Constructive Contributions

July 17, 2014

monalisa

The critique or “crit” is a core activity in the Yale School of Art as well as other arts programs nationwide. This process happens in “the pool” if you are a student in the Photography Department and in “the pit” if you are in Painting and Printmaking. These are both spaces below the regular main floor which can exaggerate the emotional sense of an inspection.

Prompt Progress

An art student typically sits for nearly an hour while faculty and other students discuss their work. At the core of this process is intentionally constructive honesty. The objective: help the learner understand the distance between intentions and effect. It is supportive feedback that reframes effort and prompts developmental progress.

The crit provides vital wisdom for several reasons: it offers value from experience the student has not had and it reflects multiple sources. Critiques or feedback can have huge value in advancing our effectiveness if our own fragile egos don’t preclude progress. It works best when we have a learner attitude – regardless of age, stage or title.

Dialogic Review

With senior staff at a huge (multi-billion $) funder, we recently used a similar process. In what we call a “mark up,” models of program plans are the focus of experienced subject matter experts. In a facilitated review, the planned work is presented and considered against a rubric. Participants ask questions and express opinion about assumptions, barriers, facilitators, evidence and the relationship between the selected activities, inputs, and intended results. It is thoughtful and fun. It produces important dialogue as well as vital changes in the material.

Using a “mark up” or “crit” as a regular process can have great yield. Mature professionals welcome multiple perspectives. Then, they sort out what is valid and reliable. Ultimately, what’s produced is far better than the first draft. Constructive comment is a gift in any team or organization. Consider it an important way to adapt and retool your plans.

-Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Courageous Colleagues and Best Bosses

June 24, 2014

fishjump

I’ve had the chance to work with and learn from some really amazing people. I bet you have, too. Some of those who come to mind were bosses, some clients and others are valued colleagues.

Here are a few signs from those that make my “best” list and why:

1. He holds people accountable for bad behavior.

There are rules of engagement, reinforcement and enforcement. This person sets and carries culture. On his team and in their workplace “anything goes” isn’t allowed. He isn’t afraid to be the police, an example or the coach.

2. She is consistent in messaging, whether or not people want to hear the content.

This person will not whisper tailored private messages to curry favor. She acts in a way that unites and encourages. She is intentional about challenging the status quo because it will yield progress.

3. He never makes negative comments about others in conversation.

In contrast, he makes a point of finding ways to teach. He cites good examples and praises others. He is self-aware and confident so it’s not necessary to put others down.

4. She sometimes shares personal items about herself.

She is humble and able to make personal connections with people. She isn’t hiding who she is…She is genuine.

5. He is consistently honest.

While embellishing or comments framed a particular way to save feelings are common, people who serve their colleagues and teams create trust through reliable, candid, active communications.

6. She is accessible and has face-to-face meetings to resolve conflicts.

She manages priorities but dictates no hierarchy in getting her audience. Her intentions and actions have integrity. She’s willing to acknowledge differences and work with multiple perspectives.

7. He makes a decision and protects his people in public if it fails to work.

Someone you can trust has confidence and takes reasoned risks. This person will not send other’s into harm’s way. He is willing to own choices and consequences.

8. She actively seeks excellence and develops others.

Envy isn’t part of her playbook. She motivates others by engaging people’s talent, knowledge and experience. She finds ways for them to mature and supports transitions. She manages across and down. Her sole focus isn’t self and her own boss.

9. He keeps commitments.

Follow through is vital for credibility and he knows it. There’s no waffling or excuses. He does what he says he will do.

10. She asks lots of questions and spends time listening.

A learning leader is curious and inquires often. She believes others have a contribution to make. And, she knows understanding context is relevant to being effective.

These 10 examples profile behavior that indicate character – most reflect courage. It is the willingness to be afraid but to act anyway. Like you, my life has provided me with the chance to observe hundreds of people over many years. These days I can generally rely on a brief experience and some intuition to identify a brave leader.

Make courage your first virtue – it will serve you, others and your organization’s mission well.

-Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

A Leader’s Worry

May 30, 2014

worry

Years ago, in a reflective moment, I asked a long-time foundation executive: “What is your most significant organization concern?” She said, “abuse of power.”

It requires maturity and clear perspective to hold this opinion. Her reply created affinity with me. I think power is the weighted issue in managing and leading.

