header
"Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless."
Mother Teresa

Get Leadership Notes by Email

Good evening from AC 299 Winnipeg to Vancouver, I trust this finds each one of you in fine spirits. I am looking out of the window at a most spectacular sunset, the light skimming across the snowcapped mountains with small clouds covering just the peaks as we descend towards sea level. It is moments like this that almost make up for the hours I seem to spend in the air!

I'm returning from leading a session at a national conference for credit union leaders. In my session, and one other that I attended, we spoke about behavioural competencies.
 
Now, I am  always curious about what people mean when they use the word "communication" in their description of a desired behavioural skill. It sems so broad as to be almost unhelpful; how many employee engagement survey results show a need to improve "communication" as the number one issue for the organization?

Well, as luck would have it, I am reading a fascinating study from December of '09 published by the Psychometrics group (www.psychometrics.com) looking at "leadership." The results are interesting; a weighted score of 4.9 where 4 = very important and 5 = critically important, for the competency "communication!" And most interesting to me was a subsequent question; 'what could leaders do to communicate more effectivley? 81.4% of the respondents said listen more and talk less, and 75.6 % said more informal interaction with staff (casual conversations etc.)

It seems then, that if we want to improve our comunication as leaders, to put it bluntly, we need to shut up and lighten up! I like to say that in any encounter or conversation between a leader and a follower, the leader's airtime or talk time should be < 40%. What I'm seeing in this data, is that we also need to drop the number of "meetings" and increase the number of "conversations."

I hope for all of us tha we find more time to listen, and to be in conversation with the people with whom we work, and those two shifts may well dramatically improve our workplaces.

Good morning from a sunny and warm(er) Vancouver. The sky is that blue that inspires poets and childrens' book illustrators this morning.

I've been sitting on a number of airplanes in the past week or so and have a rare (it seems) moment in my office at home before heading to Vancouver airport again this afternoon. On these airplane trips I've been reading some new studies and as last week, one in particular has caught my attention. (www.psychomterics.com)

This part of the study asked "how could today's leaders manage change in their organizatons more effectively?"  How would you respond? 80% of the respondents said communication was key. Now, in my experience, that is not new information at all. In fact, I imagine that virtually every employee engagement survey would say that communicaitons need to improve. The problem is of course, what do we mean by communication?

The study begins to answer that important question. Nearly 90% of the respondents said that leaders need to "clearly communicate how the organization plans to manage change", just over 85% said they needed to know how the change will impact jobs, and just under 85% wanted a clear rationale for the changes.

So what might that look like in your organization or team? If there is a change coming down the pipe, your team needs to know what the plan is for managing the change and the transition. For example, what are the key dates? Who is the boss? Who are on the transition team? What decisions are within our control, what are being made for us? If I have a question, to whom do I turn? How will we manage learning, ie. if I have a suggestion, what's the route to get it implemented? What is the communication plan? etc. Then being able, as quickly as possible describe how jobs will be impacted. My own experience is that people are far more likely to support the organization if they know up front what the impact is on them, even if it means they're out of job, at least they know, and then can deal with it in their own way. Absolutely the wrong thing is to say, there will be no job loss because we don’t want people to worry. And then, we need to be very clear about how this change will fit within our vision, mission and values,  how will this make a postive difference for our members/customers, our communities, our employees? I'll buy in to a change if I see it directly benefits me, the organization and our customers.

I hope the sun is out wherever you are, and that you and your team are able to have honest and good conversations about change.

Good evening from Air Canada 8280 to Prince Rupert, British Columbia. I trust this edition of Leadership Notes finds you well.

I've been reading an interesting essay in the April 17, 2010 edition of The Economist, about how innovaton is manifesting itself in the so-called developing world. I am intrigued by the idea of "frugal innovation"; automobiles that cost $2200, hand held ECG machines that give test results for just $1 per patient, or financial instiution branches being shruck, literally, to the size of a mobile phone. Now the idea of frugal innovation is changing the global economy as creative ideas from India and China change our ways of thinking about contracting out, using technology in new ways and using mass-production in new areas like healthcare -- imagine 1,000 bed heart hospitals where 600 surgeries occur every week at about $2000 per patient with results that are as good as the best North American hospitals!

This raises some intersting questions for business and work generally in North America. I submit we have been making a fundamentally flawed (if not somewhat racist) assumption that the people of the developing world were "stealing" our manufacturing jobs, but that of course we Westerners would retain the creative, and "more advanced" kind of work. The last 10 years have proven that assumption to be very flawed. Human beings are at our core creative beings, regardless of where we live, the colour of our skin or the size of our house. One of the biggest challenges we face in this part of the world in the next decade will be how will we in the west learn to share a growing sandbox of creativity?

