On Leadership and The Crisis Moment of a Decision

Decision Making
Recently I became acquainted with a leader serving an interim position. 

“Interim” positions are always difficult, both for the organization as well as the person filling the temporary role.

Leading in the Moment

I have been an interim leader twice in my career, and so I fully appreciate the transient-feel of the role. By definition, the person must keep things going and serve as a leader in the moment, yet very few interim leaders I have known feel comfortable enough to make a l decision impacting long-term on the basis that the assignment is short-term.

I was the opposite:

While I was “interim,” I felt a strong responsibility to act decisively and make decisions that would impact short and long-term gains, but most “Interims” I have known do not feel this way.

A Wobbly Interim

My recent acquaintance is one such leader.  So far, 100% for 100%, when a decision has come up or just before a final deadline, I have been on the sidelines watching the Interim choke, hyperventilate, paralyze, and hold up progress while everyone looks in bewilderment for a reason for such a slow-down.

This person shares strong opinions openly, a range of criticisms (some that have improved certain areas exponentially), and strong views about nearly everything—even pop culture.  Technically he has most of what is needed for the role, and when he is focused on an area that area gets an enormous amount of valuable support.

All of this and yet I haven’t seen any real leadership-level decision come about, at least not without a painful journey by all who surround him.

We all know this type of person. And he is not the first I have encountered. So it got me thinking: “Why?”

What Drives a Decision?

I chuckle at the sound of “making a decision.”  I joke that it is really about “concluding a decision,” if that makes any sense at all.  There are so may things that go into the process of decision-making, and the study of this topic could keep anyone up for days.

Just Bing “The Anatomy of a Decision” and you will see what I mean.

Each resource always mentions the various steps to decision-making, from gathering information to assessing various outcomes, blah blah blah.

Case in Point

The one I like the most, though, is from Fordham Law Review (1984) where Judge Irving R. Kaufman takes on the decision-making topic in a most interesting fashion.

If you look at Judge Kaufman’s time as a Federal Judge for the United States, he was involved in some of the most interesting cases in the 20th century, from the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg case to his rejection of the government’s attempt to deport musician John Lennon.  Most of us will never know the pressure of making a decision at that level.

Most of us will never make decisions at that level, either.

And even more of us will never think too long about how we might make a decision or how much will go into it: we either make one, stall out, or reluctantly finally get around to it.

Easier Said Than Done – For Some

Sure, some would argue that a simply Myers Briggs will help us (face it, some are more comfortable with making decisions than others), but the truth is that decision-making is far more than just a matter of innate preference for closure or commitment, as Myers Briggs or any Jung-type assessment would suggest.

Judge Kaufman’s decisions, for example, had far-reaching implications—far more than the ones we are generally up against each day: whether an inexpensive training should take place, or if a meeting of senior leaders should include financial business analysis, or what to eat for lunch, for example.

Then how do you do it?

4 Ingredients in Making Decisions 

Of all the resources I have reviewed, and years in my own decision-making (and sometimes decision-deflecting) tenure, four items remain steadfast for decisions, good or bad.

I have marginalized these common items to a fault, but you will get the gist:

1) Facts

Good or bad, the starting point of a decision is what you know and the best decisions are based on hard cold unbiased facts and data points.  Period.

2) Interpretation

This is related to what you do with the facts after you review them, and it is largely based on who prepared the facts, who is telling you the facts, how you like the facts, and whether you believe in them.  This is also when confidence builds up or shuts down.  This is the crisis point of decision-making and usually when leaders (or anyone) realizes whether he or she is up for the task.

3) Guidelines or Governance

After the facts are interpreted, we often have guidelines or governance that will help us along the way… and sometimes not so much.  If we interpret that a project will be late based on all the facts, various project rules will require us to escalate immediately.  Black and white, yet not always done for a number of reasons.  This goes to the next item:

4) Courage

Defined in The Free Dictionary as “the state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution; bravery.”  Yes, leadership always goes back to Courage, doesn’t it?  And when all is said and done, when it comes to decisions (particularly the difficult and ethically based ones), this is really the one that will galvanize what people remember the most.

