Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Interesting article in Associations Now today.  The article asks the question, ‘Can a company or organization survive without a CEO’?

Read the article here.

I was confident I knew the answer without reading the article – “NO”!

But I read the article anyway.  I guess I was curious more than anything else.

Turns out my instincts were right.  It seems a few organizations have tried to be run without a leader (where the buck stops) but it doesn’t appear they have been resounding successes.  In fact, my impression from the article is that companies that have tried such a model have increased their middle management numbers, decreased their efficiency and created cultures where accountability is questionable.

That’s not to say that new models for leading businesses cannot be found.  In fact, one of the hallmarks of great leaders, in my opinion, is they are constantly thinking about ways to adjust or change their business model to make it better.  Great leaders are always thinking about the culture of their organization and how to make it better; the efficiency of their organization and how to make it even more efficient; the value their organization is delivering to its customers and how to become even more valuable.

Can a company survive without a CEO – probably on the short-term but for the long-haul organizations need a leader who is developing their culture, refining their vision and LEADING the employees to deliver value to their customers.


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My brother-in-law graduated from the University of Texas.  I’ve often thought fondly of UT.  I remember watching great UT football teams in the 1970’s and again in the 2000’s.  My oldest son has been a HUGE UT fan since he was very young.  One wall of his room is painted burnt orange and the skull of a Texas Longhorn hangs on it.

Recently, my brother-in-law sent me a copy of the text of the University of Texas 2014 Commencement speech given by Naval Admiral William H. McRaven, Ninth Commander of US Special Operations Command.  If you watch the entire video of his speech, it will be the most valuable 20 minutes you spend today, and likely this weekClick here to watch the video.

The leadership lessons provided by Adm. McRaven are among the best ever.  If you aren’t willing to invest the twenty minutes it takes to hear it first hand, at least read this excerpt from his speech.  The entire premise is that everyone has the ability to make impactful and positive changes to the world:

Start each day with a task completed.  Find someone to help you through life.  Respect everyone.  Know that life is not fair and you will fail often, but if you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up…

If you do these things, you will change the world.

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I read several business related blogs.  One of them is called Leadership Freak, written by Dan Rockwell.  Today Leadership Freak had an interesting post about what leaders do to energize (and sometimes de-energize) their teams.

Read the post here.

The theory behind the post is that everyone has energy inside them.  A leader’s job is to exploit that energy and build on it.  In other words, to quote REO Speedwagon, leaders need to “Keep the fire burnin'”.

Of course that’s easier said than done.  What kinds of things can leaders do to ignite fires in their team and keep those fires burning?  Also, what should leaders do to avoid putting out the fires in their team?

In his post today, Dan offers several answers to these questions.  Here are a few of my own:

  • Serve your teammates.  Nothing energizes people more than being served – especially by their leader
  • Use positive words and expressions to get your point across – ALWAYS
  • Smile
  • Ask your teammates about things they’re interested and invested in – their family, their hobbies, etc (Be interested)
  • Even when you don’t feel high energy – fake it until you make it – people you lead will follow your example
  • Find out what energizes (and de-energizes) your teammates

What do you do to “Keep the fire burnin'” among your team?




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Great leaders seem to always have a set of values upon which they rely when making decisions.  These values are a barometer for them – If I make decision A, my company will be more profitable but we will violate one or more of our key values in doing so.  I believe great leaders don’t abandon their values, even when they require more work, less profit or more stress.

These values or guiding principles can also cause leaders to form opinions about certain issues or even people.  Sometimes, it becomes easy for leaders to confuse their opinions (which are based on observations masquerading as facts) with actual facts.  In other words, some leaders are so confident in themselves and their abilities that they may think (or give other people the perception) that they are always “right”.

As a leader and as a person, I suffer from this challenge.

I read an interesting article today about this very subject.

My takeaways –

  • I need to learn to distinguish between facts and opinions or assessments.
  • When communicating opinions or assessments, do more listening than talking.
  • Remember that opinions can’t be true or false, right or wrong.  They are just that, opinion.
  • People don’t like to be told they are wrong – avoid that when communicating opinions or assessments.

I really loved the last sentence of the article, “True humility is, at least in part, being able to see one’s own assessments as assessments, rather than believing them to be truths”.

I want to be a humble and compassionate leader.  Sometimes I am.  I’m going to try to remember these takeaways in my daily life – both personal and business.  Perhaps if I do, I can have better, clearer communications with my employees, customers, friends and family leading to a happier, more productive and successful lives for all.

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Three months ago my wife came to me and said – ‘We aren’t healthy anymore.  We are overweight; our clothes don’t fit right; we are tired all the time; as a result, we aren’t happy’.  I of course reacted by acknowledging the truthfulness of her statements but took no accountability – ‘You’re right but what can we do about it?  We’re too busy with four kids, sports, music, other activities, school and of course running a business.’.

