Most people do their best work when they know their manager trusts them. If they worry that you think they’re lazy, incapable of directing their behavior, or lack integrity, they’re unlikely to take feedback or coaching from you.
So go out of your way to gain your employees’ trust by demonstrating positive assumptions about them.
Give challenging assignments, with the clear and confident belief that your expectations will be met.
And don’t hide information, or assume people will mishandle it. Instead, promote transparency.
Try adding a “through the grapevine” agenda item to meetings as a fun, informal way for people to share company information they’ve heard, so you can either confirm or debunk the rumor. When managers demonstrate positive assumptions, employees respond in kind.
When leaders need innovative ideas to grow their company, they often turn to their direct reports for guidance. But this group, by design, represents the current operating units and functions, which often have a status quo to defend.
So when you need creative thinking, try forming a leadership circle, a diverse, ad hoc team of 15–18 people from throughout the company who can work together for about six months.
The circle should focus on the future, not the past, and healthy debate should be encouraged. Within the circle, each member should hold equal status and should not feel that he or she is being asked to represent the point of view of accounting, sales, shipping, or whatever their home department is.
Most important, whatever ideas come out of a leadership circle should be handled in the same way they were generated: They should be rigorously and systematically discussed, debated, and explored.
Partner in Accelerance – Leadership for Business Performance
Bridging the knowing-doing gap
Knowing is not the problem
Organisations are full of intellectually bright executives who have no trouble articulating a good game. Consequentially they produce an endless array of professional looking, well intentioned strategic plans, presentations, action lists, commitment statements and meeting minutes. The problem is that most, if not all, of these well intentioned initiatives fail to deliver on the majority of what they set out to achieve. This is known as; “The Knowing-Doing Gap.” The difference between what you know needs doing and what actually gets done.
Jeff Pfeffer the renowned Professor of Organisational Behaviour at Stanford Graduate School of Business and co-author of “The Knowing – Doing Gap” states it very clearly, “If you know by doing, there is no gap between what you know and what you do.”
Working with Executives over many years I have found there to be two constants in any effective learning or transformational experience. The first is the power of discovery and the second is the power of doing. Combined, these approaches have a significant impact in translating new insights into positive action. They are also inextricably linked because to discover you need to do and to do you need to discover.
This has huge implications for anyone involved in Executive Development. Designing interventions that make executives intellectually richer with more content, more concepts, more models, more theories and more plans runs the risk of fuelling the knowing-doing gap. On the other hand if you design interventions that are grounded in real business issues and learning by doing then the change that is sought will more likely be achieved.
Discovery & Doing
At its heart discovery is learning from the unorthodox and the unusual and appreciating there is learning in everything. It is about taking time to “walk in other worlds”, to get your hands dirty, to ask great questions, to let go, to see, to feel and to experience new, different and challenging perspectives and ways of doing things. In doing so the aim is to bring new and fresh insights to address an increasing array of highly complex and adaptive business challenges related to change, innovation, creativity, agility, collaboration and transformation
Organisations seeking to create a cadre of executives who will lead change, build a more innovative culture or transform their organisation in some fundamental way will not do so by seeking inspiration or insight from people in the same industry, with the same world view or with the same basic DNA. That approach inevitably leads to sameness not difference.
“I go to a meeting with a group of managers who attended the programme. Met them earlier where they fired questions at me. Thought initially this programme was a bit weird.
What do visits to Salvation Army, eating in the dark with blind people and talking to researchers from Shell have to do with leading better in the bank? I was mistaken.
Entering and discovering a completely different world and to hear how motivated others are, how they take responsibility and innovate is an inspiration to think about your own role.
During the meeting today, I hear how participants take initiatives to break through their own ways of doing and realise concrete improvements. What triggers me most is that they do not talk about what others should do better, but what they themselves can do differently and better.”
Chairman of a major European Bank – 2012
How and what to discover?
If you believe, as I do, that the ultimate aim of executive education is to help people think things through for themselves and their unique context then discovery should be at the core of any learning strategy. The role of the expert facilitator or programme director is to create the context within which discovery learning is optimised. This is achieved by encouraging a set of skills and behaviours which:
Develop the ability to ask great questions
Engage all the senses
Learn how to learn and find learning in everything.
Observe the world through different lenses
Experience and feel new or different emotions
Try new things through experimentation and testing
In my experience the most effective discovery experiences have tended to follow certain basic steps which are outlined below. Each step requires significant attention but perhaps none more than the actual execution of the experience itself. It is crucial that all participants play an active role and are fully engaged.