So what are some of your thoughts of recent events around the globe?  How do leaders around the world make decisions?  What are the basis points for your decisions? I would love to hear your thoughts!

**********

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Christa Dhimo
Christa Dhimo is President & Founder, via Best Practices
She helps clients by aligning human capital performance with business results

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Hey Leaders: Get Curious!

Being Curious

What does “curious” mean?  (Exactly.)

“Curious.”  It’s a strange word.

If you read it over and over it doesn’t look like how it sounds, and it barely resembles what it means.  It isn’t an adjective describing something like a cure unless you refer to a fascination (“I thought the anecdote was curious myself”), and it isn’t a conjugated verb tense when referring to radioactive units of measurement:

1 Curie, 2 Curie-um, 3 Curious…

So What is “Curious?”

The Free Dictionary defines “curious” as:

cu·ri·ous [kyoor-ee-uhs]

  1. Eager to learn more: curious investigators; a trapdoor that made me curious.
  2. Unduly inquisitive; prying.
  3. Arousing interest because of novelty or strangeness: a curious fact.
  4. Archaic: Accomplished with skill or ingenuity OR Extremely careful; scrupulous.

And of course many of us in the USA have been touched by NASA’s Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory character on Mars for which this blog is namesaked.

But wait!  There’s more…

Curiosity Saved the Cat

Yes, I know, I know… you probably have heard that “Curiosity Killed the Cat“… But my version is more true than the original saying.

Anyone who’s owned a cat or even observed one knows that a cat is at least 80% curious during its few waking hours. The fact that the average domestic cat lives 12-14 years easily tells me that curiosity hardly “kills” a cat.

If it did, their lifespans would probably be closer to 6 months.

And so with that logic, curiosity and the characteristics that often come with it (tenacity, patience, resourcefulness, imaginative, solution-driven, etc) can lead to survival, utmost achievement, and a perpetuation of “living” that might be unparalleled to any other characteristic.

So why don’t we hear about more leaders being described as CURIOUS?

What led to my achievement?

“Oh that’s easy: I AM CURIOUS…”

When I was asked what has led to my achievement, my response was that I am curious. With my answer, all eyebrows went up as their complementary blank stares bore into my soul.  I felt compelled to say, “Nah, I’m just kidding!” so that I could move on to a far more lofty answer, the one they seemed to have expected in contrast to my simple adjective.

But… “curious” isn’t  a simplistic answer AT ALL. And it is almost never easy. I think it’s just underestimated, as though any fool can do it and do it well.

But let me tell you, being curious is anything but simplistic or something that handled well by fools.

Getting More Curious

And so I got curious.  Again.

And this raises some questions:

  • Why aren’t we getting back to basics when it comes to linking leadership traits and success traits?
  • During these times when companies are struggling to work differently, how many truly struggle because leadership cannot embrace a new way of thinking?
  • How many truly struggle because they have lost the wonderment of asking curious questions?
  • How many truly struggle because they have lost the imagination that got them into position in the first place?

Braniac is As Brainiac Does

Good ‘ol Albert Einstein said it best when he said…

“I am not more gifted than the average human being. If you know anything about history, you would know that is so–what hard times I had in studying and the fact that I do not have a memory like some other people do… I am just more curious than the average person and I will not give up on a problem until I have found the proper solution.

This is one of my greatest satisfactions in life–solving problems–and the harder they are, the more satisfaction do I get out of them.

Maybe you could consider me a bit more patient in continuing with my problem than is the average human being.

Now, if you understand what I have just told you, you see that it is not a matter of being more gifted but a matter of being more curious and maybe more patient until you solve a problem.”  ~ Albert Einstein, as listed in goodreads.com for “curiousity”)

Question, question, question… and Get Curious

And so as I leave you with those words, ask yourself how curious you let yourself get throughout the day?  How much do you allow yourself and enable yourself to ask questions and find everyday things interesting?  Just curious… what’s stopping you?

