Sunday, December 19, 2010

The seating of leaders

I attended two year-end senior leadership events in the last couple weeks and something became very obvious. People notice where leaders sit.

The first was a senior leadership objectives alignment meeting where the top leadership filled the front row of the venue. Each had a speaking role and this did make the transition between speakers smooth. The second was a large holiday celebration party where the senior leadership gathered together at a front and center table with their significant others. In both cases, the seating was “expected.” People shared two thoughts on the seating of leaders. Many traditionalists felt they wanted their leader at the front table to show the importance of the organization in which they work. The newer teammates would have liked to have seen their leaders sitting with their teams to learn about them as people rather than executives. From my perspective as a senior leader, it reminded me of all those years sitting at the kids table on Thanksgiving, only to become old enough to be “promoted” to the adult table to find the old table was a lot more fun!

Where would you like to see your leader sit at large company function? Where do you sit as a leader?


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Leaders have to set the standard

The University of Oregon football team has developed a new approach that moves very quickly and keeps its opponents off guard. They have not lost a game this season and will play in the national championship game.

This, unfortunately, has brought out some of the worst of its competition. On November 13th, Aaron Tipoti (#40) of the University of California at Berkeley was instructed by his coach to fake an injury an effort to slow down the Oregon team. It became obvious from the YouTube video watched by thousands that Berkeley Coach Jeff Tedford delivered the instructions for the ruse.

We continuously to hear and see poor sportsmanship in college and professional sports. We normally think of it as something linked to spoiled, overpaid, over-hyped athletes. This case the coach instructed the athlete to cross the ethics line. Then, to make matters worse, Aaron Tipoti did the unethical act. As leaders, the standards we set ripple throughout the team. Whether it is actually instructing unethical behavior or role modeling it, people do what we indicate is ok.

How do you ensure you leadership messages so up to standard that you would like thousands to view them on YouTube?


Sunday, November 28, 2010

A leader’s willingness

At the end of a recent trip to India, I relived a valuable leadership lesson originally learned when I was fourteen years old.

We were having dinner and one of the team complemented me on the wide variety of skills I have picked up over the years working international aerospace projects. My comment back to him was that “it is less what I can do than it is what I am willing to do.” Many people know how to do certain tasks, but far less people willing to do the travel, work the time zone differences, read the cultural books, work the relationships and learn the customs. Coach Ed Noel taught me this lesson when I started playing organized sports. He told me there would always be players better than me, but none of them should put in more effort. Doing the extra sprints, foul shots, defensive drills, dribbling exercises and taking those darn offensive fouls will pay off in the end. It was all about what effort you are willing to put out.

People see what their leaders are willing to do. It makes a statement to the whole organization and those around it. Some call it being a role model, but I’m talking about something more extreme. It is the attitude that nothing is beneath you or beyond your reach. It is effort and being willing to do whatever it takes.

How you demonstrate your willingness to your teams?


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Do U “CBM”

Greetings from India.

Remya was taking a lot of notes as her bosses practiced their tour explanations. She was plotting the flow and observing the gestures. Everything had to be perfect. The CEO’s of two of the largest companies in the world were going to visit and this was their opportunity to demonstrate their accomplishments.

After about 15 tries, one of the senior executives and I noticed that she was always the one with the correct answer to any of our questions. We looked at each other and decided to let her give us a tour and she how she did. She did amazingly. She had been studying and really nailed it. Later that evening, the other executive mentioned to me that Remya had a real “CBM” today. I asked what that was and he replied, a “Confidence Building Moment.” What a great concept.

As leaders, we have the ability to create CBMs whenever we want. We can make people feel bad about their mistakes or we can use them to build talent and confidence. We can let our people stretch into new assignments or hold them back. We can encourage our people to grow or we can smother them with administrative tasks.

What CBMs have you given your people this week?


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Death by Blackberry

Every once in a while, Leadership is a Verb makes a very simple observation and recommendation. Below is an email I sent to my team concerning safety:

“A car travels approximately the length of a football field in 5 seconds. The same amount of time as that to glance at an email on the Blackberry. Using a Blackberry while driving is against the law and VERY unsafe. It is not a sign of your robust virtual skills.

I believe some of you are doing it to be efficient, timely or just boredom. Please stop. Someone is going to get hurt.

Thank you for your support on this important safety topic.


As a leader, how often do you coach your people in such simple and clear manner?


Sunday, October 24, 2010

“Unconscious Incompetence”

Over the last year, I’ve noticed a trend in how certain drivers react to runners. The final half mile of my regular run takes me by the A&P grocery store. I’ve noticed there are basically four types of drivers coming into and out-off the driveways. There are those that are completely oblivious (these folks are very dangerous), those that purposefully cut you out, those that see you and slow down and those that approach cautiously as if they always drive with care. So you ask, what does this have to do with leadership?

Last week, a Human Resources professional shared the “Stages of Professional Development” provided to him by Tulin Diveriteam Associates. It also appeared in an old blog post by Benjamin Ellis on Redcatco. The model describes the continuum of professional develop in term of “consciousness” and “competence.” The order triggered with me because it completely matched the skill and/or attitude of the drivers I’ve been encountering (1. Unconscious Incompetence, 2. Conscious Incompetence, 3. Conscious Competence, and 4. Unconscious Competence). I like it when my observations are later explained based on a model. This model seems particularly helpful because it points out the importance of providing people feedback.

What are your thoughts of this continuum? Do you have situations where it applies?

David P. Tulin – President & Founder, ©2010 Tulin DiversiTeam Associates, 215-870-0349,,

Redcatco – Social Technology for Business - Benjamin Ellis – April 12, 2007 -


Sunday, October 17, 2010


The Austin City Limits Music Festival brings together 100,000 of your closest friends to enjoy a wide variety of music, art and entertainment. In the midst of the mass of humanity enjoying music on five stages, there were an unusually large number of flags being flown. There were state, university, product and homemade flags. Observing closer, they were being used to help groups find their home base and the advertise something about the group.

People within a very large organization want to be in their local tribes. They need to be part of something they understand and with like minded people. Whether it is a large concert event or a large company, leaders need to create the "esprit de corps” of a smaller team. While this runs counter intuitive to the goals of some CEOs, it is something leaders at the working level must understand and achieve.

What do you do for your team to help them be a part of something smaller?


Monday, October 11, 2010

Defend the crazy?

I was a superintendant of MD-11 Major Structures Production back in the days when that was not a very friendly place. The requirements of the position were extreme and it always seemed like people were thinking of reasons to cause us to fail. Long hours and seven day weeks wore on us all. Quality was to slow. Tooling never worked. Engineering designed the impossible. And, those Supplier Management guys lost the parts on purpose! Of course none of this was true, but unfortunately we believed it at the time.

One day my director came through and I was expecting the same butt kicking I normally got. This day was different. He asked me if I would be willing to take an assignment in Supplier Management to “straighten out those parts guys.” I was told earlier in my career to be careful what you complain about because someone will select you to fix it. Funny what happens in situations like these. The same people that thought they would be fired taught me the way I ran production caused many of the problems. I quickly learned there were good people all over trying to do the right things. I could not believe how quickly I could help the new team and improve performance. They were surprised this “crazy production guy” would actually defend them in public.

Have you experienced a change were you moved to a team you did not much respect only to find you had an incorrect perception of their capability and intend? What did you do?


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Another case for great talent

Yes, I’ve been on the road with limited on-line access for a while!

Things always seem to break when you need them most. You know, the car does not start the day you are running late to work for an important event or to the airport for a flight. What if you had a 100% effective back-up plan for all possible contingencies?

A week ago, I got a new executive boss. There was no doubt he would be very curious and inquire about everything. I, on the other hand, was headed out on an international supplier Program Management Review cycle through Poland, Czech and China. Following my return, we were headed out on a two week holiday road trip.

So how does one deal with such a combination crisis? Easy, develop and recruit people more talented than yourself. (Remember - A’s hire A’s and B’s hire C’s.) The team is handling the transition without a bump in the road. The team we grew is ready to lead without me and is performing amazingly. Each individual is more talented than I with great combined capability.

Would your organization be able to cover your four week absence? Would you trust them to break-in your new boss?


Sunday, August 29, 2010


Last week was an exciting week in Hyderabad, India. It included the typical day old meetings, team building dinners, equipment and hardware reviews and lesson after lesson of culture.

But this visit had very special meaning. For the last year, the drive from the hotel to the facility has been an exciting 75 minutes of twists, turns, pumps, jumps, transitions, traffic, construction, obstructions and general discomfort. No more. A number of new roads opened and a smooth ride resulted.

So what does this have to do with old habits you might ask? A few of these newly opened roads also have new sidewalks that are level, clean, unobstructed and unused. Everyone was still walking in the streets. I asked why and generally the answer revolved around the idea that sidewalks are generally not the cleanest and level of places to walk. But this case was different. The sidewalks were clear and ready to be used. It made me think of what old leadership habits we all have that are no longer relevant. Things we do from habit whose basis is gone.

What do you do from habit that you should stop? Have you caught yourself lately doing some no longer relevant?


Sunday, August 22, 2010

12 year old priority

A few weeks ago we talked about the “major league mentoring” Gloria James provided her son. While this story got a lot of comment, less famous moms are providing great advice to leaders all the time.

Gerry was trying to make a very difficult career decision. It was a common question of balancing career and work with family and health. In reality, the answer to the question is so simple. Family and health need to be in line or your career and work performance will never be maximized. Unfortunately, it is often hard to see the obvious and we need someone to help.

In Gerry’s case there were young boys and a wife all in need of his assistance. Once Gerry came to what I’ll call the obvious decision, I asked him what helped him come to the right conclusion. He said he sought the coaching and advice of many people he trusted, but the thoughts from his mother weighed heavily. Gerry’s said his mom only asked him, “What do you think I would have done when you were 12 years old and needed my help?” From that point forward, Gerry focused on the critical issues and is back to his career in a much more balanced manner.

Do you have that person you can depend on for honest guidance? Do you take the trust others give you to provide guidance as seriously as you should?


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Banana nut attitude

This was a good Sunday morning. I woke up to warm banana nut muffins and hot coffee. The muffins were made healthy, except perhaps for those little chocolate chips.

A few hours later, I went for my Sunday “long run” preparing for the New Haven 20K race in a few months. The first three miles went fine. I was a little full from those great muffins, but ok. Around mile five the muffins were becoming my enemy. In mile five I was mad at myself for having eaten more than one, wondering why my wife had made them, concerned my race preparation was going poorly and hoping I would make it home in one piece. Mile six made me walk for a bit.

While I was walking with these negative thoughts it occurred to me that it was really nice outdoors, there were plenty of other people walking the path with me and I had a whole Sunday off in front of me. Within a moment, my attitude changed and all was good. As leaders, we owe it to our people to help them see the bigger picture. We are not hiding the truth, but putting the situation in perspective. Within a moment, I changed mine and enjoyed what I was doing. I’ll do fine in the race in a few weeks (thank goodness I don’t run for a living!).

Have you caught your self-attitude in the past and “decided” to be satisfied? Do you believe satisfaction is a decision away?


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Watch out Gen Y – Delaney is coming

I got to hang out with my niece during a recent trip to California. Knowing I like music and live performances, Delaney wanted to share her favorite song with me. She ran and got her mom’s iPhone from the purse, surfed the icons and music directory and played “Delaney talks to Statutes” by Jimmy Buffet. The song was classic Jimmy Buffet but that was not the special thing.

After playing the song with a big smile, I asked Delaney if she could spell her name. She then surfed the icons on the iPhone again, found the keyboard and typed “Delaney.” So what you might say, but Delaney is THREE YEARS OLD and not capable of holding a pencil steady enough to write clearly. As leaders, if you think GenY’s are a different breed, just wait until Delaney and her friends enter the workforce. This is going to be something really special.

Another way of thinking about this lesson involves your personal skill set. Are you doing everything within your power to stay current and relevant? Do you learn the lessons the kids are teaching?


Monday, July 26, 2010

What would your museum say?

After the US Coast Guard flag ceremony while driving through the back roads of Connecticut looking for the two big casinos, we stumbled upon the “John Bishop Museum.” Build in 1810; it was far ahead of its time in terms of building techniques.

Think about this concept. What would be in a museum dedicated to you? What if someone secretly watched over everything you did, then collected the stories and artifacts and assembled them into the museum of your life for all to see? What would the museum say about you? What would your life stand for? Would the good supersede the not so good?

The idea of having your personal museum was originally brought to my attention by John Strelecky in his best seller “Big Five for Life.” The concept makes you think about your priorities.

Would you want to visit your own museum? Would others?


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Major league mentoring

Thursday morning started out pretty much as normal for Gloria. She woke, had breakfast and read the paper. Perhaps she watched the news or a morning TV show like millions of Americans. When her son called, it was not a surprise.

