Thursday, 18 February 2010


Strategy Delegation and Motivation

Barely half of senior managers are excited by their own business strategies.

Are your people skills weak? Are you out of touch with the needs and feelings of customers? Are you infuriated by dissent? According to an article in the Director magazine, if you answered, “yes” to these questions, congratulations, you’re a perfect candidate to craft business strategies in the world today.

“Business strategy is often conceived in an ivory tower by top executives and then handed down in tablets of stone for middle management to implement,” claims the article. “But, because the strategy is not grounded in the reality of the business and lacks ‘emotional edge,’ the rest of the organisation neither believes in it nor engages with it. So it's not surprising that only 19 per cent of corporate strategies achieve their objectives, according to new research among more than 1,600 top, senior and mid-level managers in public and private sector organizations.”

This article also points out the only 25 percent of executives themselves are excited or motivated by the strategies they create and just 28 percent of senior leaders are engaged by their strategies.

If this is the perception that senior executives have of their own business strategies, how can they expect middle management and employees to be motivated by them, embrace them or wholeheartedly implement them? Delegation of goals that are not fully “owned” is a recipe for mediocrity or failure.

Based on the statistics above, is it any wonder that 81 percent of strategies fail to achieve their objectives?

You can read it here

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Relevant topics: Strategy, Motivation, Delegation

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Change Management

Change management, transformational leadership, business transformation

Have you spotted the replacement for your company yet?

I stumbled upon a fascinating article about change management the other day from 2007. I was struck by the power of the message which reminds us just how quickly new companies can arrive and how quickly they can take over and even dominate an industry. When the article was written, I wonder if anyone had hear the names Twitter, Squidoo, Technorati and many other household names that exist today? What may be even more fascinating would be to hear if any of the business ideas mentioned in this article ever took off themselves?

In a training video presentation, the famous leadership trainer Bob Johnson warned that, as leaders, “We have to find a better way to do things. If we don’t our competition will.”

As proof that this warning may be becoming a reality – right now – in several industries (including maybe your own), consider the following four examples profiled in the August 22 2007 edition of Business 2.0 magazine:

Startup wants to make power plants obsolete. Do you realize that almost two-thirds of energy produced in the conversion of fuel into kilowatts is lost as heat? Now, a company called Bloom Energy is taking solid-oxide fuel cells – a concept that been around since the 19th century – and using it to create more efficient, cleaner and more localized power production that can run on a variety of fuel sources, including ethanol, biodiesel, methane and natural gas. While making large, inefficient power plants obsolete, many experts also predict that this development could bring more affordable, more reliable power to developing countries and remote villages around the world.

Tired of car and insurance payments, fuel costs and auto maintenance? New firm has left a fleet of cars parked around town; use one of theirs instead. A company called Zipcar is out to prove that you no longer need an automobile. The firm has a fleet of 3,000 hip cars scattered throughout 23 dense urban areas – including London, Boston, New York and Vancouver – that subscribers can locate via the Web and use 24 hours per day for a $50 annual membership and $8 - $15 per hour. The firm already has more than 100,000 members and more than $60 million in annual revenue this year.

Who says that old dinosaurs can’t learn new tricks? If you thought that digital photography killed the old Polaroid camera company, think again. Housed in an old Polaroid R&D facility in Massachusetts is a little spin-off – with big plans – called Zink, which stands for “zero ink.” Zink wants to turn your cell phone, laptop or TV into a high-end color printer.

Think there’s a market for a $176 laptop that uses 90 percent less electricity than today’s models? While a “do-gooder” named Nicholas Negroponte set out to create computers for Third World kids, his invention, which relies on something called Wi-Fi mesh networks, just may transform personal computing for the entire world.

Remember Bob Johnson’s warning that, if we don’t find a better way to do things, our competition will. Maybe they already have. You can read the full story here.

Please do let us know if you have come across (or worked for) any of these 4 innovative companies? Did their dreams (and other peoples nightmares) ever come true?

Topics relevant to this article include change management business transformation, transformational leadership

Recommended Reading:

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

How to achieve a Work-Life Balance

Here's a great leadership tip for anyone in a management position who finds themselves working too hard.

