Monday, December 31, 2012

2013 Re-Reboot

Over the holidays heading into 2009, I decided to take a step into the unknown leaving a very long, single company career.  I called it my “reboot.”  A reboot is different from retirement.  It is like when your computer is stuck and you hit “Control-Alt-Delete” to start over (hopefully not losing all the work you had done).  After six months having a blast in Southern California, we tried something completely different - I role that allowed me live near family, experience NYC and test my theory on how to successfully start international operations.  Three years later, this reboot has been achieved.

Time for the next one.  What shall it be?  Leaders need to step into the unknown periodically just as we expect of our people.  We ask them to follow us to ne places.  Long and comfortable careers can be a hindrance to imagination if left unchallenged. How would you respond to your boss if she asked you the day you returned “How do you plan to lead more effectively in 2013 than you did in 2012?”  This is a question we should ask ourselves every year at this time.  My answer is easy.  I’m going to re-reboot similar to 2009.

Are you going to change/improve your leadership in 2013?  What will you change? How will you explain the change to your team?   


Friday, December 21, 2012

Leaders as Passengers

We are all guilty of it, some more often than others.  Leaders must be able to step into the forefront and be good followers. But, sometimes we disengage so much that we actually become passengers.  Those times we are uninvolved participants going for the ride.  I heard this term from Astronaut Mike Mullane on uTube” 

LiaV Top 5 Leaders as Passenger List:

  1. Reading your Smartphone during meetings and presentations.
  2. Going radio silent on topics to avoid controversy.
  3. Not asking clarification questions to gain understanding.
  4. Thinking about what you are going to say next when the other person is still talking.
  5. Multi-tasking (it is really high speed serial processing).
What would you add to this list?  How do you overcome these challenges?


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Search for dissenters!

A leader is most vulnerable to serious mistake when they are emotionally tied to the topic and surround themselves with people that agree with them.  You know the situation, something has you total engulfed and you absolutely know that you are right.  You share the situation with a loved one and ask their opinion.  They feel your pain and agree with your position 100%.  The problem is they are being supportive not objective!

We recently attended The 2012 Richard Salant Lecture presented by the New Canaan Library and hosted this year by Brian Williams (NBC Nightly News).  One important topic discussed was the fragmentation of the US news media into cable channels with different slants and points of view.  The distinguished guest panel (David Gergen, Peter Goldmark, Jr. and Joe Scarborough) shared their concern that this created a problem in the US where people can listen to the “news” that matched their opinion and it stopped people from hearing things that made them consider alternative ideas.  It seemed like a reasonable hypothesis so I tried it.

This week when I had a strong opinion on something, I continued to share the example with trusted colleagues until I found someone who disagreed with me.  Guess what happened – they were also right and I tailored my view.

Do you search from dissenting opinions? Do you search until you find one?  Once you find one, does it typically sway your opinion?


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

LiaV Named Exemplary Leadership Site

I'm proud to inform you that your Leadership is a Verb (LiaV) has been selected for yet another best leadership blog award in 2012. 

This time  published their 100 Exemplary Sites for Future Leaders list and LiaV was 9th of 100!  Thank you for the ideas, concepts, observations (good an bad) and inspiration.

You make LiaV what it is. Thank you.



Monday, October 29, 2012

Here’s to the crazy ones

Here’s to the crazy ones.
The misfits.
The rebels.
The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They push the human race forward.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Source - Apple Inc.

I read this script in an Ashish’s office in Hyderabad, India a week ago. While I had seen the Apple video on a web, the written version had more impact.  My colleague and I like to consider ourselves the “crazy ones.”  It then made us think, do all managers consider themselves a “crazy one?” Has crazy now become baseline self opinion? Would some admit to not being crazy in this context?


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Wind in your sails

This is a replay of a story I heard last week.

Sean was complaining about his boss.  It was one thing after another.  Bottom line, Sean could not find much positive in the situation.  Sean shared this with his mentor and he was told to save his energy.  “You should not try sailing when there is no wind” the mentor told him. 

Sean did not have the power or audience for his concerns.  He was basically campaigning to himself.  If he just waited, the wind would return and others would understand the situation.  As a leader, we must consider the same idea.  Sometimes it is our job to create wind.  We see a need and we must create change.  Other times, we must observe there is no audience for our concern and we should hold the idea for a better time.  It is our job to figure out which is which.

Have you had a great idea at the wrong time?  Did you ever wait for the right time and find more success?


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Hogs get slaughtered!

