Monday, February 25, 2013

World’s Simplest Leadership Secret

By Virgil Carter

There’s an endless supply of existing books on leadership and management, filled with how to be a better, more successful leader or manager.  And new books come out almost every day on the same subject.  According to a recent Inc. article, however, “the management books have it all wrong.  They all try to tell you how to manage ‘people’”.   According to author Geoffrey James, it’s impossible to manage “people”; it’s only possible to manage individuals!  And because individuals differ from one another, what works with one individual may not work with someone else.
For example, some individuals thrive on public praise; others feel uncomfortable when singled out.  Some individuals are all about money; others thrive on challenging assignments.  Some individuals need mentoring; others find advice to be grating.
So what is a successful leader to do?  “The trick”, according to James, “is to manage individuals the way THEY want to be managed, rather than the way YOU’d prefer to be managed.
“The only way to do this is to ASK”, James writes.  In your first (or next) meeting with each direct report ask:

·        How do you prefer to be managed?

·        What can I do to help you excel?

·        What types of management annoy you?
James goes on to say, “Listen (really listen) to the response and then, as far as you are able, adapt your coaching, motivation, compensation, and so forth to match that individual's needs.  By the way, a savvy employee won't wait for you to ask; he or she will tell you outright what works. When this happens, you're crazy not to take that employee's advice!”
“Unfortunately, most individuals aren't that bold, which is why it's up to you to find out how to get the best out of them.  There is no one-size-fits-all in a world where everyone is unique.”
“And you'll never get that out of a management book.”  For the full article, go to:

Monday, February 18, 2013

Ten Worst Communications Mistakes for Your Career

By Virgil Carter

Want to convince the world that you are a capable and mature leader on the rise?  Who doesn’t?  According to a recent Forbes article, one of the surest ways to derail your leadership career is through serious communications mistakes.   What are the communications pitfalls to avoid?  Here’s Forbes top ten communications mistakes:

1.       Racially Biased Comments:  These remarks easily offend or insult, reflect poor judgment and reveal low emotional intelligence, according to the researchers.

2.      Off-Color Jokes:  Telling inappropriate jokes makes people uncomfortable, revealing an inability to properly read the audience and environment.

3.      Crying:  Rightly or wrongly, workplace tears do not communicate leadership potential.

4.      Sounding Uneducated:  Executives say it’s important for leaders to portray gravitas, worldliness and intellectual horsepower. Thus, sounding uneducated will immediately undermine your chances of career advancement.

5.      Swearing:  Cursing is a gender-neutral faux pas. It’s generally considered unprofessional and unfitting of a leader will undercut your professional reputation, regardless of whether you’re a man or woman.

6.      Flirting:  Nearly half of executives say flirting will undercut your professional reputation, regardless of whether you’re a man or woman.

7.      Scratching Yourself:  The study researchers found that fidgeting in general detracts from your executive presence. Fiddling with your clothes or mobile devices in meetings makes you appear ill at ease or as if you’re not paying attention.

8.      Avoiding Eye Contact:  Body language experts say avoiding eye contact makes it seem like you might be lying or have something to hide. If you’re in a meeting, it may also give the impression that you’re uninterested.

9.      Rambling:  If you can’t keep your message succinct and coherent, you won’t appear in control. You also weaken the power and impact of the points you’re trying to make.

10.  Giggling Too Much and Speaking Shrilly:  Leaders say that giggling or laughing too much is a top communication blunder for women, and speaking shrilly is a top problem for men.
For the full article, go to:

Monday, February 11, 2013

Ten Reasons People Resist Change

By Virgil Carter

Organizational leadership often involves change—change for the organization and change for the people in that organization.  So what’s a successful leader to do when faced with overt and/or passive resistance?  A recent article in the Harvard Business Review by Rosabeth Moss Kanter provides useful insights.
She writes, “The best tool for leaders of change is to understand the predictable, universal sources of resistance in each situation and then strategize around them. Here are the ten I've found to be the most common”:
·         Loss of control. Change interferes with autonomy and can make people feel that they've lost control over their territory.  Smart leaders leave room for those affected by change to make choices. They invite others into the planning, giving them ownership.

