Nov 16, 2011

- You Are Not the Best Judge of You

"To create a reliable 360 survey," Marcus Buckingham concludes in his recent blog on this site, "The Fatal Flaws With 360 Surveys," all you need do is...ask the rater to evaluate himself on his own feelings." Since you are an expert on your own feelings, your responses have to be solid.

That seems logical, and yet I could not disagree more with this conclusion. In an effort to give equal time to the other side of the story, and to clarify some misconceptions, let me share with you the reasons why not getting 360-degree feedback may actually be fatal. (But here's hoping that in the course of this debate there are no fatalities.)

Leadership effectiveness is in the eye of those who are led. 
 "Rate me on 'Marcus is a good listener' and we learn whether I am a better listener than you," Buckingham writes. But in my work with Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman analyzing the 360-degree feedback from tens of thousands of leaders, that's not been our experience. What we find is: ask me to rate "Marcus is a good listener," and we discover whether I think Marcus is listening to me. That's certainly not objective data. But it doesn't have to be. If Marcus is my boss and I think he's not listening to me, that certainly plays into how effective he is as a leader, no matter how subjective my judgment is.

Subjective 360 data can correlate to objective business results. 

What I think about my boss wouldn't matter if it had no relation to business success. But our analysis of the data from those thousands of 360s shows that it does, empirically. We have correlated the leadership-effectiveness scores we've collected with a variety of business outcomes — profitability, turnover, employee engagement, customer satisfaction — you name it, we probably studied it. What we've seen is that 360 data are an incredibly reliable measure of business success, frequently showing a lock-step correlation between the effectiveness of a company's leaders, as measured by those subjective 360s, and the company's objective business results.

You don't have to be great at everything. 
"Most 360s are built on a logical non-sequitur," Buckingham suggests, "namely that since a particular group of exemplary leaders possesses all the competencies measured by the 360, therefore the best individual leader is she who possesses all of them." I agree that's a non-sequitur, and that would be a problem if you used the full range of leadership skills on the assessment as a one-size-fits-all definition of the perfect leader. But our research suggests that's not necessary at all, even if it were possible. When we analyze the most effective leaders in the world, we find that the truly extraordinary ones need only excel at a relatively small number of competencies — three to five. For us, the purpose of taking the 360 is not to see which leadership skills you lack so you can complete the set. Rather, it's to find your best self — that is, the particular leadership skills you should focus on to become uniquely extraordinary.

You are not the best judge of you. 
Several years ago, while working on my first project with Joe Folkman, I asked him what was the most interesting finding he'd seen in his years of studying 360s. He responded, with a wry smile, "The average leaders don't think they are." Thus we, too, find leaders subject to "benevolent distortion." But we don't find it that benevolent. Our data show not just a gap — but something closer to a canyon — between people's perceptions of themselves and how other people see them. "How could that be?" you might ask: After all, you are the only one there for everything! No doubt. And yet, our data tell us that you are a notoriously bad predictor of your own leadership abilities because it is so difficult to consistently know what impact you are having on others. In that regard, other people are experts at knowing how they feel about your effect on them. Ironically, we find, the best leaders in our database frequently rate their performance lower than their peers, bosses, and direct reports. From the perspective of inner strength and psychological health, it's terrific to have confidence in your own views and convictions. But when considering your strength as a leader, doing so in isolation is, from where we sit, downright, fatal.

I'll be the first to agree that a 360 assessment is no panacea and that the tool can be over-, miss-, and incorrectly used. But in my experience, there's simply no substitute for getting feedback from the people who are the most influenced and affected by your actions, talents, and skills. Applied creatively, a 360-degree feedback process can be an incredibly powerful tool to help you identify your strengths, grant you insight into how you can make them even more effective, and alert you to any behavior that might be severely detracting from your effectiveness. Are the 360 data objective? No. But even so they can help leaders create an objective, personal plan of development. And they're certainly more effective than just asking yourself.


- Why Doesn't HR Lead Change?

It's hard to find leaders of the human resources (HR) function who are active in helping their organization improve the way it works. I asked dozens of people who are in HR or in process improvement to share examples of HR change leaders, and I only found a few.
Though it's rare, here's an indicator of what is possible. In 2009 Tony Scibelli, Vice President of Human Resources and Operations at Faxton-St. Luke's Healthcare learned that the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Nursing Officer were going to launch "relationship-based care," a comprehensive cultural change program to focus doctors' and nurses' attention on patients and their families. He offered to have HR involved to address the people aspects. He showed them how HR could weave relationship-based care and continuous improvement into the fabric of this community hospital in central New York, for example by hiring and promoting the right people. He was at the table with them as they planned training and communications, and as they decided how to reward people who took on improvement projects.
When I talk with leaders of process improvement activities about the role of HR in change, however, I generally hear that HR is bureaucratic and a brake on innovation. Others say that HR is under-utilized. In most organizations talent management is left to direct supervisors.

Dave Ulrich, a professor at the University of Michigan, and recognized by HR Magazine as the most influential person in Human Resources, and also identified by Thinkers50 as one of the world's top 50 business thinkers for 2011, has identified three human resource processes that are critical for embedding a culture such as continuous improvement: (1) talent flow, (2) rewards, and (3) training and development. Changing any of these to support continuous improvement presents challenges to HR:

  • Talent Flow: Hiring and promoting people who embody an organization's desired mindset and behaviors — and removing those who don't — sends clear messages about what is valued. People see what is happening and adapt their behaviors accordingly. The problem for continuous improvement is that managers tend to hire for expertise, not for behaviors such as improvement. Scott Beaird, Director of Talent Management at Tufts Medical Center, told me, "We hire what the manager wants. We hire a financial analyst, who is great at working with dollars. We don't typically challenge managers to look more broadly. We introduced HR business partners twelve months ago and asked them to advocate HR policies. They struggled. They kept getting mired down in minute details, e.g., writing a requisition for a new job."
  • Rewards: Reward systems can change and reinforce behavior. The aim of a reward system is to turn goals into measures of behavior and outcomes, then allocate rewards based how employees perform against the measures. Continuous improvement demands that people not only carry out their jobs, but improve their work too. HR people typically don't have the operational experience, expectation, or permission to engage line managers in changing rewards to encourage operational improvement. For example, Scott Beaird tells me that his hospital needs to reward process improvement to accommodate healthcare reform, but that HR can't initiate the changes from its position; modifications to rewards have to be made by senior leaders.
  • Training and Development: Training courses and development investments send messages about what matters. At the same time, they offer leaders skills and tools to act on those messages. To support continuous improvement, these investments have to focus on making work better. Few HR organizations will promote improvement training unless it's driven by senior leadership, even though they may recognize it as what the organization needs.
What are the root causes of the difficulty of HR leading change? I see three:
  • Politics: To sustain improvement activities, HR must use its power and influence to help leaders focus on customers, long-term business results, and building capabilities in their people — not a personal or HR agenda. Yet if HR gets out in front of improvement activities, it could be in a precarious position if a new CEO comes in with a focus on shorter-term results. A supporting role may seem safer.
  • A Support Relationship: As described above at Faxton-St. Luke's, HR must be at the table with senior leaders to weave HR into improvement programs. Before HR can offer advice to the organization, it needs to be a partner — not just support. The CEO and executive team often view HR as an expense with a transaction focus, rather than adding value with a strategic focus. HR has to operate as a partner that adds value to make the case for their role as a partner.
  • Being Inbred: HR hires HR experience, and HR has historically been mainly engaged in personnel, compliance, and transactions. HR professionals without operational experience have less credibility and aren't comfortable giving operational advice. As Roger Addison, a performance consultant, told me, "HR doesn't think like the business. HR professionals don't know which knife, fork, or spoon to use when they're at the table."
In future posts, I'll examine how some HR organizations have embedded HR processes into operational change, and what it takes to enable an HR organization to lead organizational change.


Nov 12, 2011

- The Top 5 Motivation Poisons

I hear it all the time from clients and people that I meet: they’re not motivated. They say they’re lazy and wish they could do this or that but…

I’m not big on excuses or labels, especially “lazy”. So, when I hear “I’m just not disciplined,” 

I almost always ask:
   Have you ever been disciplined to do anything?
   What was it that helped you?
   What got in the way?

Identifying obstacles helps you build a sustainable foundation for perseverance in the face of adversity.

Motivation is personal. Discipline is a muscle.
You can learn to be motivated.

You HAVE to want to put time into it, to create a new habit, to make it part of your lifestyle.
Before your rebellious inner child starts an ‘I DON’T WANNA!’ tantrum, keep reading. One of these 5 poisons may be getting in your way of your heart’s desire.

The Top 5 Poisons of Motivation:

1. Perfectionism

Become a recovering perfectionist. Oh, yes, I did say that.
When you get caught up in ideals, you create resistance that gets in the way of your motivation. You’re stuck focusing on the ideal and think “If its not perfect, why bother?” We’re so addicted to this in our society. We feel that getting the best grades, getting the awards, getting all these accolades defines us and holds the basis of our self-worth.
And if we don’t get the gold star, we beat ourselves up and miss the point. If you get caught with in achieving perfect results, you’re never going to start anything. You’re paralyzed.
Thomas Edison invented 3,000 duds before he invented the lightbulb. He himself did not call it failure. Instead, he said: “Any of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
Taking imperfect action is the best starting point.

2. Comparing yourself to others
This is another potent motivation-zapper. Even worse, it can prevent you from finding your own path. Motivation is truly personal.
Study what motivates others as inspiration, but if it  gets you stuck or moving backwards with doubt, then why bother? It’s easy to get lost in someone else’s life, wishing that it was your own.
Trying to be ‘like’ ANYONE is a total waste of time.
Yes, we’re all guilty of it. Remember: there is only one of YOU.
The universe made you perfect. Ignoring that and trying to emulate someone else is a slap in the face.

3. Thinking that you’re not ‘good enough’
If, like me, you grew up hearing “You have to prove yourself to the world!”, that mantra probably still follows you. It can run you to the ground.
I understand that in your work you have to show your abilities or your skills to prove you can deliver. But you shouldn’t rely on that for self-validation.
If you’ve been told you’re not good enough, I understand the programming. It hurts and digs deep. But make no mistake: it’s a LIE.
You have to be motivated to fulfill your soul’s desire, to create your own happiness, healing and harmony.
If you were born, then you are good enough.
You must change the theme song in your mind from You SUCK to You ROCK.

4. Doing too much at once.
Bitten off more than you can chew? That might be sabotaging your progress. You’ve got to pull back a little bit and really look at what’s going on. Don’t be a slave to your ego.
I get snagged by this one and always have to step back to make sure my choices are in alignment with my soul. If you feel that it’s too overwhelming, take one step at a time.
Baby steps.
The solution here is to hone in on your goal, desire, or dream. Life will happen. It will always take more time, more money or more anything than you anticipated. Don’t let it stop you, and remember to check in with your WHY.
It’s about setting goals that stretch you outside of your comfort zone and you believe, on one level, that you can achieve.  Go for a C+, good enough and I promise you will do better. It’s a great way to trick the ego and make it right. This may keep you motivated to do more.
Being aware and taking passionate action keeps you on the level and open to enjoying the adventure.

5. Excusitis.
There is always an excuse – why you can’t do it, why today it didn’t happen, how you’re going to do it tomorrow. When we find excuses for not doing things, we’re rebelling. We just want to stay in a comfort zone.
See how this comes up again?  A part of it is that your ego feels threatened by moving forward and wants to protect you.
But really, you’re totally safe.

When you do something you haven’t done before, your ego goes into a state of alarm: “Watch out! Danger!” and then fear kicks in.
But my answer to that is “No. FEAR is  f*cking exciting and rewarding.” This reframe changes the game.
We say “I can’t,” but really we’re afraid to try something new. That’s the truth and we’re afraid to admit it, or to even prove ourselves wrong. You are capable of more. You can handle more, even in the midst of a challenge.  Try it, you may be surprised, and bust a limiting belief.

What excuses are you living with?
Ready to release the need to live in your perfectionism, low self esteem and excuses? Then ask yourself this question.
What’s holding you back ?
Take your time, and don’t think about it – feel into it. Be kind with yourself. Your power is in your choices.
Now, go get’em warrior soul!


Nov 11, 2011

- 5 Steps to Developing More Discipline

The key is on focusing on a result you really want. In this sense, the key to discipline is goal-setting.

Over the years, I have found that I can become disciplined in any area of my life by taking five specific steps. Whether it is trying to get in shape, maintain a blog, or develop a great marriage, the psychology is the same.
  1. Determine your goal. Notice in Andy’s definition that the key is in knowing what you really want. If you are going to succeed, you must be specific. You must be able tosee it. Write it down and—while you are at it—add a “by when” date.
    Example: I will lose 20 pounds of body fat by December 31...
  2. List your reasons. This is often the missing piece in both goal-setting and discipline. You have to ask, Why is this goal important? What is at stake in my achieving it? I list both the positive reasons and the negative.
    • I want more energy.
    • I want to lower my cholesterol.
    • I don’t want to put myself at risk for heart disease.
    • I want to look more trim, especially on video.
    • I want to demonstrate that I can lead myself.
    • I want to be a good example to my family.
  3. Identify likely obstacles. As soon as you start swimming against the current, you will start feeling resistance. It’s as if the universe conspires to keep you from succeeding. That’s why you have to anticipate these obstacles and build strategies to overcome them.
    • Obstacle: Mindlessly eating for lunch what I always eat. Strategy: Plan my lunch before I leave the house—where and what I will eat.
    • Obstacle: Inability to work out on the road. Strategy: Make sure the hotel has a workout room before I book it. Also, pack my workout clothes and shoes.
    • Obstacle: Eating more calories than I intend. Strategy: Record everything in LoseIt, thus educating myself about the calorie-count of various foods.
  4. Develop new behaviors. This is where you should focus. What are the positive, new behaviors you want to develop to replace the old, negative behaviors.
    • Drink two-and-a-half liters of water a day to stay hydrated.
    • Eat healthy snacks like raw almonds, celery, carrots, etc.
    • Share entrees with Gail when we eat out, so that I eat half the normal serving.
    • Chose simple grilled fish rather than beef or chicken.
  5. Stay focused. Read your goals daily, review your reasons why, anticipate obstacles, and work on your new behaviors. If you get off-track, don’t beat yourself up. Sometimes it is three steps forward and two steps back. Just shake it off and re-lock on your goal.
Discipline is not really about will-power so much as it is focusing on what you really want. If you get clear on that, it suddenly becomes much easier.


Nov 7, 2011

- Planning your own EXIT

Today’s leaders, including those who have reached what would in previous generations have been considered proper retirement age, are defying F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous pronouncement about there being “no second acts.” Experienced, accomplished leaders are in greater demand than ever before by a wide range of enterprises, and may therefore have many appealing options open to them, if they are interested in pursuing them.

It is an issue many leaders wrestle with: how to do the right thing for one’s company, while also doing right by oneself. When it is time to move on, how can a 
leader manage his or her transition to the next phase of life in the most responsible way with the least negative impact on the company?

Methodical planning is nothing new to experienced 
leaders, and they should settle for nothing less when it comes to planning for themselves and their future. We recommend a personal “360” as the best place to start before embarking on a new life phase. This exercise begins with some serious self reflection: What am I passionate about? What do I still want to accomplish? In addition, it may be helpful to get an honest assessment of yourself from a range of those close to you, including close friends and business colleagues as well as your spouse. What do they view as your strengths, weaknesses and perhaps untapped skills or talents that you may not even have thought about building on? You may be surprised at what you learn. Keep in mind the need for discretion when exploring any personal next steps, or even a hint of moving on, with current board member and business associates. We offer more specific suggestions below on how to deal appropriately with the delicate matter of sharing your plans with your own board.

Once you have digested the input from your self assessment and the added input of those who know you best, consider brainstorming — alone and with others — to generate a working list of options for yourself. While certain choices, such as Olympic athlete or astronaut may be foreclosed at this point, aim to be as expansive and inclusive as possible in generating a working list; it always can be whittled down later. In our experience, 
leaders tend to underestimate the range of options open to them, looking at only the most obvious extensions of what they have already done.

When in exploration mode, sometimes your network of key advisers may surprise you with interesting, less apparent opportunities. When your contacts know of your interest, they may be able to “hold” a spot for you or create an opening that fits your time frame. Former 
leaders are frequently in demand for a variety of positions, including independent directors, government and community leadership roles, and board or senior executive roles with high-profile nonprofit groups. Another area where we see increasing demand for leaders is private equity, which taps retired executives for partner roles, operating positions in portfolio companies and as deal advisers.

When you have honed your list to real possibilities that would interest you, you will want to spend considerable time building your bridging strategy. Your bridging strategy might include steps for gaining specific experience important to your next phase or developing helpful personal connections.

Common examples of “paving the way” include 
leaders taking an external board position with another corporation, or perhaps becoming involved with government committees or projects and charitable bodies in the final years preceding their planned retirement date. While your bridging strategy should be consciously proactive, it also is built with time and patience. Most worthwhile opportunities do not develop overnight, as you know from your own business experience.

Be prepared to work at your personal plan, and regularly and discreetly follow up with those who may be able to open doors for you, just as you would in your role as 
leader. The net result of all this activity should be a realistic, desirable choice — or choices — as well as a strategy for nurturing one or more of them to fruition. One important note: Especially if you are an older leader, do not underestimate lifestyle considerations when you are evaluating and pursuing your next move. New paths, including nonprofits and board appointments, can be far more demanding than many experienced leaders anticipate. Any potential move should be properly evaluated and vetted. Activities you were able to take in stride over the years as requisites for performing your job and advancing in your career may be unacceptable hardships for you now. If you value quality time with your family or the freedom to travel, for example, be sure to factor them into the equation and make your choices accordingly. This takes on special significance at a time when multinational companies are increasingly interested in appointing boards with global representation, which can be a positive or negative to different people.

The better prepared you are personally for your “next career,” the more likely you will effectively manage the notification of your departure with your board and chairman. The ideal is to provide appropriate time for your board to facilitate effective 
leader succession and for you to assist the chairman and board in this process. Precisely what the period of notice should be may vary widely, depending on how well prepared you and your board are in terms of ready succession contenders. If internal succession is available and likely, nine to 12 months’ notice typically would be sufficient. If external candidates will be required, a minimum of 12 months’ notice should be provided to ensure a proper and smooth succession process. Notification to your board typically begins with an informal discussion, leading to formal notice at an appropriate time, which generally is spelled out in employment contracts, long-term incentive plans and the like.

Principles for accomplishing a graceful exitWhile everyone’s individual exit plan will be uniquely his or her own, here are several basic principles that can be applied to all:

Enlist your personal board. Your own group of advisers and friends — those who know you best — will be helpful as a sounding board and as a source of ideas. Make sure to keep them apprised of your plans.

Invest the time and discipline. Chances are, you have planned carefully for most of your life. The next phase of your life should be approached in the same thoughtful fashion, even if it is the fulfillment of a personal or non-business dream. Step back and take the long-term view, and weigh the pros and cons of your next move to give it the best chance of success.

Conduct careful due diligence. Next steps that are not carefully planned and vetted can be personally disappointing and professionally embarrassing, and if you are a large company 
leader,  it is sure to make news. Be sure to explore positives as well as potential pitfalls of the new opportunities that present themselves.

Allow possibilities to percolate. The right opportunity may emerge quickly or it may take some time to take shape. Try not to adhere to too strict a timetable: discuss your interests with those in your network, and then give the possibilities a chance to germinate. On the other hand, there is also a chance that someone might create an opportunity or adjust the timing if they learn of your availability.

Guard your reputation. Successful 
leaders want to launch their personal plans confident that they are leaving the company in steady hands. However, it is not unheard of for an attractive opportunity to emerge sooner than expected. When weighing your personal goals against the needs of the company, our advice is to err on doing the right thing for the company. You have built and burnished your reputation over the course of a lifetime, and you never want to put it at risk.

Leave room for serendipity. Not to suggest that you ignore prudent planning, but remember, some of the best opportunities in life come out of the blue — if you are open to them. How you met your wife or husband, your best friend or got a great job, may be examples. Even as you carefully plan your next move, periodically look in new places for potentially gratifying opportunities that may have escaped your notice. With their experience and skills in greater demand than ever, and with people living longer, more productive lives, 
leaders have the opportunity to reinvent themselves as never before. A combination of careful planning with your own board, and some soul searching and a personal strategy, as we recommend here, can yield a fulfilling second act, or even a third or fourth.

/Carlo Corsi/John Mumm

- Nine Rules to Ace Your Technical Interview

Job candidates have clear expectations about the work that needs to be done during the job search to ensure success. They define their career goals. Resumes are updated. Interview skills are sharpened. Yet, ...candidates pay too little attention to one particular aspect of the job search: the technical interview.

The technical interview is an opportunity for employers to put your hard-earned skills to the test. Technical interview questions can range across disciplines and include puzzles, problems and other questions designed to make you think hard on the spot. .. job candidates find technical interviews extremely time consuming and stressful. And, to be honest, many job candidates struggle through the first few technical interviews and reduce their chances of landing what may be a great job. These nine keys to success can help you when faced with a technical interview.

1. Wear What’s Right.
The tech industry has a unique culture, one that is in stark contrast to other fields. The majority of technology companies are very relaxed, casual, and creative. They also favor personality and fit over snappy dress. When going for the technical interview, I tell my candidates to be clean, neat and presentable – buttoned down shirt, pressed pants and clean shoes. That being said, I do not suggest suits, and ties or jackets are optional as some companies may think you are conservative (and not a good culture fit). Overall, you need to feel comfortable and relaxed as the interview process can be stressful enough.

2. Don’t Wing It.
The activities that occur in most technical interviews are not practiced every day. Skills become rusty, especially if they’re ones that are different than what you do on the job. Some people decide to ignore this rust and just wing it, but this is a recipe for disaster. Practice and preparation are essential, and your recruiter should serve as your coach and guide. If not, you may need a new recruiter.

3. Communicate Effectively
Communication is key in the technical interview. Interviewers don’t know your skill set unless you make it clear through your answers. Don’t leave the interviewers with any doubts about how skilled you really are, and avoid evasive or incomplete answers. Follow up with a “Did that answer your question?” to ensure you are on the same page with the interviewer. Ask good questions throughout the interview to engage with the interviewer. Work hard with your recruitment advisor, so you can be sure to ask the best questions.

4. Sharpen Your Technical Skills.Many job candidates find their information and skills aren’t fresh enough for employers. Companies assess skills in a different way now, and they expect job candidates to evolve along with the market. Job candidates need to have a technical toolbox that suits the market and can get them through a rigorous technical interview.

5. Bone Up on the Fundamentals.
Make sure you review the fundamentals and computer science basics. Review core concepts and theories that are essential to good practice. The interview process is designed to gauge your technical and problem-solving skills, so take the time to refresh yourself on concepts and theories.

6. Try Brain Teasers.
Run through some brain teasers and logic problems in advance of your interview, as you may be asked to do one. These challenges are given as a way to assess how you think and work through a problem. Oftentimes, the solution is not the main goal; they are looking for skills such as confidence, tenacity, and persistence.

7. Work with the Interview Team.
Interviewers also screen your ability to interact and communicate in a team setting. Be sure to connect with the interviewer and work with them to show that you have adequate team skills. You want to remain confident and calm even if frustrated or defeated, so it’s best to keep composed and positive.

8. Know Your Close.
It is important to close the interview properly before you part ways with the interviewer. You want to express your level of interest in the job, so this is your chance to say how you feel about the position and your experience. Ask key follow-up questions to understand next steps, the process and the time-frame.

9. Continue to Create a Positive Impression.
The interview process is still about creating strong, positive impressions. I encourage my candidates to send a thank-you email within 24 hours. Another good follow-up is to offer a solution to an unsolved problem you were given during the interview. This goes over very well and can potentially save you if you were off track in the interview because it demonstrates that you care enough to give it additional time and attention. It also allows the employer to evaluate more of your work.

Technical interviews are a major challenge for job candidates searching for the best technology jobs. Too many job candidates treat them casually at the beginning of their job search. Winging it is a bad idea. Preparation is essential. Use your time to practice, learn to communicate effectively, and sharpen your technical skills.


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