FAILURE

I had the good fortune to sit through Mr. Toyoda, CEO of Toyota, Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com and Colin Powell speaking about the economy, business and leadership last week at Cloudforce Tokyo.

My favourite comment was from Colin Powell on failure – roughly paraphrased:

Failure is a part of life, you will fail. So learn to accept it and work through it:
1. Accept it is your failure. Don’t blame others.
2. Fix it
3. Then shake it .. move on. Too many people hold onto that failure, cannot deal with it. Never linger on the failure. You do not drive looking in the rear view mirror. You look ahead

At a school, a young girl stood up and asked a question.  She asked do you fail? He responded yes. It is part of life. You might fail a test. Do bad on a paper. Accept it. Learn from it. Grow and then throw the failure away. Move forward.

Wise words.

LEADERSHIP AND STYLE

 

Years ago in England I learned a great leadership quote that has stuck with me and became part of the leadership philosophies that I follow:

“It is easy to be a bully”.

While discussing that concept with a colleague yesterday he shared a quote from a leader that he respects:

People will forget what you said

People will forget what you did

People will never forget how you made them feel

So true.

A QUOTE AND A COUPLE ARTICLES

 

A few items shared with me over the last couple weeks:

  • From John Quincy Adams: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader”
  • The 5 Qualities of Remarkable Bosses (via INC.) and well worth reading:
    • Develop every employee
    • Deal with problems immediately
    • Rescue your worst employee
    • Serve others, not yourself
    • Always remember where you came from
  • And from the world of the quirky, but actually really good: Five Leadership Lessons from James T. Kirk:
    • Never stop learning: “You know the greatest danger facing us is ourselves, an irrational fear of the unknown. But there’s no such thing as the unknown– only things temporarily hidden, temporarily not understood.”
    • Have advisors with different world views: “One of the advantages of being a captain, Doctor, is being able to ask for advice without necessarily having to take it.”
    • Be part of the away team: “Risk is our business. That’s what this starship is all about. That’s why we’re aboard her.” (Just don’t be nameless security guy #3 – he always dies)
    • Play Poker, Not Chess
    • Blow up the Enterprise:  ….. We are often, in our roles as leaders, driven by a passion. It might be a product or service, it might be a way of doing things. But no matter how much that passion burns within us, the reality is that times change. Different products are created. Different ways of doing things are developed. And there will come times in your life when that passion isn’t viable anymore. A time when it no longer makes sense to pursue your passion. When that happens, no matter how painful it is, you need to blow up the Enterprise. That is, change what isn’t working and embark on a new path, even if that means having to live in a Klingon ship for awhile.

A few enjoyable reads.

APPLICABLE TO LEADERS/MANAGERS

 

The HBR article Selling is Not About Relationships (title misleading) categorizes sales people into 5 buckets:

    • Relationship Builders focus on developing strong personal and professional relationships and advocates across the customer organization. They are generous with their time, strive to meet customers’ every need, and work hard to resolve tensions in the commercial relationship.
    • Hard Workers show up early, stay late, and always go the extra mile. They’ll make more calls in an hour and conduct more visits in a week than just about anyone else on the team.
    • Lone Wolves are the deeply self-confident, the rule-breaking cowboys of the sales force who do things their way or not at all.
    • Reactive Problem Solvers are, from the customers’ standpoint, highly reliable and detail-oriented. They focus on post-sales follow-up, ensuring that service issues related to implementation and execution are addressed quickly and thoroughly.
    • Challengers use their deep understanding of their customers’ business to push their thinking and take control of the sales conversation. They’re not afraid to share even potentially controversial views and are assertive — with both their customers and bosses.

In their analysis, they state that Challengers far outperform others, with Relationship Builders coming in dead last. Not that relationships are unimportant, their point is that the type of relationship is what is important. Challengers push the relationship, to make it better while Relationship Builders focus only on reducing tension.

This made me stop and think: How does this apply to management/leadership? I have often debated the merits of sales people transitioning from sales to management – where they can leverage their relationship skills. What this made me realize is that it is is more than that, the ability to build relationships is important but success will hinge on what type of a person they are. Consider the same definitions applied to management/leadership with a few key words edited (i.e. customer changed to organization):

    • Relationship Builders focus on developing strong personal and professional relationships and advocates across the organization. They are generous with their time, strive to meet everyone’s needs, and work hard to resolve tensions in the internal relationships. (Add: Infrequently progress from manager to leader as they are the keeper of the status quo).
    • Hard Workers show up early, stay late, and always go the extra mile. They’ll make more calls in an hour and conduct more visits in a week than just about anyone else on the team. (Add: It is naïve to think that you do not have to work hard to be successful. You do. But the person who thinks that hard work is enough stay managers. They are great ‘do-ers’.)
    • Lone Wolves are the deeply self-confident, the rule-breaking cowboys of the organization who do things their way or not at all. (Add: Often burn bridges and have difficulty moving from manager to leader as they are not a team player. After all, people follow those they trust)
    • Reactive Problem Solvers are, from the organization’s standpoint, highly reliable and detail-oriented. They focus on follow-up, ensuring that issues related to implementation and execution are addressed quickly and thoroughly. (Add: Great reporting to a leader)
    • Challengers use their deep understanding of the business to push their thinking and take control of the conversation. They’re not afraid to share even potentially controversial views and are assertive — within the organization. (Add: Can build, communicate and execute a vision … in other words, can lead).

