Leadership Programs – The Autopsy

City Morgue (0)“Cause of death?”

“The heart stopped.”

If you are a CSI fan, a fan of the spinoffs, forensic or crime documentaries, or any other show or movie of the genre, you’ve probably watched hundreds of hours of forensic science.

You’re practically a coroner!

Forget all of the testing, the gruesome details of each case, the motives, or the means; the cause of all deaths come down to one final outcome…

The heart stopped.

I can’t say that I have seen hundreds of leadership programs, but I can say that I have been responsible for sponsoring and building, maybe, ten programs from scratch.  I’ve been exposed to others (maybe 30) in an advisory role or as a participant.

In each case, the success or effectiveness of leadership training came down to the question “was the heart still beating?” Continue reading

No, You’re Not a Leader

Leader - a - ManagerSitting in a chair does not make you a leader.

(Not even if it is a really nice chair).

I struggled for a long time over the difference between being a leader and being a manager.  I knew there was an important way to parse the two, but it took me a while to figure it out.

It is a fundamental discussion point for everyone to realize because it is the first step in leadership development.  It is the demarcation point when you invest in your future leaders and potential succession pool.

The nuance leads to planning for responsibilities and expectations.  Some people believe that a place and position is enough and leadership is automatic.  Many people would equate the occupancy of a supervisory position as being a leader.  Leadership is not automatic, but a mindful application of communications, developing relationship, and influence.

The two words are often used as synonyms, but in my mind they are not the same concept.  I’ve always felt that management referred to resources and leadership implied a component of motivation.

If you have a job and you manage time, money, materials, or personnel, you are not a leader.  You are a manager.

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Bill O’Reilly (Memory Challenge)

One of the hardest comments for anyone to say when speaking of Bill O’Reilly is “I have no opinion about the guy.” He makes it almost impossible to separate the messenger from the message.

Human bias is not part of an intellectual process, it is an emotional one. Almost everyone has a bias regarding O’Reilly. If the bias is positive, people agree with him automatically because he resonates with them emotionally and reinforces the group opinion (several documented biases come into effect that strengthens group membership). If the bias is negative, another group of people disagree, also automatically, with biases that enforce their group feeling.

Full disclosure on my part… My own biases of O’Reilly stem from my perception of his abrasiveness and my lifelong cynicism of self-appointed experts and authorities.

I have to put those aside. Ignore the news hype and make a fair analysis so I can fairly judge O’Reilly and ask the question…

Was Bill O’Reilly really lying?

I recently discussed Bill O’Reilly’s media crisis (here).  He responded to his critics and the crisis terribly.  I also discussed Brian Williams’ crisis and the mitigating circumstances that I believe contributed to a faulty memory recollection that blew up into a media frenzy (here).

Does O’Reilly deserve the same benefit of doubt that I feel Williams deserves?  Do the same mitigating circumstances apply?? Continue reading

My Day of Grace

With the most recent anniversary of her passing last week, I’m reminded of a memory of Grace Hopper (d: 1 January 1992, age: 82), who I admired and once had the chance to meet.

As the Internet bubbles, a fragment of information sometimes percolates to the top and reveals itself in a way that generates a thread of memories that can make you feel both lucky and a little sad.

We were not close, she was not my mentor.  She was (and is) a part of my professional cultural history, a history I share with thousands of other military members in all of the services and millions of people in the technology fields.  I feel not only lucky, but honored to have spent some time with her.

The Nano-minute (US Navy photo courtesy of Chips magazine)
The Nano-minute
(US Navy photo courtesy of Chips magazine)
 How often do you get to spend the day with a (no hyperbole) legend?  I do not use the term legend lightly.  She was so renowned in certain fields that everyone in those fields study her career.  The best part of her legend was that the general public quite probably never heard of her or what she accomplished, yet her career and her work has affected almost every single person alive today.  Continue reading

The Absence of Leadership

Absent leader (1)There is no guarantee that leadership will make a company successful,  but I can almost guarantee a company will fail without it.

I had a surprising conversation with an HR director in a European branch office of a US company about leadership and its role in the company.

This person was a very experience executive, I’d estimate 10-15 years of work experience and responsible for HR policy and recruiting.  After the usual background exchange I asked about the biggest leadership challenges the company faced.  Were there issues of recruitment or development or mentoring?

The HR director looked at me and said that there were no problems, we don’t use leadership in this company.

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Turnaround Tools – Cash Flow and Prioritizing Payables

The term “turnaround management” may bring to mind the corporate white knight who rides in to save the day and get a business back on track.  An element of truth gives it a certain romantic appeal.

But the term more accurately refers to that point after a company has filed for bankruptcy and has entered receivership.  In other words… creek… no paddle.

Cash flow and prioritizing payables
Cash is King (thank you Luis Pereiro).  You can have an unprofitable company, so long as you are able to meet your cash obligations.  You can have the best company in the world with high profits, but if you cannot meet your payments the company will fail. Continue reading

For Want of a Nail…

The Nail (2)It isn’t always the “Big Ideas” that are the most satisfying, but the simple ideas with the big impact.

Idea Aikido so to speak.

One of my favorite examples was with a startup company in Barcelona Spain.

For Want of a Nail
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
– anonymous proverb

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