Leadership in the Heat of Battle . Transformation #3

Leadership in the Heat of Battle . Transformation #3

In a Harvard Business Review article, Michael Beer and Nitin Nohria wrote: “Despite some individual successes, however, change remains difficult to pull off, and few companies manage the process as well as they would like. Most of their initiatives—installing new technology, downsizing, restructuring or trying to change corporate culture—have had low success rates. The brutal fact is that about 70% of all change initiatives fail.”

Although written in 2000, asking executives today, the statistics seem to be about the same. The costs of this are staggering. What is at the root of this failure rate? What is missing?

It is the third transformation needed to be a powerful leader: becoming someone whose word is their bond.

In business and life, there are always situations, changing conditions, problems large and small. This is part of the fabric of business and life. There are a multitude of difficult circumstances and good reasons why something can’t/didn’t happen. And leaders are in the business of making happen what was not going to happen.

Here’s what George Bernard Shaw had to say about this:

The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him.
The unreasonable  man adapts  surrounding conditions  to himself.
All progress depends on the unreasonable man.

                                -from Maximums for Revolutionists

How do you become an “unreasonable” leader?

Quoting Michael Jensen, Professor Emeritus of the Harvard Business School:

Doing what you said you would do when you said you would do it.

The essence of being “unreasonable” and making happen what otherwise would not happen, what is often inconvenient, uncomfortable, and uncertain,  and what sometimes may even seem impossible, is being someone whose word is their bond—in particular in the face of one’s own self-doubts, considerations, and one’s own “reasons why not.”

And such a leader asks the same of those they lead.

This is the lever that moves the mountain.

Leadership in the Heat of Battle | Transformation #2: Going Beyond Who You Are Now

Leadership in the Heat of Battle | Transformation #2: Going Beyond Who You Are Now

Leadership in the Heat of Battle | Transformation #2: Going Beyond Who You Are Now

Leaders must often make impossibilities happen. How do you do that?

We all have a view of what is possible. Additionally, we have ways of functioning that we know produce results and achieve objectives.

To make an impossibility happen, you must expand the scope of what is possible, and you must go beyond your habitual ways of getting things done.

Take a moment and answer the following question:

What characteristics, abilities, traits do you rely on in yourself to accomplish things? Make a list. I’ll be silent while you write. Take a couple of minutes…

OK—times up.

Second question:

What is something you want to make happen or achieve—something big, something beyond what you’ve accomplished before—perhaps an impossibility? Take a moment and write that down…

If you compare the two lists, and you’ve picked something big enough, you can see that list 1 is insufficient to accomplish list 2.

You must go beyond who you are now, your “comfort zone”. But even more than this, the very strengths you rely on are at the same time your limitations.

If you look at this from a neuroscience perspective, what’s stored in your brain, among everything else, are sets of patterns of behaviors that worked in the past to give you what you wanted. These patterns, or from neuroscience, these sets of neuronal patterns, get “activated”. Like calling up a particular program in a computer. The brain, which is designed for our survival, is a repository, a library of such winning patterns for us to get by, succeed, win, even to survive.

Although we may think you are acting freely, when closely examined, you can start to see the repetitive nature of these behaviors. And they worked! In the past. Here’s the problem: when you are presented with situations that are not the same as the past, that have elements in them, complexities, that  you’ve never encountered before—OR if you want to make something happen, produce a result, beyond anything you’ve ever accomplished before—an impossibility—then these patterns from the past may not serve you. Starting when you are a child, through your teen years, and through your early adulthood, you and I formulate these strategies. Then we get stuck with them.

Example: 

A CEO of a growing technology company who was very hands on, getting involved in everything, as the company expanded, became unable to control it all.

He had to begin trusting, managing/delegating to, and empowering others.

He had to go beyond the strengths, abilities, approaches that had worked in the past, and discover new ways to think, relate, plan, communicate, act to be appropriate to the scale of opportunity now in front of him.

So, the second transformation of a leader is this…

to recognize these habitual formulas, begin to see how they limit, and be willing to go beyond them to achieve something big, something extraordinary, perhaps something currently impossible!



Your comments and questions about Leadership Transformation #2 above, and our earlier post for Leadership Transformation #1 (here) are very welcome.

You’ll also want the “The Six Leadership Keys” for executives.

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Leadership in the Heat of Battle | Transformation #1

Leadership in the Heat of Battle | Transformation #1

Leadership in the Heat of Battle: Transformation #1: Powerful Listening

Watch this short video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubNF9QNEQLA

What does this video (and listening) have to do with leading effectively?

Leaders need to be vividly present to what is happening around them, and most importantly hear exactly what others are communicating. That includes hearing what others are not saying that they are saying. This allows a leader to get critical information needed to make appropriate decisions and take effective actions. It also allows those they lead to experience that they’ve been heard. What is more frustrating than attempting to say something to someone and not experience you’ve been heard? 

When a leader listens, they strengthen relationships and build trust.

The video illustrates how much we miss that is going on right in front of us, and by extension, how much is being communicated that we’re missing.

How do you know you’re not listening powerfully?

    • Is there someone around you who says the same thing over and over as though they’re not being heard?
    • Is there something someone else is telling you that you don’t want to hear it? that you disagree with? that you think is wrong? and you listen to them with that going on with you as they speak?
    • While they’re speaking, are you evaluating, judging, diagnosing, solving?
    • While someone is speaking to you, are you finishing their sentences?  interrupting them with what you have to say? attempting to correct what they’re expressing? preparing to defend yourself against what they’re saying?
    • Do you get impatient when others speak? do you want them to “get to the point”?
    • Are you in a hurry to get somewhere or do something, and find that you don’t have time for what people are saying to you?
    • Are you not hearing the people who are closest to you? that you care most for? family?
    • While someone is speaking, are you predicting what they’ll say next or thinking that you already know what they’re saying?

These are some of the pitfalls leaders fall into regarding communication. So the first transformation a leader must go through is to realize how much they do not hear. The pathway to actually listen deeply is to first notice how much you habitually do not. This fact may be something you may not want to confront. However, true transformation always begins with great honesty and telling the truth about what is happening now.

Also, are there things you want to communicate to others, and you don’t have a sense they’re really hearing you? You cannot put water into a cup that is already full. Begin by hearing others completely—let them empty their cup. Then there is room for them to hear you. You have experienced wanting to say something to someone, and as they are speaking, you can’t wait to tell them what you have to say. And this makes it difficult for you to hear them.

Take on really listening to people and watch the miracles that will occur around you!



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The Court of Public Opinion | Part 2, Outside

The Court of Public Opinion | Part 2, Outside

I was consulting a division of a company in the hospitality industry.

Before I began working with the senior executives, a major event occurred and was represented in the news.

The Warning Signs and External Signals of trouble in the Court of Public Opinion were everywhere:

I watched as the executives, and in particular the CEO, “whistled in the dark.” You know—if you’re walking down a dark and menacing road at night, if you whistle a happy tune, everything will be ok! Right?

They did not address this honestly in the public domain nor in employee meetings.

I watched the impact on stock price, revenue growth, and internal defections of valuable personnel.

CEO’s and other C-Suite Executives, BEWARE!

There is something all around you that can sink the best of intentions and plans! You must attend to it or face dire consequences for your company: the Court of Public Opinion (COPO).

At first, it may be invisible, like air to a bird, until we intentionally become aware of it.

There is  a human tendency to avoid what is unpleasant, disturbing, threatening, disruptive—what appears to be “bad news.” So it is counter-impulsive to take on COPO and have an effective and even masterful relationship with it. And, this is crucial to effectively lead and to succeed.

Four aspects of COPO and their corresponding registers/dashboards are:

ASPECT

    1. The internal rumor mill
    2. Marketplace reputation and perceived 
company future
    3. Customers and general public
    4. News media

REGISTER/ DASHBOARD

    1. The company culture
    2. Stock price
    3. Sales and market share
    4. All of the above

An additional complexity is that these four aspects influence each other.

To deal with COPO powerfully, you must begin by understanding what it actually is.

What is the nature of it? What is the DNA of COPO?

Very specifically: it is what people are saying and what people are hearing.

So the key is listening. Not to the noise of our own internal dialogue, our interpretations, judgements, and opinions. The CEO needs to listen outwardly and vigorously to her/his executives. And the executives need to listen outwardly and vigorously to each other. And the entire C-suite needs to listen to the workforce, the public media, customers. How can a leader effectively respond to others in an authentic and persuasive way if that leader has not fully heard exactly what people are actually saying?

