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Berger Blog

Expanding the discussion of Generatonal issues in organizations, Leadership, and Individual & Professional Growth.

Getting out of your own way

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

I'm thrilled about a meeting that I have with a client next month. She is the director of a self-contained group that holds a great deal of responsibility for a key strategic piece in her company. The reason I am so thrilled about meeting and working with this director and her team is because she is willing to ask the hard questions. And once she gets them on the table, she's willing to confront them -- with openness, with honesty, and with humility.

It's a simple core challenge -- I might even call it a personal and professional value of hers -- that is at the root of all of her actions and behaviors.

One of the questions that I try living with, both for myself and for those with whom I work, is What is it that enables her to ask those hard questions and bravely face the answers? Likewise, what is it for people that prevents them from doing the same?

Now, let's be clear. I'm not a clinical psychologist, nor am I on this planet to judge anyone. But I am here to be curious.

I can only answer the part of this question that I know. This particular director is driven to succeed, and going so with everyone else's success guaranteed. She will not lay the blame for X or Y failing at the feet of some other (potentially deserving) person. She will not pretend that a certain critical factor is out of her control, therefore sabotaging success. She will not let herself, nor any member of her team, avoid responsibility or accountability.

It's a hard way to go through the business world. Has she been burned in the past? Absolutely! There are people who do not share her same conviction to build success for herself by building success for all. Yet, she remains standing, with successes lining the road of her past.

I'm just thrilled about this meeting.
posted by Michael Berger, 4:10 PM | link | 0 comments |

The speed of the market

Thursday, June 24, 2004

One of my favorite topics -- really my favorite current challenge -- is the reality everyone working today is facing. The speed at which markets change is faster than any company can keep up with. The product side is pressured by global economies, political climate changes, and shifting consumer tastes. But that's only one side of the story. What about the people -- or the human capital - side? A friend of mine forwarded me a link to an article by Kevin Wheeler, founder and president of Global Learning Resources. In the article, he talks about the ways it is impossible to plan for and stay ahead of the shifts, from a training and development standpoint.

Wheeler offers an interesting central point: "...it will be impossible to "plan" the workforce of the future in any meaningful way for more than perhaps three to six months out."

As a person involved in development and training within organizations, I know that reality dictates that it may take this long to plan a training program, much less execute and support one. And even less to be ready to put any new skills or perspectives into use in a functional way.

No, planning and traditional training are not the best answer about how to keep up with the moving target that is a prepared workforce and a prepared organization. (It is one answer, but not the best.)

Wheeler does offer a strategy to be better prepared in the current reality, outlined in four steps:
1. Anticipate the challenges you will face. To educate and guide hiring management, you must gain a thorough knowledge of both your supply chain and your current employees' capabilities and skills;

2. Focus on Employee readiness, not succession planning that prepares a wide range of employees ready for any needs that arise, versus the traditional succession planning organizations normally use;

3. Rapid Response that occurs once a need is identified, enabling you to fill the arising needs very quickly;

4. Taking a new look at jobs, -- which means admitting that the concept that a job is a more or less static set of skills and competencies -- needs to be replaced with accepting that job descriptions and titles need to have built-in flexibility around the skills required to get a piece of work done. This provides for more internal staff who can be used, and broader set of external candidates that may be qualified. By keeping jobs narrowly defined, we limit not only our ability to hire quickly but also the potential for creativity and change.

The bottom line, at least to me, is that we are in a period when transition and movement is the norm. No longer can we expect the old systems and structures to exist, not if we are going to be competing in the current and in the future.
posted by Michael Berger, 10:09 AM | link | 0 comments |

Stating the Obvious?

Monday, June 21, 2004

I spend a lot of time scanning the landscape for things that I believe are powerful or relevant or important. I believe that discovering different ways to help people see something a little bit differently -- often something they already know -- can have a great deal of power.

I was scanning Fast Company's site and come across a series of pithy quotes about what Leadership is from a gathering of names in today's corporate world.

What struck me was not the actual things that these people were saying. Yes, they all had some great, concise words of wisdom and definitions of what (successful) Leadership can be. What struck me was how simple and how obvious so much of what they were saying really was.

..."Communicate..."
..."Listen..."
..."Get out of the way..."
..."Define and declare your vision..."
..."Inspire followers. Make decisions. Give recognition. Open doors..."
..."Walk the talk..."

I mean, how complex are these messages?

Yet, so many leaders that I work with and that colleagues of mine work with struggle with some, if not all, of these things.

In my coaching, I spend a great deal of time and energy helping leaders get out of their own way. Their ego or their fear closes off their ears, retards their judgment, an inhibits their vision. By helping people free their own gifts, by helping them slow down -- even for just a minute -- so much more becomes possible. For them. For the people who work with them. And for the people in their organizations.
posted by Michael Berger, 8:22 PM | link | 0 comments |

Integrity in Leadership

Friday, June 18, 2004

Integrity in Leadership is a concept that keeps coming up in my work and non-work world of late. When I think about what this means, I realize that there are many ways to make meaning of this -- and all of them are right! (at least to some extent).

One very recent example: There's a client group I'm working with right now, and their struggle is that they have truly great ideas about how to do what they do, better, faster, and more effectively. They feel that their leader has asked them to learn more and take on more initiative, by marrying their experience with their technical knowledge, and adding in their creative energy. When reality evolves, they find that they work harder, do their jobs better, but aren't recognized, either publicly or monetarily. To them, their leader has failed them. He lacks integrity. He lacks understanding. He lacks compassion.

Having worked with this leader, I know that none of these charges are true. If anything, this leader is compassionate and understanding, almost to a fault. He is a person with great integrity. Despite my experience or perspective, the team's opinion will not be changed.

I ask the leader, "What would it mean to you if people question your integrity?" The response is first frustration and defensiveness, but we move gradually to curiosity. He wants to know why this group feels this way. He wants to know what he needs to do in order to understand the group's "reality" better, and then what to do to change it. The What he does is not the most critical point to his leadership. It is the How he does it that is just as important. His integrity can grow and spread through his own willingness to be curious and open to how others see what he may not see about himself, and then take action to create a different result.
posted by Michael Berger, 11:26 AM | link | 0 comments |
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