Archive for the ‘Weblogs’ Category
I started this blog six years ago today (time flies when you’re having fun…) on the advice of a young publicist who worked for the publisher of my first book, Growing Great Employees, which had just been launched. I remember clearly being daunted by the suggestion: I knew what a blog was, I had actually read some blogs. But to create my own?
She recommended that I go to TypePad, where there was a really good, remarkably simple set-up-your-own-blog tutorial. A few hours later: voila! Blogging!
So here we are, six years later, and social media is not only not daunting to me – it’s fascinating, fun and useful. My social media platform has become a big part of my brand – this blog, my Forbes blog, twitter, facebook, the Insider List, our LinkedIn group, Pinterest – and a great way to interact with people who share an interest in our work around leader readiness. A big change in a fairly short period of time.
But, on the other hand, some things are remarkably consistent over time. My initial post was about Robert Nardelli, who had just gotten fired from Home Depot. And even that specific situation is no longer current, the point of the article (that leaders ignore the “people part” of business at their peril) is still completely relevant. An excerpt:
At the same time, we’ve relegated the actual nuts-and-bolts people part of leadership – finding great people, bringing them into the organization well, providing them with the skills and knowledge they need in order to support the organization’s success – to a kind of second-class citizenship; it’s there, but it’s not nearly as interesting or sexy. Even though we all nodded wisely when Jim Collins told us, in Good to Great, that the first task of a “Level 5 Leader” is to get the right people on the bus, sitting in the right seats (yes, we knew that! we said to each other), we still behave as though people management is a kind of necessary evil; something that middle managers do when they’re not doing their real jobs. Company sloganeering about “people are our most important asset” and “we grow and develop our people” aside, people leadership is just not that cool these days. Executives even say, disparagingly, of other executives, “Well, I guess he or she is a good manager” – implying that the person is a plodder, not innovative, not much of a leader.
I wrote a post a few months ago at Forbes titled “Manage or Lead? Do Both.” – making pretty much the same point.
In other words, 6 years and over 400 posts later, even though social media has evolved dramatically, creating new business opportunities and consumar expectations in its wake; even though the entire media landscape overall is morphing even as we speak; even though national and global economies are transforming; even though a new generation is coming of age…still, the core elements of leading and managing remain the same – they’re based on timeless human needs and aspirations.
In fact, I’ll make a prediction: I believe that six years from now I’ll still be writing about managing and leading well, in a way that inspires and elicits people’s best, that builds strong teams and organizations and creates great results. I’ll be talking about why it’s important, what gets in the way, and how to do it. I’ll be inviting you to share your experiences and insights as well, so we can all keep developing our understanding and putting it into practice.
I’ll see you there…
My friend Phil Gerbyshak has put together a great little e-book to do some useful myth-busting in the realm of social media. It’s a collaborative effort, called The Naked Truth of Social Media, and includes contributions from Brian Clark, Jason Falls, Erika Napoletano, and several others. It’s both fun and practical (a great combination). Here’s a little quote, from Phil himself, to whet your appetite:
My clients often tell me, “I’m afraid to use Twitter (or any other social network). Can you teach me the right way?”
My answer: “No, but I can make sure you don’t do it the wrong way.” Allow me to brieﬂy explain.
If all you’re doing is broadcasting your specials, shouting that people need to click on your links and buy your crap, then you are doing social media wrong!
The Naked Truth feels like an informal, no-sacred-cows conversation among friends – they don’t always agree, but it’s great to hear everyone’s point of view. Curious? You can find it here.
I just found out via a tweet from a friend, Franke James, that this blog has been named one of the top 50 leadership blogs. As you might imagine, I was pleased and humbled. And, interestingly, I felt inspired to post more regularly here.
That got me curious. Was it purely my competitive nature (being #49 on the list, and wanting to move up)? Or was it something else? It got me thinking about motivation and prioritization. I think the two are very closely linked, and that this link is largely unrecognized. A lot of people talk about prioritization (all time management courses and systems are basically about prioritization), and a lot of people talk about motivation (think about how many ‘motivational speakers’ there are in the world), but what’s the connection between the two?
I’m convinced that motivation trumps prioritization every time. We do what’s important to us. For example, I know someone who’s been ‘making exercise a priority’ for the last 10 years…and pretty much never exercises; it’s not important to him.