Over the years I have led many discovery experiences. Below are a few examples of what is possible and the learning that is available. All are based on genuine examples where the discovery experience has been tailored to specific learning objectives to help resolve specific business challenges.
The Discovery experience
The Business Challenge or Issue
Junior school in rural China
Challenging the traditional system of learning
Salvation Army in Holland
A cause worth serving, humility and compassion
Blind Community in Hong Kong
Overcoming adversity and working with all your senses
Collaboration, resilience and communication.
Creating and reciting poetry in Singapore
Everyone has capability and talent. Building leadership confidence
Effective communication and meaning making.
Playing Jazz and Blues in Chicago
Creativity and team work as well as fun
Interdependencies and team work. Joy in work.
Prisoner reform group in Holland
Changing deep seated behaviours and potential in everyone
Behavioural change and business transformation.
Monastery and meditation in Europe
How to reflect and be in the moment. Self awareness
Finding time to think and reflect rather than just do.
High end restaurant in Vietnam
Discipline, clarity of role, all one team and client insight.
Children’s charity for those out of mainstream education in UK
Engagement, trust, compassion and meaning
Personal and team transformation
Knowing is not enough and knowing more is not enough, the translation into doing is everything if meaningful change is to be achieved. Doing and knowing should not be mutually exclusive and the most effective executive programmes understand this and design in these critical attributes.
About the author:
Alan Matcham (email@example.com): Is an internationally experienced executive development programme director, facilitator and educator. A passion for making work fit for people and people fit for work. His expertise is focused on Leadership and Management transformation, working to release the untapped potential in all employees. He has a record of enabling public and private sector organisations rise to the complex challenges of the 21st century.
To build a great business, companies need a purpose — one that transcends the traditional bottom line. People want to be passionate about their work, and they want to be surrounded by others who feel the same. But how can managers actually foster passion?
Here are five ways:
Let people show their emotions. If you ask your people to check their emotions at the door, you can’t tap into their passion.
Hire passionate people. One way to get passionate people into your organization is to incentivize current employees to refer people they want to work with.
Fan the flames. Find plenty of ways to celebrate joint accomplishments.
Don’t stifle your rock stars. Give your people the autonomy to do the work that interests them most.
Share context. Connect job functions to the organization’s broader mission, and remind people why they do what they do.
It turns out that intuition is not really intuition at all.
Just like the invisible, inseparable quarks that underlie the protons and neutrons in the nucleus, rules of thumb (ROTs) are the fundamental, sometimes invisible, particles of CEO decision-making. They are the building blocks that underlie what CEOs describe as “intuition” or “gut feel.”
Ask an experienced CEO how she/he made a major decision and their typical response is “intuition” or “gut feel.” Yes, analysis also plays a role, but intuition was found to be a major or determining factor in 85% of thirty-six major CEO decisions that we studied.
Some were good decisions, some were not, but regardless, intuition seemed to always rule the roost.
But what is it?
After persistent and deft questioning, CEO’s will identify, sometimes to their surprise, judgmental heuristics — ROTs — that go a long way towards explaining their major decisions. It is these building blocks that we must examine in order to discriminate between “good” and “bad” intuition.
After CEOs identify a few ROTs, a torrent of supplementary ones often follows. Some CEOs argued, however, that they use values for guidance, not ROTs. But values alone don’t provide clear guidelines. Only when they are operationalized into ROTs do they serve as decision-making tools.
At Odebrecht S.A., a large ($22B) Brazilian conglomerate, the CEO and founder’s grandson, Marcelo Odebrecht and the rest of the company’s leadership are dedicated to upholding the company’s core values: trust and partnership. But when it came down to actual decision-making it became clear, after considerable probing, that the company operated with four basic ROTs derived from these overarching values and passed down from generation to generation of Odebrechts:
1. Decentralize operations
2. Decentralize strategy
3. Promote only from within
4. Partner with your customer
These ROTs guided CEO Marcelo Odebrecht when, despite serious misgivings, he decided to support his Brazil Director’s call to take over the construction of the Pan American Games facilities in Rio de Janeiro from another contractor. Marcelo did not interfere in his Director’s decision because of his commitment to his ROTs (#1 and #2) and because the director was a long-term employee who had “drank the Odebrecht Kool Aid” (ROT #3).
Business leaders ignore their intuition at their own peril. When Gustavo Cisneros, the CEO of the Cisneros Group, was considering a 50/50 partnership with AOL to establish AOL Latin America, his board, his family and his management team were united in endorsing the deal.