Alan is a senior at a major state university.  He has ok grades and some related work experience.  He is a talented young man I have mentored over the years.  He emailed me the other day to ask for advice concerning a job offer for received for a management rotation program.  Yes, you heard this right.  A college senior with a job offer in September of their senior year!

The offer was very fair and competitive.  The position was awesome.  The problem was that when Alan asked the people around him (probably other students), they coached him to ask for more money.  He asked my opinion.  I did not beat around the bush.  I knew of the program he was offered and it is an unbelievable career opportunity.  While he might be successful receiving a few more dollars per year in salary, he would be forming the initial opinions of his new leadership.  The situation reminded me of the investment advice I got years ago “Pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered.”  We all need to know when enough is enough.  I shared my opinion with Alan in clear, straight forward words.  He thanked me and pointed out that he needed someone to point out the obvious.  His friends were thinking too short term. He accepted the offer.

Do you provide clear, concise advice when it is needed?  How do you tell the difference between when a mentee needs general concepts from direction?


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Reduce Your Value Now

The day after I presented a leadership lesson on "Delivering Results" I got this note of appreciation from one of the participants. “Thank you for your leadership lesson.  You successfully reduced your value.” Out of context, you might think this is a very questionable complement. 

On 29 April 2012, I posted a very controversial leadership concept that suggested it is all our responsibility to teach the people we lead everything we know.  By doing this, we would reduce our value in the organization and taken to the extreme, become redundant (0 par value).  It is then the leader’s responsibility to re-tool their skill-set or move on to a new challenge.  This helps explain while large organizations often appear to have a lot of churn.  The complement above was the result of my sharing this concept with the class participants and one student following up with a very witty email.

Do you have the gumption to make yourself redundant?  Do you drive your value down and up at the same time? Would you force your own removal?


Sunday, August 5, 2012

The greatest generation?

This term it refers to the World War II generation born between 1928 and 1945.  What if each generation is great and it is leadership’s job to discover the value of each.

The tremendous benefits and challenges of building successful intergenerational teams has been a consistent aspect of business.  Artisans have taught their crafts to apprentices forever.  Today, the leader and team who best integrates the experience, wisdom and accomplishments of the Baby Boomers with the energy, ideas and technology skills of the Millennials and Generation Z’s will far out perform those who simply allow them to co-exist. Teams that understand this power and capitalize on it will be more satisfied, engaged and have far greater accomplishments.

What are you doing to build the strongest intergenerational teams?  How do you maximize the contributions of each generation?

Generation/Attribute Summary (Source: Australian Institute of Management):
Traditionalists/WWII = 1928-1945
Baby Boomer = 1946-1964
Generation Jones = 1954 and 1965
Gen X = 1965-1980
Gen Y = 1981-1995
Gen Z = 1996 - present


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Leadership Gurukul

I’d like to take credit for the name, but it goes to a colleague in India.  A gurukul (pronounced guru-cool) is a type of school in India.” The process involves the master interacting with the students in a long term natural setting.

The situation that brought this to my attention were courses I was asked to teach the management teams of two international companies on “Delivering Results” and “Business Excellence.”  I did not feel I met the qualifications of a “guru” in terms of knowledge, experience or age.  Thinking about it afterward, if I didn’t meet the criteria, then who did?  I spent my gurukul time sharing the experiences I’ve learned from over the last 30 years of aircraft building and preparing organizations for Malcolm Baldrige evaluations.  When you compare my experience to that of a student’s (new supervisor in a new industry), I guess I’m the one that should be teaching. Seems to me all great leaders should be gurukuls to others.

Do you know you are a guru in something?  Are you acting like it and sharing everything you know with teammates?


Sunday, July 8, 2012

“How are you?” No, I really mean it – How are you?

Walking down the main shop aisle a week ago, I crossed paths with another company executive.  I just had a very positive experience with one of her employees and I wanted to share the good news.  Leaders tend to get far more bad news than good, so I wanted to be sure I broke the trend.

We stopped for a moment and she asked me, “How are you doing?”  I basically did not answer and started to share the good news I had for her.  She politely interrupted and asked me again, “How are you doing?” I think I said “fine” and continued in my sharing.  A third time she asked me, “So, everything is going ok?”  It occurred to me that she was actually asking me a question and she was interested in my response.  The phrase, “How are you doing?” has somehow turned into a salutation or greeting as compared to a question.  I walked away from the exchange wondering how often I ask an introductory question and don’t listen to the answer. Or equally bad, how often the person answering believes their response is not important so they barely respond.

How do you open your conversations?  Do you “really” care how your team is doing?  How do you show it?


Sunday, June 24, 2012

“Log Out and Live”™

I live in both real and virtual worlds.  My job involves leading a culturally diverse team spread around the globe.  Multiple time zones, languages and environments make the use of technology a must to be efficient and timely.

We all live the real world where we eat, sleep, exercise, and interact socially.  These can often seem distinctly different from our work world of email, text, web meetings and collaboration centers.  I was preparing to run in the Fairfield Half Marathon this morning and ran into a special group of entrepreneurs.  There product is a cause – Log Out and Live™.  It is hard to argue our kids need to get off their computers and go outside and play!  The message of Log Out and Live is equally directed at adults.  It reminds us of the importance of social interaction with actual people.  Yes – they are using technology to spread their message. As a leader, it caused me to step back and consider the team interaction activities I create daily.  Should some of my emails have been phone calls?  Should some of my phone calls have been personal visits? Should some of my office meetings have been walks on the campus green?

Do you make decisions to avoid technology when appropriate?  How do you balance the speed and time zone advantages of technology with the value of personal social interaction?


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Learning does not wait for you to be ready

I was tired, hungry and not in the mood to explore and learn any more.  We had spent the day discovering new and hidden locations in the Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea areas of New York City.  I had walked past this location many times and never visited.  I did not miss it before and would not feel disappointed missing it this time.

The funny thing about knowledge and learning is that it does not happen when you want it.  We climbed the first stairs of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, often referred to as the main branch of the New York Public Library system.  It is a Beaux-Arts landmark structure on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.  The Astor and Mcgraw rotundas were very interesting, but the Rose Reading room on the third floor was absolutely amazing (See photo).  Every visitor to NYC should find the time to see this structure inside and out.  As leaders, we need to be willing to force ourselves to learn even when we are not in the mood.  We must be the role models and demonstrate the value of an open mind.

How often do you turn off your learning sensors because you are not in the mood?  How do you re-energize to allow yourself to open up at these critical times?


Thursday, May 17, 2012

“He treats me like…”

You see it often on TV or in the movies.  One person in the stall of a restroom overhears the conversation of two other talking at the sink.  Usually it is something humorous of filled with important plot lines.

I had the opportunity to hear one teammate telling another about his new job and boss.  Speaking about the new boss, he said “He treats me like I’m the only employee that works here.”  That is a seriously strong statement.  Everyone wants to work for a boss like this. 

It was automatic.  I wanted a boss like that.  What a selfish way of viewing the world.  It took me a few more thoughts and realized what I really wanted – I wanted to become the boss that people say that about!  I thought of the little things leaders can do now to make people feel they are a priority – moving from the desk, computer or phone for a discussion; not checking their email on a Blackberry/iPhone while talking; eye contact; asking probing questions; and remembering to say thank you.  It became obvious how easy it is to be above average.

What do you do to make your team feel important and valued?


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Generally, an equity stock is issued at a par value of $1 and the market adjusts this number based on the amount of value created by the issuing company.  Things that add value include profits, intellectual property, inventions, goodwill, products and inflation.

Not long ago, I posted a blog on understanding our individual handling fee (the cost of having you on a team). Upon more thought, there is more to this theme.  If all leaders start a new position with a par value of $1, then our immediate goal is to increase that number.  Over time, it is very possible that our par value can drop.  As we transfer our skills and knowledge to our team, implement documented processes, deploy performance metrics and recruit great talent, our personal value decreases.  We are no longer needed as much. Once our handling fee is known, this too is subcontracted from your par value. 

We increase our value by taking on additional responsibility and assignments, learning new skills, familiarizing ourselves with products and markets, gaining additional degrees and certifications, exporting talent into the organization and building strong peer relationships.  We all need to know our value proposition and its relationship to our handling fee and par value. 

What is you value proposition?  Is it increasing or decreasing?  Are you taking action? Do you care?


Sunday, April 15, 2012

“It’s about the work”

LiaV does not sell or endorse products or books, but now and then something hits me in the head like a 2X4. I’m generally a Tom Peters fan based on the simplicity of his message. A colleague shared Peter’s 1999 book “The Project 50 (Reinventing Work): Fifty Ways to Transform Every Task" into a Project That Matters!”
The message in the book is so easy. It is about the work. It is the leader’s job to make the work worth doing. We have all heard the story of the two masons. One is mason was endlessly adding bricks to a wall and the other mason was building a cathedral. Communicating the big picture is a leadership challenge. Making the work worth doing is another. Having written so many LiaV blog posts on effective leadership, this book was a great reminder that it is not always about the leader.

How do you communicate the big picture to your team? Do you eliminate work not worth doing?


Sunday, April 1, 2012


Why do teams that least need audits and management reviews want them the most and the ones that need them the most want them the least? The C-17 program is a high performing organization that has won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award twice. They viewed audits as opportunities to improve and management reviews as a chance to receive free consulting.

I was in India last week to review progress on two start-up projects at critical inflection points. Each asked for relief from the next management review in terms of timing, length and intensity. What causes this dichotomy? The difference seems to result from the cadence maturity of the organization. Some teams refer to this cadence as their operating rhythm or battle rhythm. Simply put, it is the normal report and review schedule conducted on a program. It seems the teams that look forward to the reviews do so because they are always ready (i.e., tour-ready, review-ready, etc.). They do not prepare to discuss about their performance metrics, progress, achievements and challenges.

Have you experience this same dichotomy? How have you helped teams mature to the review-ready state?


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Flying under the radar

The train Saturday was standing room only and most everyone was wearing green. Some were going to their first and others go every year. Many have heard of it, but the event flies under the radar.

Saturday was 17 March and the event was the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade. 2012 was the 251st celebration of the oldest, largest and most attended parade in New York City. We all know about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and probably assumed this event held these honors. It is a celebration for the Irish and those who want to be Irish for the day. There are no outside influences, advertisers or national TV coverage. It is just fun for those that attend.

There is definitely something to be said for flying under the radar on occasion. I’ve seen many teams accomplish amazing results only to be benchmarked and told there are better ways. I’ve seen teams achieve outstanding employee engagement scores only to be questioned about how hard they work. Sometimes good results should be allowed to be just what they are. No more.

Have you seen a good deed go punished? Are there situations where you think it is ok for a team to not advertise amazing results?


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Take a minute, please!

You have to draft a written response to one of the following scenarios:

Scenario 1: The new proposal was drafted by a team of people that do not fully understand the technical situation and have a goal of creating issues for your progress.

Scenario 2: The new proposal was drafted by well a intentioned team wanting to be transparent, but they just don’t know what they don’t know.

It is easy to see how each scenario would create a very different written response on your part. What if I told you there is almost always someone that can tell you exactly which situation is the most accurate. I had a recent situation similar to this and almost selected the wrong choice. This would have hurt feelings and likely caused my objectives more harm. I asked an unlikely source and found the truth. I changed the nature and tone of my response and was very successful.

How often do you take that extra time to learn the context of the messages you receive? How often when you don’t, do you get it wrong and create more harm than good?


Sunday, February 26, 2012

“What is a centerfold?”

The national park ranger leading the tour of the Thomas Edison estate described the vestibule painting as very expensive, risqué and the equivalent of today’s centerfold hung in a family gathering area. As he shared other noteworthy points and concluded his comments, he asked if there were any questions. The little boy in the front of the crowd asked, “What is a centerfold?” It was humorous to see the ranger’s reaction and how fast the boy’s mother said she would explain it to him in the car.

That witty exchange made me think of the many times we as leaders say things that we think are being understood, but really are not. This is particularly acute on the international stage. Sport analogies are the most common. Push it over the goal line. In the red zone. Hook slide. Slam dunk. In the chucks. They are endless, but what if the people you are talking to do not share the same enthusiasm for sport that you do? Do you take the time to ensure the things you say have enough flavor to be interesting but also understood?

What types of communication issues have you experienced and how have you solved them?


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Annual Career Message – “Where’s the Gift?”

“Can you believe I got a 2 on the “Communication” competency on my review and he couldn’t even explain what it is I don’t do properly?” Sound familiar? I hear it every year, so every year I re-publish this “Where’s the Gift?” posting.
It’s February. Plus or minus a few weeks and many people will sit with their boss and have a performance review discussion. Hopefully this was preceded by many candid conversations and career exploratory talks. While we will all be focused on the numbers or ratings, I’d encourage you to look for the real gift in the discussion – those 1 or 2 things you can do differently or better to really excel your performance. Nigel J.A. Bristow (“Where's the Gift? How to achieve phenomenal success by discovering the gift in all feedback”) shares that we often are not looking for the gift, sometimes do not like the way it is wrapped or we find it hard to identify in the packaging.

