War’s Over: The End of Military Leadership

If the passage of time provides greater perspective, it would certainly account for the amount of interest and discussion in the great world wars of the 20th century. The centenary of WW1 has contributed to the recent flurry of coverage, and it provides a chance to absorb the horror and immensity of that time. The two wars were only 21 years apart (using British military involvement, the first ending in 1918 and the second beginning in 1939)! That’s astonishing and reveals that the first half of the century was, for all intents and purposes, spent at war.

And, while the time since then has been less than peaceful, it has been without the constant, all-encompassing spectre of world war.

After VE day, business was booming. When the U.S. entered the fray, they did so with might, both in human and machine power. This led to an economic boom and technological advances that influenced American life from mid-century on.

But what about all that military training and leadership? It was steeped into the corporate leadership style of North America, with interesting results. Military leadership, characterized by the “my way or the highway” philosophy, created efficiencies and order that can’t be denied. But in the process, people were almost an afterthought, another tool to improve the bottom line.

Now, as we become ever-distanced by the great wars, I believe we are experiencing a ground shift. Leadership is evolving into a culture of collaboration, inclusion and development. The goal now is to identify those who can move your business forward, then provide them with the development they require to do it, and also to elevate their own business and personal goals. It’s a win-win concept that just didn’t fit into a world of huge military strategies requiring thousands of soldiers acting in lock step.

So, let’s celebrate the relative peace that has allowed this transition. It’s provided the magic combination of peace and prosperity that we all cherish.

Happy holidays!


The Science of Corporate Culture

Companies and their leaders should care about corporate culture. The notion that human values are at the core of a company’s success is nothing new. Those values start at the top and should be identified with a clear mandate to reach all levels of an organization.

And while it’s great to have a values statement, how do you make it stick and how do you measure it as you go along?

That’s where Dr. David Jamieson comes in. He is Chief Scientist and Head of Advanced Analytics at Environics Research Group. Well known for regularly taking the pulse of Canadians’ values for more than 40 years, the company is now helping corporations big and small define, measure and maintain their values and culture.

Using measurement tools such as regular surveys, 360 assessments for leaders and on-boarding evaluation, companies can begin the very important business of changing or bolstering their culture. The process, depending on the size and scope of the organization, can take anywhere from one to three years.

“It takes courage,” says David, “both to take on the challenge initially, and to consistently pursue the goal of consciously re-making cultures.” Corporate culture starts at the top and leaders require self-understanding to make the process meaningful and permanent.”

So, why do it? It’s a lot of slugging, self-analysis and time-consuming measurement.

Well, you end up with an efficient, controllable business practice for one thing. “Everyone rowing with the same stroke,” as David Jamieson puts it. “The culture ripples down to all levels and brings in a new openness and productivity to the organization.”

As well, the outliers are now clearly identified and will eventually make their way out of the mix. That means efficiency and increased profitability as the company moves forward with a clear vision of what it has chosen its identity and culture to be. On-boarding is easier, as is selecting individuals who fit into the defined culture using the measurement tools developed. Momentum is built, driving the company forward to where it wants to be.

And, people are fulfilled because they are doing meaningful work that is grounded in values instead of grinding gears. That shifts the needle towards happiness. “It’s like engineering an opportunity for everyone to flourish,” says Dr. Jamieson. “And that is good for the company and its people.”

Retire, Already!

My friends, associates and I are at an interesting stage of life: too young to retire but old enough to envision the workplace without us in it.

Retirement, the planning for, the anticipation of (or not), is front and centre these days. You can’t pick up a newspaper business section without another personal finance piece with ratios and formulae designed to make the “golden” years full of, well, gold.

But there’s something else at play here. Just as we are readying ourselves for this momentous life change, our kids, nieces, nephews and friends’ kids are graduating university, eagerly awaiting their big chance to enter their chosen field.

Many of these bright young people will find it tough slogging as they try to find good jobs. And one big reason is that there is a glut of older workers who haven’t, or may I say won’t, retire. Now the reasons behind this bottleneck are numerous, but many hung on during the economic downturn of 2008 and beyond, hoping that their savings would bounce back from a serious hit. Or they just need the income. But the economy is recovering, the stock market is relatively stable and the housing market is great.

So what does the future hold? The next few years will be interesting. Many predict that huge numbers of these boomer hangers-on will finally opt out of the workplace, trading their sedate sedans for Harleys and their commutes for communes.

I for one hope it happens. The older guys and girls can enjoy some great leisure years in good health and vigor, and the younger people coming up the ranks can have the opportunities they deserve; opportunities we took for granted years ago.

Engaging Hearts and Minds

There are three very daunting challenges for many organizational leaders in today’s economy:

  1. Owners or Boards who expect more value to be created with the same or less headcount
  2. A faster marketplace where competitors seem to emerge out of nowhere and anywhere with innovative value offerings
  3. A workforce that expects to be able to “make a difference” in their work while enjoying all the world has to offer in their personal lives

What we see the most effective leaders doing is following the wise council that “what got you here, won’t get you there” (Marshall Goldsmith).  To address each of these 3 issues, using yesterday’s leadership strategies is a recipe for disaster.