A column appearing in the The Wall Street Journal makes a strong case that effective managers aren’t necessarily the people who work longer hours. In fact, the article argues that one of the tell-tale signs of effective management is that people might actually work less. Many managers and leaders are being swamped by an ever-increasing workload and the pressure to balance work and family commitments. The constant battle to achieve more with less can only be achieved by making some definitive decisions.

“New research suggests some have reached the point where a paradoxical truth applies: To get more done, we need to stop working so much,” claims this article.

Citing the results of a groundbreaking four-year study to be published in The Harvard Business Review, this column claims that scheduling purposeful time away from work responsibilities, “forced teams to communicate better, share more personal information and forge closer relationships.”

It’s important to note that two of the firms profiled in the study are top-performers Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and professional services firm KPMG. Originally, BCG executives virtually had to threaten employees in the study to take time off.  By the end of the study, the firm was so pleased with the performance improvement from this initiative that it is rolling out similar efforts in other groups. “It really changes how we do our work,” said a senior BCG partner.

“Amid layoffs and burgeoning workloads, it seems, working any time, all the time, has become a habit,” shares this Wall Street Journal article. “A survey of 605 U.S. workers by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 70% of employees work beyond scheduled time and on weekends; more than half blame ‘self-imposed pressure.’”

The article also introduces an interesting differentiator in workplace efficiency between “good intensity work” – that positive “buzz” you get from constant learning and involvement – and “bad intensity work” – which is the negative feeling you get from never having time away from your job, from foggy priorities or a lack of control over your life.

“Setting limits on work motivates people to work smarter,” claims the article.

Terms relevant to this article: Leadership tips, management skills, staff productivity, time management, prioritisation, prioritization GVHCAJGCMKFW

Recommended Reading:

Monday, 15 February 2010

Management Training Continues

Management attitudes to training:

76% of Canadian senior executives say their training budgets are unchanged – or increased – from 2008

An article appearing in the August 13 edition of Canadian business development publication Exchange magazine claims that while 23% of executives admit that training budgets have been reduced this year, 45% of senior execs claim their training budgets are unchanged, while 21% say their development budget has “expanded somewhat” or has “expanded significantly” (reported by 10% of survey respondents).

Selected Management Training/ Leadership Quotes:

“Knowledge is like a garden; if it is not cultivated, it cannot be harvested.” - African Proverb

“In this economy, you need to take advantage of every available resource to propel your career. Finding a mentor – and preferably a network of mentors – is an easy and smart way to get started.” – Source: An article titled “Pile on Mentors in Tough Times” published in The Wall Street Journal, October 6, 2009

Topics relevant to this article include: leadership development, management training, training budgets, training, mentoring

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Staff Motivation Drops

Article shows there has been a big drop in staff motivation and morale.
If you are looking for a way to boost morale as part of your own leadership development, then this leadership tip will be extremely helpful.

An article published recently by CNN finds that as tougher economic conditions have led to increased workloads for less pay, employee morale has dropped sharply.

“Forty percent of employees at organizations affected by layoffs say productivity has been negatively impacted,” claims the article. “Of those 40%, two-thirds of them say that morale is suffering and that employees are less motivated than before.”

What’s concerning businesses most about this trend, however, is the corresponding impact these falling attitudes are having on corporate productivity and performance.

"The risk here is the organization's financial health," said business author Roxanne Emmerich in the article. "Employee morale is the leading predictor of future growth and profitability."

In the article, Emmerich predicts that at some point, employers will have to do more to incentivize employees. She recommends rewards that tie into the company's vision and values, but that are not necessarily monetary. "People just want to be recognized for the most part," she said.

You can read the full story here

Subject matter of this article includes: staff motivation, morale, Leadership tips, leadership development, management training

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Sunday, 14 February 2010

Management Development

Have you ever wondered if you are getting a good return on the money you are spending on management development?

Despite the billions of dollars, euros, and yen invested in coaching and management development, remarkably few executives can be regarded as skillful managers,” says Gill Corkindale, the former management editor of The Financial Times. In a posting on a Harvard Business School blog, Corkindale asks readers how this reality is possible.

Answering her own question, Corkindale offers two reasons, saying, “It's my guess that the majority of managers with responsibility for large teams and significant businesses either do not possess the requisite skills of a manager — or they just don't put them (new skills learned) into practice.”

