Posts Tagged ‘persistence’

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

Break Throughs Take Will and Capacity

June 17, 2012

Yiannis Boutaris, 70, a successful Greek winemaker has been mayor of Thessaloniki for 18 months. Thessaloniki, Greece, is a sprawling city of 800,000 people on the Aegean Sea. It is second in size only to Athens.

Bankrupt & Corrupt

Boutaris inherited a city on the brink of bankruptcy (nearly $130 million in debt), with outdated laws and regulations, corruption, manufacturing decline and few tourists. His predecessor and 17 colleagues have been indicted – accused of stealing about $38 million.

Under these conditions, pundits gave the new mayor little prospect for success. Bloated municipal employment, inadequate basic services, discord with Turkey, and tangled regulations were all accepted as “normal.” However, this wiry septuagenarian who sports a pierced earring and frequently punctuates his point of view with profanity, knows two fundamental factors vital for change: will and capacity.

Will & Capacity

Will is the practical and political determination to persist. Will endures both obstacles and critics. It prevails. Boutaris advises: “When you propose the slightest change, people say no. If you do it all at once, it is a different thing. Something has to break through.” He adds: “You cannot step back, if you step back you lose.”

Capacity is about the strategic management acumen to make smart, hard choices that enable performance. Capacity reflects knowledge, skills, training and experience. Boutaris has made unpopular but effective decisions about budgets, employees, public policy and external relations. He is changing practices with a focus on different and better.

Whether a community, an organization or individual, will and capacity are requisites for change to occur.

Boutaris is undeterred in his reforms. (For more, see NYT Saturday Profile.) To date he has begun recycling programs, resumed relations with Turkey, grown tourism, and instituted unheard of practices at City Hall: job descriptions, goals and evaluations. He has cut city costs by 30%. One man insists on making his hometown a place of progress and growth.

I bet it happens.

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 : www.pwkinc.com

The Wonder of Willpower

June 4, 2012

David Blaine has been buried alive for seven days, encased himself in a block of ice for three, endured a 44-day fast and held his breath for 17 minutes. Blaine has willingly experienced physical pain, trauma, and deprivation in amazing displays of self control. He is an endurance artist. He’s unusual.

Endurance Artist

Few people are endurance artists, but most of us want to be effective. Like Blaine, highly successful people manage themselves through internal motivation – often called willpower.

By comparison, when more than a million people were surveyed about a range of personal strengths, which virtue was identified least often? Although honesty, kindness, humor, creativity, bravery, and modesty are often cited – self control is dead last.

Constant Temptation

Desire in humans, a perceived need or want, is prevalent. In about half of waking hours people are challenged with a temptation. The most commonly resisted desire is an urge to eat, followed by sleep, and leisure. To cope with desires – people most often look for a distraction, suppression or simply attempt to avoid the lure of an experience or object.On average, people succeed in resisting temptation only about 50% of the time.

As you might guess, poor self-control correlates with all kinds of personal trauma: compulsive spending, domestic violence, crime, chronic anxiety, explosive anger, procrastination, bad nutrition, alcohol and drug abuse. Conversely, managers rated most favorably by their peers and staff also score high in self control. Observers will most often use descriptors like disciplined or focused.

Build Willpower

It’s possible to build willpower. Here are some suggestions to develop your resolve:

Do a little more. If you jog three miles daily – add another half mile.

Respect decisions. Make a choice, stick with it. Don’t waffle.

Do things differently. Explore new ways and habits.

Be committed. Don’t “try.” It is shorthand for maybe. Do it.

Start again and again. Each attempt has value, don’t quit.

Surround yourself with support. Ally with others who pursue ambitious, shared goals.

Willpower is all about what you ought to do – not what you want to do.

Budgets Force Choices

After studying thousands of people, scientists say it’s conclusive: everyone has a finite amount of willpower. Our will can weaken…and the same limited energy “bank” is called on for all tasks. So, each of us has to budget. Taking on too many simultaneous demands ensure failure with some. It means priorities are absolutely essential to success.

The demands of managing and leading change are intense. Willpower can support  long-haul endurance for the inevitable challenges you face. Grow yours!

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 : www.pwkinc.com


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