**********

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Christa Dhimo
Christa Dhimo is President & Founder, via Best Practices
She helps clients by aligning human capital performance with business results

Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | Bing Search

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Change According to Netflix Founder: “It’s Hard”

Qwikster

Brand strategy. Loyal customer bases. Steadfast CEOs. Comfort. Consistency. Memorability. Apple.  McDonald’s. Netfli…(a needle scratches off a record… um, I mean, the mp3 player crashes…)

Belated Response?

The Netflix Debacle

It might seem like I’m a little late in writing about this topic because it has been a couple of months since I got the email from Netflix founder Reed Hastings, that his movie rental company was breaking up with me.

Well, ok, it was more like an ultimatum.  Either I go with their digital streaming option or I’m history…

Then, just as my tears dried up and I was ready to come to terms with my flawed still-prefer-DVDs-to-streaming-way-of-watching-movies (or maybe I wouldn’t if they had more than my favorites from the 80s??), I got a make-up letter from Mr. Reed’s staff.

Yes, that’s right.  Reed broke up with me, but his “Netflix staff” did their best to give me a “Whoops… I am so sorry” note.

Leadership at Its Best, Take One

It’s only now that I’m able to talk about it, mostly because a month ago Reed admitted that his decision was hard to justify.. and that the new DVD site split from Netflix (Qwikster) became “the symbol of Netflix not listening.”

It’s taken me the last few weeks to consider the following about my video service provider:

“So… what would lead me to believe that Netflix is listening now?”

An Explanation and Some Reflection

The truth is that I’m just not what Netflix is looking for. And as my heart heals and my dignity begins to grow again, I’ve come to terms with how outdated I am in all of my DVD-rental splendor.  I get it.  Netflix wanted to grow with the times, needed to seek out new customers, yearned for the existing streaming users to grow with.

But their new fling just isn’t with me…

Digital Confessions…

Okay… I admit it… I once dabbled in digital foreplay with the new kid on the block; I was once a streaming user for a time… He was interesting, cute, and fresh… But with all of the interruptions in the service delivery and only half the new movies on the digital shelf… I just couldn’t keep up.

Oh yeah, and the 100% price increase to keep on board was a little hard on me, too.

Seems it was hard on a lot of people. And now it’s hard on Netflix.

Leadership at Its Best, Take Two

“Change is hard.” 

That’s what Reed told me.  I once fancied myself a ‘Change Management’ expert, but he had my number on this one.  I needed to change.  Me.  The consumer.  I needed to change if I were to remain a loyal customer.  Leadership at its best, take three.

Change is Really About Leadership

I reached down deep, though, and mustered the strength… I thought “No,” as the great William Bridges says:

“Change isn’t hard– TRANSITION is hard.  For me, harder yet is when you don’t have the right leadership to lead you through it.”

Leadership Jobs

Let’s face it, folks: change can be easy and very enjoyable.  Steve Jobs (Rest in Peace), did a pretty great job leading us through change.  Put the product strategy and rollout mumbo-jumbo away.

What he and his company did and still do very well is all about change management:

  • Using technology
  • Connecting with people
  • Buying music and media
  • Learning and USING media
  • Exploring our artistic sides again
  • Getting into global markets that were once considered unreachable for media

An Apple A Day

Apple doesn’t just market product sor make products for the consumer…

“The number one impact Apple has on the world is about change.”

Shoot!  They have us so good at change that we can’t WAIT for the next change, and people actually buy new versions almost every year!  Economically sound?  Heck NO!  Embraced with all of our hearts and souls?  Heck YES!  Change isn’t hard with Apple, it’s their growth strategy and we’re WITH them on it! 

LEADERSHIP AT ITS BEST- FIRST AND FINAL TAKE !