Corkindale then proposes three reasons why executives fail to apply the leadership development skills they learn, including lack of time, budget constraints and the reality that, “behavioural change is difficult.”

Next, Corkindale proceeds to share some of the rules she recommends to help ensure that new managerial development skills are applied, including being open to experimentation and new ideas in learning, trusting that the learning will help, and committing to the plan for a minimum of six months. She also outlines five of the key development areas that she recommends for executives.

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Magic Wheel videos

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Qualities of Leadership

Leadership Tip: Qualities of Leadership

For people who wonder about what are the qualities of leadership the following research may be interesting.

”Our team (at Gallup) initiated a study of more than 10,000 followers around the world. In this study, we asked followers to tell us – in their own words – why they follow the most influential leader in their life. Three key findings emerged from this research: 1. The most effective leaders are always investing in strengths. In the workplace, when an organization’s leadership fails to focus on individuals’ strengths, the odds of an employee being engaged are a dismal 1 in 11 (9%). But when an organization’s leadership focuses on the strengths of its employees, the odds soar to almost 3 in 4 (73%). So that means when leaders focus on and invest in their employees’ strengths, the odds of each person being engaged goes up eightfold.” – Source: Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath & Barry Conchie

The moral of the story? Focus on the strengths of your people and make this your main focus.

Recommended Reading:

Staff Motivation

Sometimes the best way to deal with workplace mistakes is to honor them

On the subjects of staff motivation and leaderships, an article published in Volume 26, Issue #3 of the Journal of Business Strategy shares that a BMW plant in Regensburg, Germany enacted a successful program between 1990 and 1993 where employees could nominate colleagues who had come up with clever ideas that, despite thorough testing, failed to work. Nominees then got the opportunity to discuss their creative failure and win a prize, such as a fine bottle of wine.  According to the article, this program was successful in building a culture of innovation and creative thinking and trial without glorifying routine, unhelpful errors.

Key Terms for this article: motivation, staff motivation, incentives

Recommended Reading:

Middle Management

When storms hit, middle managers stand in the gap

Why is it important to grow the leadership and management skills of middle managers and aspiring, young leaders?  We see this question answered beautifully in a September 19 Wall Street Journal column by Carol Hymowitz just a few years ago.

When Hurricane Katrina caused a five-mile stretch of railroad tracks connecting New Orleans and Slidell, La. to fall into Lake Pontchartrain, Norfolk Southern couldn’t transport badly needed products from the East Coast to the Pacific. 

And it wasn’t a CEO who saved the day.

Before the storm hit, Jeff McCracken, a chief engineer in Atlanta, prepared the materials he thought he might need for repairs and he readied 100 employees to help. After the storm, the team responded quickly, removing 5,000 trees from roads.  Then, when he discovered that the railroad tracks had fallen into the lake, McCracken gathered 365 engineers, machine operators and other workers and devised a creative plan to rescue the fallen tracks from the lake, rather than wait several weeks to build new tracks. The crew even slept in campers on site and worked in shifts around the clock to restore the rail line. Two weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit, the damaged tracks were repaired and returned to full service.

“CEOs who feel under particular pressure from investors these days need to relinquish their imperious status or they'll end up having power taken away from them,” claims the article. “CEOs who don't want upheaval among their rank and file should take note of one big change in the job market. Ambitious and talented middle managers have more opportunities to land new positions now than they've had in the past five years. Retaining them may require giving up some big corner-office compensation increases to improve their salaries.”

It would seem that growing and training middle managers when the business climate is good helps to ensure that they’ll be prepared to weather the storms when they inevitably hit. And investing in the development of middle management is also a terrific way for executives to ensure that the storms that hit aren’t caused by their own doing.

Leadership, middle management, management training

Recommended Reading

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Friday, 12 February 2010

Businesses Mismanage Communication and Promotion

One-third of middle managers say their organizations are mismanaged.
Perhaps its time for leadership at the top of our organisations. Middle managers are continuing to feel under-informed about key organisation issues that affect them and their staff.

An article appearing in the November 8 issue of Chief Learning Officer newsletter (and based on a recent research study) claims that, “middle managers are increasingly dissatisfied with their current organizations, believe their organizations are mismanaged, and see few prospects for advancement.”

