Sunday, April 29, 2012

Great video but leadership traits JJ DID TIE BUCKLE make the leader

This video is a classic YouTube hit which makes a great point on leadership and followership.  I like the connection that is made between the leader and the first follower about spontaneous or natural leadership.  In my book, leadership traits of JJ DID TIE BUCKLE are developed to help individuals stand out.  Real leaders who develop their leadership traits in organizations are easy to follow because people in an organization believe in the leader and associate with the leader.  His success is their success and the organization's success is his success.  Traits like exercising judgment and justice (or consistent treatment of all followers) are interwoven throughout an organization by the leader and followers.  It becomes an expectation.  Leaders are dependable, show initiative, and are decisive. 

Leaders use tact in all their dealings, have high levels of integrity, and endurance to see tasks through to the end.  Traits of bearing, unselfishness, courage, knowledge, loyalty and enthusiasm are what make organizational leaders great leaders and help ordinary organizations become great.  The dancing guy video puts a dimension on the study of leadership that makes a great point about the first follower, but it is the unwavering leader with traits like JJ DID TIE BUCKLE that sets the tone and standard that makes an organization or team great.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Motivating employees through leadership trials

Do you recall being so tired that you could just sleep where you sat down?  Or you dozed off at the wheel while driving every time you blinked, the blinks got longer?  Generally that comes from exhaustion or a lack of restful sleep.  If you ever served in the infantry then you know what I mean.  Carrying a combat load of upwards of 65 lbs on your back in a pack over miles of difficult terrain for days is physically exhausting, and then returning to regular civilization can be equally exhausting.  Yet time and again, I saw a different attitude in people when they were the person in charge of the excursion, or the leader.   When people were part of the squad or fireteam with no responsibilities to lead, they shouldered their heavy burden and trudged along with either words of gripe about this or that, or they would be deep in thought about something else and focused on how much being in the infantry really sucked right at that moment in time.  I recall many such thoughts.  Yet when the same individual was tapped to lead the squad and had to make sure everyone was hydrated, and still physically able to keep up with the squad, the leader didn't seem to mind the distance, terrain or heavy burden he was carrying and in fact would often run up and down his line to make sure everyone else was OK.  Where did that burst of energy come from?  The same individual that was just so exhausted had forgotten his exhaustion and a shot of adrenaline had kicked in because he was in charge and had to make sure that not only was he personally squared away, but all of his charges as well as their leader.   

Why is that?  Why is it that something that could be so straining and exhaustive when you are following others and seems impossible to accomplish becomes trivially easy when you add the responsibilities of having to motivate and encourage others to do the same, follow and/or keep up?  It is the leader's job to keep everyone motivated, focused and on target to do the right thing.  The individual who believes in leading by example has to actually live a leader's life of personal sacrifice which is a tough life to live in the infantry.  It means less sleep, rest, food, water, personal time to take care of yourself.  Motivation is not a one size fits all solution in any organization, but leadership is a key motivator.

In my book, motivation in a work environment is achieved when individuals are known for their strengths and contributions and individually challenged.  The idea is to turn everyone in an organization into a leader who believes in leading by example and is occupied in his/her mind with keeping others motivated and encouraged.  You can only accomplish this by having people on board that are all capable of leading or being a leader.  If you bring 'A' players onto your team who care only about themselves, gripe about their environment or other problems and let their issues affect their work or other people's work, it takes what could be a great team down to the level of good or ordinary.  Great teams are built with interchangeable members who all have the potential to lead at one point or on some task or project with unselfishness as their key leadership trait.  These types of individuals generally don't want to lead because they know how hard and risky leadership actually is to achieve high performance.  A bunch of 'B' players can be valuable members and drive  'A' performance results for a team.  This probably defies logic, but 'A' player individuals from top tier schools tend to be selfish in their interests rather than selfless leaders (it goes with the territory of being graduates of top-tier schools and being 'A' players).

I'm not saying all good leaders are reluctant leaders as there are exceptions to everything, but going back to the infantry anyone who volunteers to do something for personal gain of things like pay, benefits, title or sense of entitlement and draws their primary motivation from those things probably isn't fit to even be on my team.  Those people are mediocre or average performers on their best days despite thinking they are 'A' players.  They give far from their true capabilities and act as individuals making it difficult for a team as a group to generate high performance.  Look at your  own current leaders who head departments, chair committees, lead companies, or may otherwise be the head honchos.  Do they lead selflessly and demonstrate through their actions and words that they care more about supporting you or the organization than they they do about themselves, their agenda, their initiatives, reputation or pet projects?  If you can truly say that they do, then I'll wager you're working for a high performance organization that is going to be around for a long time, and is led by leaders who understand how to motivate employees.

For most organizations including public and private enterprise it is rare to find leaders who keenly understand individual motivation as a means of rewarding employees and subscribe to using it over some cookie cutter standard performance appraisal system or generic assessment to try to get a consistent rating system for employees.  That generic system is to make it easier for the organization, not to optimize the motivation of the individual employee contributing to the team.  Those cookie-cutter performance appraisals with unobtainable goals don't work to get high performance out of motivated employees.  Those performance appraisals are far more subjective than objective and most of the employees know they are subject to their boss's whim.

However, nothing works better for motivating employees than a trial at leadership and putting employees in charge of things for a period with full support to see how things turn out like the Celebrity Apprentice (I hate all reality TV shows, but that's a different subject).  This approach works well in the infantry to evaluate small unit leadership and from what I've figured out after 20 years in business roles is that most people in business act the same way that people in the infantry act.  Human nature, it turns out, really is accelerated in the infantry because the lifespan of infantrymen is fairly short especially those who have been in ground combat.  A requisite for leadership positions in my book is that people are disqualified for a job opening if they apply for the position without being asked to apply.  If you applied that requisite to your employer, current boss or elected leaders, how would they stand up to that qualifier?  Do you think someone had to tell them to apply, talk them into accepting the job, or do you think they just seized an opportunity on the vacancy?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Why is the common sense of accountability so uncommon today?

The Oz Principle book is free just pay shipping in our estore or very inexpensive on Amazon

What happened to common sense in organizations?  So many decent people simply have lost touch with the basic principle of accountability.  The excuse of someone else will do something, or will say something is the prevailing culture in many organizations today and at every level.   Organized labor has built a model on sticking to the strict confines of assigned duties and responsibilities, disincenting people to just fix things or try to fix things they see broken, if it is not in the job description.   How crazy have we become?   This is not how we solve challenges that daunt our personal existence and larger community around us.  It may not be such a stretch to say that almost all the human caused disasters of the last centuries can trace the root cause of failed outcomes to the lack of accountability at some basic level.  Analysts or decision makers ignore signs and warnings of imminent attacks on Pearl Harbor or the World Trade Center, and the world pays a heavy price.  Germans internally fail to see Hitler's folly and allow him to rise or act with enough conviction internally to stop him in his tracks.  Japanese military leaders unquestioningly follow the most brutal and sadistic tactics failing to question their leaders orders, let alone pressure to stop their country's aggressive emperialism.  Tribes of native or more primitive cultures fail to see emperialist outsiders dividing them internally in the name of trade only to enslave them and force assimilation upon them.  Sometimes well intentioned leaders just get it wrong, but when there is nothing or no one to hold them accountable, it makes it a lot easier for them to be wrong than right.  

Lobbyists and their clients that generate language into bills that become laws making it possible to favor one group over a majority of ignorant, apathetic constituents thrive because there is no accountability.  The dismantling of economic safeguards in banking laws that were in place for almost 80 years to protect the American people from excessive risk in banking were directly related to crony capitalism, yet  no one is accountable for the mistakes made, so what's to stop it from happening again and again?  Corporate executives take unprecedented risks, follow foolish paths based on selfish interests and fail to listen to anyone who disagrees with their decisions, and are largely unaccountable by anyone let alone a governing body representing shareholders, consumers, employees or communities where those businesses operate.  Adverse impacts happen to an employee's livelihood when they disagree with bosses in organizations, so the safe and prevailing wisdom of self preservation is just pretend to not see the problem, right?   What have we become?  Are employees and the communities where they live really surprised that their pay is frozen or there are massive layoffs or closures of once thriving enterprises and communities when no one just solves problems when they first appear?  

Is it really any wonder that children in the US can't focus for more than a few minutes, read or do math at grade level on par with other industrialized nations?   Is it really any wonder that as a nation we have a national health crisis around costs that rise inexplicably and disproportionately to the rest of the costs in society and Americans overpay for basic health care services that workers like doctors and nurses would probably do for half the pay if asked (how does the military do it?).  Doctors, insurance companies and trial lawyers won't budge on controls or costs because the root cause of relative unaccountability to each of their groups benefit from higher costs.  Why aren't we as Americans outraged that maladies such as obesity, diabetes, & heart disease that could all be prevented grows to epidemic levels in kids and adults?  If it isn't a lack of accountability at personal, community, corporate, and governmental levels that has put us where we are, what else is it?  Who else but you and me are responsible for the state of our personal health and economy in the US?  How many people do you know that are eligible to vote didn't bother to cast a vote in their primary election?    How many people do you know have such a short attention span that they cannot read a 200+ pg book in a few hours, but can watch television for hours without end?  How many American people do you know have not read at least one 200+pg book in the last year, and proudly admit they hate to read?   How many American people do you know work in positions, report to bosses or work in organizations that they really do not like, but work there any way just for the paycheck to support a lifestyle or an over-extended household motivated by consumption and competition with their neighbor's consumption?   

Education and knowledge is free in this world.  Public libraries have every book published available to them for nominal costs and available to anyone for free.  MIT has free open course ware classes funded by volunteers and donors where anyone can sit in on the lectures available to the world for free.  Anyone can log in, audit whatever classes they want and actually learn something new about themselves and the world in a world-class higher education system.  The Khan Academy has volunteers and some of the best educational paid staff teaching subjects that anyone can learn or relearn at their own pace in the K-12 curriculum, yet labor organizations representing teachers see the innovation of Khan Academy as a threat and discourage their use.   Return to the basics of accountability as originally portrayed in the book the Oz Principle, but apply it to every aspect of your life.  Excuses are like TV reality shows they all suck.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How Do You Measure Success?

At the beginning and end of each day I try to "sharpen the saw" as Stephen Covey put it in his time management/planning classes.  A time to reflect on things for yourself.  I used this time (literally a couple minutes in the morning and night to ask myself the following questions to quantifiably measure my progress against my personal goals of success.  I changed the focus of trying to chase wealth and focused instead on chasing after a quest for knowledge and self improvement.  In Hindu philosophy there are many demigods and godesses (not mutually exclusive to pray to any of them, and Hinduism is a monotheistic religion that believes in one overall God - to all you bashers and haters who view religious philosophy solely through the lens of your specific monotheistic faith).  The concept is that two competing godesses who are personnified as very beautiful women wish to be pursued before they shower their attention on whomever pursues them.  One is called Saraswati the goddess of knowledge and the other is Lakshmi the goddess of wealth.  Many a Hindu merchant prays to Lakshmi for success or money (which is like you or me playing the lottery as the sole retirement investment plan), but never really does achieve great success beyond the immediate fruits of his physical or mental labor.  The countering philosophy is rather than pursue Lakshmi, pursue Saraswati (or knowledge) because it makes Lakshmi a little jealous and she reminds you that she's there and has gifts for you if you pursue her once in a while.  So the concept basically says pursue knowledge and the side effect of wealth and success becomes more plausible.  It is a simple concept, that I have not always adopted personally, but have learned to redefine success.  This Hindu philosophy has born to be universally accepted in many philosophical and religious teachings of basically doing good for others or similar concepts.  A more modern interpretation reinforcing the universality of the position comes from Victor Frankl's book Man's Search For Meaning.

I have adopted these 10 questions as the yardstick to how I did each day toward achieving my own success:

1. Did the people I love hear or feel from me that I love them today? 
  • I have been absent from this aspect for a long time in my life, taking everyone around me for granted.  I work on achieving this in small ways like making coffee for my wife Christy before she goes to work and on weekends and bringing it to her in bed, or taking our daughter Rachel to school whenever I can, or making sure our son Alex or my dad or brothers hear something positive from me and not just gripes or complaints about something.  I try to find ways to talk to my friends or family and/or exchange emails to brighten their day without asking or expecting anything from anyone and just like doing it to the point it makes my day better.
2. What's the biggest thing I did to improve the world?
  • This isn't the easiest thing for me to think about, because I'm not the type that was out to improve anything but his own lot in life.  But I discovered that the little things like recycling, not printing something that can just be shared digitally,  sharing an idea with someone who can turn it into something wonderful, walking or biking somewhere vs driving, or turning off the lights or power to equipment so as not to waste water or energy count in this bucket.  Bigger things like donating to a charity or finding solutions for things plaguing groups like veterans or my community count a lot more to me, and I'm a work in progress.
3. Did I physically work out my body today? 
  • I know my family and friends who know and live with me every day will laugh at this one because I don't exercise any more and haven't really in over twenty years.  I do nothing close to what I used to do when I was an active duty Marine or afterward when it hadn't quite rubbed off and I was addicted to physical training before our kids came along, and I developed a love for fine cigars, alcohol, food and physical comforts like using a snow-blower vs shoveling the driveway or driving vs walking or biking.   Most who know me would consider me a level just above functioning ameoba when it comes to physical activity levels.  However I do something every day whether it is a "Surya namaskar" or "hello sun" exercise or something like the daily seven the Marines use to stretch and warm up their muscles before running to prevent injury.  I do something each morning to help me stay flexible which in turn keeps my arthritis and gout at bay and makes it just a little easier to walk my gargantuan girth around.  As funny as it may sound to my family and friends asking this question, I do understand the benefits of this question and do think about it.
4. What did I plan for tomorrow?
  • I have no problems with this one, because I am a natural planner and thinker.  In fact I think my wife Christy thinks it is the Dwivedi curse to be more "thinkers" than "doers."  There might be something to it.   I am just not comfortable going to sleep until I know what I have to do tomorrow and the day after and next week, and I like to draw her into my plans.  I, like others (I am sure), plan in my sleep which gives me ideas to develop new opportunities.    Christy thinks my ideas come too fast to execute properly on any one and she might be right about that.  How does it work for you?
5. Did I do anything to compromise my integrity today?
  • I have not had a problem with my integrity since early adulthood and childhood.  Learning valuable lessons about humility and integrity getting caught in a lie.  Nothing worse than tangling webs of deceit about skipping school, or getting in trouble or something like that.  A sick feeling that just becomes impossible to shake.  I learned that my word and reputation are two of most important things of value as my reputation precedes me everywhere I go.  I make sure that my deeds and actions match what I projected outwardly that day so I can sleep soundly.  If not I am troubled in my sleep because I would consider myself a fraud, and I can't be successful at anything if I think I'm a fraud.  No matter how much money is in my bank account or how many people love me, I can't be happy or successful if I'm not happy with myself. 
6. Did I offend anyone with unkind words or deeds?
  • I have had the problem in my past of being way too harsh with subordinates and demanding excellence from everyone and everything around me.  It's a character flaw that I've had to learn valuable lessons in life about going out of my way to be kind in words and deeds all the time even when I think people deserved the criticism I have delivered.  I'm a work in progress.  And sometime, I just keep to myself and say nothing rather than express unkind words.  How about that for progress (those who have been affected by my past words or deeds know who you are)?
7. Did I accomplish something worthwhile today?
  • I love what I do, and I chose to work in the printing industry specifically because of the sense of accomplishment that I got from seeing a short term project conceptualized, executed, closed and the reward of feedback almost instantly.  I am sure many craftsmen and professionals feel the same way about their jobs whether it is working with their hands or ideas.   It helps me to sleep at night knowing I have accomplished something worthwhile today.  Even if it is making progress or a plan by furthering along the process on something, I feel good when I accomplish something worthwhile and it drives my success.
8. Did I help someone less fortunate?
  • I am a work in progress with this one.  But I'm learning about giving in whatever way I can.  Freely sharing ideas, and helping others become successful.  My dad is the gold standard in my mind with giving tangible cash or wealth as a percentage of income that puts me to shame.  I also see Mr. Warren Buffet and the Gates Foundation as the platinum standard of philanthropic giving to help others less fortunate.  I have spent my life so narcisistically accomplishing my personal goals that I have left this off my daily priority list before I end my day.  I am reminded by Christy, my dad, my kids and others to make this a larger priority toward a successful and purposeful life.
9. Did I make wonderful memories today?
  • I can honestly say that if life for me ends tomorrow, I have no regrets and the best memories to take with me of when the kids were born, when Christy and I met, when my best friends and I met, and when I learned significant lessons in life that have created wonderful memories.  My goal is to keep this going with new ones every day.  It is what drives me with renewed purpose.
10. Did I show and live Oprah's "attitude of gratitude" today? 
  • Christy turned me onto this from her utter belief in Oprah Winfrey being the wise sage that Oprah really is to people.  This concept of an attitude of gratitude comes from Christy and I thank God every night and every morning when I wake next to Christy with the many blessings I have received in this life.  I have learned that I don't have as nice a day or as good a sleep if I just complain or griped about setbacks or something else that happened that day when something may not have gone the way I wanted.  When I put things into perspective of the kids are healthy, happy, we have an abundance of love around us and wealth and everything we need, I feel better and do much better.
This is just part of my daily checklist now, and I would be remiss if I did not give full and grateful credit to Inc. Magazine's Geoffrey James (a brilliant writer) for posing these questions in a way that got me to really think about success this way.