Do you really expect your members of the “frozen headcount brigade” to work any harder?  No wonder employee engagement scores continue to plummet in most organizations. Research has shown a drastic decline in employee engagement since the start of the economic downturn, with the number of disengaged employees (those planning to exit) having risen dramatically over the past several years.

So, what to do, what to do…..

How about hugging the hearts and squeezing the minds of your team members?

It makes great business sense, since data has shown that “highly engaged” employees can deliver as much as 2.5 times the value of less engaged colleagues.  As an alternative to “turning up the speed on the production line”, think about creating the following elements of a high-performance environment for your organization; countless interviews with high-performance employees reveal the ingredients to the secret sauce of high employee engagement” as follows:

  • They are clear about the organizations direction and goals going forward and trust their senior leaders know how to lead (hint: listen to the high-performance employees)
  • They see how their work matters to the bigger goals (alignment)
  • They have a direct “boss” who cares about them, their ideas and their future

Take a look at the “Top Ten” list below and think about what you can do to shift your organization and yourself away from the remnants of the now largely ineffective “Transactional” leadership style that served us well in the 20th Century “Manufacturing” economy, to the rigour of Transformational Leadership required to succeed in the 21st Century “Knowledge” economy.

Factor 20th Century Transactional Leadership 21st Century Transformational Leadership
Economic Engine Manufacturing Knowledge- Value-Added Services
Dominant Leadership Quality Control through close Supervision Trust through collaboration and empowerment
Common Leader Activities Budgeting, Directing, Controlling, Maintaining, Allocating Resources, Problem Solving; Competing for Today Aligning, Coaching, Motivating, Developing, Collaborating, Innovating, Thinking, Visioning, Empowering, Evaluating

Preparing for Tomorrow

Value Driver/Employee Production (Do!) Innovation (Think!)
Motivation Methodology Fear and Incentive (External Carrot and Stick) Attitude (Internal and unique to each employee)
Motivation Focus Managing behavior Understanding and tapping into Individual Emotions, Beliefs and Values
Training/Development Focus Training – focused on competencies, skills and techniques Development – with attention to shifting employees’ views about themselves, their values and their sense of purpose
Training/Development Methodology Largely event and classroom based on “book knowledge” of many topics Largely action learning over time with internal mentorship, specific and measurable goals/ROI and focused on one key driver of improved leadership performance
Who primarily “Owns” the Training and Development The company and/or “boss” The employee or team member with alignment with the employer
Measuring Effectiveness of Training/Development Can they describe it

Get the certificate?

Can they do it

Demonstrate new attitudes, a higher sense of purpose, values, behaviors and results (ROI)

Transformational leadership recognizes that in a service-oriented economy, unless one can engage an employee’s values and beliefs, they cannot and will not deliver customer value, much less engagement.  In today’s turbulent world, leaders must learn to influence people’s inner values and beliefs if they want to be effective.

We have seen many leaders grab hold of their organizations or departments and boldly venture down the path of creating this Transformational corporate culture.  The results are very impressive.

Leadership is personal.  It’s not about the company, the community, or the country.  It’s about you.  If people don’t believe in the messenger, they won’t believe the message.  If people don’t believe in you, they won’t believe in what you say.  And if it’s about you, then it’s about your beliefs, your values, and your principles.

Are You Fulfilled?

Over the past little while, circumstance, chance conversations and a noticeable
trend in the leadership environment has caused us to reflect on why we are seeing a surge in interest from leaders in the topic of “fulfillment”. Perhaps it is the healthy influence of the millennium generation’s approach to leadership, the “mid-life” view of successful Boomers, or just a by-product of turbulence in the job market.

Recent employment surveys clearly show an appetite for “meaningful work”. More than 1,000 individuals throughout North America were recently asked: “Do you find your work to be meaningful?” The findings were:

Always (42 percent);
Usually (35 percent);
Occasionally (16 percent);
Rarely (4 percent); and
Never (1 percent).

When we spend time with leaders who find a great deal of meaning and fulfillment from their work, we see a couple of strong contributing factors. You can think of the formula as: Fulfillment = Core Talent Used X Helping Others, or F = CT x HO.

First, to the extent that leaders have strong self awareness, and are working in the area defined by their “Core Talents”, seems to impact their sense of fulfillment. Leaders can segment their leadership
profile in this way:
– Unmanaged Weaknesses
– Managed Weaknesses
– Managed Competencies
– Core Talents

The “Core Talents” represent those strong and unique talents that a leader possesses. Many leaders struggle with defining these talents but those who develop self-awareness often cite discovering core talent after reflecting on “where and when I find myself losing track of time”. Others look back at professional and personal feedback and experiential learning. Still others have benefitted from prayer and meditation on the road to self-discovery. Many call their “core talent” their passion.

