibilities – encouraging leaders to see a bright and better future for their teams, and to help them achieve their full potential.

Hiring for Attitude

In Hiring for Attitude (McGraw-Hill 2012), Mark Murphy discusses qualitative performance as a hiring, rather than management, issue.  He argues that compatibility with company values is what determines and drives employee performance, and that this compatibility can be recognized during the recruitment and hiring process to select for high performers.

Murphy begins by setting out the results of a study:  In their first 18 months on the job, 46% of 20,000 new hires failed.  He defines failure as termination, poor performance reviews, or write-ups.  A 46% failure rate suggests that there must be some other factor involved than the ability to do the job.  After all, were 9,200 people really hired despite lacking adequate skills for their position?  Probably not, right?

So what was the problem, then?  The performance of employees is judged against the standards and values of the hiring company.  If an employee’s personal idea of high performance does not match the standard against which they are being evaluated, regardless of their skill level, they will not be reviewed positively.  Hiring for Attitude takes readers through the process of identifying those standards, recruiting and hiring to fit them, and keeping them visible to ensure high performance.

Mark Murphy guides readers through the interviewing process with the end goal of a high performer in mind (a person with both high skill value and a good attitude).  He warns against some very common (but ineffective) behavioral questions, and their lack of ability to meaningfully differentiate candidates.  But, not to leave us hanging, he suggests formulas for questions that really will determine an interviewee’s fit with a company.  He provides plenty of example answers and what information can be gleaned from them about the attitude of the respondent.  And although he does provide his personal opinions on these answers, he offers statistics on specific language choices of high and low performers to reinforce those opinions.

Beyond just the interviewing part of the hiring process, Murphy gives advice on tailoring your recruiting efforts to attract high performers that match the culture and values of your company.  He points out that the better your set of potential hires, the higher your standards will be for your final decision.  But, Murphy stresses, the work of the company doesn’t stop with that decision.  He highlights the importance of company values’ visibility – clearly communicating standards and measures to employees – to ensure a strong company culture that encourages high performance and a unified team.

Overall, Hiring for Attitude is a guide for establishing and preserving the culture of your company to create a strong, high performing team.  While you, individually, may play only a small part in this kind of decision-making for your team, it is extremely helpful to understand this critical and considerate process in order to actively participate in the function and growth of your organization.

True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership

In True North (Jossey-Bass, 2007), Bill George proposes that the only secret to success is the most obvious thing of all – your most authentic self.  George encourages his reader to identify and follow their cardinal principles.

In everyday matters, what George is asking has to do with organizational values and leadership behaviors.  He believes that leadership is about developing relationships and building a culture of character in an organization – from hiring to performance management.

To help readers find their true north, George first tells the real-life stories of many successful leaders, and how their leadership behavior and style have taken shape.  He then urges readers to take stock of their own behavior.

Finding the right role, increasing self-confidence, being consistent, and connecting with others are learnable behaviors that will ensure alignment in and out of the workplace.  The real message behind True North is value-based living – informing one’s actions with fundamental values at every opportunity, and extending those values to others.

As a final take-away, George encourages his newly-calibrated reader to empower others to lead by sharing stories, raising expectations, and opening dialogs – helping them find their true north. Find yours today!

Extraordinary Groups: How Ordinary Teams Achieve Amazing Results

Extraordinary Groups, a collaborative effort by Geoff Bellman and Kathleen Ryan (Jossey-Bass, 2009), explores a specific interpersonal phenomenon – group activity leading to personal transformation.

Group-work, in this case, can be either personal or professional – Bellman and Ryan begin by reminding readers that forming groups is a part of human nature.  Group membership functions as both a tool for addressing external needs (the function of the group), and a means for fulfilling needs associated with interpersonal cooperation (why the group’s members have come together).

It is when these needs have been met that a group can be transformative to its members – that it can become extraordinary.  As Bellman and Ryan put it, “An extraordinary group achieves outstanding results while members experience a profound shift in how they see their world.”

Extraordinary Groups is structured around a model of 6 group needs:

Each need is defined by three goal statements.  The need is met when all three statements are true of the group/self/world.  One example is the Acceptance need.  Its goal statements are:

  • I know who I am and I know what I bring, strengths and limitations.
  • I can express who I am to myself and others.
  • I accept myself for who I am right now.

When one can say these things truthfully of oneself, the Acceptance need has been met.

While Self needs are no more or less important, other needs may require more work to fulfill.  They depend on the thoughts and actions of the group as a whole.  Extraordinary Groups provides guidance as to how individuals can act within their groups to contribute to these needs.

Through self-reflection and awareness, an individual can shape their own experience and the experiences of their group-mates.  Acknowledging differences and encouraging others to express themselves when conflict arises will help the group become more aware and better able to work toward meeting Group needs – focusing on what brings the group together.

Through the stories of individuals deeply affected by their own extraordinary groups, Bellman and Ryan shape the reader’s journey to transformation through shared experience.  Help your team reach its full potential with Extraordinary Groups.

Beyond Change Management: How to Achieve Breakthrough Results Through Conscious Change

Not all organizations handle change well. But, Dean Anderson and Linda Ackerman Anderson are here to help; and after reading this book, your organization may be the next to embrace their process. Their book, Beyond Change Management: How to Achieve Breakthrough Results Through Conscious Change Leadership (2nd Edition, Pfeiffer, 2010) is for anyone faced with the possibility of dramatic organizational change (read: everyone, right?).

The success of organizational change is not solely dependent on any one thing.  Approach, leadership, strategy, commitment – so many factors influence the outcomes of change.  Dean and Linda Anderson stress the idea that all aspects of the change life-cycle need to be carefully considered when implementing organizational change.

Don’t Just Manage Change.  Change Management.

The idea that change can be managed through existing practices is a paradox.  When faced with dramatic organizational change, a process of holistic consideration – rather than quarantined trial and error – will not only contribute to the success of the organization, but better prepare it for change management in the future.

Beyond Change Management – rather than offering in-the-moment solutions – is about creating (or becoming) an organization that inherently handles change appropriately.  It’s about total organizational health – and accepting the idea that change is an inevitability, but not necessarily a problem.

The main sections of Beyond Change Management include:

  • A Call for Conscious Change Leaders: Achieving Breakthrough Results, Three Types of Organizational Change, Drivers of Change, Leadership Approach to Transformation
  • People Dynamics: From Resistance to Commitment, Role of Culture and Mindset
  • Process Dynamics: Conscious Process Thinking and Process Models
  • Answering the Call to Conscious Change Leadership:  How to Answer the Call for Conscious Leadership

Learn from Experience, Look to the Future.

Dean Anderson and Linda Ackerman Anderson

Between them, the Andersons have over 30 years of experience working with various Fortune 500 companies and leading change.  Beyond Change Management brings that experience to you with a range of real-life change initiatives and how they were managed, an in-depth look at two different change models (presented as an online supplement), numerous case studies, and assessments.

Are you a leader invested in successful change?  Beyond Change Management has all the tools you’ll need to bolster your organization, and yourself, for whatever comes your way.

Click here for more resources on change management.

Designing mLearning: Tapping into the Mobile Revolution for Organizational Performance

We are a society that relies on our electronic devices to stay connected to the world around us.  Contemporary gadgetry has reinvented the way we communicate and receive our information.  What was once a fashionable luxury item has become a necessity as more and more people turn to these devices as their primary means of staying connected.  If learning professionals seize the opportunity to integrate mobile devices into their corporate learning vision, they will be connecting with their audience on a very fundamental level – ingraining their message into participants’ every day.  Making the most of this opportunity is the focus of Clark Quinn’s insightful book, Designing mLearning: Tapping into the Mobile Revolution for Organizational Performance (Pfeiffer, 2011).

In this relatively short book (223 pages), Quinn sets forth ideas and theories on how learning organizations can go about “systematically leveraging these devices to meet organizational needs” and “delivering value through the strategic use of mobile technology.”  Quinn places emphasis on the need for organizations to adopt a vision for utilizing mobile devices as a means of developing ongoing learning.  He starts by dispelling a few myths about mobile devices and then begins to build a more detailed plan for using them as powerful learning tools.

Quinn advocates the use of mobile devices as a means of serving up full courses, as a learning adjunct, or as performance support. He provides examples of mlearning in action, case studies of organizations that currently use mobile devices in their workplace learning programs, and strategy models for the design and development of mlearning programs. His presentation includes interviews with practitioners of mlearning – giving valuable insight into developing a vision for this platform.  Also of great importance is the examination of what certain operating systems can and can’t do and how they can or can’t work together; and of the issues of working across wireless carrier boundaries and the pitfalls that can come from that.

It is clear that mobile devices have changed the way we communicate.  In order to get training messages successfully across, they must be deliverable through our most common means of communication, which now include mobile devices.  Designing mLearning is a resource all training professionals will want to have on their shelf if they want to realize that vision.

From Bud to Boss: Secrets to a Successful Transition to Remarkable Leadership

The most exciting – and challenging – promotion is often your first one into a leadership position. But your colleagues are still in the same positions; and now you need to shift the dynamic in order to accomplish a new set of goals. Where do you start? From Bud to Boss (2011, Jossey-Bass), gives readers the roadmap they need to make this pivotal transition.

This book may as well have been called a course or program, because the authors take you through the important transition to leadership from the moment that the new job has been offered, and helps you take your first steps in the new world. It includes self-tests, summaries at the end of each chapter, and numerous links to online resources that will help you explore the areas that you find the most challenging.

Here is an overview of the topics covered:

  • Common concerns about the transition to leadership
  • Confronting important changes you face as a new leader
  • How to interact with your new peers
  • Understand the ‘wake’ you leave behind you
  • How to diagnose why people won’t change
  • Kick Start to Winning Presentations
  • Learn to use various types of feedback
  • Learn to handle conflict
  • Apply assertive communication techniques

One of the most notable sections was the frank chapter about goals. The authors’ advice belies their wealth of experience, when they tell readers that many of us are like Goldilocks when it comes to goals: we want each one to be ‘just right.’ The reality is that no goal is ‘Goldilocks perfect,’ and as a leader – especially a new one with the weight of extra focus on performance – it’s important not to use realistic goal setting as an excuse for avoiding goals altogether.

The bottom line is that team and organizational accomplishments start with the leader setting goals and committing to heir achievement. Kudos to Eikenberry and Harris for giving it to us straight.

With From Bud to Boss, you don’t have to face your transition alone.  In this book you’ll find a wise and reliable mentor to help you along the path to Remarkable Leadership.