No question that there is certain information that cannot and should not be said outside the  C-suite and/or Board room.  However when an event occurs, such as a critical change of leadership, an SEC investigation, a security breach, a crisis, etc. if you do not manage The Court of Public Opinion consciously and intentionally, then it will go its own way and you will be subject to it and the victim of it.

As the leadership of the company, what guides you in your response?

Shakespeare gave us this sage advice:

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

What do the executives on behalf of a company stand for?

Every company these days has mission-vision-value statements.

Are these alive and practiced in the daily life of the company?

Are they the basis for actions, for strategic choices, for dealing with breakdowns?

Or are they wall-paper: good intentions but not actionable? We all know the proverb ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions.’

We make sure our clients learn to listen deeply and thoroughly, and to respond effectively and powerfully to the Court of Public Opinion.

 


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The Court of Public Opinion | Part 1, Inside

The Court of Public Opinion | Part 1, Inside

I was asked to work with an executive team to help them cause a breakthrough in their company performance. They said they were up to transforming the company to do this.

I told them that the transformation of the company needed to begin with a transformation of themselves. Each person committed to this, though they weren’t entirely sure what “transformation” meant. 

But the “Court of Public Opinion” was in full session inside the team itself…

What I saw immediately in our first morning session together was a certain level of suppression in how they interacted with each other.

When someone spoke, it was as though they were speaking in court—in fact, it was the Court of Public Opinion. In different degrees, each person was trying to be pleasing, to be approved of, to not look foolish, to appear loyal.

The president was a veteran in their industry. His education had been in finance, so he was at home with the logic of numbers, but when it came to the “human factor” he was in unfamiliar territory. His Achilles Heel was in being judgmental in a subtle, undermining way. People didn’t operate according to the rules of finance and numbers, and when he was frustrated with someone, they knew it. Once he formed a judgement about you, you were “sentenced.” You were “wrong.”

As the leader of this team, he had created an environment of judgement when someone didn’t perform to the level expected. His team adopted this and did the same.

This was “the culture.” The old adage held true: the fish stinks from the head.

Crucial point: the more people believe something to be true (even if it is not), the more real that something seems.

Once the president/team had an opinion about a team member, it was only a matter of time before their results would gradually deteriorate and they would leave or be fired. The mood of the team was caution and fear. It was palpable.

At a strategic level, they also had opinions about what was possible and not possible regarding their future, and the future of the company. Again, these opinions were reality for them. Because they were enculturated in this and used to it, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Almost like a kind of being asleep to what was limiting them.

The Court of Public Opinion was the source of the suppression I saw that first morning.

The Warning Signs and Internal Signals of trouble ahead were everywhere; their invisible— yet noisy— gavels passing judgement. Setting all that to the side, I got them started…

Out of our work together, everyone on the team gradually “woke up.”

They increasingly discovered that their judgements of each other were not necessarily “the truth.” And they saw that their opinions about what was possible in the future were also not “the truth”. They saw that when enough people subscribe to an opinion or point of view, it becomes “solid” like an object. It appears to be “the truth” and has a self-limiting force.

A profound set of “ah-ha” moments set them free. They increasingly gave up judging each other negatively. They started to discover the unique gifts and contributions of each other, the value of each person. They saw that the future was wide open. They began to stand for each other and for what was possible.

We transformed the “Court of Public Opinion” into a Space for New Possibilities.

Over the next 2 years, the company produced miracles in critical measures of performance.

 


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Character. Another View

Character. Another View

The news is filled with violations of morality, ethics, and the law. We are left shocked, dismayed, and confused.

What is at the root of this behavior? Are some people “evil”? I suggest not.

I propose that the source of this has to do with something we all grapple with: personal Character, and these lapses are disintegrations of Character.

So what is Character?

One dimension of Character is integrity—treating our word as our bond.

Another equally crucial dimension is authenticity.

Synonyms for authentic are:

Credible, truthful, factual, real, trustworthy.

In talking, this means honesty—saying it the way it is. Straightforward. In hearing, this means getting exactly what was said as it was expressed and intended, without judging or interpreting or dismissing. Being fully present to what another says.

When we are authentic in communicating, we have a powerful relationship with other people. The basis of our relationship then is truthful, honest, genuine. Even difficult things can be discussed and addressed. Nothing is hidden. There is real connection.

Paradoxically, it seems easier sometimes to not be authentic: not being straight is a better way to get what you want. The irony is that the apparent easier path leads to the kind of headlines we see in the news.

What stops us from practicing authenticity in our daily lives? The pull to be socially accepted, to be admired, to belong, to be liked-loved-approved of. And at times we feel embarrassment and even shame over what we’ve done, or how we feel, or who we are, and want to hide.

Many of us learn beginning in childhood that we must conceal our feelings or thoughts. And so we live an inner life not shared with the world. Thoreau said people “live lives of quiet desperation.”

And so we become estranged from the world, and from our own selves.

The beginning of a quantum leap in happiness, fulfillment, and power in life is to have the courage to say it the way it is. The courage to be real with ourselves and others.

As Shakespeare counseled us in Hamlet,

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

• • •

Barry Pogorel Leadership enables you and your people to produce extraordinary results. Contact us to schedule a confidential conversation.

Character

Character

Each day, our news is filled with shocking revelations of corruption: in sports, entertainment, education, government, healthcare, business, and other fields. The costs are high: severe loss of credibility of institutions/individuals and damage to the personal lives of those people impacted.

What is the root cause of these failures? And what is the solution?

The Japanese speak of kokoro—character, essence, heart, spirit. The Samurai cultivated kokoro in themselves and those they mentored or trained. These breaches of morality, ethics, and law reflect a breakdown in kokoro—in character.

A search in the dictionary finds character associated with uprightness, trustworthiness, incorruptibility, honesty, a state of being whole and complete. Integrity is associated with these same antonyms.

“An individual is whole and complete when their word is whole and complete, and their word is whole and complete when they honor their word,” says Harvard Business School emeritus professor, Michael C. Jensen in an interview that appeared in The Magazine of the Rotman School of Management, Fall 2009. He draws a direct connection between integrity defined in this way and organizational effectiveness and productivity. So too for individuals and teams.

Is your word your bond? Is your team’s word their bond? That is, is it binding? In the daily practice of your work and life, is there consistency between what is said and what is done?

Common remedies are insufficient.

When a baseball player wants to hit a homerun, he doesn’t climb up in the stands where the scoreboard is and manipulate the numbers. He deals with what it takes standing in the batter’s box to powerfully and accurately hit the ball coming at him.

To resolve the root cause of our societal/business problems and to produce a home run in our performance as individuals, teams and organizations, we must deal with what is in the batter’s box of our business and life: our character, and our integrity.

• • •

Barry Pogorel Leadership deals with the root cause of great performance, enabling you and your people to produce extraordinary results. Contact us to schedule a confidential conversation. 

6 Principles of High Performance Teams

6 Principles of High Performance Teams

There is a science to having a high-performance team.

Just as there are laws for how the physical universe works, there are certain laws or principles that determine team effectiveness.

Water molecules require 2 hydrogen atoms and 1 oxygen atom. Anything less, and you do not have water. High performance teams require 6 principles to be in play. If any of these principles are missing, you do not have a high-performance team.

The 6 principles of high-performance teams are
    1. Team members need to hear others—peers, reports, customers. Hearing means understanding what another says without judgement, without opinion. Getting exactly what they are saying. Ok to consider, judge and evaluate later—but first, hear it untampered so that the other knows you heard them fully.
    2. Genuine speaking—say it the way it is. Respectful always, but completely straightforward. Honest. Not held back.
    3. Each team member’s word is their bond. They do what they said they would do and hold others to what those others said they would do.
    4. Just as you want your favorite sports team to win, you want your colleagues on your team to win in their respective roles.
    5. Verbal recognition of other team members for what they accomplish and for what they contribute to the team and organization.
    6. Having a shared vision for the future—aligned on intentions and goals.
The benefits of having these principles alive in the behavior of a team are
    • A leap in results by both the team as a whole, and (interestingly) the individual members
    • Trust and connection
    • Greater well-being, ease, reduction in stress, happiness
    • The foundation for a high-performance culture

Easy to say, not so easy to do.