·         Excess uncertainty. If change feels like walking off a cliff blindfolded, then people will reject it.  Leaders should create certainty of process, with clear, simple steps and timetables.

·         Surprise, surprise! Decisions imposed on people suddenly, with no time to get used to the idea or prepare for the consequences, are generally resisted.  Leaders should avoid the temptation to craft changes in secret and then announce them all at once. It's better to plant seeds — that is, to sprinkle hints of what might be coming and seek input.

·         Everything seems different. Change is meant to bring something different, but how different? Leaders should try to minimize the number of unrelated differences introduced by a central change. Wherever possible keep things familiar.

·         Loss of face. By definition, change is a departure from the past. Those people associated with the last version — the one that didn't work or the one that’s being superseded— are likely to be defensive about it.  Leaders can help people maintain dignity by celebrating those elements of the past that are worth honoring, and making it clear that the world has changed. That makes it easier to let go and move on.

·         Concerns about competence. Can I do it? Change is resisted when it makes people feel stupid.  Leaders should over-invest in structural reassurance, providing abundant information, education, training, mentors, and support systems.

·         More work. Here is a universal challenge. Change is indeed more work.  Leaders should acknowledge the hard work of change by allowing some people to focus exclusively on it, or adding extra perks for participants (meals? valet parking? massages?).

·         Ripple effects. Like tossing a pebble into a pond, change creates ripples, reaching distant spots in ever-widening circles.  Leaders should enlarge the circle of stakeholders. They must consider all affected parties, however distant, and work with them to minimize disruption.

·         Past resentments. The ghosts of the past are always lying in wait to haunt us.  Leaders should consider gestures to heal the past before sailing into the future.

·         Sometimes the threat is real. Now we get to true pain and politics. Change is resisted because it can hurt.  The best thing leaders can do when the changes they seek pose significant threat is to be honest, transparent, fast, and fair.

Although leaders can't always make people feel comfortable with change, they can minimize discomfort. Diagnosing the sources of resistance is the first step toward good solutions. And feedback from resistors can even be helpful in improving the process of gaining acceptance for change.

For the full article, go to:

Monday, February 4, 2013

Strategy or Execution: Which is More Important?

Virgil Carter

Is your organization caught up in the strategy vs. execution debate—you know, is it more important to have a strategy for a successful future or is it more important that you are producing results? In a recent Strategy+Leadership article of the same name, authored by Ken Favaro, with Evan Hirsh and Kasturi Rangan, the authors share their experience that an organization can’t have great execution without a superior strategy!

The authors write, “Any seasoned strategist knows that strategy is not just sloganeering. It is the series of choices you make on where to play and how to win to maximize long-term value. Execution is producing results in the context of those choices. Therefore, you cannot have good execution without having good strategy”.

Further, the authors argue, “Most everyone would agree that you cannot achieve good results without having good execution; similarly, most would agree that having a good strategy alone is no surefire formula for success. But too many jump to the wrong conclusion that this makes execution more important than strategy”.

So the next time you hear statements like these —

• “I’d rather have great execution with a mediocre strategy than the other way around.”
• “You don’t win by having a better strategy; you win through superior execution.”
• “We don’t need a new strategy to fix our performance; we just need to execute the one we have.”

Favaro and his colleagues conclude their article, saying, “Remember this: You need a good strategy to have good execution. Yes, having a good strategy alone isn’t enough to win, but your ability to execute well depends on how good your strategy is and how well it’s understood by everyone who makes major decisions for your business. When your business or company is not executing well, take a look at your strategy. Improving it — and your most important stakeholders’ understanding of it — may hold the key to unlocking better execution”.
For the full article, go to: