Archive for January, 2013

Lincoln Lessons

January 31, 2013

Lincolcn

Your choices and actions can make great contributions to both public and private value. Recent attention and related discussion around the film, Lincoln, offers a spotlight for some powerful lessons in managing and leading. The movie focuses mostly on the 13th Amendment, which made slavery unconstitutional. However, the leadership Lincoln demonstrated in the period before the Emancipation Proclamation is also significant and revealing.

The Situation. Lincoln was burdened by the tensions created in a commitment to abolish slavery but preserve the Union. Opponents were merciless in criticism and allies were very frustrated. He was troubled by huge loss of life from the Civil War, depressed by his own child’s death, faced intense political opposition and other practical difficulties.

Lincoln Attributes. Most historians and contemporary observers agree that Lincoln was resilient, patient, thorough, emotionally intelligent, showed moral clarity and passion, was accessible, present, authentic, intuitive and credible. He was also known for his honesty and humility.

Lincoln Competencies. A review of his skills and knowledge indicate Lincoln was a careful listener, a capable analyst and strategist, adaptive, integrative and evidence-based. His management choices were well-timed and he was a deliberate thinker.

The Lincoln Lessons

(1) Keep the big goal constant. Disciplined thought and action against that North Star will ensure forward progress. Lincoln never wavered on his intended primary result.

(2) Be accessible. Leadership doesn’t hide behind closed doors as it ensures only isolation, insulation and elitism. Lincoln engaged in “open hours” with citizens at the White House and communicated constantly with those inside and outside his influence.

(3) Actively seek diverse opinion and thought. A range of thought was key to great perspective. Inclusion is an important principle. Lincoln invited his rivals’ opinions and experiences.

(4) Humility and honesty win. Ego, lies and manipulation take time and energy. Lincoln’s character was consistent and reliable. He rarely sought retribution or vengeance and kept a long view.

(5) Expect challenge and adversity. Change involves opposition and risk. Lincoln faced tough opponents and new obstacles repeatedly.

(6) Adapt tactics to context. Gathering information, sensing and interpretation are vital tasks which inform revision. Lincoln was willing to alter plans.

(7) Recognize timing matters. An emotional or even fast response may not be best. Lincoln waited strategically to share the Emancipation Proclamation after a battle victory for good reason.

(8) Share responsibility and success. Know that others have important contributions to make. Find and engage great people. Lincoln worked with and through a team. Competent managers act this way.

(9) Be persistent with complexity. Don’t react, respond. Think long enough to untangle the knots. Lincoln was known for his intellectual exploration.

(10) Messages matter. Effective communications are important in connecting with people. Lincoln used humor and told stories with a lesson. Compared to others, his public comments were short and clear.

Harvard Business School uses a case on Lincoln’s presidency to illustrate good practices. Our 16th president was very capable, but not flawless. Nobody is. But, his choices can offer inspiration and constructive example.

-Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems 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

Feedback Fosters Growth

January 3, 2013

bestopenhands

How would you feel if someone had great information that could help you be more effective in your work but they kept it from you? Would you be: resentful, concerned, distrustful, irritated?

Some months ago, we asked a renowned colleague for his perceptions of a key presentation we had done. He gave my business partner and me some surprising information that nobody has indicated before – ever. It was very useful; we were grateful.

Different from Gossip or Rumor
Feedback is a gift. It is different from gossip, rumor or nagging. Feedback comes from a credible source, has authentic other-centered intent and makes a constructive contribution that’s actionable. It is a particular kind of qualified opinion.

Far too many manager-leaders avoid offering feedback because it is hard to be a messenger of less than good news. It can be uncomfortable and create tension. However, when motivated people get a chance to “fix” something they are generally very appreciative.

Feedback: When & How
Most of the time, feedback has a positive outcome. However, it’s best delivered under certain conditions. Delivery must be from a reliable source in a functional relationship, offered one:one privately and never during a crisis. Feedback should be invited and occur in a context of accountability. Sometimes, feedback is wasted. Typically, this reflects a bad reception by the recipient. Reception challenges happen most often when people are unwilling to listen, the content doesn’t fit with their self image, there’s resistance, denial or no intention for change. It’s always wise to request permission before speaking.

Seek and Discover
In dynamic circumstances, we all must adapt to ensure effectiveness. This means the development of new skills and knowledge are not an unusual event but an on-going expectation we should hold for ourselves. To capture the idea of perpetual learning, Stephen Covey used the expression “sharpen your saw.” We need to model the courage it takes to ask: “How did you experience me?”

Choose When Thoughtfully
In an uncomfortable situation, a colleague took a good idea we’d entrusted to him in confidence. The “thief” took the concept, secured funding, and implemented it poorly. He has avoided us since. We suspect he’s embarrassed. This man never acknowledged his larceny. Others are unlikely to hold him accountable for his lack of integrity.

We’ve considered a face:face conversation. While several of the “tests” for providing feedback are met, the context suggests any additional effort is unlikely to be productive. Why? His reception challenges are among those noted above. There’s no accountability. Further, any comment, uninvited is likely to be considered shaming. Shaming rarely leads to any substantive change. Regrettably, this guy appears to confuse posing and a deep desire to “fit in” with leadership.

Hunger Every Night
Most people go to bed every night with hunger – for recognition. One of the best ways to support people, build true allies and develop your organization is feedback. It indicates you notice the efforts others are making. It supports accountability, employs interdependence and ensures the benefits of synergy. Your colleagues and others have great information that can improve your work.

Get and Give
I once heard former Kellogg Company CEO and US Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez comment on feedback: “For me, it’s like spinach. I don’t always like the way it tastes, but I know it’s very good for me.”

An organization or community rich in feedback supports learning and performance. Make this New Year resolution: Routinely invite feedback. When you’re a credible source and there’s potential for reception – offer it.

-Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems 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


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