If blogging here has suddenly moved up my priority list, then that says to me that finding out it’s a top leadership blog has suddenly made it more important to me. And why is that?
Here’s what I think. There are three things that are truly important to me: achieving my own hoped-for future; loving and supporting my husband and children; and doing things that help the greatest number of people. So discovering that a bunch of people find this blog helpful has suddenly made it more important to me. Until yesterday, I thought of it a little bit as my own pet project – prioritized behind all the other things happening right now (Leading So People Will Follow about to launch; creating the multi-rater Fully Accepted Leader assessment; re-branding Proteus; keeping up with our business growth; finding enough time with my family). I’ve been thinking of my Forbes blog as my “real” blog. But this discovery moves erikaandersen.com up the list.
So. Expect to see more regular posts from now on. If you’re reading it – I’ll write it. I’m so glad you’re enjoying it and finding it useful.
A couple of months ago, my publicist Barbara sent me an email asking if I’d be interested in writing an endorsement for a book called Change-friendly Leadership: How to Transform Good Intentions into Great Performance. I generally feel both flattered and wary when I get these requests; I worry that I won’t like the book. But this one resonated for me; it’s very accessible and wise – and I felt very much aligned with the author, Dr. Rodger Dean Duncan.
I wrote an endorsement for Rodger; he asked me to do a guest interview for his blog; I asked him to return the favor. With every interchange, we feel more like kindred spirits! Here’s a little more about Rodger – hope you enjoy his answers as much as I did.
Dr. Rodger Dean Duncan is widely known for his expertise in leadership development, organizational culture, and the strategic management of change. Early in his career he was an award-winning journalist and university professor. He’s been an officer at two Fortune 500 companies. In 1972 he founded Duncan Worldwide, a consulting firm focusing on human performance. Rodger’s clients have ranged from cabinet officers in two White House administrations to senior executives in some of the world’s best companies in several industries.
In your book Change-friendly Leadership, you talk about how to help employees accept change, rather than resist it. If you had to pick the single most powerful tool in the leader’s toolkit for increasing people’s openness to change, what would it be?
Listening. Really listening. This requires using your eyes and your heart as well as your ears. Effective leaders listen to learn and understand rather than to rebut and overpower. They exercise influence rather than authority. They’re willing to be influenced rather than assuming that the views of others should always be subservient to theirs. Change-Friendly people tend to be good conversationalists. And the best conversationalists are usually people who ask good questions. They don’t interrogate, they simply ask meaningful questions that other people are willing to answer. People who are really good at engaging the heads, hearts, and hopes of others tend to ask questions that evoke that engagement. As I frequently tell my clients, we are most effective when we talk so other people will listen and when we listen so other people will talk.
What’s the least change-friendly thing you see leaders doing?
I suppose that would be the opposite of the good listening behavior I described in my answer to the previous question. Too many people try to lead by title, by authority, and by power. They try to bring about change by executive fiat, with heavy reliance on high-testosterone sloganeering. None of that works. In fact, those tactics usually do no more than foster cynicism and resistance.
When confronted with change, most people tune in to their favorite internal radio station: WIIFM – What’s In It For Me? That’s not to suggest that most people are selfish. It’s simply a fact that personal context is usually the first filter we use to evaluate our environment. It’s especially true when we’re asked to participate in some sort of change.
Many leaders are so focused on compliance that they forget the importance of commitment. These are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they can and should be mutually reinforcing. For example, you want people to follow safety standards. That’s compliance. But they are more likely to comply when they understand and buy in to the reasons for the safety standards. That’s commitment. Commitment is about doing the right thing for the right reasons. Leaders cannot be truly effective unless and until they genuinely listen to and engage the heads, hearts, and hopes of their people.
I’d love to know how you became involved in this area – what led you to your interest in leading through change?
My interest in leadership issues was first sprouted when I was a university undergraduate. That interest blossomed into full-scale passion when I covered business and politics as a young journalist. One of my early editors was Jim Lehrer (later of PBS television fame) who taught me how to connect the dots between what people aspire to and what they actually accomplish. Later, as a university professor, I worked with a range of change issues – from helping students improve their academic performance to navigating the white water of faculty politics. I worked for cabinet officers in two White House administrations and closely observed what works and what does not work in dealing with change issues. I was an officer in two Fortune 500 corporations, and had the opportunity to lead a number of major change efforts. Finally, I’ve helped clients in many industries dealing with a wide range of challenges involving change. My PhD program [Purdue University] focused on organizational behavior. So my academic and professional experiences, combined with my life-long interest and involvement in human relationships, have brought me to where I am today. My interest in leading change came early in my life, and it’s been my major focus for the past 40 years.
If you had an hour with a smart young Gen-Yer, about to start his or her first management job, what would you share?
I would say, stay alert. Stay focused. Notice the behaviors that foster fear and disrespect and cynicism. Reject them. Then notice the behaviors that build trust and collaboration and respect and mutual purpose. Embrace those behaviors and practice them yourself until they become your automatic, default behaviors.
Early in my career I was in London and I met a man who worked for Scotland Yard. He was famous for his work with counterfeit currency. In our conversation I said, “To become such an expert you must spend an enormous amount of time studying counterfeits.” And he said, “No. In fact, I seldom look at counterfeits. I focus on the real stuff. I invest my time in examining authentic currency, then when I see a counterfeit I can instantly identify it as a fake.” As a consultant in leadership and change issues, I follow that model. I focus on the “real stuff,” then I can immediately identify inferior practices. That’s the counsel I’d give any smart young person who wants to succeed.
What do you hope your legacy is – that is, how do you want to leave the world a better place?
Everything I try to do – with my clients, with my friends, with my family, with people in my various communities – is aimed at improving relationships. Even the word “relationships” sounds touchy-feely to some people, but it’s through relationships that we accomplish the most important things in life. We don’t add our greatest value by virtue of our technical skills, although those can be vital. We add our greatest value by virtue of how well we relate to and with other human beings. I want to leave a legacy of helping people with their most important relationships.
I met first met Raj Setty at an 800CEOREAD Author Pow-wow in 2007. I found him intelligent, kind and curious – a wonderful combination. Rajesh is an entrepreneur and a business alchemist. His mission in life is to help bring new ideas to life, with love. His core belief is that while good ideas matter, the magic really is in amplifying them. Raj has co-founded a number of technology companies and a publishing company over the last few years. He consults and speaks on the topic of leverage, the secret ingredient that will bring an unfair competitive advantage for any company.
You describe yourself as an ‘alchemist.’ Can you say a little bit about what you mean by that, and why it’s important?
At my consulting company, Foresight Plus, the focus is on amplifying ideas – either we bring new ideas to life or bring new life to current ideas. In both cases, there is a need for business alchemy – the process of mixing the right ingredients in the right proportions to bring out the gold (in this case, more revenues and profits).
At FP, there are many business alchemists at work – we can combine seemingly unrelated things to produce good results. Business alchemy is important today because it focuses on making the most of everything we already have, rather than trying to find the missing piece of the puzzle to reach our goals.
You’re passionate about helping entrepreneurs succeed. What are some of the key things you believe are required for entrepreneurial success?
I can sum it up in two words: “Pay twice.”
Entrepreneurs have to be ready to pay a price to get what they want. This price is not just in terms of the time, energy and money they put in but also all the sacrifices they have to make along the way.
They also have to pay a price way before they begin pursuing their entrepreneurial dream. This price is the investment to build their network – sort of digging their well before they are thirsty. As an entrepreneur, your best bet is to create an environment where you have “an over-capacity of help” you can draw upon. Paying twice (once during the journey and once before you start the journey) will ensure that you build the mutual obligations that will produce that over-capacity of help in the future.
Lots of people are interested in writing books. You’ve done it – again and again. What advice would you offer to someone who wants to be a writer?
Here is what I share with most new authors in the publishing firms I am involved with:
- Write more: This seems too basic but it’s a fact of life – if you want to be good at something, you have to practice more of it.
- Don’t try to solve Friday’s problem on Monday: Many times new authors are overwhelmed by trying to figure out everything before they put pen to paper. The first step is to start. Now.
- Get good help: Writing seems like a lonely adventure. It can be, if you treat it that way. For you to succeed in writing, you need to surround yourself with a great team.
- Drop your ego: Not everything you write needs to be published. Not everything you write will be good. Check your ego at the door so that you don’t get too attached to what you’ve written.
- Read about writing: There are a lot of good books written about writing. Learn from the masters and grow.
What are you most excited about these days?
Nowadays, I am excited about four things that can be summed up by the acronym SAAIL:
S – Significant Projects: I love important work that has the potential to change the game in new and interesting ways. If I am helping people who are pursuing significant projects, they will automatically be smart, ambitious and good-hearted people. Then, work no longer feels like work.
A – Amplification: My expertise is in amplifying ideas. I come up with some of my own ideas but I also totally enjoy amplifying the ideas of others.
A – Alchemy: In the quest to do new things or improve old things, people tend to forget how things can be mixed up to produce gold. I have personally been part of many business alchemy projects. They are fun and provide a great ROI.
I – Innovation: There is always a better way of solving a problem or capitalizing on an opportunity.
L – Leverage: Nobody has unlimited resources (especially of time and money). By employing time-tested principles of leverage, outlined in my upcoming book, The Art of Leverage, you can get a big output with a relatively small input.
I am happy to say that I am surrounded by projects that will fit into the SAAIL thinking. And I am always looking for more such projects.
If you could change one thing about the way most people approach business, what would it be?
If I have to pick only one thing, it would be the mindset with which they approach business. Most people overestimate their own positive impact on their business and underestimate the impact of good help from others. If they can reverse this, it would make a huge difference.
You can follow Raj on his blog at www.rajeshsetty.com/blog or on Twitter at @RajSetty
Wally Bock is one of my favorite ‘virtual colleagues’ (we’ve never actually met in person). I find him unfailingly thoughtful, kind, and supportive – and his insights about leadership always strike me as both practical and aspirational.
I recently interviewed Wally via email (of course!); I wanted to share his coolness and wisdom with those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure of his company, as well as those who have.
Q: “Three Star Leadership” has been a top-rated leadership blog for a number of years. How did you start writing it – and where did you get the name?
Writing has always been part of my business and life. I wrote my first book in 1972. Over the years I’ve done articles, marketing copy, web copy, audio and video scripts and columns. I thought that blogging would be a perfect vehicle for me and the kind of value I deliver, so I started the blog as a trial and continued it when it worked. Two thousand plus posts later, it’s still working.
The name comes from some research I did on the difference between top-performing supervisors and other supervisors. When I asked senior management to identify their best supervisors, they didn’t always choose those who were good, let alone the best. Eventually I discovered that I needed to study people who were rated as excellent by three groups: their bosses, their peers, and their subordinates. The great ones got star ratings from all three groups, hence, “Three Star Leadership.”
Q: I know that you’re largely focused, at this point, on helping people write great business books. It seems like a valuable service, since so many people want to write books. Can you tell us how you approach the process?
Most of the people who contact me are thinking about writing a book, but, since they’ve never done it, they have lots and lots and lots of questions. They have very different wants and wildly different preferences. That’s why I developed what I call an Options Review Session; a free, no-obligation one-hour session where you can ask all the questions you’ve got about writing and publishing a book that will help you achieve your goals. I answer as well as I can. Some of the people who have an Options Review Session decide that I can help them with their project, either as a ghostwriter or a coach. I only work with people in situations where I think we can produce a great book.
If I’m the ghostwriter, then I’m the one with the fingers on the keys. I’m the kind of ghostwriter who’s a writing partner, not a transcriber or editor. I work on projects where I can bring some expertise to the party beyond the ability to string subjects and predicates together.
Coaching varies a lot according to what my client needs. I’m a good idea sharpener so I can help structure the project. I know the market, so I can suggest ways to add value to the book. And I’ve written (by most standards) a lot of books, so I know some things that work and some that lead to trouble. The client picks the amount of contact that he or she wants. Some want regular sessions. Others prefer to schedule a session when they need one.
Q: In order to be excited about this work, you clearly have to like business books. What do you see as the value business books bring?
Great business books deliver value on both sides of the process. Readers get their thinking challenged and pick up new ideas, insights, and inspiration. But there’s value for the author, too. Authors gain expertise and confidence by working with their material in new ways and in depth.
Q: Everything we’re talking about has to do with information: how it gets shared, what we do with it. I’d love to hear your thoughts about how things are changing in this area, and why it’s important.
Information is now readily available at any hour of the day or night no matter where you are in the world. When I was starting out in business, you spent most of your time finding information and less of your time figuring out how to use it or present it. Now, finding the information is the easy part and you can spend more time on use and presentation.
Just because information is available doesn’t mean it’s accurate or complete. The information we get today is often not filtered or vetted. We have to become our own editors and researchers, figuring out what’s true and what isn’t.
I think that within the next 10 years the majority of the information that we use for business purposes, including books, will be accessed digitally. Business books will get shorter and shorter.
For decades, the “standard” business book has been about 200 – 250 pages, more than 60,000 words most of the time. In most of those books, the core ideas could be expressed in much less space, so too many books are mostly padding. Look for more business ‘books” to come in between 10,000 and 25,000 words, offering readers more value and more choice.
Q: Finally, when you think about your life as a professional, what’s one way in which you believe you’ve had a strong positive influence on the world?
I think the greatest contribution I’ve made so far is that I have helped hundreds of men and women do a better job as a boss. I’ve affected their lives, the lives of the people on their teams, and the lives of their families and friends. I think that’s pretty great stuff. A lot of what I write today continues that work.
As you mentioned, a lot of my work today is helping people produce great business books. I want to make a difference in the lives of the people I work with and also in the lives and careers of the people who read their books.
Dear readers, this is the second of a series of guest posts with folks I’ve gotten to know online, and for whom I have the greatest respect.
Bob Morris and I ‘met’ about five year ago when he wrote a wonderfully clear and supportive review of my first book. Bob is by far the most prolific and most insightful business book reviewer I know, and I’ve come to look forward to and set great store by his perspective. I think you’ll enjoy hearing what he has to say:
Q: I’ve really been enjoying your daily blog “Blogging about Business”: http://bobmorris.biz/. It’s quite a commitment on your part! What made you decide to do it?
A: During the past decade, I have reviewed more than 2,300 business books for various Amazon websites, interviewed more than 125 thought leaders, and posted at least 500 commentaries at others’ blogs. I wanted to establish a “home” for all that material as well as new material I continue to add. Also, for the first time, readers can click on individual categories: Book Reviews, Interviews, Profiles, and Commentaries.
Q: Why do you prefer to review business books?
A: Probably because I am comfortable discussing the material they provide. That is not true of fiction, especially of poetry. I read very little contemporary fiction, preferring the so-called “Great Books.” I enjoyed studying them in college and graduate school, and discussing them with professors and classmates. But I have no interest in reviewing Hamlet, although I would love to interview its author!
Oddly enough, I am very comfortable reviewing films, perhaps because I think films are especially effective when dramatizing important business lessons. On leadership, for example: Twelve O’clock High, 12 Angry Men, and To Kill a Mockingbird. Or how about teamwork? I’d suggest The Sting, The Great Escape, and Remember the Titans.
I am especially interested in reading and then reviewing several books that discuss the same general subject such as performance measurement or organizational transformation, but view it from significantly different perspectives.
Q: You shared with me that there was a turning point years ago that set you on your present career course. What was it?
A: At age ten, I made four decisions: To become an Episcopalian, to become financially independent while being raised by a single-parent mother, to attend the Art Institute of Chicago, and to become the first of my family (either side) to earn a high school diploma. I achieved all four — by becoming a member of St. Margaret’s Episcopal parish; obtaining various jobs (delivering newspapers, caddying, setting bowling pins, working at a paper stand, stocking grocery shelves, etc.); winning scholarships to the Art Institute; earning a high school diploma; and then – with full scholarships — adding an undergraduate and then a graduate degree.
Since earning an M.A. in comparative literature from Yale, my career path has wandered a bit; I guess the only constants have been an insatiable curiosity, an obsession with learning, and a passion to share what I’ve learned with others, hoping to enrich their lives at least as much as they assuredly enrich mine. I still don’t understand why I made those four decisions at such a young age but am glad I did.
Q: What changes in business have you seen over the past 10 or 15 years that you think are the most positive or exciting?
A: There have been so many; here are three. First, the WorldWideWeb. Thanks to Tim Berners-Lee’s original vision about 20 years ago, we can connect almost immediately with almost anyone else in the world or with almost any source of information. Next, the development of electronic devices that can accommodate almost all www communication applications, but can also produce, duplicate and distribute documents.
Finally, I think there have been some very important changes in how supervisors view and – more to the point – treat those entrusted to their care. The command-and-control leadership style was run off years ago but only recently have executives – in significant numbers — begun to embrace Robert Greenleaf’s concept of the servant leader and I credit Daniel Goleman and his research on emotional intelligence for helping to make that happen. I am encouraged by the fact that more executives than ever before consider it a privilege to be entrusted with supervisory responsibilities.
As you correctly suggest in your brilliant book, Growing Great Employees, all great leaders have a “green thumb.” It is no coincidence that most of the companies annually ranked as “most highly-regarded” and “best to work for” are also annually ranked among those that are most profitable and have the greatest cap value in their respective industries. They really do resemble a well-tended garden in which healthy growth is carefully nourished…and sustainable.
Q: As you look ahead, what do you believe is the biggest challenge that C-level executives will face, and how should they address it?
A: In my opinion, the biggest challenge will be to coordinate communication, cooperation, and (especially) collaboration among members of a diverse and de-centralized workforce.
If asked for advice about how to do that, here’s what I would recommend:
• Determine the nature and extent of the challenge for the organization and its leaders
• Focus on what must be done to respond effectively to it
• Make sure everyone understands the ultimate objective and how they can help achieve it
• Provide brief, specific progress updates (at least weekly) from CEO
• Establish a secure online information center that offers answers to questions, solutions to problems, access to resources, etc.
In addition to Growing Great Employees, here are two other sources I highly recommend to C-level executives:
Enterprise Architecture As Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution
Jeanne W. Ross, Peter Weill, and David Robertson
Transforming Performance Measurement: Rethinking the Way We Measure and Drive Organizational Success
Hey guys – I just found out my blog was ranked #67 of the hundred top leadership blogs. According to the creator of the list, Frode Heiman, the rankings were based primarily on “a formula that creates a score based on Alexa ranking, Google PageRank, (some secret search results) and fans in social media.” He also factors in his personal opinion about the blogs’ design and and his ‘overall liking’ for them, as secondary considerations.
So, thanks to all of you for reading and commenting over the years!
As I went into the admin page to start writing this, I noticed that it’s my 350th post. It’s kind of astonishing to me; if my average post is 200 words long, that means I’ve written 70,000 words here over the past 4 1/2 years. That’s a book!
And I guess it surprises me because it’s been unintentional. I didn’t set out to write a book’s-worth of blog posts; I just started blogging.
It makes me wonder if this isn’t why most people don’t do great things, large things. Maybe they look at the thing they long to do — write the book, start the business, master the musical instrument, become a word-class whatever — and it just seems too huge; too high a mountain to climb. The prospect overwhelms them and they simply turn away; go back to the small daily things that seem doable.
But really, all big things – just like all small things – get done bit by bit, one step at a time. The difference, I think, is that doing something large requires both a belief that the million small steps will add up to your hoped-for outcome, and a belief that you are capable of continuing down that path all the way to the end.
It also requires clarity about the steps to take, and the focus to keep taking them.
And then something truly excellent can happen.
The good news is, my life is fuller and more fun and productive than it’s ever been – I love my husband and kids, who are all extraordinary and fascinating human beings; the business is rockin’ and my colleagues are smart and funny and good-hearted; I feel healthy, happy and whole.
The bad news is, there’s so much going on that this beloved erikaandersen.com blog of mine is getting short shrift. It’s been two weeks since I posted…and three weeks before that…
I do love this blog; I love sharing my thoughts and questions with you – and enough people have told me they enjoy it, over the years, that I want to keep doing it. I began writing here in January of 2007, right after my first book got published. It was a huge inflection point in my life, both personally and professionally, and this blog has been with me (I know I’m anthropomorphizing wildly here, but bear with me) through all the ups and downs of my evolution since then. It was my introduction to social media, and I’ve met many, many great people through it.
And I like to do things well and with 100% intentionality or not at all.
So I’m committing to you and to myself, here and now (you can call me on this later, if I don’t follow through): I’ll go back to posting at least once a week from here on.
You can help – if any of you have things you’d like me to talk about, that would be truly inspiring to me…I do love to listen and respond.
Onward and upward….