Monthly Archives: May 2009

Leadership and Purity of Heart

     If you get chance, pick up this the May 25, 2009 issue of Time Magazine and turn to page 41 — Read Justin Fox’s article. It references the Oath of Honor that all graduates of the Thunderbird School of Global Management recite during their graduation ceremony. It speaks of honesty, integrity, and individual accountability. With everything we have experienced over the last six months, can you think of anything more important?

     Corporate Values are important and when an organization and its leaders follow them, they do make a difference; however, it does begin with personal accountability. In the new book by our colleagues at the RBL Group entitled Leadership Code, Five Rules to Lead By, (Dave Ulrich, Norm Smallwood Kate Sweetman) outline it clearly. Rule FIVE – “Invest in Yourself” which they argue is the ultimate rule of leadership addresses integrity and character. I believe their questions get at what I call Leadership and Purity of Heart:
     Integrity at the core of your character shows up in many ways: Do I live     according to legal and social norms? Do I keep promises? Do I live a moral life outside of work? Do I avoid gossip, lying and stealing time? Have I established a code of conduct for my company that I demonstrate through my behaviors?

Do you lead from the heart? Ask yourself these questions to find out. Then ask yourself how you can do better.

The Myth of Work Life Balance: It’s really about Work / Life Integration!

       When we conduct executive retreats, we like to open with a brief, but very powerful get acquainted exercise. We ask participants to think about their lives outside of work and consider what they value most. After a few minutes of reflection, we ask them to share their thoughts with another executive in the room. We continue these one-on-one dialogues, moving from colleague to colleague. After a few rounds, we stop (or try to stop!) the conversations. From the atmosphere in the room, we know that we are interrupting more than small talk when we debrief the exercise by asking two simple questions: How do you feel? What was said?

     Responses to the first question — “How do you feel?” — Typically include positive emotions such as relaxed, connected, inspired, proud, interested, and engaged.

     Responses to “What was said?” are more varied. Families, friends and relationships are always mentioned. Faith is a high priority for some, but so are hobbies, avocations, service, exercise, sports, health, financial security, safety, wealth, freedom, and an assortment of lifestyle variables and personal choices.

     The most enlightening aspect of this exercise, however, is not what people value outside of work. It is how quickly we can set a tone for openness and innovation when we draw upon the personal values of participants, a topic of conversation that is often discouraged in the workplace, especially for women with children.

Either/or = lose: lose

     In today’s global e-economy, the days when we could easily compartmentalize work and life are long gone. If our employers pay for our Blackberries, are we expected to be on call around the clock? Should customers and coworkers halfway around the world take precedence over family to accommodate their different work hours? Will it jeopardize our careers if we don’t respond to email and phone messages when we’re on vacation? Beyond the differences in time zones and customs for conducting business around the world are the daily opportunity costs and challenges closer to home. Can we ask for time off to care for a sick child? Can we interrupt our work day to attend a school play or take an elderly parent to the doctor? Promoting work-life balance forces daily trade-offs for both employee and employer, a lose/lose proposition for many.

     By framing the problem as one of “balance,” employers force employees to make very hard choices: We will focus on having to make choices as part of life strategies –how could we better position this? To have a good life, we must compromise our work; to have a great career, we must sacrifice our personal life.  The strategies that support this either/or framing include “work smarter, not harder” and “leave your personal life at home,” and “earn your stripes” through “more face time.”  Not surprisingly, workers and managers at every level tell us that they feel guilty about the choices made for the sake of “work/life balance.” 


Integration = win / win


            We’re convinced that work-life balance is the wrong objective.  We believe work/life integration, a powerful new trend in nurturing organizational excellence, is both a sustainable solution and a win/ win proposition.  Work life integration frames the problem as a design issue:   How do I design a life that allows me to integrate my personal aspirations with my professional aspirations?  What company policies will enable employees to thrive?  How will nurturing work / life integration become a talent recruiting advantage for us?   