The two worst types of feedback are “you’re doing great, keep doing what you’re doing” or “you need to step it up” but without anything specific to improve. We need to want candid feedback. If your boss does not automatically provide it, ask for your “gift”. Just as important and as uncomfortable as it may seem, we need to make sure we make bosses feel the feedback is desired and we are going to do something with it.

How do you make sure you get real performance feedback?


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Make it real

In a world where CEOs are super heroes or mass villains, it is often easy to forget the little things that make great leaders great. A colleague emailed me this Harvard Business Review “The Idea” interview with Doug Conant, former CEO of the Campbell Soup Company.

What caught my attention is the simplicity of Mr. Conant’s engagement priorities. Be real and make sure people know what you’re doing. There is little more real than receiving a hand written note from the boss. When he does his MBWA (management by walking around – Tom Peters), he puts on his “walking shoes” so people know he is walking around. You have to love the simplicity.

Do people understand your messages? Do they wonder what you stand for? How have you successfully delivered your message?


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Easy A or risk an F

“Schools teach you to imitate. If you don’t imitate what the teacher wants you get a bad grade. Here, in college, it was more sophisticated, of course; you were supposed to imitate the teacher in such a way as to convince the teacher you were not imitating, but taking the essence of the instruction and going ahead with it on your own. That got you A’s. Originality on the other hand could get you anything – from an A to F. The whole grading system cautioned against it.” (Robert M. Pirsig, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, 1974)

I’m reading this philosophical novel and crossed this paragraph. The situation that Pirsig was describing in the classroom is very comparable to the workplace when it comes to leaders. Leaders step out and try new things. They are often misunderstood by their peers and bosses because it is hard to separate the results from the methodology. Leaders often do things in a different and more productive way. This confuses people. The results get lost in the discussion. The blog post “Pioneers are lonely” from November 2009 shared this same sentiment in a different setting.

Do you encourage your people to be just like you or to reach and try new approaches? Are you willing to support those different methods when put under pressure?


Sunday, January 22, 2012

The return of Charlie

In July I blogged about meeting Charlie, the over-confident kid that brought his game to the local basketball court. I said at the time this kid was one to watch.

Well, Charlie showed up at the local Sunday pick-up games. He was about a foot taller and told me he made the local high school freshman team. Charlie was confident as ever, but he was playing his game the same way he played it when he was at the lower level. He was reaching on defense rather than moving his feet. He was watching his shots rather than crashing the boards. He was jogging the fast break rather than running full out.

Charlie will be fine, but it made me wonder if anyone actually told Charlie the game at the next level is different than the one he dominated. This situation happens all the time in the workplace. As if experienced managers want the newly promoted to learn by mistake the way they did. What a waste of time and resources. I always try to inform the newly promoted the two or three things they have to change on day one at the next level. I identify the things that made them successful which will cause them failure at the next level in the organization.

Do you pro-actively guide the newly promoted to navigate the pitfalls you know they will encounter? What are the few you have noticed are the most helpful?


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Do you know your “handling fee”?

Have you ever making an on-line purchase and during the check-out process a surprise “handling fee” turns you off so much you cancel your purchase?

I heard a commentary this week on the radio where the commentator (sorry, I did not catch the reference to give appropriate credit) compared this handling fee to the “baggage” we are bring into the workplace. You know, “John is an amazingly smart guy that delivers the goods, but he can be...” Whatever our handling fee, we should what it is. How much work do we create for our leaders? Jack Welch refers to this as using up our “political capital” in his book “The 4E’s of Leadership”. In baseball this is referred to as the player’s contribution in the clubhouse.

I suppose some of us think we are just super people that are effortless to lead. Something tells me this is just not the case. I thought about myself. I really do not want much from my leaders. That said, this in itself might be a challenge because there are very few external motivators that influence what or how much I do. It is all internal.

As leaders, how do you balance the great work of a teammate that has a high handling fee? Do you know your handling fee and are you worth it?


Sunday, January 8, 2012

The return of Dr. Rosling

Whether you are presenting an accomplishment, negotiating for more budget or selling a great idea, the effectiveness of your message often ties directly to your ability to summarize and present your data. Data is only mildly interesting until it becomes useful information.

In March 2009, I posted a blog (“Turning data into information”) about Professor Hans Rosling’s work at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. While his TED video was about national statistics, it was his ability to present information that captivated me. Dr. Rosling is back and with some technology friends. Together, they are really pushing the edge of effective presentations.

It appears LiaV was not the only group to recognize his keen ability. He had made the transition from impressive researcher to effective presentation guru.

What techniques have you seen help smart people improve their presentations?


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