But this was not going to be a typical day. Her son was making an important career decision and she was about to be asked her opinion. Many of us in leadership are asked by junior colleagues our opinion about career decisions. Generally, we do our best to provide honest and credible advice. Gloria did the same. She coached her son to make the decision that would most make him happy. To take the path that best meets your needs. Gloria’s advice gave her son the freedom to make a very significant change.

Gloria James had no idea the reaction Lebron’s decision would create. Her advice was sound and the rest is history.

Have you ever been asked for career guidance and under estimated the result? How did you react?


Monday, July 5, 2010

Lost and Found

I hope all our LiaV community that celebrate the July 4th Independence Day did so safely.

We certainly did and have a leadership lesson from it. The evening of the 4th was spent at Waveny Park in New Canaan for the fireworks display. It was your quintessential New England small town event. There were lots of families, food and blankets laid out in the park.

As we walked around, I noticed this child wondering aimlessly alone. The kid was probably about 2 years old and there was definitely no one watching her. This seemed a little odd to me so I pointed it out to my wife. Barbara went immediately into action, catching up with the child, attempting to talk to her and taking her by the hand to the nearest police officer. It was interesting how much different we each reacted in the same situation. I noticed something unusual and pointed it out. Barbara analyzed the situation, found it to be unacceptable and took action. It was an interesting leadership lesson. Observations are easy. Taking action is harder.

Have you ever observed a serious situation where someone else took action? What was it that held you back?


Monday, June 21, 2010

“Leadership” double-speak

“Aren’t leaders supposed to coach and teach?”

I’ve been authoring posts about practical leadership concepts and observations for a many years. I aim to be entertaining enough to keep your interest and educational enough that you learn. Leaders must be teachers, coaches, people developers, visionaries, risk takers, role models and decision makers.

The last point here is critical for today’s thought. Leaders must be able to make the tough decisions. There is a sensitive balance in determining whether a team member needs coaching and development or more serious action taken. Generally this is a delicate skill learned over many years. I’ve learned over time that often when I get frustrated over something not being completed to an acceptable standard, it is a teaching opportunity. What if after many missed commitments and several coaching opportunities an individual actually goes on the offense and says, “Aren’t leaders supposed to coach and teach?” This would clearly be a misinterpretation of what LiaV is about.

The risk of stating your leadership theory in public is it can then be turned back on you. It is a risk I have been willing to take.

Have your coaching words ever been taken out of context and used back on you? How did you resolve the situation?


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Rules of the road

Cruising North on CT Route 7 on Saturday morning was a blast (except for a little rain). Terry, Joe and I were motorcycling to the Rhinebeck Grand National Super Meet at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck, NY. One of the benefits of a country road motorcycle ride is the time to think and reflect.

I did not solve any worldly problems, but it did occur to me that many of the rules of the road for motorcyclists are the same as those for work teammates and leaders. Here are a few of them:

- Arrive on time and ready to go.
- Know the laws and abide by them.
- Keep a safe distance between riders.
- Be prepared for the unexpected.
- Point out road hazards to those that follow you.
- Continuously monitor the situation and react accordingly.
- Be courteous and tolerant of other riders and traffic.
- Remain focused. Safety first.
- Never leave a rider behind.
- It’s all about having a good time.

If motorcycle rules of the road are so applicable to work teams, I would guess the same is true for many other team based events.

Where other than work do you gain guidance for good teamwork from?


Sunday, June 6, 2010

The big forgive

Many friends and colleagues have asked me the leadership lesson to be learned from the “imperfect game” thrown by Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga. It was clear from the video replay that veteran umpire Jim Joyce blew the call at first base causing Galarraga to miss a chance at baseball greatness by throwing a perfect game (MSF – that would be 27 consecutive outs).

The problem was I could not find the lesson. Joyce immediately stepped up and took full responsibility for the error and apologized. The media made mania out of the “theft” to no avail. Baseball’s commissioner confirmed the umpire’s field decision would not be reversed. It all seemed cut and dry until a colleague from Bangalore emailed me the ESPN phone interview with Armando Galarraga. Baseball immortality was stolen from this guy and he completely forgave the umpire and said he could have made the same error given the high level of intensity at the moment.

I can only hope to act the with the same dignity when my chance at greatest is taken from me. His maturity and ability to forgive should be a lesson for all leaders.

Have you ever made a significant error and you boss forgive you? How did you feel?


Monday, May 31, 2010

Who’s party is this anyway?

At dinner the other evening, a friend told us about the New Canaan, CT Memorial Day parade. We asked how big it was and she said, “Big.” Coming from Southern California, this could mean hours long.