As with the sales profiles, I would suggest that the Challenger will outpace the others as they are willing to paint a vision of the future, push boundaries, take risks, face big issues and execute – with relationships, problem solving and hard working contributing to that success.

10 LEADERSHIP LESSONS FROM XEROX

 

While in a Queen’s course on strategy and change management a few weeks ago they played a video from MIT where Anne Mulcahy of Xerox shared her ‘Leadership Lessons from the Firing Line’.

She walks through her introduction to the CEO position while Xerox was under siege with the future of the company in the balance. One of her first stories being a desperate attempt to get Warren Buffet to go back on his famous ‘I don’t invest in technology companies’ philosophy and invest in Xerox. He didn’t change his mind, but he did invite her for dinner and he gave a great piece of advice:

Focus on your customers and lead your employees like their lives depend on it”

Mrs. Mulcahy then goes on to discuss her experience during the Xerox turnaround and the leadership lessons that defined her tenure. The highlights from my notes:

· Good leaders listen, with a bias for action.

· Trust your management instincts. Companies love data, but sometimes you must trust your experience and gut.

· Create clear accountability and good aligned goals to guide the organization.

· People need a vision. Even though Rome was burning, people wanted to know the future. Her team wrote out an article of what Xerox would look like in 5 years, which built optimism.

· Invest for the best of times, even at the worst of times. Critics wanted Xerox to cut R&D, but they didn’t. Now 2/3rds of revenue comes from products that are less than 2 years old.

· Keep communicating, don’t go underground. Nothing beats face to face communications, aligns people to the goals and do not go underground.

· Remain customer focused. Spend time with customers, and continually ask ‘Would the customer pay for this?’

· Seek out the critics and look for critical feedback. Search it out, it is a blessing to find issues early on.

· Find the best talent. Hire people who are different, who have skills and views that are different then leverage those people to educate you.

· Lead by example, give credit to others and be humble.

An inspiring leader with a great story. Well worth the 30 minute investment to watch.

REORGANIZATION

Shared by a friend, and I had to laugh (check the date):

“We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams, we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization.”

Gaius Petronius Arbiter, 210 BC

Unfortunately, it was not from 210. The quote is from Charlton Ogburn Jr (1911-1998), in Harper’s Magazine, “Merrill’s Marauders: The truth about an incredible adventure”

Still, an interesting quote. And of course, a great reinforcement … busy work is just busy work .. it doesn’t mean that anything is being accomplished.

KING HENRY V & LEADERSHIP

I had the opportunity to listen to Jim Fisher speak about leadership a few months ago and he had a few interesting insights, specifically with regard to leadership and managing.

In the 1980’s, the United States was full of ‘well managed’ companies, Kotter and others identified that. But they lacked vision, and their focus on great management (not leadership) lead to process rigidity and a thorough pounding by the Japanese. Those of us who lived in that day and age remember the threat of the Japanese out engineering North America. He made the point that having a plan is not enough. We must have a vision, leadership, a compelling story and a plan to be successful, with the recognition that things change:

‘if we become slaves to the plan, we continue doing things long after they are useful’

A world full of change needs flexibility. We need to have that ‘vision’ of where we can go, and a plan to attain that vision, but it needs to be made out of sand – not etched in stone – ready to change as times change.

He went on to discuss one of his favourite piece of work, King Henry V by Shakespeare (making the point that Shakespeare is a remarkable man, with his plays still achieving more than 50% market share long after his death). In telling the famous story of the English defeat of the French at the Battle of Agincourt, despite terrible odds and an army on the verge of collapse, Shakespeare did it differently than those before him. He painted a picture of a great leader.

From the article ‘Blockbuster Lessons in Leadership’ (Marilyn Linton, FP, August 2003):

‘The first that the king did was have a battle plan’ Mr. Fisher observes, explaining that he knew the business of war and developed an innovative and complex medieval battle plan. His challenge then was to motivate his troops to execute it.

That leadership plan was developed after King Henry spent the night before the battle sitting around the campfires listening to his soldiers and learning how they felt.

‘Stand up and fight together!’ became the simple idea behind the leadership plan. It became evident that King Henry was going to suffer the same as his troops: ‘In real life you don’t always have the confidence your boss has as much skin in the game as you do’ Mr. Fisher says. Shakespeare had the king follow closely the rules of persuasion as taught by many business schools: Be credible, communicate shared benefits, and use vivid language for impact.

‘On the eve of battle, Henry is aware of what he is feeling. He is saying to himself ‘This is terrible. What have I done? I’m weak’. He listens to how how men feel, and he decides, in his speech not to sugar coat the truth.

‘Today, many bosses try to keep the positive spin on things. The fact is people in the trenches know how bad it is long before you do’ Mr. Fisher says.

‘Effective leadership is the combination of having a good business plan with having enough EQ to understand how to motivate people. Too much of the stuff you read about leadership talks about all the motivational things you should do to be ‘leaderly’, but if you are leaderly with a lousy plan, you aren’t going to accomplish anything’

A vision, great leadership .. and a plan. One last interesting quote on the topic of ‘vision’:

‘happiness isn’t about where we are, it is where we are going to be if we are successful … and words can bring that to life’

Agincourt: