Category Archives: Leadership & Strategy

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Leadership Behavior: the Stress of Self-doubt. A Wall Street Journal article

Earlier in my career, I was going through a really stressful time, my position was being eliminated, I was finishing graduate school; and, as young father with 3 small kids, my primary concern was how to stay positive and not become overwhelmed.  That was when I was introduced to Martin Seligman’s work at the University of Pennsylvania.  He is a pioneer in the field of positive psychology. What I learned was that the way you think can make a difference in how you feel which ultimately leads to how you make decisions.  All leaders will face adversity – what is most important is how he or she reacts. It begins with how you think. We have worked hard over the years to emphasize how best to channel ideas into insights to solve problems. Our work has been informed by people who have overcome difficult challenges. I find the subject of how thoughts impact us fascinating.  I came across this article in the Wall Street Journal that might be helpful on how you think. Enjoy

http://www.wsj.com/articles/steps-to-turn-off-the-nagging-self-doubt-in-your-head-1465838679?mod=djem10point

image from www.pyschologytoday.com

Talent Development Leaders — Are You Asking the Right Questions?

Talent Development Leaders — If you can’t clearly answer this question — then it is time to act.

Recently I was having a conversation around the table with a client and his managers. The discussion focused on how the Talent Development function was supporting the business. As is so often the case, the conversation centered around talent development pipelines and processes such as performance management alignment.

I listened quietly and then asked if we could shift the conversation a little — I wanted to ask a different question before we moved on…

“What do you believe makes your organization unique and gives you a competitive advantage in the marketplace?”

I can usually predict what the answer will be – and it happened again here… Each person had a different answer!

This is an easy question to ask – but so difficult for many managers to answer. Try it! How would you answer it for your organization?

Well, during our discussion… the most senior executive on the T&D team’s response was “Our ability to take risks.” My follow-up question was “What does that mean?” My second question was “… And what makes you different from your largest competitor –are they not risk takers?

Another executive jumped in and said, “I think there’s a different answer to that question. I think capability in research and development sets us apart from the competition.”

The conversation then led to how to define and then to leverage their competitive advantage.

Why is this important?  — if you are not building organizational capability with this question in mind, it’s time to start! Not being able to define – and act on your competitive advantage – is a serious risk to your business. At best it is losing you money – at worst it may cost you your business!

In fairness to the Talent Development function – this problem is just as common across all functions and pretty universal across businesses.

In other words, once you clearly describe your competitive advantage you can tailor functions such as capability development and recruitment and selection to finding and developing employees to drive the business forward to take advantage of the opportunities your advantage provides.

Just try searching on Google — what you will find is that there are 50 million hits when searching for Strategic Competitive Advantage –so widely in the consciousness of organizations – YET our research shows …. only 44% strongly agree that they can describe what makes their organization different from the competition, AND 20% strongly agree that their organization’s current strategies give them an advantage over the competition.

Why is that? People are not asking the right questions and don’t have an approach that will get them to universally identify and leverage what makes them unique.

When you are in a position to address this issue… Try jumpstarting the conversation by asking leaders in your organization the following questions:

  • What must we do, know, or produce that no one else can? This is truly hard questions to answer. –the key –be honest – what is the evidence that you alone can do this?  How do you know?
  • What do we want to be best in the “world” at? However, you define your “world” –is an important context for this conversation.  Is your world truly global? Or is it the world in which you currently operate in – or perhaps the world you would like to move into.
  • What is the single best reason for our success? This allows you to focus — is it a single thing like a patent on a new product or a unique approach to something that cannot be easily replicated?
  • Is our advantage anything that a competitor could say about their organization? This is the true “smell” test. Again, be honest with yourself. If this is not the case – you have a competitive advantage –if not, maybe now is the time to secure one.

Only when your organization is clear on these important questions can you reshape your Talent Management Strategy to take full advantage of the opportunities your competitive advantage provides.

For more visit: www.thinktowin.net

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New Leaders – Who could slow you down?

 

In today’s fast-paced environment, the window that a new leader has to win is short.  If you do not have a way to quickly determine who on your team you can depend on – you can’t WIN!

I was on the phone last night with the CTO (Chief Technology Officer) from one of our new clients. A pulse check on how her team was doing led to a discussion on how she uses the strategic thinking approach to quickly assess the capabilities of the people she has on her team.  “When I come into an organization, I have a quick window to not only assess my function, but to determine who best fits with where I want to take the organization.  As a leader, I have been brought in for a reason — to help an organization grow.  We can only do that if we know where we are – where we want to go – and who is going to help us get there.” I want everyone to succeed, and I need to see who on my teams can and will contribute immediately and what help others might need to quickly get there.

A disciplined approach to Thinking, Planning, and Acting does more than just produce a great plan. When done collectively with a new team, it provides a new leader a chance to observe and work with his or her team and quickly assess who is going to help you produce quick wins.   An approach that combines the tools of strategic thinking with the principles and practices of collaboration is powerful. It helps a new leader quickly begin to answer the following:

 Who is able and willing to work as a team member to collectively solve problems?

Who on my team is open to new ways of thinking about previously held beliefs?

Who is able to quickly identify and communicate the most important issues?

Who has displayed both functional skills and leadership capabilities?

Who can get things done?

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For more visit: www.thinktowin.net

 

UMASS Boston Speaking event 3-20-16

Paul Butler Speaks to Business Fraternity of UMASS Boston

Paul Butler President of GlobalEdg, and co-author of the business book Think to Win, had the opportunity to speak with the Delta Sigma Pi Xi Phi business chapter of UMASS Boston on March 21st, 2016. Paul was able to share stories of his own experiences and help these students with their career searches. Paul began his talk with asking a very important question to the students, what makes you unique to prospective employers? Paul was able to guide these students in answering that question through strategic thinking business tools displayed in Think to Win. The students of Delta Sigma Pi Xi were given an opportunity to examine how to build their own strategic plans for their careers. Paul used proven practices and strategies from Think to Win to walk these young professionals through a process that would not only help them in a career search but throughout life, and by the end of the event they were able to answer that important question.

If you would like Paul to speak at your event contact: athorne@globaledg.com or 203-405-6810

Think to Win Cover web

GlobalEdg Leadership Diary #3 — Your Competitive Advantage — What makes you standout & win?

winningA few years ago my brother and our wives were vacationing at a resort in Florida. On our second night there, we were sitting on the balcony of our room enjoying the warm weather and the incredible view of the Ocean. Shortly we noticed a steady stream of people heading to the poolside patio … dressed in business casual attire – each wearing a nametag. They were headed to a corporate company cocktail party.   As we looked on with curiosity, we began noticing a similar pattern. As people were getting closer to the patio they seemed to behave in a similar way — hand to the head to make sure their hair was in place, as well as a quick glance down at their nametag to see if it was visible and not upside down. There were even similar facial expressions – eyes darting around and a slight smile (either excitement or nervous laughter). Even the pace of walking began to change and each seemed to pick up as they were closer to the party. While observing, my brother and I found ourselves talking about how similar we often found ourselves behaving – preparing to make the right impression. We were putting on our “game face” at such corporate events.

The game? how to stand out and win…with the people we work with/for. The cocktail party illustration can be a small example of how we try to differentiate ourselves at work. Obviously the real way to stand out is with the contributions you make to your organization.

Winning is defined in different ways by each of us; however, we only win when we are able to realize we all have unique gifts that allow us to differentiate ourselves from others in our chosen professions … we all have a unique way of delivering value — competitive advantage in one way or another. The question remains how do we know what it is. In our book Think to Win, we outline how both teams and individuals can address this. The process is simple yet compelling – a few questions can serve as criteria — Consider the following:

  • What really differentiates us?
  • Is it something no one else could say about themselves?
  • What is the source of this?
  • How do we sustain it?

Using the tools of business are important and applicable to us personally. What differentiates you? How are you leveraging it? We all have unique gifts and ultimately stand out at any cocktail party.

To gain insight on how Thinking to Win can help your business and life at http://www.thinktowin.net/.

 

Leadership – What was I learning early in my career? Not what Netflix’s CEO Reed Hastings is teaching!

netflixWhy is this memory imprinted in my brain? Although this happened to me over 25 years ago, I remember it so vividly. This article triggered it again! (Link below)

I was a newly promoted manager who had “made it” – being promoted to the home office. During the first few weeks in my new assignment, I was working late when the President of the Division walked by my office door. He stopped, looked in my office –then directly at me and said “You are a hard worker aren’t you?”  He smiled and then said, “I am impressed.”

Why was that important? Well it sent a message to a young and ambitious manager –so much so that I found myself cultivating that reputation. I wanted to be known as one of the hardest working managers in the company. I often found myself looking out the window in the early evening – seeing whose car was still parked outside. It also became a “game” to brag about how many unused vacation days I had at the end of the year. I wanted to be known as the hard working “problem solver.”

Looking back, it seems really silly now. I became burnt out at an early age. Fortunately I was able to recover through the help of good coaching, mentoring and family support.

I am sure I did solve some problems – but where did it get me, my team and ultimately the organization? We had success, but I know we missed our potential because I did not work smart.

It is not about activity it is about results. That happens when you are able to step back and give yourself time to thinking about what is most important. It is only when your shift your mind to results versus activity are you able to win. Then you become the strategic leader who Thinks to Win!

The Next generation of leaders are the ones who will get it right.

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/netflix-ceo-reed-hastings-takes-163759505.html

www.thinktowin.net

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The Power of the Taylor Swift Brand

apple.swiftI have enjoyed following the Apple – Taylor Swift story. Apple Music is a streaming music service, scheduled to launch this month. As a promotion for its consumers, it is offering a free 3 month trial to anyone who signs up for the service. Sounds great – one problem it was not planning on paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. Enter Taylor Swift!
Last year, Fortune ranked Apple as the most powerful brand in the world. According to Forbes, the Apple brand is worth $124.2 billion and almost twice as much as any other brand in their annual study of the world’s most valuable brands. It has tremendous credibility and leverage and they have continuously leveraged that in the marketplace.
Well how about the Taylor Swift brand? It is also meaningful and significant! We believe Apple made the right choice on this one –what do you think?

Read the New York times article below
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/23/business/media/as-quick-as-a-taylor-swift-tweet-apple-had-to-change-its-tune.html?_r=0

Stephen Curry NBA Champion: how to challenge assumptions and think like a winner!

http://

NBA’s Champion Stephen Curry busted every assumption people have been making about him. He knows his strengths and further develops them into a competitive advantage. Dan Wetzel provides us with a beautiful example of how to challenge assumptions and think like a winner.

Curry worked hard to build those strengths into a collective competitive advantage. Wetzel writes — he just kept developing what he could — an even better shooting touch, more floaters, ever-refined ball-handling skills, even smarter understanding of spacing and pacing and passing. Hard work, and focusing on what is most important can do to lead your team there. He knows what is unique about him and leverages that to win! Curry proves he is a leader and leaders win!

http://sports.yahoo.com/news/stephen-curry-leads-warriors-to-nba-title-his-way-040538108.html

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

       I recently interviewed a team of senior executives for an upcoming planning session. When I asked the question of what was going well the executive whom we will call Phil was to the point and able to articulate two to three points without hesitation. When a follow-up question came, “What is missing or could this executive team do better?” Phil’s answers were prefaced with, “I want to tell you something that I would not want repeated.”
When we work with teams, we always interview the executives before an engagement, and we are very clear on how the information will be used. We emphasize the interview feedback will be reviewed to identify patterns and themes in the data, and all information will be consolidated and reported by patterns and themes, and specific information will not be attributed to any individual.
We are almost always told that we can “share with anyone what I am saying” –but inadvertently, always during the interview, an executive will ask to go off the record, oftentimes with something that should be shared.

     My question that comes up is, what would you do if you were not afraid?

Our research shows that although respondents feel that their organization is open to new ways to explore and change the status quo, more than 70% believe that their organization does not encourage them to express their views. Three recommendations to reduce the fear:

        1. Get clear on the language of what it means to “encourage” people to express their views.   Realizing that most people really care and are committed to doing the right thing is important –make it easy for them to do the right thing!
        2.  Teach people how to better discriminate between what is fact and what is opinion (allows people to be more objective). People gain confidence when they are able to sit back and assess a situation that is grounded in facts. They are better able to articulate their concern, or the fear subsides and the concern can be placed into a larger context –not an individual compelling.
        3.   Encourage people to explore answers to questions together –this builds trust and mutual respect. The old adage ”Two heads are better than one” can help a lot here. Partner with a colleague.

The ability to create a culture where people are encouraged to express their views increases when people have the tools to truly conduct a fast-based assessment, take opinions out of the equations, and jointly co-discover what the issues are.

Leadership & Strategic Thinking —- The Power of Clarifying Questions!

A Leadership Problem: More than 75% of people make decisions before they thoroughly understand the issue that needs to be addressed!

Leadership & Strategic Thinking —- The Power of Clarifying Questions!

               George, the executive in charge of R&D for a leading consumer products company, was recently presenting an update to the senior leadership team on the progress in the development of a unique new product. He quickly became frustrated by the questions he was being asked. How so?

He was only on the first page of a 6-page presentation; and, he was already 45 minutes into his 1 hour time slot. What was happening here? People were asking the wrong questions first. The executives were jumping into content questions before they had asked clarifying questions. Content questions were framed as such: “Why? Have you reached out to …?” and “Did you consider?” Can you imagine how frustrated George was, or what opportunity could have been missed?

The solution?

We have an important tool we always employ when we are facilitating a strategy planning session. It seems so obvious, but I don’t see it used in practice very often. The simple request to ask for clarifying questions before content questions. It is not easy to do at first, but it is a behavior that can be learned by all. The trick is to be able to draw the distinction between the two. A clarifying question begins with — “What do you mean by this?,” “Can you clarify something for me?” etc…

We have found that clarifying questions asked early and throughout a presentation can often address content questions in a better way. One thing to keep in mind — people will only follow this rule if they know they will have a chance to weigh in at a point in time. That can be either at a natural break in the presentation or at the conclusion of a short one. Also, try using a Parking Lot Chart to collect content questions asked along the way. This will help ensure people know you are going to address the important content questions at an appropriate point in time.

 

Source: GlobalEdg Research 2014