We packed up our chairs, a small cooler and walked into town. We should have known being that New Canaan has 14,000 residents and Huntington Beach has 400,000 our definition of big was likely incorrect. The parade was about 45 minutes long and included veteran organizations, community volunteer services, youth groups (many with American Indian names) and fire trucks.

Walking back, I reflected on the fact that the Veterans were first and were the most recognized. They were the parade. The others were for fun. As a leader it made me think about how often we are invited to participate in events and the importance in preparing. I was at a high level meeting the other day and another leader introduced a new team member as “having a master’s degree from Syracuse or someplace.” That certainly minimized the accomplishment.

How to you ensure you are prepared and recognize the right accomplishments?

PS – Thank you to all our LiaV veterans.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Another Switzerland

Coming from very large families and generally staying out of the fray of disputes has granted our home the status of Switzerland. It is a neutral place where all baggage is left behind and good time can be had by all.

This weekend we attended the graduation ceremony for my nephew from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) in North Adams. MA. It was a nice celebration in the gymnasium of the Trailblazers. As with most graduations, the bleachers were full of family and friends. In our case, my nephew’s father drove up for the event from Tennessee and participated in the graduation party thrown by my sister. While I’m always neutral, it was fantastic to see everyone drop their differences for the sake of a significant achievement and celebration.

It made me think about the environments we create for our people as leaders. Do our teams think of us as Switzerland? Do we foster environments that bring people of different thoughts and opinions together, or drive them apart?

What do you do to foster an environment of inclusion and safety?


Sunday, May 16, 2010

It’s Payback Time

Take yourself back to mid 2008 for just a moment. The great recession was in full bloom. Friends and relatives were losing their jobs. Hours were being cut back. Company 401K match contributions were being canceled. Insurance co-payments were being raised. Pensions were being eliminated. Employees were putting up with it all because they had to.

Fast forward to time now. While unemployment remains around 10%, companies have started to hire. Consumers have started to buy. Industrial orders have increased. The word “career” has crept back into our vocabulary. My college nephew even got a summer internship.

Why did companies and management do all those things over the past few years? Because they could! Employees did not have a choice. The power in this relationship is about to shift and employees are going to remember those decisions. While the definition of compensation may have changed, the way teammates were treated during hard times will not be forgotten. It’s payback time. Those unilateral decisions over the last two years are going to be paid back over the next ten years through attrition as teammates get options again.

Did you and your company play the game for the long term or take advantage of the temporary shift in power over?


Sunday, May 9, 2010

“If it’s not a good time, it’s a good story”

The last three weeks have been interesting global travels. The Poland and Czech Republic front end of the trip was rescheduled due to the volcanic ash cloud emitted from Iceland. The team was successful swapping all our events into virtual forums and we never missed a beat.

The China leg had the typical airplane delays. But, for the first time since I’ve been traveling internationally, a scheduled delay was canceled and the plane left on time. This really screwed up my quick rearrangements! The transition to India was relatively seamless. Of course that was when my traveling colleague lost her voice. She could only nod and smile for two days. That was when she wrote on a piece of paper, “If it’s not a good time, it’s a good story.” I thought this was a pretty positive perspective.

How do you keep a positive attitude during the worst of travels?


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Is PowerPoint the enemy?

Think of the last time you were completely bored in a PowerPoint presentation. If you are like me, your pulse lowers, your eyes glaze over, you think about other things and perhaps you do your email on the “crackberry.” Back in January 2009, I did a two part blog series on this topic entitled “The Heart Rate Test (Story-time Part I)” and “Death by Viewgraph…NOT (Story-time Part II).”

Last week a colleague emailed me an article from the New York Times (26 April 2010) entitled “We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint“ by Elisabeth Bumiller. It discussed the use of PowerPoint in the military and how it does not properly articulate the message to leadership. While the article does present the topic in a fair manner, I do not agree PowerPoint is the issue. It is the user that over uses the tool to avoid really engaging. The presentations you give are far more than the charts presented. You need to understand your audience and their motivations. You need to appeal to all of the audience’s senses and make them be a part of the session.

Is PowerPoint running a “muck” in your organization? What have you done to correct it?


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Respecting Babe’s House

We went to the New York Yankees – Texas Rangers game this weekend in the new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Yep – home of the Bronx Bombers. The House that Babe built. Wait a minute. We were in the new stadium and walked by the demolished remains of the old stadium that Babe built in 1923.