And closer to home, what does creativity look like in our organizations? What new ideas are we trying? What new uses of established technologies are we exprimenting with? Who is making decisions, the purveyors of the satatus quo, or the people who challenge the status quo? What is the relationship between risk management and risk aversion?

May this week be filled with creative thinking for you and for your team, at the very least because there's a team in Bangalore that are experimenting right now!

Good evening one and all!

I'm safely ensconsed in a hotel room in the Okanagan region of BC, and it is a lovely evening. Last night I was boarding a plan from Honolulu to Vancouver, so I must admit a certain culture shock, as I attempt to move from beach to board room!

Before I left I made a note about a piece forwarded to me from Margaret Wheatley. Dr. Wheatly is perhaps best known for her groundbreaking work in "Leadership and the New Science", where she argues that we need to re-think most of the models of management and leadership, because we have built them on Newtonian physics, that is, cause and effect, and predicatbality. In the paradigms of post modern thinking uncovered by quantum physics we find that there is much less predicatble about the world, and cause and effect are not necessarily absolute. For example, simply because I'm the boss is not sufficient enough reason for another person to behave or act in the way I want them to.

Dr. Wheatley has developed a wonderful exploration process that may assist you in gaining clarity about what you ae called to do and to be as a leader in these times. (Check out www.margaretwheatley.com ) She calls the process, * Fearless Questions, and the questions are at the very least, very courageous:

1. Does the world need me to be fearless?
2. Who do I choose to be for this world?
3. How do I name myself?
4. Can I bear witness to what is?
5. Can I work with what's available?
6. Can I give up needing to make a difference?
7. How do I imprison myself?
8. How do I offer my work?

Any one of these is worth exploring as a leadership question. It is my hope that you might find them a useful place to continue your own journey of self-discovery as a leader.

 

At a recent conference at which I was speaking I had the pleasure of hearing Terry O'Reilly, the famous Canadian advertising guru. O'Reilly, known by many as the brains behind the CBC Radio show The Age of Persuasion, gave out three stats that stuck with me:

There are 7.3 million web pages added to the internet every day; 4.5 blogs added every minute and 31 billion searches on Google every month, (20% of those have never been searched before.)

That is a lot of data. Ironically, many of us in management and leadership roles, recognize that we more often than not, think we don't have enough data to make a particular decision, and therefore live by the 80/20 rule; that a bias to action demands that we make the decision once we surmise we have 80% of the data we need.

There are though risks in using that rule. We can exclude stakeholders inadvertantly, we can miss important risks/opportunities, and we can damage our own credibility. To manage these risks, perhaps there are three guiding principles:

1. Keep a "chair for Elijah." In Judaism there is a long tradition that there be a chair held for the prophet Elijah. This model can remind all of us around the board or management table that there are missing voices in our decision making. By recognizing that gap, we are more likley to proceed with a certain respect and risk mitigation in place.

2. Again from Judaism, hear from the junior people first. In Jewish legal judgements the most junior judges give their opinion first, so that they are not swayed by their elders. In team and board decisions, hear from the less experienced members first, you'll often find new and innovative perspectives on the data you have.

3.  Build your wisdom, use debriefings as learning labs for yourself and your team: what did we learn? How can we apply these learnings in similar situations, and recognize that mistakes are opportunities to learn.

My hope for us all this week is that we make the best decisions we can, and keep learning everyday.

 

Good afternoon, and I hope the sights, sounds and smells of summer are emerging whereever you are (or that your winter is not too harsh if you are reading this below the equator!)

It has been a very busy couple of weeks in my world, and I'd imagine for you as well. At CUSource we said good bye to some collegues this week, and have welcomed some new faces to the team. These times are often filled with a mixture of sadness and regret, as well as excitement about the possibilities in the coming months. I do though want to acknolwedge the sadness I feel in the loss of my colleagues from the Vancouver, Regina and Halifax offices; I know you will all land firmly on your feet, and wish you each a grand adventure.

I know also that two credit unions in BC here have experienced the deaths of colleagues and friends in the past week. I was reminded then, in conversation with one manager this morning, that in the business world, we very often try to "keep smiling" in the face of such adversity. A friend's mum describes it as "swimming like a swan," legs moving very quickly, but everything above the surface is apprently serene. I offer a challenge to this kind of thinking. If you have faced a job loss, if you have faced a death, if your personal life is challenged, it is ok to grieve. It is in fact vital for your continued health and vitality that you do grieve. (You don’t have to do that at work, although, creating a place at work where it is ok to grieve privately can be a very good idea.) But grieve you must. The cost over the long term; hypertension, irritablility and even depression, can by staggering. So, if you are facing a very difficult loss, don’t try to hide from it, being a swan will work for a short period, but over the long term, it's better to grieve.

This week, I hope that each of us finds the space we need to grieve, and then the space we need to move forward.