And what about McDonald’s?  Ah, McDonald’s… they love us for who we are, and let’s face it– over a billion people for years and years love them for who they are.  They built their entire brand on decades of steady-eddy food that became addictions all over the world.

Deep down we didn’t want them to change, but we knew it would be better for us if they did.  They didn’t want to change.  For them, change was hard.

But we held strong: We said:

“You have to change McDonald’s; we love you and need you to change with us!” 

What did they say back?

We’re changing together.” 

Together.  Jim Skinner would never ask me to change my ways in order for me to stay loyal. And he’d certainly never dump me by email without even following up with a news circuit rotation to ease my pain and provide additional support.

Instead he and his leadership team are leading their mammoth organization through significant change.   

LEADERSHIP AT ITS BEST- FIRST AND FINAL TAKE !

And so, Reed, I’m doing OK.  I know we had a good thing while it lasted, but  I understand now that you wanted more.  Things weren’t working as well for you as they were for me.

But I must ask:

“With so many other leaders finding their way of leading their consumer-mates through change and doing it pretty well, what happened?”

Why is steadfast, prominent, and visible leadership so important during times of change?  What should leaders hold themselves accountable for during transitions that impact their customers?  How can the way change is communicated impact a customer’s perception?  Do you think timely and consistent messaging is important during transition?  Why? I would love to hear your response!

**********

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Christa (Centola) Dhimo is President & Founder, via Best Practices
She helps clients by aligning human capital performance with business results

Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog

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Hope Actually IS a Strategy (Part 2)

Hope One Way

It took me three months.  Just one quarter.  Only twelve weeks.  I’m back.  My social experiment is over, and my conclusion is: Hope still lives, albeit on a fairly powerful respirator.

In my last blog, I shared that it was getting harder to write monthly… (apologizing for the no-post May,) I wrote that:

“My shelves were empty, my inspiration went desert, my fun balloon shot around the room of my head like a firefly in July.” As I said, “The machine” got tired.

So What’s Next?

So what did I do? 

  • I wrote about Hope.
  • I asked about a social experiment, and I was surprised to be able to actually conduct one.
  • I wrote less and reached out more.
  • I posed a question to several people in my network and studied the answers for the summer.

There was no real scientific method, I didn’t quantify the results and bucket them while validating against multiple sources.  All I did was ask roughly 100 people this question:

What keeps you looking forward?

It was asked with the backdrop of sparking or maintaining HOPE in today’s world.

Getting Answers

Mediocrity Reigns

The first round of answers were the usual throw-aways, just like the first pancake is on a Sunday morning… (you know…misshapen, often over-cooked, definitely not eatable; that first pancake’s purpose in life is to give you the chance to test the skillet’s heat, your batter, and your pouring ability…)

The answers to “What keeps you looking forward” were no different.

  • “My kids”
  • “My spouse”
  • “My significant other”
  • “My job”

(…yes, mostly in that order as they applied)

These throwaway answers to my question were boring and stale.

Honesty Reigns

But by July, however, I started to get more substantive answers, more honest answers.

I got answers like these:

  • “I don’t really know… habit I guess?  I keep doing the same things and don’t really think about looking forward, I just do what I’m supposed to.”
  • “My kids, though most days it’s hard to even think of what their future might be like.”
  • “My spouse… but we’ve been arguing a lot, stress is high.  We haven’t been on a vacation in a while.”
  • “My job, I hate it and I feel a year older at the end of each day, but I guess I should be lucky to have a job.”

(there’s a nice sampling…)

Better Answers

After getting those answers, I spent August collecting new answers, though there were two questions.

I asked these questions:

1)     “To whom do you turn to help you look forward?” [with the backdrop of maintaining Hope in today’s world].

After I got that answer, I asked another:

2)     “Do you consider that person a leader as a result of him/her helping you look forward?