I will say up front that I understand many people have an affinity to the old stadium and the many important things happened there. That as a given, I thought the designers and builders of the new stadium did an outstanding job respecting the past and incorporating it into the design while providing a world class, modern sporting venue.

It made me think that evening about what a leader’s role is when they follow a legend into the position. It is likely the team loved your predecessor and they were not looking for someone new. In a situation like this, it would seem the best approach would be the same as the new Yankee Stadium. Incorporate the history and best elements of the past, speak well about what was and the future that will be, and go boldly to a new place.

What lessons can you share about following a great leader into a position?


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Unwanted milestones

LiaV (Leadership is a Verb) reached a couple interesting new milestones in the past weeks. Unlike the competition last year where we placed 2nd in the “Best Leadership Blogs of 2009,” we were informed that an independent researcher identified LiaV as in “Top 150 Management & Leadership Blogs. It is an ordered list, created using statistics from Google PageRank, Bing, Alexa, Technorati, Twitter Grader, PostRank and FeedBurner.” I guess this is ok enough.

The second category we achieved was the arrival of multiple public relations firms volunteering to send me free copies of their client’s recently released books to read and blog about. First, LiaV is not for sale or influence. You can bank on the fact that the posts you will read on LiaV are original, uninfluenced and simply the way I observe the world.

All in all, these were unwanted milestones and ones you achieved more than me based on your hits and comments. I respectfully declined each of the offers, but suspect they will continue.

What would you do with these if you were me?


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Boomer 61, Gen X 59

I know a few of you cringe when I use a sports analogy, but having attended last night’s NCAA Final Four in Indianapolis you are about to read one.

Coach K (Coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke University) is a 63 year old boomer that teaches classic basketball fundamentals. His team came out for pre-game warm-ups all wearing the exact same attire, doing the consistent team drills and acting very disciplined. He has now won four national championships and is a legend. Coach Brad (Coach Brad Stevens of Butler University) is a 33 year old Gen X that is on his second career (he started in corporate America in advertising for Eli Lilly). He understands basketball and really grasps how to build teams. His team participated in pre-game warm-ups dressed in all varieties of Butler wear, preparing in their individual ways, many wearing iPods and enjoying the moment.

While I’m probably more “old school” when it comes to sports fundamentals, I was reminded last night how important it is to adjust my believes as a leader based on who I am leading. While Coach K won, Coach Brad gave Duke more of a game than anyone thought they would. Teaching is one thing, but building a cohesive team is often more than simply providing direction. Sometimes you have to bend and let the team do some of “their” thing.

Have you needed to make adjustments to your leadership style to effectively lead Gen Y’s? What did you do differently?


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Have you clarified your expectations?

In November 2009, I shared a story about the downfall of not clarifying your expectations as a leader. The post was about Tim and was titled “Where is this new place that we are going?” I thought I would share the actual publication I produced. Have you clearly articulated your expectation? How do you react to the ones below?

JPB Expectations for team members (8 Nov 2009)

Leadership - Leadership is a verb, not a position. Everyone has a responsibility to lead.

Talent - Build world class teams of multi-functional, culturally diverse, multi-lingual talent. Develop/hire people more capable than ourselves. “A’s hire B’s. B’s hire C’s.”

Trust - Be honest. Don’t blame. Build the team. Help each other succeed.

Dependability - “Do what you say, when you say you will do it.” Over-deliver on commitments.

Virtual - Develop and demonstrate excellence in leading virtual teams. Master technology and improve people skills daily. Virtual is 10% technology and 90% people. “A successful virtual team is a geographically dispersed team that thinks and acts as if they were in one place.”

Relationships - Supplier and customer relationships are valued and proactively maintained. “Our performance is that of our supplier/teammates.”

Consistent - Predictable performance, rhythm, reviews, reports and meetings are valued. People can plan on our results.

Innovation - Continuous improvement is valued and lean is our toolbox.

Fact Based - Measure everything important using Malcolm Baldrige metric criteria. Have S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant & Time Phased). Make decisions based on a healthy balance of facts and intuition.

Standard Work - Once agreed, standard tools and templates are to be used. They save time and confusion. Improvements should be coordinated and deployed.

Recognition - Reward great results in a timely manner. Say “thank you.” Coach each other. Everyone should recognize everyone.