Common Good

Other-centered and high-performing leaders are necessary to teams, communities and organizations of all kinds. For me, the issues of influence are most profound in the non-profit sector. Charitable organizations, charged with the common good, are valuable only if they deliver on their mission promise. Sometimes it’s quality education, human rights, clean water  or other serious challenges in human and community development. These organizations vary considerably in their effectiveness.

Intentionally Selfless

My attention was captured recently by the relevant and wise counsel of David McCullough, Jr and news coverage about his commencement speech. In compelling language (see video here or read text here) he challenged entitlement, which is often a precursor to self-interest and the abuse of power. McCullough asked graduates to create a life that’s extraordinary and intentionally selfless. He urged listeners to discard marketing and aim at real achievement. I think this is a partial antidote to the realistic foundation leader who shared her worry.

It’s a useful reminder for those in a “big job” or any role that has the potential to influence circumstances and people. Each of us does have this opportunity in some way – every day. Treat it with care.

-Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Avoid The Ugly Grip Of Groupthink

May 4, 2014

sheep

Beware when a group assumes we know everything we need to know.

Why?

Not long ago big US banks and other financial institutions sold risky derivatives. They were high-risk sub-prime mortgages divided into investment “opportunities.” After the economic meltdown they created, a salesman was asked who would want to buy these. He replied: “Idiots.”

History shows very smart people discard clear signals about value and risk. In the desire for a big return, investors chose to emphasize what could support their choice; they ignored evidence. It blossomed into self-deception and then spread among peers. This is groupthink. It is dangerous because the focus is on protecting an unfounded treasured opinion. This ensures shared blind spots and ultimately generates bad decisions. In contrast, a healthy team provides multiple perspectives in candid, independent contributions. When information flows freely – it is more likely good decisions are made.

Because it’s effective and predictable, groupthink is consciously engineered. Too often it happens in crucial personnel selection and civic cheerleading that obfuscates challenges or accountability. A classic example was the decision to invade Iraq based on imaginary “weapons of mass destruction.” Sexism and racism rely on groupthink, too. They are efforts to protect a position that become habitual and are normalized.

Groupthink can happen in any situation where decision-makers are insulated. One or several things occur to feed it. The group is fooled by unreliable people, there’s failure to ask provoking questions and data is ignored (or skewed).The risks of insulation underscores the value of transparency. Because self-deception is so common, consciously steering past shared blind spots is vital in managing for results.

We can disarm the grim implications of groupthink by these tactics:

• Ask others to think about their thinking (meta-cognition),

• Spotlight what might get buried by bias, indifference or suppression,

• Assure quality information from multiple methods,

• Actively seek diverse as well as contrary opinion, and

• Surface assumptions.

-Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: http://www.pwkinc.com

Can The Pope Clean House?

April 24, 2014

 

NotreDame

Current actions in the Catholic church offers insight on what some are calling “the Francis effect.” Jorge Bergolgio, 77, is the recently appointed Pope Francis. He is the man responsible for rebranding the Catholic church in the past year.

The Situation

Many would agree, as the Economist suggests, the “world’s oldest multinational was in crisis.” Competitors were gaining share in emerging markets. In traditional markets, scandals were keeping out prospects and the staff were disengaged. Despite guaranteed lifetime employment, recruiting new priests was difficult. Finances were in disarray and insider leaks indicated the bank was riddled with both corruption and incompetence. In addition to poor and fractious governance, the last pope was forced to resign.

What has Pope Francis done so well that suggests great new potential in the Roman Catholic church? Clearly, he is popular. Polls indicate that one of his roughest market segments, American Catholics, are high on him. Both attendance and membership are on the uptick. Analysts say he has focused on some key levers.

Decisive Actions

First, mission. Pope Francis is clear about the Church’s primary aim: helping the poor. He’s demonstrated personal alignment by choosing simple congregate housing (instead of a regal papal apartment), took the name of a saint affiliated with the poor and animals, and ditched luxurious transportation (the loaded Mercedes), clothing and shoes for utilitarian options. He also has avoided lavish displays in official events and spoken with credibility about the mission. These choices set culture and attracts followers.

Second, repositioning. There are new and more inclusive messages which are more accepting on controversial topics. These actions tackle what and how to communicate.

Third, restructuring. A newly appointed group with expert external help will review organization structure, internal processes and the troubled bank for improvements. These moves signal discontent with the status quo.

It’s too soon to say whether or not these efforts are right or enough. But, it appears that intentional decisions have been made to recast a worldwide enterprise. What does this example tell us about change management?

Pope Francis may be the leader who shows how to manage crisis, shake up a stodgy organization and deliver growth.

-Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: http://www.pwkinc.com

Strategy Is Not A Plan

April 13, 2014

Mach

An Italian historian, diplomat, philosopher and author, Niccolo Machiavelli was influential  during the Renaissance. He is considered the founder of modern political science and well known for The Prince, a book about unscrupulous politicians. Machiavellianism is most often associated with strategies founded on deceit and psychological manipulation. While these strategies offer many politicos inspiration, other leaders offer more positive, ethical examples.

Strategy Generates Power

Regretfully, because of overuse and ubiquitous application, the word “strategy” has lost meaning. Lawrence Freedman’s new book, Strategy: A History, suggests strategy employs whatever resources are available to achieve the best outcome in situations that are both dynamic and contested. He suggests strategy generates power. Perhaps we too often mistake strategy as a simple way to get to a clear and final result.

Instead, Freedman counsels that strategy is simply a thoughtful means to get from one stage to another. Each new stage has its own challenges, risks, assets and potential. Strategy needs to be devised, and revised as circumstances evolve. Strategy is not synonymous with a plan. Plans support forward movement and actions, but they may or may not be strategic. Even so, high-quality implementation of a strategic plan – one built on choice points that considered alternatives – can be a significant challenge.

Strategy Development

Certainly both strategic processes and strategic thinking are essential in managing and leading. Don Knauss, CEO, Clorox Company says he learned strategy development from the Marine Corps. The acronym SMEAC provides a framework: situation, mission, execution, administration and communication. These five factors  require attention and deliberation.

As a leader, trust-building is an intentional strategy in the culture he promotes. Knauss said in a recent interview that “the less you use the power you’ve been given, the more authority people will give you…It starts with integrity…You get things done much more quickly when people trust you.”

Evidence, Facts & Results

Personal lives, government, organizations and programs all need strategy. Whether you are losing weight, staying married, providing healthcare, managing a “conflict” in a foreign country or improving education – your chances at success increase if there’s a strategy. Better still if it’s evidence- and fact-based.

Winston Churchill’s insight is relevant, too. He said, “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”

-Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Unreasonable Progress

March 25, 2014

kamprad

It’s a well-known brand with great appeal to a broad range of consumers. IKEA is among the world’s most successful mass-market retailers. It sells affordable Scandinavian-style home furnishings and other home goods in 33 countries.

The founder, Ingvar Kamprad, profiles an “unreasonable” man who has generated important progress.

A brilliant strategist, Kamprad realized that a large part of furniture costs were in its assembly. So, he sold unassembled furniture and shipped it cheaply to customers in flat boxes. It was a huge change and a big success. However, his industry peers were furious with this innovation. In retaliation, they launched a boycott of IKEA and the company faced ruin.

Undaunted, Kamprad looked across the Baltic Sea to Poland which had far cheaper labor and plenty of wood. Although Poland was in Communist chaos in the 1960s, he made connections and tenaciously developed the infrastructure necessary to manufacture. Despite being labeled a “traitor,” he persevered.

Considered a renegade, time has proven his vision and principles have game-changing results. IKEA’s net profits in 2012-13 were $4.5 billion. Kamprad was open to imagining new approaches and he was able to challenge common preconceptions. He was “disagreeable” – meaning he was willing to take social risks to do things that others might disapprove. He also had the discipline and persistence to implement his ideas. Kamprad was both an innovator and a revolutionary.

George Bernard Shaw captures the character of change-leaders like Kamprad well: “The reasonable person adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable person.”

Want to get farther faster? Consider the risk and return for being “unreasonable.”

-Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

 

Slaying Goliath

March 2, 2014

goliath

David, a shepherd boy, killed Goliath with a stone slung at his exposed forehead. He won the battle against all expectations. His victory relied on great strategy and skills.

David was a slinger. His weapon was a leather pouch attached on two sides by a long length of rope. Slingers were part of ancient armies. These warriors used a rock or lead ball hurled by a sling at their enemies. Slinging required extraordinary skills honed by extensive practice.

With considerable courage, using the advantages of speed and maneuverability, David ran directly at Goliath in his attack. David hit the one point of the giant’s vulnerability, knocked him unconscious, then killed Goliath by his own sword.

The outcome of this battle challenges common assumptions about power. We assume, in error, that big and strong always wins. But, it is possible for speed and surprise coupled with passionate intent to prevail. David’s example provides a two-step recipe: the right strategies with capable execution.

