Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Leadership and Time Management

You are probably not surprised to hear I am not a fan of Steven Covey or any of his or his outfit's stuff. Except for one.

The one is what I learned as the Xerox Time Management system back in the early '70s. Yes, 40 years ago. The basis is a simple matrix of two elements and their opposites: Importance and Urgency. While I try not to teach my clients, I have suggested this to many clients over the years. I have even used it myself.

The deal is that one assigns all tasks to a quadrant of the matrix i.e. Important/Urgent, Important/notUrgent, not/Important/Urgent, notImportant/notUrgent.

The automatic reaction for most of us is to assign things incorrectly, but when one realizes the I/U category requires more time than there is to accomplish it all something important arises. The need to renegotiate.  This is the area many employees are weak. The first instinct is to think what is required is the impossible.

The appropriate action here is communication and teamwork. There are also valuable lessons in each of the spaces, but that requires a little more time and space than we have here. Call or write if you're interested in the details. But the important point to our discussion of Leadership is that the Leader in this case can use this tool as a means to foster communication and collaboration without taking a heavy hand. What if this matrix was used by the group as well as the individuals? What if group discussions were based on this model, which assumes the likelihood of changes in deadlines and importance? What if plans were based on a fluid system much more closely related to the way things unfold over time?

This becomes a tool of empowerment, rather than just another way to get the followers to conform to expectations. This is a tool than helps them work together. This helps the group be more responsive and involved in the decisions that rule their lives.

That sound like Leadership to me.

I raise this because something came across my Twitter feed this morning that reminded me of this. Someone was referring to their overwhelming to-do list and referred to this article from Business Insiderhttp://www.businessinsider.com/simple-math-could-fix-your-to-do-list-2014-3

It takes exactly the same concept I described above and turns it into a mathematical expression. So instead of creating an opportunity for collaboration and cooperation, it becomes a way to order the to-do list in a better way, relative to priorities. I don't claim to know what will work better for any individual, but I do know that a Leadership tool is more valuable to me than another way to see myself as swamped. With the numbers to prove it.

I take this as another way to see Leadership as a Group capability and trait.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Why Leaders Lose Their Way

Remember Bill George? I introduced him in a recent post. He;s really a good one on my book. I hope you get to know him too.

I suppose I like him because he really does a great job of selling the need for coaching in a way that certainly surpasses mone. Also, he's not a coach, but an educator and retired senior exec. The article I want to talk about today is Bill's contribution to the weekly Harvard Business Review. While the article is from June of 2011, it is still one of the most popular reads on their site. Here it is:

We all know that the oldest sin as told in the Bible is Pride. Actually, it's hubris which is excessive Pride. It is also the central theme in Gilgamesh, the oldest book in the Western culture. The reason I mention this is that Mr. George's column refers to this flaw existing in all of us as the most likely cause of a successful leader's downfall.

As I wrote yesterday, choices and behaviors are driven by beliefs, and hubris is a belief. It is false and an inflated view but a belief none the less. The power and adulation that comes with authority, responsibility, title, success and all other things projected on leaders make them constantly targeted by people and situations that may tempt them to be distracted from the person that got them to the point they've arrived at.

Again, the great power of coaching is that it is continually presenting a challenge to the leader to be in touch with the person they actually are, to be in touch with the things that are actually important to them. Coaching focuses the power of the person into themselves so that they can continue to be true to themselves and their values.

If you want to use your own power best, you want a coach in your corner.

When you decide this is for you, we will be here.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


In the last post I wrote about Positive Thinking and how it is likely to work against instead in favor of one reaching their objectives. Just as I finished that post I ran across an article by Bill George, former chairman of Medtronic, a medical equipment company in the Twin Cities. He is now a professor at Harvard Biz and a guy who thinks deeply and communicates directly. Here is the article that caught my eye. Bill cited it in his latest Tweet and it comes from Drake Baer writing in Inc, It appears on their website here

Bill has been advocating the idea of Engagement with regard to employees. He has spoken and written about what it means and how it works. Check him out and see if you like him as much as I do.

And let me say how this is supported by coaching.

The process of coaching is one of supporting the client to become more and more who the person actually is. We have all been in situations where we try to perform up to expectations of superiors. It begins with mom and dad, continues through school and on to adult life with spouses and bosses. The more closely aligned we are naturally with those in authority, the better we get along and often the more successful we are in our lives. The question that arises is whether our compliance or non is really about us.

After almost 20 years as a professional coach I can attest that most of the people I have worked with are not in complete sync with those above them in their lives. The one constant, however is that sooner or later the actual person comes out. Or goes off the rails emotionally because they can't keep faking and can't change. These difficult situations arise when a conflict rises inside the individual and that person tries to live on with the unresolved conflict. In this context it's easy to see the problem.

So the coach knows the client is creative, resourceful and whole and trusts the client to have everything they need to gain their success. As they describe it. All that's needed is clarity.  The embedded conflict causes stasis. When one believes things that cannot coexist, their activity is stalled when the conflict arises. The coach is always challenging the client to be aware of and aligned with their beliefs. If the client can't do that, independent activity is impossible.

So if you want to know why Engagement is so important, it is all about alignment between the organization and the customer, the boss and the employee, between all the participants. This requires communication and agreement. It also guarantees the worker can be successful.

How cool is that?

Check out the myth that is widely believed about incentives.

Remember Norman Vincent Peale?

The author of The Power Of Positive Thinking from the fifties was a New York Methodist minister, author and celebrity of his day. He espoused the idea that thinking positive thoughts was all someone needed (other than faith) to achieve all their hopes and aspirations. His lay evangelism gave rise to Zig Zeigler, Tony Robbins and all the other proponents of motivational evangelism.

This may sound harsh but truth is that positive thinking is crap. I know, I know. I'm the guy who poo-poos everything. I can't argue with that, because I learned from good ones.

But what if we get past the pre judgment? What if we look at the data? What if we call the data results? Because results are the outcome of an act or choice or series of them. This is what actually happens in one's life. That's the stuff that tells the tale. The data is for research. Life is for living.

Here's a link to a New Yorker on the subject by Adam Alter in the February 19 issue this year. http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/currency/2014/02/the-powerlessness-of-positive-thinking.html?utm_source=tny&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=dailyemail&mbid=nl_Daily%20(121)

This is really worth reading because it looks at some very popular references, unlike mine looking back over 50 years. He starts with "The Secret" and moves on to discuss things that have happened to real people. He describes the way being positive is helpful and more importantly how it is hurtful. He describes positive thinking as an attempt to control events that are beyond our control. Let's face it, if I'm not doing it I am not in control. No matter how manipulative I am, sooner or later I will run into situations which happen without regard to me. And some of these situations have serious consequences for me.

Check out the article and then come back as we explore this territory some more.