Have Fun - We are fortunate to be able to work on these amazing assignments. Everyone deserves to enjoy what they do. If someone is not having fun, help them find something they will enjoy doing.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Amazing what you don’t need

Did you know that a full 50 gallon water heater can last for five brief hot showers and a few shaves without refill? Did you know that in a time of need, a standard window screen can be slipped into slots cut into a couple short of 2x4’s to create a fireplace screen? Did you know if you keep a fair amount of ice in your freezer that it will keep your food frozen for many days if you don’t open the door during a power outage?

Many of you know that I’m in the first year of our “Connecticut Adventura” (or as a SoCal friend calls it, living in the “upper right”). If you saw the news last weekend, many parts of Fairfield County CT was heavily hit by the storm and lost power. New Canaan lost power to over 56% of households. It was interesting at first, a pain later on and just life by the third and fourth day. There was a generator sign in the center of town providing residents with updates. It mostly said that schools remained closed.

What does this have to do with leadership? I was reminded how much we have we really do not need. America is a consumer nation. While power is something we do need, I was able to solve each of the challenges presented once I thought about it. I imagine the same is true in the workplace. We need to provide our teams with the tools to accomplish their jobs in an efficient manner. Some nice to haves are important. Too many are not required.

What types of things have you found fall into the “excess” category?

PS – Maybe later in the week I’ll share my staple inventory blog post.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

“3 hots and a cot”

Entitlement. It has been a topic we have discussed many times on LiaV. Generally, I’ve coached that the trappings of success for many can be the same things that cause them to lose touch with their teams and the real work being done in an organization. Big offices, reserved parking, office administrators and separate entrances are all motes disguised as perks.

The other day a colleague, a retired Marine gone executive, told me the only thing he needed was “3 hots and a cot.” The most basic needs to him were 3 hot meals and a place to sleep. It was such a simple statement and concept I thought I would share it more widely. Can you imagine how much more productive everyone would be if there was no effort expended on items of status?


Sunday, February 28, 2010

Explorer or navigator?

During a recent trip to India for business, I was reminded of the importance of trying things that have not been tried before. We were trying to determine how a certain business problem that we had not encountered before would be solved. We brainstormed and hypothesized. We negotiated and decided (over and over again).

In the misted of our session, my Indian counterpart shared that in times like this it is important to remember the most significant discoveries happened when the person was lost. They shared a common Indian quote, “the best explorers are the worst navigators.” They referenced Christopher Columbus discovering America as a prime example. It occurred to me that the same e the same is true in our personal lives. The things you discover on vacation when you get lost are often the most interesting and memorable.

How often do you allow yourself to get lost? Does it most always work out for the better?


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Real cheese

I am not a big Domino’s Pizza fan, but just might try it again. Can you imagine taking a successful product franchise and admitting to it being unacceptable? That is what the president of Domino’s has done. Now compare that to the situation facing Toyota. In the face of clear product safety concerns, the president has yet to emerge and speak to the public. Patrick Lencioni of Business Week noted that in his February 2010 article The Power of Saying ‘We Blew It’ that the common topic is vulnerability. Note how each leader is dealing with it differently.

Different leaders deal with vulnerability in the workplace differently, too. Leaders who are open to new ideas, ask questions, allow tough discussions and allow debate build loyalty among their teams. Command and control type managers might see these traits as weak and indecisive. This might have been true long ago, but the time has gone.

Have you seen a leader successfully place him or herself in vulnerable situations? How did it turn out?


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Beware the indispensible!

Tara was by far the most experienced and knowledgeable. She had the tribal knowledge of what happened since the project started. Everyone depended on her for everything. When she got an internal job offer to leave the department my management team said we must stop it and make a counter offer. I listened and tried to talk her out of leaving. It did not work. She left. And you know what happened? The performance of the total department increased. I learned a valuable lesson – sometimes the person that makes themselves indispensible actually holds everyone else back.

I saw it again a few years later at the senior levels above me. There was a SVP that was considered the indispensible and the next potential president. When he left because he did not get the job, the whole company grew and performed better. I thought about this and realized the leaders that make themselves indispensible hoard information, limit people’s potential and don’t allow teammates to make mistakes and learn from them. They instill fear to make themselves more powerful. For that time on, I study the dynamics of all organizations and when I find that so called indispensible person, I visualize how much the team is being held back and how well the team might be performing. Dispensable beware.

Can you remember a time when someone the organization just could not lose left and the whole team benefited from the exit?