On the other hand, Cisneros had a gnawing feeling that Latin Americans were different from U.S. customers, and they would not pay a subscription fee to use the internet. But because everyone, including AOL’s intense and charismatic leaders — Steve Case and Bob Pitman — saw it as a great deal, Gustavo sublimated his intuition. Five years later, after a bankruptcy filing and nearly a billion dollars in accumulated losses, Gustavo regrets not having paid more attention to his “intuition.” Now Gustavo has a new ROT: “Never make a deal if it doesn’t feel right with your intuition.”
Bill Amelio, former President and CEO of Lenovo, learned the same lesson, even though he’d deliberately produced his own set of personalized rules of thumb, after taking on the challenge of merging Legend Computer and the IBM PC division into what we now know as Lenovo.
Here’s Bill’s list (amended following the merger, as described below):
1. Identify and concentrate on the critical few decisions.
2. A call is better than no call.
3. Give your decisions a short leash. Quickly pull back in case of mistake.
4. Trust your intuition.
1. Communicate the critical few decisions effectively and repeatedly.
2. Don’t tolerate jerks.
3. Build a team of people you can trust and rely on.
4. Trust your intuition.
1. Get feedback early and often and act on this feedback.
2. Earn the trust and confidence of others.
3. Demonstrate vulnerability to gain credibility.
4. Play to your strengths.
5. Trust your intuition.
To build a new management team he could rely on (ROT — People #3), Amelio demoted a man who had contributed much to the development of Legend, someone the Chinese refer to as a “made man.” Bill went through the right process and got his Chinese Chairman to sign off. But he ignored his intuition and the body language of the Chairman when he responded cryptically that as CEO he had “full authority to decide.”
The result was a major debacle in which Bill was faulted for ignoring the values of Chinese culture and caused a significant loss of trust. Amelio consequently added “Trust your intuition” (ROT — Self #5) to his rules.
Discovering, and continuously updating, rules of thumb is an important task for every CEO. It is a fundamental element of self awareness. Yes, values and beliefs are important, but it is really ROTs that operationalize and bring down to earth what really guides CEO decision-making. These rules can then be identified, challenged and adapted as circumstances change.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ~ Steve Jobs.
Several years ago, a CEO was dropping me off at the airport following my speaking to his company. Like many fine CEOs, he’s what one might call a “bottom line” person. He invariably seeks to wrap up discussions on almost any topic, great or small, with the question: So… What’s the bottom line?
As his car wended its way through the airport intake, he posed the question: After all is said and done, what’s the bottom line on leadership? What’s the one thing it’s all about?
My mind was in part stimulated, in part exhausted after a long and very positive day.
Somewhat uncharacteristically, I struggled a bit in search of an apt response.
In the nick of time, as we approached my gate, it hit me. Service. Really, that’s all that those hundreds of pages and hundreds of hours of information and training are about. It’s all about service.
21st Century Leadership
That exchange helped crystallize my thinking, based on my own journey as a practitioner and student of leadership. Soon enough, events would underscore this direction. Along with many others, in the first decade of the new century I sensed the movement of tectonic plates. Leadership, including management and communication, is adjusting to the new world of the digital age.
Among the changes:
Instantaneous communication via the Internet, is much less expensive and near universally available; Information is becoming ubiquitous, and is, in many cases, free to anyone with an Internet connection; Unprecedented, radical transparency is removing the shrouds that have historically covered transactions and relationships;
The value proposition underlying familiar, centralized institutions is being altered; Relationships are supplanting transactions as the fundamental interaction—with individuals increasingly able to start or stop relationships vis-a-vis large institutions that historically were beyond their reach; Widely dispersed information and empowerment is giving rise to new demands from the range of stakeholders.
The curtain is coming down on the monomaniacal, short-term shareholder value orientation of the late 20th century; Individuals, connected in various ways, sometimes acting in concert and in networks, are gaining power and influence vis-à-vis government, private and non-governmental organizations. In the doing, traditional boundaries separating sectors are being breached.
The result: 20th century, industrial age institutions and relationships are being supplanted by an emerging 21st century leadership model.
While agreeing that the vision is an essential platform for transformation, communicating the vision is even more important.
“You cannot sell change, or anything else,” says Rosabeth Moss Kanter, “without genuine conviction, because there are so many sources of resistance to overcome: ‘We’ve never done it before; we tried it before and it didn’t work.’ ‘Things are OK now, so why should we change?’ Especially when you are pursuing a true innovation as opposed to responding to a crisis, you’ve got to make a compelling case.
Leaders talk about communicating a vision as an instrument of change, but I prefer the notion of communicating an aspiration. It’s not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more. It reminds us that the future does not just descend like a stage set; we construct the future from our own history, desires, and decisions.”