Barry Pogorel Leadership brings these principles alive in the daily functioning of teams so that they achieve what they are committed to, and beyond.

A Butterfly Is Not a Better Caterpillar

A Butterfly Is Not a Better Caterpillar

The words “change” and “transformation” are regularly used interchangeably. Transformation is often considered a big change.

This conflation—collapsing together of two terms—conceals an enormous, difference-making possibility.

Numerous surveys of senior executives across industries indicate that 60-80% of transformational/change initiatives) fail, do not fully deliver, or sometimes make matters worse. 

Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, a 19th century French writer, composed this epigram:

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Why? Because changing something does not always get to the underlying issue.

Improvement is an example of change. It is a kind of extension of what has already existed. For example, getting better means better compared to what has been or already exists. So Karr’s epigram asserts that improving is somehow giving us more of the same in a certain way.

What is “transformation”?

Dictionary.com: “…change in form, appearance, nature, or character…” As is generally done, this definition collapses change and transformation. Let’s separate the two:

A change in form and appearance is very different from a change in nature, or character. Changing form or appearance does not get to the root or source. Sometimes reorganization, removing a particular person or team, reengineering, instituting a best practice—can produce incremental improvement (sometimes temporarily, and sometimes can make matters worse). But do these actions get to the root or source of an issue? Likewise, changing yourself as a leader—changing style, technique, strategy, emulating a well-known leader—can yield improvement. But does it fundamentally alter who you are and your power to lead?

Transformation is a different order of things.

Transformation deals with nature or character—of ourselves, our teams, our culture/organization. A synonym is “metamorphosis.” A butterfly is not an improved caterpillar. It is an entirely new creature, with possibilities that a caterpillar could never dream of.

The Wright Brothers’ flight, the invention of the American democracy, Einstein’s conceptions of the universe, great art, brilliant entrepreneurship and leadership—these all are expressions of transformation. Creating and realizing entirely new possibilities.

My work is a rigorous technology for causing the transformation of individuals, groups, and organizations so that they can create and realize wholly new possibilities, and achieve what was previously impossible.

Dictionary.com: “transformation…from the ancient Greek:  tekhnē =art, skill + lógos= rational principle that governs and develops the universe.”

The process begins by asking, “What is possible for myself, for my organization? Not what is predictable—not what would be an improvement on what now exists—but rather what might be possible?”

You have to put aside the “it can’t be done”, “it’s impossible”, “we tried that before”, “no one’s ever done it”, “what if we fail?”

You have to put the past aside, and open up to the question “What might be possible?”

• • •

Barry Pogorel consults executives to transform their organizations, to make happen what could not happen, and change the world. He is president of Barry Pogorel Inc., a consultancy for leaders worldwide.

Don’t Fight the River

Don’t Fight the River

A friend of mine shared the following story with me:

“I was travelling some years ago in Costa Rica. My travelling companions and I decided to go white-water rafting on the Pacuare River. For those who know this sport, the Pacuare is a Class IV river.

It was spectacular—breathtaking—almost surreal in its beauty. After floating peacefully along for some time, at one point, several of us decided to jump into the water for a swim. It was warm! Delighted, we swam back and forth for a time. Pretty quickly, however, the current was getting stronger, the water more turbulent, than we had anticipated when sitting in the boat. The Pacuare was gurgling in white-water.

The boat’s captain was yelling at us—we could see his facial expression and his waving hands directing us to come back, but we couldn’t hear him given the turbulence of the river. And the current was strong enough that it held us back from being able to get back to the boat. After about 10 minutes of floating downstream, we suddenly saw large boulders up ahead, right in the middle of the river. They did not look inviting.

Several of my swimming team members panicked, struggling frantically to avoid running into the rocks. Others of us after a short struggle with the river somehow got the message that the river was more powerful than we were and that fighting it was completely futile, so we let go into the flow of the river, allowing it to carry us. This definitely took some courage, putting ourselves in the hands of this mighty river.

Amazingly, those who did not fight the river found that they could maneuver in the current with slight hand and arm motions, easily being carried around the rocks, while our less lucky team members who fought the river went directly into the rocks.

Fortunately, everyone survived, albeit some with bruises and scrapes.”

Lesson: if you are present and see the forces around you, sometimes rather than fighting them, you can work with them to get where you want to go.

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