  • What assumptions do we hold about the Goliath we face this week?
  • What studied attention have we given to strategy development?
  • Can we skillfully implement  optimal choices?

-Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Who’s In Your Way?

February 9, 2014

shadow

Leading and managing others is a social process. Anyone “out front” faces common obstacles in creating change. To be effective with others, it’s helpful to consider what might be disabling you.

These six questions can identify potential pitfalls. Each requires conscious navigation.

1. What’s that smell?

Understanding the air you and others breathe is essential. You must be able to identify the quality of the “oxygen” around you to influence it. Establishing great culture happens by getting the right folks on board with healthy, functional norms. Root out toxic behavior. When necessary, quickly change out people. Humans have an enormous capacity for delusion, avoidance and denial – especially if self-interest is threatened. Discerning and driving air quality is foundational.

2. Are you a learner?

How you see the world and what informs it is crucial to framing problems as well as their resolution. To ensure perspective, it’s important to actively seeking new knowledge and opinions. A small circle of external advisors can offer extraordinary insights. Being blind to your blind spots is a costly limitation.  Think about your thinking. What could you be missing? Do you know what you don’t know?

3. Are you uncomfortable?

People want familiar and safe. More accurately, we seek what we perceive as comfortable. Regrettably, thinking and behaving in new ways is uncomfortable. To generate forward action, it’s essential to risk and live outside your comfort zone. This pitfall is deep and one of the most common reasons communities and organizations don’t move. Progress requires risk. It must matter more than control. And, that’s not comfortable.

4. Do you have broad shoulders?

Very little important work happens alone.  We need rivals, allies and others involved to secure the best and most progress. How much do you value diverse skills and experiences? Do you invite and engage others in important work? Involve people who think deeply – they are different than those with flip opinions. Be intentional about discovering ways to connect resources and talent that contributes.

5. Is your motive “good”?

Clarifying the underlying motivation for the process and results you seek is important. Because others are quick to judge, knowing your own intention matters a lot. Be sure your ego or “me-victory” isn’t primary. Populist rhetoric won’t sustain important efforts but authentic commitment will.

6. Are you measuring?

Collect data routinely. Simple questions can guide assessment: What’s working? What isn’t? Why? Focus on the right indicators at the right time. Recognize development occurs in stages that may not be linear. Consider the pace, progress, and implications. Then, adapt actions.

Great culture, learning, discomfort, terrific teams, authenticity and active monitoring are big factors in generating change. Take your own inventory today.

-Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Foster Passion

January 12, 2014

chemistrybeekers

The work we do best is inspired, it touches or wholly embraces some passion we have. This passion provides the energy to continually make effort and progress.

Augusto Odone, a World Bank economist, provides a great example of what passion can produce.

A polyglot Italian Fulbright scholar who specialized in development economics, Odone was posted to Washington, DC with his family. His son, at six, suddenly began stumbling, mumbling, lost hearing and displayed terrible temper. Doctors said the illness was hopeless and to expect certain death. His child, Lorenzo, had a rare and terrible disease (ALD) in which a faulty chromosome let fatty acids accumulate and cripple the body.

Odone had no prior interest or training in biochemistry, only a high-school science education. However, he began scouring the library at the National Institutes of Health to understand how enzymes work. Through his own reasoning, he identified potential in olive and rapeseed oils as a combination that might inhibit the deadly acids which impaired the nervous system. Medical researchers scoffed at an amateur finding an answer that had eluded them.

Although immobile and uncommunicative, Lorenzo lived 30 years. His father’s discovery was effective in delaying additional decline. “The ALD serpent that had brought so much grief to our family had been tamed,” wrote Odone.

Vindication for a stunning accomplishment was slow in coming. A 1992 film, “Lorenzo’s Oil,” portrays this story. In 2005, a rigorous study showed Odone’s science was sound: while the oil could not reverse effects of ALD, in 75% of the cases it prevented development of the symptoms. Grudging foes acknowledged the discovery.  Lorenzo died in 2008. The charity founded in his name, the Myelin Project, now pursues gene therapy and stem-cell research.

In the face of incalculable odds, a father’s passion had yield for his son and many others worldwide.

What inspires you? What do you know about your team or colleagues that can inspire them? How do you frame challenges to capture their passion? People who love what they do get after it every day. Some, at long odds, deliver amazing results.

-Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com


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