Thursday, October 30, 2008


Some years ago I was coached by a management consultant. Looking back the past couple of years in my recent position, I can say

There have been times when I could have used some coaching again.

Two specific features of coaching had a prominent impact on me earlier; the opportunity to openly discuss things without the political pressures and restraints of the organisation and receiving an outsiders perspectives on your situation, thoughts, aspirations and goals. Coaching helped me distance myself from the every day execution of tasks, allowing me to see and handle things more objectively. You can read more about my coaching experience here.

Coaching can be defined as “a structured process-driven relationship between a trained professional coach and an individual or team which includes: assessment, examining values and motivation, setting measurable goals, defining focused action plans and using validated behavioral change tools and techniques to assist them to develop competencies and remove blocks to achieve valuable and sustainable changes in their professional and personal life.”
(Zeus and Skiffington cited in Wikipedia)

The most tangible input my coaching program had was the personal development scheme which I drew up during the coaching. With the help of the tools provided by the coach, I set myself goals to achieve professionally as well as ones to achieve personally during the next six, twelve and twenty-four months. They have helped me ever since.

But coaching can only help you if you are willing to learn and change. The article in Wikipedia continues

All learning leads to nothing when people don’t change their thoughts and actions (read: behavior).

This is exactly what I have said before - I truly believe that learning must start within yourself. Only by first developing yourself, you can start to develop and improve bigger entities – your team, your unit, your company, our planet.

What is your experience and opinion?

Do you think that an outside perspective would allow you handle things more objectively?

Would it help you on setting measurable goals?

How about help on developing competencies?

Are you willing to admit and work on your weak points?

Photo by I'll never grow up

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Lessons in Organizational Resistance

This week I have again had several discussions about change resistance - at home, in the office, company wide, ... It always amazes me how

People use a lot of time, energy and innovativeness on resisting things.
If only that time, energy and innovativeness could be used
to develop things and create something new.

Some days ago I read an interesting post about Lessons in Organizational Resistance by Cheri Baker at The Enlightened Manager Blog. With her permission I just copy her text here.

Lessons in Organizational Resistance

So what happens in an organization when you go picking at something that is off limits? KA-BLAM! Organizational resistance shows up.

  • The process is questioned (Should we really be using focus groups? I hear that....)

  • The participants are questioned (He doesn't have the experience to be managing this project...)

  • Delays are built in (I'll call you when I'm ready to meet.)

  • Resistance to Decision Making (Let's run a few more analyses....)

  • Silence (He won't return my phone calls.)
There are a few problems with organizational resistance.
  1. The "types of resistance" above don't usually point to the real cause. (These may include lack of trust, lack of urgency, lack of need, issues of power and control, etc.)

  2. They are sand-traps, designed to capture the unwary. They become distractions to the real issue at hand.

There is a fine line between valid discussions of process and objections that mask the real issues. I had a real blunder recently when I interpreted objections as a series of unreasonable attacks instead of seeing them for what they were - just a source of resistance to be further explored. I compounded my mistake by reacting to the situation instantly, instead of giving myself 24 hours of perspective.

So here I am, feeling pretty deeply stupid and unsure what will occur next. Ick. Ick. Ick.

Live and learn. See organizational resistance for what it is - data - and don't respond from an emotional place. I wish you the best at learning from my mistakes, to save you the pain of committing too many of your own!

from Cheri

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Candidate's leadership

As I mentioned, I have just been trough a training on Situational Leadership - a model that presumes that different leadership styles are better in different situations, and that leaders must be flexible enough to adapt their style to the situation they are in.

Quite interestingly the main story of USA Today this morning is about The Candidate's Leadership Styles, titled

Different styles, same goal
How the candidates made it work

I can not vote, and I do not want to start any political debate here, so please think of the articles as they are - an analysis of both candidates leadership styles.

Different styles, same goal: How the candidates made it work
Jill Lawrence, USA TODAY, October 9, 2008

They're both senators, but that's pretty much where the similarities end.

From their first jobs to the financial crisis, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain have revealed themselves as polar opposites, forged by their personalities and biographies into potential presidents with vastly different leadership and management styles.

One came up through the military, the other through community work and law school. One is impulsive and emotional, the other cool and analytical. Both have worked with diverse people and both get results, says Princeton scholar Fred Greenstein, author of The Presidential Difference, but the methods reflect the men. "McCain breaks a lot of china along the way," Greenstein says. "With Obama, it seems like nothing's happening, but somehow everything seems to work."


[As a community organizer on Chicago's South Side, Obama] helped people find common goals and pursue them together — tools he's applied to every undertaking since, from heading the Harvard Law Review, to serving as an Illinois state senator and U.S. senator, to a presidential campaign that raised unprecedented amounts of money and toppled the Clinton dynasty, to nudging Congress behind the scenes to act on the Wall Street meltdown.


McCain pioneered his upset-the-apple-cart style 32 years ago as commander of a Navy squadron, ousting older, senior people and ending business as usual.

The risks and rewards of McCain's approach were clear when he put himself center stage this fall in Capitol Hill negotiations on the government's $700 billion bailout for Wall Street. The dramatic move grabbed attention — but so did his failure to broker a deal.


Read the full article.

See also two more detailed looks at the jobs and personality traits that have shaped the nominees as leaders, managers and future president.

McCain: 'Bare-knuckled fighter' won't take no for answer

Obama: Keeping cool, focusing on 'common purpose'

Some questions to link this to Situational Leadership

How good are they on analyzing the needs of the situation?

How flexible are they to adopt the most appropriate leadership style on the situation?

What is their match with the follower needs in the situation?

What do the followers think of the match (and how do they vote)?

And later, how will the new president apply these skills with the Government organization, the American people, and with the "World political organization"?

Photo by Shiny Things

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Difference Between Management And Leadership

My son's class started reading The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Teens and I went back browsing The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People.

In the book I found a quote from Peter Drucker

Management is doing things right,
Leadership is doing the right things.

The author, Stephen R. Covey illustrates the difference with a little story.

You can quickly grasp the important difference between the two if you envision a group of producers cutting their way trough the jungle with machetes. They're the producers, the problem solvers. They're cutting through the undergrowth, clearing it out.

The managers are behind them, sharpening their machetes, writing policy and procedure manuals, holding muscle development programs, bringing in improved technologies and setting up working schedules and compensation programs for machete wielders.

The leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree, surveys the entire situation, and yells, “Wrong jungle!”

But how do the busy, efficient producers and managers often respond? “Shut up! We're making progress.”

The other day I was watching Letters from Iwo Jima by Clint Eastwood. I observed very similar leadership behavior by General Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) and very similar management behavior by his officers. In small and big issues.

The smallest might be, when he instructed the cook to serve officers same food as for men. He was brought two extra emply plates, because the officers were to be served three course meals (according to the official rules).

A bigger issue was described in New York Times: General Kuribayashi, the highest-ranking officer on Iwo Jima, had instructed their unit to abandon its position so as to concentrate the remaining forces elsewhere on the island. Instead their captain, choosing ancient custom over the explicit directions of a superior officer, put a bullet in his head, after watching his men, one by one, clutch live grenades to their chests.

Dispite the leader had yelled "Wrong battle! Come here and let's continue the battle."

The movie has many more similar examples of good leadership trying to overcome bad management.

Same happens in small scale in many workplaces. Official procedures or long traditions limit people from doing the right thing.

I wonder where were the leaders during US financial crisis? Or during the Chinese milk scandal?

Why didn't they yell "Wrong jungle!"?

Or were there too many people getting blinded by the obvious respond "Shut up! We are making profit."?