Sunday, January 27, 2013

Be a cancelation champion

Neil Young tells an interesting story about the struggles of conducting his sound check for the 2011 Farm Aid concert in Kansas City.  The venue was a large soccer stadium and all the acts were having the same problem. “So the next day at the show, when I was watching everyone play, adjusting their monitors all the time, trying to find a good sound and struggling.  I used nomonitors at all.  I just didn’t bother using any.” (Neil Young, Waging HeavyPeace, 1012).

Think about this simple solution.  As leaders, we solve problems.  This typically means devising a complicated system, training people and developing metrics to ensure proper use.  Maybe the first thing we should do is see if removing something (or everything) from the problem solves it better than adding to it.  A mentor a long time ago told me to try to remove something for everything I added.  He said people that work for you will remember you made their job easier.  I remember an IT director long ago used the “Y2K threat” as the catalyst to cancel over 500 reports her team did not think were used.  In January 2000, only one of the reports were asked for and it was by the person that carries it, not someone that wanted to read it!

What have you canceled lately?  Do you solve with simplification? Are you viewed are the leader who removes as much as she adds?


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Leaders risk being misunderstood

If a “leader” is the one with the vision and must stay in front of the team, can they ever really be understood by their “manager”?  We are at performance review time at many legacy companies and it is a valid question.

I was asked this question in a coaching session the other day.  The logic was that leaders are typically misunderstood because they see a future others cannot.  Often the case, leaders visualize the work being accomplished in ways their peers and bosses cannot comprehend.  If this is true and if their manager bosses are conducting the performance review, isn’t it better to conform to the legacy company norms and reduce risk?

This is probably the biggest risk a leader faces when in a legacy company.  Many years ago I completed my master degree thesis on a very simple hypothesis, “Do managers know the difference between management and leadership and do they promote leaders or people like themselves?” (CSULB 1987)  The statistical significant result of the research was not good news for leaders.  Managers knew the difference and promoted those like themself.  After years of reflection, the great equalizer became superior communication skills.  A leader has to articulate their vision and approach far more than a manager following direction.

Have you seen leaders at risk due to not being understood?  What coaching have you given them?


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