This round of answers surprised me.  Most people answered the first question easily (I still used my “second round” people, so I got to substantive answers quickly).  It was usually a personal partner/relative or friend, followed by someone they trusted and respected at work.

When I asked the second question, though, there was usually a pause.  Most people did not consider the person they named in question one as a “leader” for them.

I asked an ad-hoc third question:

3) Why Not?

  • It seems that of those I talked to, most held the notion of a “leader” in such a larger-than-life spot that there was no way someone they knew would actually fit that description.
  • Others just simply shrugged it off, stating something like, “well, no, the person just helps me look forward to things.”
  • A minority of people paused, thought about it, and then admitted something like, “Well sure, I guess so.  That person leads me to better moods, a healthier perspective, a new way of thinking that helps me look forward.

Perspective of Leadership

My gut feeling about how many view leadership was somewhat enforced after my little social experiment (OK, remember, this was not scientific, but it’s worth sharing):

Many people have a skewed view of what leadership should do vs. who a real leader is.

I write about the role of a leader all the time, and this blog isn’t much different.  This time, however, I got out of my own experiences and out of my own head while burrowing a path into other people’s lives to learn what impacts them the most during a time when they need Hope the most.  I asked obtuse questions about leadership, never once alluding to the notion of a leader’s REQUIREMENT to spark hope among his or her followers until the very last question.

And that’s when most people stumbled.  Hhmmm.

Do we hold the term “leader” too high up for ordinary people to fulfill, even though they do so on a regular basis?  Is it time to test our own views and social definition of “leader” so that we can begin to redefine what, exactly, it means?  How are we holding our leaders accountable if we equate leadership with million-dollar incomes or high-profile roles? 

**********

Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today.
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Christa (Centola) Dhimo is President & Founder, via Best Practices
She helps clients by aligning human capital performance with business results

Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog

Image Sources: kaushik.net

Hope Actually IS a Strategy

Always Hope

Where to start, where to start.  I have, for the most part, loyally posted a monthly blog for nearly two years on this fabulous and support-my-crazy-blogs site.  But last month?  Nothing.

I know… there was no blog post from me.  My shelves were empty, my inspiration went desert, my fun balloon shot around the room of my head like a firefly in July.

So What Happened?

Why did I not produce? I was overcome by events and overwhelmed by my own Gen X cynicism.  Satirical by nature, with a hint of edge and a full dose of self-deprecation, I can usually laugh things off or cleverly bring to light subtle observations and colorful storytelling about leadership.

Verbose? Usually…  Pointed? Always…  Relevant? For the most part…

On Reflection

WOW, though, May sure did bring on an abundance of real-world worst-practices in leadership.  In my neck of the woods I was witness to a few leadership decisions that had me scratching my head for days. Days!

In the world I observed nothing BUT leadership decisions that had me scratching my head for weeks. Weeks, I tell you!

It seemed that after the May 1st world liberation from Osama bin Laden, which showcased many critical leadership decisions that created the near-perfect trajectory of what will hopefully be the “best practice for decisions” in the years to come, that we had spent all of our good-decisions-by-leaders cards.

I’ll admit, I just couldn’t put it all together.  Usually “the machine,” as I affectionately call my brain, can synthesize enormous amounts of inputs, wrap it all up in a bow, and spit out the right mix of fact and effect to create what I hope to be a bearable read.  May?  Ah, not so much.

So what happened? “The machine” got tired.

Several, Many, and Some of You

  • Now, several of you have offline discussions with me, and many of you know me personally either through conferences or other publications or by the mere happenstance of luck where I get to talk to a lot of my blog readers.
  • Several of you have seen my eyes light up when talking about leadership and how to advance a business through all levels of people.
  • Many of you have felt the temperature go up in a room where I get to talk about people behavior, making bets on how complete strangers will respond to various events.
  • Some of you have even suffered the word-blasting tirades I’ve gone on when talking about the poor judgment and decision-making that so many current leaders practice on a daily basis (I am eternally sorry, though it will happen again… I just can’t help myself).

Well Run Dry

I’m not sure how many of you have seen my well tapped dry, though.  Sure, I was able to muster enough energy to have many discussions with a lot of you last month, but the one topic I just COULDN’T talk about was a single instance of good leadership decision-making after May 1st. (sigh)

Hope in Sight

Hope is Closer Than You thinkI thought long and hard about this and the one thing I came up with was the same thing that so many others look for in leadership: Hope.

Now, relax, folks, relax.  This isn’t about Obama.  That book nearly made it impossible for anyone else to mention “Audacity”, never mind “Hope,” so just try to put that out of your minds for a second.  I haven’t read the book, so any future allusions to it are merely coincidental by nature (I admit, I’m not big on non-fiction).

What I’m talking about is how a single decent—not exceptional, not great, not even GOOD… a mere DECENT—decision by a leader can spark hope, which I have simplified down to the mere feeling that a nice outcome is possible.

May 1st did just that for many, but the continued lack of clear and decent decisions afterward by ANY leaders near and far really fizzled the opportunity to spark what I’m now calling “hope-momentum.”

A few months ago I found myself talking about this to several leaders in an organization that has gone through multiple hands, cultures, decades of change.

My observation about hope continues to be the same:

  • Hope is risky.
  • Hope generates fear.
  • Hope challenges trust.

As human beings, a thinking being, a natural problem-solving being that (at least in this part of the world) struggles to match thinking with feeling, it is nearly impossible for us to think about something good without evidence that it will probably 99% work.

And even then we have our doubts, don’t we. That’s because Hope is hard… and things are hard enough now, aren’t they.

  • We hope that a plan will work out, but most of our thinking remains on why it probably won’t.
  • We hope that a relationship will be great, though it’s difficult not to keep just one inch of ourselves on the outside “just in case.”
  • We hope that our leaders will make the right decisions, though we criticize and complain about every angle throughout the decision-making process… and even with positive and predicted outcomes, it’s likely that we’ll still find some fault.

Thinking With Your Heart

Do you disagree?  Of course not.  You do this just like everyone else.  Why do you think that happens?

Well for starters, we would like to think we’re all brawn and logic, but if we care to look deeply enough, the truth is that it simply FEELS better to work out the bad things, sitting in the “worser” things until proven otherwise.

Personal history and world history alike have taught us that a surprise kick hurts far more than one we planned for.  The only problem is that we waste a lot of time waiting for the kick… and then if it doesn’t happen we often still double over to prove that it somehow still hurt us.

We simply FEEL more about hope than we think we do.

Hope Is a Strategy

If you think of the best things that have occurred in your life, if you look at the voted best American leaders (and this list is 2 years old—let me know if you can find a more recent one), or if you consider the countries that repeatedly make the “best places to live in the world,” and/or if you study the greatest communities of all time, there is one thing they all have or had in common: their HOPE was a large part of their strategy.

Hope sets a tone. Hope sets a mark.  Hope just might be the force that keeps us innocent (or ignorant?) enough to believe in something before any other “thing” can keep it from moving forward.

Now, while I’m an intuitive decision-maker and a strategic thinker at the core (buzz buzz buzz), I rarely make an argument supporting the importance of putting hope in front of facts.

I use the term “Hope is not a Strategy” quite a bit… but I always follow it up with “… but it’s a good place to start.”

Give Hope A Chance

So, in this time of bottom-barrel decision making, from lewd photos to weakened performance indices, to public school systems and private banking fees, I ask everyone to try a social experiment with me: make at least ONE decision each day on the basis of hope, and keep it pure.

Stay clear of attaching negativity to it—it’s only one decision.  Divert your attention from defining or predicting the outcome of mediocrity—it’s only ONE decision.  Grow your hope forward and attach it to some of your decisions, just see what happens.

Possible?  Too mushy-gushy?  Impractical?  Is this something you’d consider?  Why or why not?

