Archives For Execution

School of Hard Knocks

April 25, 2016 — 1 Comment

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 3.28.43 PMWe go to business school to learn all the right skills, but are we actually taught the right skills? Are young people coming to us from University adequately equipped to work in our world? Of course we all need to know the fundamentals of basic business management, but what about  those critical, but less obvious, competencies that leaders (formal and informal) must know in order to succeed? What are those essential skills not taught in business school that often cause high potential leaders to derail and never achieve their potential?

I was listening to Condoleeza Rice at an event this morning and she had some very interesting points regarding education (in addition to being a past Secretary of State, she has also been a University Provost and is currently a Professor at Stanford). She recognized the need to tighten the relationships between academia and business to better prepare people for the workforce they are entering… while also recognizing the enormity of such a lofty agenda. In my humble opinion, here are a few important aspects of leadership that are not taught in business school, but could definitely benefit from integration: Continue Reading…

Success_KeyBecoming a great leader is more than just a title – it is hard work.  It requires unprecedented levels of innovation and a commitment to the organization and its constituents, as well as the ability to continually inspire and motivate others to succeed. One key way to achieve ongoing innovation and sustainable results is through the creation of an execution culture.

You, as a leader, have an opportunity to accelerate progress in your organization through the deployment of Rapid Result Initiatives (RRI’s), which can be used to:

  • Increase current performance
  • Strengthen collaboration
  • Facilitate innovation
  • Demonstrate success in the process of executing your long term vision and mission

RRI’s are small, high-leverage, short-term projects that generate immediate impact and measurable results, while tapping into hidden capacity and building momentum to drive large-scale change – usually in 100 days or less.

Exceptional leaders understand they must calculate their steps and fully understand what they have and how to use it most effectively to continually move forward. One very beneficial way to do this is to structure your organization as a portfolio of RRI’s leading to the achievement of ultimate vision. This approach creates the opportunity to pursue strategically critical goals that deliver real impact, while  linking directly to the long term plans and objectives of the organization. Each RRI becomes a vehicle for achievement, learning, and the advancement of long term goals.

The core of Rapid Results Initiatives involves working with your teams to set and achieve small, but aggressive, goals in one or more key areas of performance. From this perspective, they are compelled to tap into hidden reserves of capacity and energy to get the job done, taking action and testing assumptions to determine how to best achieve the desired objective on a compressed timeline. Through a succession of fast-paced, results focused initiatives, you can make remarkable gains toward major goals and objectives.

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We hear about viAlice_door copysion, mission statements and values often enough, but why are they so important? Similar to Alice unsuccessfully trying to open the door to Wonderland, you must have the right keys to shape your company’s culture and reflect what you stand for.  They are the essence of your identity as an organization – your principles, beliefs, philosophies… and how you do business. Woven into the fabric of its culture, every work environment should strive to encourage positive values and discourage negative influences that affect behavior and outcomes. We all possess a moral compass, defined via our values, which directs how we treat others and conduct ourselves. As an organization, this can be a powerful tool to shape culture. Ultimately, it does not come back to the company, but its people…

Arguably self-awareness and integrity are an important subset of values, but self-awareness and the pursuit of the truth are so important that they should be on every company’s list of values. If integrity is best described by C.S. Lewis as “doing the right thing, even when nobody is watching,” having the ability to be completely honest about your own strengths, weaknesses, and biases is critical. In developing an authentic, sustainable culture this applies not only to the leadership team, but to every single employee. Self-awareness and integrity are easy to lose… and hard to win back. When cultures are failing there are root causes that must be identified, but that can rarely be fixed quickly – and certainly not by policy and procedural changes. During challenging times, leaders tend want to drink from the blue bottle and — ta da! – see that the company culture is fixed. Unfortunately, building, evolving and transforming cultures takes both time and hard work.

Here are 6 core “keys” that will help you to build toward an amazing organizational culture:

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Slide1Creating a great company culture can feel like chasing the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole… everywhere you turn are examples of what happens when a company culture goes south. This is most often because companies often get caught up in the day-to-day challenges of running the business and forget the importance of creating a remarkable company culture.

Establishing a culture you believe in means having a clear and consistent vision and knowing how you’d like everyone, inside and outside the company, to view the organization. Many old-school executives often view the order of operations as Profit, Policy, Process… and then People. This is completely backwards – it’s people that make a business successful and people that create a culture. The greater the inclusion of people, the more significant the contributions made… which flows over to customer satisfaction – and increased revenue.

Similar to the conversation between Alice and the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, “if you don’t know where you want to go, then it doesn’t matter which way you go” – so it goes with culture. When you don’t have a clear vision, strategy and plan for execution it doesn’t matter who you hire or what you do – you will wander aimlessly, never arriving at your desired destination. If you have a vision without a strategy, or a strategy without a plan for execution, your corporate culture will fall right down that rabbit hole into Neverland… oops, I mean Wonderland!

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Of all the amazing experiences I have been so fortunate to have, across many different boundaries and borders, one of my very favorites is the unique opportunity I had to walk with lions in Zimbabwe.  While canoeing down the river Sabi (avoiding the hippos) was exciting, going on an elephant safari proved adventurous, swimming in The Devil’s Pool at the top of Victoria Falls was amazing and staying in the historic, luxurious Victoria Falls Hotel was, well… historic and luxurious, nothing compares to walking with lions. Many of you probably think I must be crazy – who wants to walk with wild lions? But this was a fascinating opportunity that offered many insights – and besides, how many chances do you get to walk with lions?

As I watched the lions approach, with only a walking stick in my hand and a pre-brief on lion behavior in my head, I wondered how I would engage these powerful creatures and what I could learn from them…

Here is just a bit of what I was reminded of through my encounter with the lions:

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GLABB – a term that defines who I am professionally to a large extent. If you have followed my posts on this topic so far, you know where I stand on the term Global… as well as Leadership.  Today, let’s talk about what it means to work Across Boundaries…. because the reality is that it can mean many things to many people.

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In my world, working across boundaries is about lateral thinking… really comprehending that you are a single piece of a much larger puzzle and that your piece has a significant impact on the larger whole. It also means having the capacity to move across those boundaries to absorb knowledge from one context or discipline and apply it back into your area of expertise to create a free-flow of information – increasing your knowledge and the potential to “create a better mousetrap”. Think Leonardo DaVinci:

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