Sunday, January 31, 2010

Let them fly

“... they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible, logical, responsible, practical...and they showed me a world where I could be dependable, clinical, intellectual, cynical…” These lyrics from the 1979 Supertramp Breakfast in America album (yes, back when an album was vinyl) stuck me while running the other day. The Logical Song was a hit single that questioned the idea we gain from the structure we learn in school and society. While we all certainly benefit, from this conformity and knowledge, there is something to be said for thought leaders.

Someone told me once that true leaders are lonely. They tend to be thought leaders and ahead of the pack. Is it possible that all the conformity the workplace requires actually causes the leader’s within us to cave to the organizational norms? We have all seen the fantastic things people can accomplish when management gives them license and let them fly. Often, our toughest job is getting out of the way.

What was the most impressive accomplishment you have seen achieved by empowering your team?


Monday, January 25, 2010

Your flight is canceled

The wind and rain was so hard that it woke me a couple times during the night. It did not get any better in the morning as I caught up on email and prepared to leave. I checked the flight status on the airline website prior to checking in and driving to White Plains airport. What a surprise, the incoming airplane was diverted to JFK airport and our flight would be delayed “40 minutes.” Sure!

Then the all too common winter announcement, “flight 579 to West Palm Beach has been canceled.” For those of us that are people watchers, it is Super Bowl time. As if one could not have guessed it would happen, people got all spun up and pointed their aggression at each other and particularly the airline ticket personnel. As if they had something to do with the weather in New York state in the winter. As I remained in my normal state of “travel calmness,” the worst of people emerged. Does anyone really believe they get better service when they treat the service employee badly? If you were the airline personnel behind the counter, would you prefer to help the friendly customer in distress or the one yelling at you?

As leaders, we all have a choice of how we react to circumstances beyond our control. Do you let the situation control you or do you control your reaction in situations like this?

PS – Guess what – the same people were arguing with the luggage team upon arrival.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

“I’m alright if you’re alright”

The Felice Brothers are a folksy group of musicians that I learned about at the Austin City Limits Music and Arts Festival in October. Their song, “Take This Bread,” had a different spin that many of us in leadership could learn from.

In today’s diverse work world, we cannot assume that others want to be treated the same way that we do. It is important to take the time to understand the individual and to tailor your approach based on the priorities and desires of that person. I still remember the time we were thanking a college professor for his help during the summer. We thought he would like a company jacket. Come to find out, at his university, the professors all displayed the plagues and certificates they “earned” from their achievements. We quickly adjusted and the recognition went smoothly. It was important to realize that the better off he was, the better we were too.

When have you adjusted your plans to successfully meet an individual’s desires?


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

“Don’t take the bait”

Joe was a talented guy on international assignment leading a factory start-up. He had years of experience and worked as hard as anyone I know. Betty was the actual leader responsible for the project overall. The project was behind schedule and the pressure was on. On a number of occasions, Betty became very frustrated with the implementation team and fired off finger pointing emails. On one occasion, Joe was the target of a particularly pointed email and many senior leaders were copied. As you might imagine, Joe was upset and about to flame out on email. The most senior leader on copy, forwarded the email back Joe and said four words, “Don’t take the bait.”

When Joe looks back on that sequence, he told me that those were the four most empowering words ever said to him. He knew from the statement that senior leadership knew he was doing the right things. He shared with me that this confirmation from management gave him license to make timely decisions, take risks and achieve objectives. This story made me think about the small comments leaders make on an hourly basis that either empower our people or create dissatisfaction. It is unlikely this senior leader even knows he had such an impact.

What little things do you say to empower your people on intense assignments?


Sunday, January 10, 2010

"Where's the Gift?"

It’s January. 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?


“Where’s the Gift?”

It’s January. 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?


Monday, January 4, 2010

Enjoying the DMV?

I put it off for as long as possible. It is something we all dread. I asked for and got plenty of advice on strategy to make the process as aimless as can be. Get there early. Go mid-week. Bring reading material. Don’t forget any documents. Be flexible.

People like to complain about the DMV. After putting it off for months, I had to get my new CT driver’s license and register the vehicles. It was not nearly as bad as I thought. The reason was simple. Anytime you approach a situation with an open mind and maintain a good attitude, things go fine. The workers generally knew their job. They probably treat customers in direct relation to how they are treated. People in the lines were friendly and were having a shared experience. For those that know me, you can be assured I was interviewing and recruiting talent during the waiting time.

Have you successfully approached a dreaded situation with a good attitude and found a good result?


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