Here are some other excerpts from this article:

“Only 28 percent rated the way their organizations manage prospects for advancement as good or excellent.”

“Only 31 percent said their companies were good or excellent at helping them communicate bad news.”

“Only about one-third of respondents reported that their companies were good or excellent at managing: compensation, flexible work arrangements, communications between supervisors and subordinates, and training and development (33 percent, 34 percent, 37 percent and 37 percent, respectively).”

“When asked about the most frustrating aspects of their jobs, the greatest number of respondents -- 47 percent -- cited compensation issues, followed by balancing work and personal time, the feeling that they do the bulk of the work and don't receive the appropriate credit, and having no clear career path (chosen by 40 percent, 38 percent and 35 percent, respectively).”

"Reinventing the role of middle managers will be critical to this effort, particularly as increasing numbers of employees look toward retirement. Creating positive environments for employees to succeed will be a critical factor for winning in the marketplace."

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Leadership Tip - How To Avoid Recruitment Mistakes

The greatest hiring and recruiting mistake might be not recruiting at all

A column in The Wall Street Journal claimed that managers have been working so hard for so long with so few workers that they have forgotten the importance of searching for and recruiting new talent. A few years later, the view could not be more true. How does one achieve leadership in recruitment? Here are some excerpts from this article:
“How can companies improve their recruiting efforts? To begin, chief executives who know this is a business priority must make sure managers regularly step away from their day-to-day duties to meet new talent -- whether or not they have an immediate job to fill.”

“Managers in charge are working under such pressure to deliver the product ahead of competitors that they have no time to recruit. ‘So they're digging themselves deeper and deeper into a hole, trying to get people inside to lend a hand, when they need outside candidates with different skills.’”

Small business owners claim that attitude is 106% more important in recruitment decisions than occupational skills

Leadership: A survey of small business owners by the National Federation of Independent Business found that 66% of respondents believe that a good attitude and work habits are the most important factors they consider when evaluating new hires, followed by the ability to follow directions at 63%. Occupational skills were a requirement among only 30% of respondents.

Speakers like Zig Ziglar who present publicly about leadership have been telling us for many years the importanc of attitude in the recruitment process.

About 61% of leaders polled said that a fellow employee will work with new hires to teach required skills, while 11% send workers to a course or seminar. After one year, however, 90% of owners claim that they will continue to invest in training and the top source of this training shifts to sending people outside the business.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Leadership - Performance Appraisal Disaster

Here are some more great tips for anyone wanting to progress in leadership. Recognise these pitfalls and commit to doing something different in your organisation! Leadership is about leading people. Performance appraisals (performance reviews) are a great tool to help with this task.

Studies conclude that most performance appraisals are an abysmal failure, leading workers to view HR Departments as failures as well.

A 2005 survey of 48,012 employees, managers and CEOs in 126 companies found that only 13 percent of employees and managers – and only 6 percent of CEOs – believe that their performance appraisals are useful. In addition, an astounding 88 percent of respondents said that their current performance appraisal system negatively impacts how they view their HR department. Here are some excerpts from a news release about this study:

• Only 18 percent of people in the survey said that their performance appraisal system effectively differentiates between high and low performers.

• 42 percent of respondents said that the comments they receive from their managers on their performance appraisals are too generic.

• Only 13 percent of employees believe that their manager has an effective method for tracking and recording performance-related events and items.

Click Here read more from this article


The Complete Guide to Performance Appraisal

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Leadership - Most Companies Are Lousy At Developing It..........

Most companies…and their CEOs…are “lousy” at leadership development, says a Fortune magazine article. A feature story appearing in the January 25 edition of Fortune magazine claims that, “Top talent has never been more valuable, nor competition for it more fierce.” This article claims that the competition for top managerial performers makes it imperative that companies get, “serious about growing their own leaders.” Here are some other excerpts from this article:

• “Even amid today's massive new supplies of talent, there isn't nearly enough of the very best stuff. Even in China, where you can hire factory workers by the million, companies can't find enough managers. ‘They're constantly getting stolen away,’ says Tom Johnson, former CEO of Chesapeake Corp., a packaging maker with a plant in China. ‘Labor is abundant, but management is scarce.’”

• “The No. 1 skill companies seek in managers is ‘ability to motivate and engage others.’ Ranking a close second is ability to communicate, a trait Neff's clients also increasingly want. How many people with those qualities are you likely to find if you just go out looking? The depressing answer -- not many -- is why many companies are getting serious about growing their own leaders.”

• “Most companies aren’t very good at leadership development.”

• “Companies increasingly realize their pipeline is broken: In that survey from Right (Management Consultants), 77 percent of companies say they don't have enough successors to their current senior managers. Yet they have a miserable time doing much about it.”

• “Sponsorship from the top is key. Not many bosses will match the 70 percent of his time that Jack Welch says he put into development when he was running GE… When a company says it's getting serious about management development, I say great -- just let me see the CEO's calendar"

Great Leadership Quotes

“Management is about human beings. Its task is to make people capable of joint performance, to make their strengths effective and their weaknesses irrelevant.” - Peter Drucker

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the United States

Leadership - Best Companies to Work For - No Secrets

From a leadership point of view, what makes a company great to worl for? AFortune magazine reporter goes undercover at “Best Companies To Work For” and makes a fascinating discovery: their success secrets are things you can do, too.

For his article in Fortune magazine, Daniel Roth took jobs at four of the leading firms ranked on Fortune’s annual “Best Companies to Work For” list, just to personally experience what makes these companies so special. What Roth learned may provide some interesting lessons for you and your company. Here are some excerpts from this article and from firms where Roth worked:
“Most of the things that make a workplace great turn out to cost employers absolutely nothing. Next, a great workplace benefits more than just employees: Over the past five years the stocks of the four companies I worked at trounced the market, up a compounded 24% vs. the S&P's 1% gain.”

“Most of the things that make a workplace great turn out to cost employers absolutely nothing. Next, a great workplace benefits more than just employees: Over the past five years the stocks of the four companies I worked at trounced the market, up a compounded 24% vs. the S&P's 1% gain.”

Four Seasons Hotel. “The Four Seasons wants its staff to be relaxed, regular people, so they're given leeway to do what they think is right…I'm out working the door with Endale Tessema. Tessema, 48, has been with the hotel for 23 years, yet he's still the rookie of the four-person doorman staff. He says he can recognize by name thousands of people who have stayed at the hotel over his decades. He does pretty much as he pleases--no canned speeches, no formal way of opening the door or lugging the luggage. He just makes it up as he goes, and he says the people in charge learn from him. ‘The managers, instead of coming in and imposing things on me, they come in and learn how things work,’ he says. ‘If they want to change it, they'll change it later. They have to learn first.’"

FedEx. “For all FedEx's clock-watching and efficiency, the company is remarkably hands-off…A $1,000 investment in FedEx when it went public in 1978 would now be worth $106,000. And while a ballooning 401(k) is one powerful tool for retaining employees, what keeps Cava happy is the fact that he's expected to decide what's right with his day.”

Hot Topic. Hot Topic is a, “chain of over 650 mall stores that sell rock- and pop-culture clothes, music, and jewelry to teens, preteens, and the moms who control the credit cards.” The company will total $720 million in sales this year…”Hot Topic makes its employees the first responders of cool--a task that suddenly gives some real importance to what could be a tedious job. Employees are expected to call buyers with tips, access that is almost unheard of in retail. That makes the salespeople feel as though they're not just selling products, but picking them. It also gives them a bit of attitude about inventory.”

“The shock of my four (job) stints wasn't that these companies were so extraordinary, but that other companies can't--or just don't--do the simple things that make employees happy. Forget brain surgery; this is barely baking-soda-volcano science. At every stop my fellow workers talked about bosses either leaving them alone or being there for them. They discussed work-life balance, stock options, and sick days.”

Click Here to read this article

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Leadership - Why Most firms don't align Business Goals with Measurable Results

One of the biggest challeenges in Leadership is to align business goals with measurable results. And eighty eight percent of firms are not able to align business goals with measurable results, says a recent study.

A survey of 800 training and development professionals by The Ken Blanchard Companies found that escalating customer demands, customer relationship skills, team building, and creating management and executive bench strength are the biggest challenges in business today. In addition, 88 percent of respondents in this study reported that their organization is limited or not successful at all at aligning business goals to measurable business results. You can link to an article about this study here:

Click Here to read this article