Simplify Your Message: Strategy On-a-Page

A simple, flexible tool for communicating strategy and execution plans

The news is full of talk about “A New Strategic Direction” or a need to “Execute” more effectively. What does that mean? We are seeing a pretty big disconnect in how leaders talk about strategy and execution and the mechanism they use to communicate it to their organizations.

Many organizations have a robust planning process. Valuable time and energy goes into the design and development of a strategic plan. The operating committee approves the plan and then it is shared with a few key stakeholders. People involved feel good about the output. This select group understands the future direction of the organization. Then what happens? People closest to the process or the Strategy Function “monitor” the plan. Many organizations put them aside or “shelve” them until next year.

How to build strategy is important; however; successful organizations find a way to also streamline and communicate the message! Aligning the organization around the strategy and communicating it simply is critical. An important and proven tool we have worked with over the years is the Strategy On-a-Page – a summary page that serves as a catalyst for communication, organizational alignment and stakeholder support. Our colleague, Peter Klein, a thought leader in corporate strategy and business development not only coined the phrase, but has shaped much of the thinking around the process and tools to simplify strategy.

What does this simple tool do? It:

  1. Provides a clear line of sight to the realities of what is going on inside and outside the company.
  2. Illustrates Objectives / Goals
  3. Shows what choices senior management makes to achieve these results
  4. Outlines important initiatives that must be executed to achieve the plan
  5. Communicates to each employee where and how they contribute to achieving these results

With the complexities of our rapidly changing marketplace, this is more critical than ever! We believe that the output of any strategic planning process can and should be simply communicated on one page. Just think about how that might help drive a high performing culture.

To see the tool —- scroll up, click on the Resources Tab, and look under tools

Strategic Agility: Do you have the right formula for winning in today’s market?

“Five to ten years ago you would set your vision and strategy and then start following it. That does not work anymore. Now you have to be alert every day, week and month to renew your strategy.” Olli-Pekka Kallasvvuo, CEO Nokia *
     Who would have thought that three year strategic plans developed by companies last September would already be obsolete? The world has changed and those companies that have not invested time in building the capability of their organization to think strategically could be in trouble.
     Developing better strategic thinkers is more important than ever. It develops strategic agility. Why have successful companies such as such Kraft, Hershey, Apple, IBM, Dean / WhiteWave Foods, P&G / Gillette and others invest so much time developing their leaders to think more strategically? Why has Wal-Mart been successful over the last year? Very simply…they have invested in the development of their senior leaders at all levels to be able to quickly assess the external landscape and translate that into strategies for success both in the short and long term.
     In December of 2007, we wrote in our Insights to Action Whitepaper … Over the last several years, the partners at GlobalEdg have worked with many senior executives and their leadership teams helping them to develop more comprehensive strategic thinking skills. We have found that these capabilities, if not fully developed, will be a recipe for disaster for the organization as well as the executive. Little did we know!
     Moving forward and success is about making an organization more strategically agile. Strategy is not owned by a few people in the office of the CEO or President. Today leaders in all functions must be capable of contributing, communicating and aligning people on how to execute it. For example, one CPG company was able to reposition a product for immediate release. Using new consumer insights and leveraging a more flexible manufacturing capability, marketing, manufacturing and sales came together to reposition a brand – capitalizing on the emotional scent that has driven consumers to trust and love the product.

     Over the last six months we have seen a dramatic shift in how some organizations are doing business. For example one consumer branded company set aside one week during the first part of this year with cross-functional teams to apply strategic thinking to each line of business. These teams were chartered for only 30 days. The results – a few new Key Issues were identified that did not exist 6 months ago. The organization considered new alternatives and made their recommendations to the executive committee who changed their strategic direction in mid-course.

     Is your organization building a performance culture with strategic agility? Are you challenging business people to think about what are the most important areas that will build capability for the near term? Who is partnering with HR to lead the capability building agenda for the company?

Author — Paul Butler, GlobalEdg

* Fast Strategy Doz & Kosonen … Wharton School Publishing