“Managed Competencies” represent those attributes that may not have the same level of passion and strength as core talents, but which a leader has worked to develop some level of mastery in areas that have become relevant to their vocation and personal lives. Often times, these represent technical competencies that have helped the leader “put food on the table”.

“Managed Weaknesses” can be thought of as those areas a leader has recognized must be strengthened in order to allow their goals to be reached and their core talents and competencies to be realized. For instance, someone may not have a natural inclination to good listening skills, but because they work in a “people” business, they learn to mitigate a tendency to extreme extraversion so the people around them can better appreciate their talent for strategic vision and analysis.

“Unmanaged Weaknesses” represent the long list of areas where there are obvious deficiencies, but these weaknesses have no or little bearing on one’s level of success. A good example would be Michalangelo’s reputedly poor social skills which he ignored but which did not preclude him from achieving his artistic goals and timeless creations.

The second factor we see impacting a sense of fulfillment is to the extent a leader finds themselves using their talent to help others. This can be thought of in the context of the lower (self or ego) nature orientation versus the higher or “other” orientation. As our society increasingly promotes the concept of the pursuit of happiness, which we often see more clearly defined as “pursuit of pleasure”, many leaders who seem to have it all admit to a strong sense of “something missing” and a desire for a meaningful work and a balanced and rewarding lifestyle. We find other leaders in our travels who report higher levels of fulfillment from putting their focus on helping others through mentorship, volunteerism and in finding employment with more of a social cause.

Take Yourself To Work Day

How do you spend your work day? Do you worry about things you did in the past? Fret about things to come? Well, if you could work on it consciously, you could let go of the past, let the future take care of itself and spend a workday concentrating only on .. today. What is at hand? What is your role today, and how can you contribute now?
And in doing so, you would make a more significant impression which would make a positive impact on that future you should be trying very hard not to think about!
Ok, so that’s nice, but how do you do it? Let’s turn to Eckhart Tolle, the author of A New Earth and The Power of Now to give us a few practical tips.
Observe your thoughts. You might be sitting in your cubicle and thinking of the fact that every day at 10 am your boss walks by and you consistently think “uh oh, he’s coming to tell me that he’s not happy with ___” (fill in the blanks of yesterday’s efforts). Today, when you observe your daily habit of fretting over this repetitive practice, you, at that very moment, are in the now and laying bare your true self. It’s a stomach-flipping realization! And, you’ll most likely realize that he was just going to fill his teacup!
Here’s another great tip. Outwardly meditate. Take just a minute (or more if you have it) and concentrate on all the sounds around you. Think of nothing else but the clicks, voices, hums and general office clatter. You’ll get a new awareness of your work environment. Put it in perspective. Noise and busyness do not brilliance make. Many people find outward meditation much easier than the inward method. The trick is to lose the middle ground of your thoughts and cares.
Also, take the regular tings and rings of technology and use them as a centering trigger. Email coming in? Centre your thoughts for just a moment before you read. Text alert? A moment of stillness first. Chances are that that text or email does not contain anything earth-shattering. Phone jangling? First, a split second of awareness of your thoughts, your doubts and fears.
Recognize the pain body of your work life. A boss who belittles you or a colleague who takes credit for your work is a recipe for resentment and bottled up anger. Maybe you can’t make it go away, but you can observe it for what it is. And by doing that, you diminish it just a little every day.
Try just one or more of these and you’ll notice some big changes. It’s now or never!

Bridging The Office Generation Gap

It’s a new phenomenon – today’s workforce can easily span four generations of workers. Understanding these groups is crucial as we try to find common ground and promote a healthy working environment. Here is a rundown:

The Traditionalists – born before 1949 – oldest, loyal, trusting and trustworthy, they don’t mix business with pleasure, job is duty, want recognition for sacrifice.

The Baby Boomers – born between 1949 and 1968 – the biggest group, they may resent technology and increased pace of change, oppose authority but want success, are beginning to look for balance as they ease out of workforce.

Gen-X – born between 1969 and 1978 – skeptical and cynical, but with good reason – have seen 2 recessions, the breakdown of the family unit, and mass layoffs. The only thing they trust is their own abilities. Looking for new experiences and skills development rather than long term commitment.

Gen-Y – born between 1979 and 1990 – the youngest, they have global world vision, are pragmatic, have had biggest access to information, need proof and explanations, have short-term vision, direct and impatient, can be perceived as rude.

Each generation has things in common, and it’s the seeking out of this common ground (rather than dwelling on disagreement) that makes inter-generational management work. For instance, Boomers and Gen-Yers both thrive under strong leadership and enjoy tackling ambitious projects. Gen-Xers and Gen-Yers have a common interest in technology, informality and balance with outside interests.

However, accepting each group’s unique needs is also crucial to success. Embracing the differences instead of perceiving them as roadblocks, is the key to managing an inter-generational workforce. They each have qualities that, if tapped successfully, can move your company forward like never before. Lastly, always remember that the only way to gain respect is to show respect – and that holds true at any age.

(Source: Chambers of Commerce News)