——————–
Christa (Centola) Dhimo is President & Founder, via Best Practices
She helps clients by aligning human capital performance with business results

Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog

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Blankity-Blank-Blank Nerves!!

Nerves

Nerves! Those blankity-blank-blank nerves!

Yes, you heard me.  Nerves.  Those darn nerves!  Always around, never a dull moment: “nerves” have gotten the best of us and promoted the worst of us.  Leadership isn’t leadership without nerves, is it.

I have a close relationship with nerves.  My nerves, other people’s nerves, high nerves, low nerves… the kind of nerves you see when someone cuts you off in morning traffic, and the kind of nerves you see when a paramedic performs CPR.  Nerves.  So important, so underestimated… always forgotten until a crisis.

“Why this word for this blog?” you might ask.

Nerves Maketh the Leader

Consider how nerves are involved in leaders:

  • Strong nerves
  • Weak nerves
  • Recognizing people with nerves for good or bad
  • Determining how to use the best nerves in the worst cases
  • Putting the worst nerves away during the best circumstances

As leaders, we must take heed of our nerves all the time. And this requires an enormous amount of discipline and self-awareness.  These two characteristics tend to be at the bottom of the “Top Ten” for daily leadership habits for the average leader. Conversely, these characteristics are somewhere toward the top when we have the time to study and focus on leadership best practices.

Yes, nerves, as painful and exhilarating as they may be in the moment, are that easy to forget.

On My Last Nerve

Each year from April 25th to April 27th, I reflect on a time in my career when I relied 100% on my nerves for two full days. This occurrence happened while facilitating a self-proclaimed “schizophrenic” and “slightly dysfunctional” executive team through a leadership program.

[Well, it was actually three full days of nerve management if I consider the amount of unnecessary coaching and talk-to’s I got from my direct manager about what to do and what not to do (making it worse: there tended to be more “what not to do’s”) leading up to the two days.  We’ve all been there.  Nerves.]

This time of reflection helps remind me how nerves are so much the part of everyday life for all types of leaders. Remembering things as simple (or should I say “as massively complex”) as nerves helps keeps my eyes open to how really complex leadership can be.

Remember When…

In the 80’s…

I remember that having nerve was equal to having courage.  “He has nerve—I like that.”  “She has a lot of nerve, she’ll go places.”  Ah, the 80s.  Such an interesting time for Organizational Culture.

In the 90’s…

I recall that having nerve was equal to having audacity.  “Have you ever seen so much nerve?” “Yeah, Chris won’t be going anywhere here.”  It was also a time when culture was starting to look at corporate culture, and with the institutionalization of the Internet and the Global Workforce, the 90’s were rich with opportunities to put your nerve away… or at least reel it in a little.

Too much could happen, after all, and we couldn’t retract emails quite as easily back then.

In fact, by the late 90s…

You had nerve if you called anyone out on anything, and by the early 2000s we saw Whistleblower protection and new SEC rules on ethics and compliance due to a few (a-hem) Enron situations.  The nerve!

And that brings us to today…

As leaders, knowing our nerves and how we manage them has never been tested so much as these days:

  • Our families are under strain due to economic and regular family stresses
    • As parents, do we think about our nerves?
  • Our companies are under strain due to economic and global stresses
    • As employees and/or executives, do we think about our nerves?
  • Our communities are under strain due to economic and social stresses
    • As civilians, do we think about our nerves?

The natural strains we feel as leaders impact our nerves—what can we do to get ahead of them?  How can we keep them in check?  What can we do to play it cool as needed or fire them up as appropriate?  Is it harder these days to manage and navigate our “nerves”?

——————–
Christa (Centola) Dhimo is President & Founder, via Best Practices
She helps clients by aligning human capital performance with business results

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Image Sources: bonfirehealth.com

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The Exceptional Strength of Followership

Ducks in a Row

This month marks a remarkable time in all of our lives. It doesn’t matter where you live, how you were raised, or which side of any current news-story you are on, these are remarkable times!

It seems that we have opened this decade with a torrent of “worst-that-could-happen” news.  In fact, the USA political, social, and economic issues seem to pale in comparison to the bigger, global picture.

Major Recent Happenings

Just take a look at the global events that have recently unfolded to get perspective:

  • Multiple courageous uprisings from strong dictatorships in an effort to free civilians of oppression and injustice
  • Continued force and oppression from other strong dictatorships to bury the uprisings
  • Multiple natural disasters creating several “worst-that-could-happen” moments. Then only to be followed by more “worst-that-could-happen” fallout from those disasters

Right now, the heartbreaking reality is, in fact, truly heartbreaking in its reality.

The Best in Humanity

Still, and amidst it all, we are bearing witness to some of the strongest natural characteristics in human beings.  Some of it is related to nature—all animals display some level of resilience, adaptability, courage, and forward thinking.

After all, that is Darwinism at its best, isn’t it?

Sure, but you cannot deny that there is something very human coming through in all the recent calamity: a fervent release of hope, community, leadership, and most importantly followership.

On Leading & Following

This is by far one of the most exceptional times for leaders. It is a time to easily measure the power of a leader on a global stage. Just turn on the news and gauge the effectiveness of any leader by seeing their acts of leadership in comparison to the acts of the followership.

In a remarkable way, these acts of  “New Followership” actually define leadership.

New Followership

“New Followership” this isn’t a new phrase.  “New Followership” has been around for a while, though it’s just starting to take shape in a way that the every-day person can appreciate (me included).  In fact, I had completely forgotten about the mid-90’s and early 2000’s focus on this until recently when I saw a former colleague who asked this question,

Christa, in your opinion and with your experience, it seems like the world just needs new leadership, isn’t that true?

Without even thinking, I said, “No.”

It was in one of my not-often-used tones when I feel so strongly against something there simply isn’t a softer way to respond.  In fact, I am surprised at how quickly I turned down this notion that LEADERSHIP could be a lynchpin against the current heartbreaking realities around the world.

With inner dialog fully engaged, I mentally asked myself: Christa, where are you going with this?

I gave myself a few moments to collect my thoughts, and I went with this explanation:

What the world needs the most now is New Followership.”

Reverse Perspective

You see, “followership” is the single most powerful and critical elements of leadership.

I know that sounds very Yogi Berra of me, but many people still don’t realize how important followership is.  In fact, if you ask anyone about this, they will likely view followership as a form of submission, underestimated because it (by definition) pertains to those who follow someone.

However, it’s easy to at least start seeing followership for what it is:

A term that describes how a mass of people can impact decisions about leadership and direction.

For me, “New Followership” takes it a step further.  It also describes the sense that followers can become the real leader:

  • When the sum of the parts become bigger than the single person
  • When a group provides the very leadership that a singular person cannot deliver
  • When the collective followership becomes the de facto leader, even if for a short transitional time
  • When amassed toward a common, strong, and compelling vision fueled by hope and taken on because of despair, the strength of many can overthrow the persona of one.

This is what we are seeing today in the corners of massive governmental, societal, and social change.

Today’s Example

Even in Japan, we are seeing that the strength of the leaders and the confidence in their abilities is largely demonstrated through their followership.  Many would say that Japan’s sense of followership has more societal weight than leadership—we see that now, don’t we?

No looting, no chaos, no requirement from the leaders to enforce community standards and respectful behavior in the face of desperation…

Now THAT is “New Followership!”

What seems more powerful right now in times of despair?  Leadership or Followership?  How does this relate to previous revolutions, changes, coups, and natural disasters?  Should leaders use today’s news as examples to learn and live more strongly aligned to the importance of Followership?

——————–
Christa (Centola) Dhimo, President & Founder, via Best Practices
She helps clients by aligning human capital performance with business results

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Image Sources: mychinaconnection.com

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