She suggested dieting.  I wasn’t keen on the idea but she said she was going to do it and would appreciate the support of doing it with a partner.  So, we started a five week diet.  In those five weeks, we lost a combined total of 55 pounds!

The diet was great!  Certainly it was great to lose all that weight.  But it also helped by providing us with the discipline to make good, healthy food choices and learn portion control.

Part way through the diet I started working out again.  I’m now exercising five or six days a week.  Sometimes its a quick thirty minute workout; other days I take my lunchtime and play basketball at the local gym.  The working out helps to keep the weight off but it also keeps the rest of my body healthy.

I recently read an article about a 43 year old, once healthy, man who had a heart attack.  He blamed his poor health on the work first, work always lifestyle.  Until three months ago that was my lifestyle.

Don’t get me wrong – work is still one of the most important things in my life but it’s number four now, not number two.  (God, Family and Friends, Me, Work)

Think about how you prioritize your health.  If you move it up on your list, you will be happier – I guarantee it.

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Probably every business leader today has read Jim Collins’ best selling business book Good to Great.  The book explains a study that Collins and several of his business school students did on the attributes of successful companies – not just marginally successful, but industry leading companies who sustained their success over long periods of time.

One of the tenets of these successful companies is they know how to “get the right people on the bus and in the right seats”.  In other words, they know how to find people who are a good fit for their company AND they know how to put them in positions where they can be successful.

I recently read an article that takes this concept a step further – almost.

The article acknowledges the concept of getting the right people on the bus AND acknowledges that sometimes we make mistakes when selecting those people.  Sometimes, though a person may be right for our company in many ways – they are a good producer, they are efficient, etc. – they may not be a good fit for our company’s culture.  Perhaps they aren’t willing to buy-in to the company philosophy; perhaps they don’t treat people in the company the way they should be treated; perhaps they’re just not part of the team.  In those cases, even though they may be a “top performer”, successful leaders recognize the need to get this person “off the bus”.

The article focuses mostly on the ways to document “not being a good fit” for legal protections.  That’s where the article disappointed me.  Don’t get me wrong, legal protection is important for a company.

What I really like about the article is the idea it gave me (and hopefully will give you too) to create a method for measuring through employee evaluations each employees’ contributions (or lack thereof) to the company culture.  You see to me the important point here isn’t the legal protection that can provide the company if you decide to terminate a “top performer” for not fitting in.

To me the important point is if we measure it, it becomes reality.  If our employees know that part of their evaluation relates to how they contribute to the corporate culture we are trying to make and maintain, many will work to meet and even exceed the established goals.  In other words, by measuring individual employee contribution to corporate culture as we measure their contribution toward sales growth, customer service, operational efficiency, etc we can help mold people into the “right” people.

We hired them for a reason.  They met or exceeded our expectations during the hiring process or they wouldn’t be on the bus at all.  So, let’s find ways to get them in the right seat and keep them on the bus.  Perhaps measuring their contribution to your corporate culture is one way to do just that.

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There have been many great military leaders throughout history.  Some of them have gone on to become leaders in other arenas as well – political, business, media, etc.

Being in the association business, we often see professional speakers who talk about management, change, people, leadership, and more.  So when I saw this article today it caught my attention.  The article talks about a few new(er) business consulting firms that have been formed by retired military leaders who are now teaching the military leadership principles they used to succeed on the battlefield to business leaders.

One in particular, the Afterburners, are well known on the association speaking circuit.

After reading the short article, one message stands out.  To succeed on the battlefield and in business you have to follow a consistent and clear process.  The process military leaders recommend is this:  Plan, Brief, Execute, Debrief.

So simple, yet many businesses seem to fail at one or more of the steps regularly.  Each step is critical to the success of the “mission”.  It all starts of course with planning.  We all know how important planning is.  However, sometimes we put more value on the process of planning than in developing the right plan for our circumstances.  Next comes the briefing.  This is where we get the rest of the team involved and bought into the plan.  Every member must understand the big picture – what we are trying to achieve AND must understand the clear objectives (the job) they have and how their job fits with the overall plan.  Execution is next.  Once the planning is done and everyone understands their job, it’s time to get it done.  If the planning and briefing were done well, the execution will be easier.  However, during execution we may encounter issues we didn’t plan on.  Hopefully we have put the right contingencies in place to overcome the challenges.  Finally, when we’re all done, it’s time to debrief.  I love what the military leaders bring to this part of the process – ripping the ranks off at the door.  To debrief successfully, they know every member of the team has to feel free to speak their mind in contributing to bettering the process next time.  If people are worried about repercussions for their statements, they may not speak freely.

There are many leadership lessons we can learn from the military.  The process for successful engagement – Plan, Brief, Execute, Debrief may be my favorite. 

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