January 2011

The developmental digest for emerging leader/managers devoted to growth and excellence


Section 1 - Topical Topics

Leadership for a New Decade

Why we need it . . .

In last month’s lead article I argued for a different style of leadership for the governance role than for that of management. I claimed that there are three essential differentiators where successful governance will distinguish itself relative to ongoing management practice –

  •     the ascendancy of wisdom over knowledge,
  •    a focus on the engagement of organizational (and individual) strengths, and
  •    a solutions / outcomes emphasis.

While I hope I made it clear that there are substantial overlaps between governance and management and that the roles should collaborate on many, if not most, leadership issues, I may have inferred that the ‘differentiators’ mentioned above are of primary concern to governance, perhaps at the expense of management.

Such was not my intent. Management needs to be as focused on wisdom, strengths and outcomes as Board members. However, they may well need to handle these differentiating factors differently. May I explain by use of comparisons and contrasts?

A Matter of Wisdom . . .

Wisdom could be defined as a level of situational awareness and insightfulness that allows us to understand what is possible, appropriate, applicable and attainable and why this is so. It permits us to assess and quantify / qualify associated risk and to set reasonable goals, standards and other expectations. Some call it ‘common sense’ but then, as my sainted Scottish aunt used to tell me, the trouble with common sense is that it’s not very common!

Wisdom is aligned with superior judgment and discernment. It helps us to differentiate options, apply proper weightings and priorities and to make relevant comparisons. It is based on both fact and opinion and encourages a good degree of subtlety in our considerations. Finally, it enables us to think outside conventions.

In the Board’s leadership role it would use wisdom to explore possibilities, expand horizons, foresee consequences and potentials, anticipate obstacles and evaluate possible risks. The applications are expansionary and ‘divergent’ as possible futures are considered and their merits or otherwise are assessed; this is largely an objective process.

In its oversight role the applications are different, encompassing understanding, empathy, patience, resilience and significance and also duty, diligence, prudence and accountability, all relative judgments and a more subjective approach. These are exceedingly complex and volatile issues and are difficult to manage in the light of resident biases and predispositions; for this reason we rely heavily on a Board’s collective or consensual deliberations.

For Management the focus is on implementation and execution of broader objectives and restraints that are set by the Board or dictated by ownership directly. Management operates within a predefined context so it works with more structure. This means that expected results can be specified and agreed as specific outcomes with crystal-clear standards - quality, quantity, timing and cost.

Since all involved in the process are able to visualize the end goal from the outset, attention can shift to how the outcome might be attained and this process could be described properly as ‘convergent’. However, Management may choose to use wisdom for intricate and complicated leadership decisions.

Simple decisions can be rational and reasoned, but more complex decisions, where there are many variables,  demand insight and judgements which are often based on prior experience. So, Management will tend to use wisdom whenever rationality breaks down; where there are too many variables to consider; or where there are unknowable complexities.

In risk assessment particularly there are sizeable overlaps between Board and Management roles; Management likely has detailed and up-to-date intelligence that pertains while the Board has greater objectivity, perhaps broader experience and a deeper appreciation of impact awareness. In such situations, a melding of perspectives and perceptions is highly desirable.

A critically important point however, is that there needs to be a clear and visible separation of perspectives and perceptions between the two bodies; the two realities cannot be too aligned or there’s no leverage. In the absence of such independent leverage essential and considerable value would be lost, and, in this regard, there’s need to recognize the difference between collusion and consensus.

Strengths and . . .
Generally strengths have been under-rated by both Boards and Management. If cognitive competencies are the acquired knowledge, skills and experience — in short, the ‘way’ power to get the job done — then strengths or passions are ‘will’ power, the motivating energy.

But it’s so much easier to define, detect and measure cognitive competencies, and because their acquisition involves much ‘sweat equity’ we are likely to value them more highly. Strengths, especially those which are inherent versus those which are acquired, are not always apparent or demonstrable except through direct experience. As a result, we’ve traditionally hired people for their ‘head’ (cognitive competencies) and then subsequently had to fire them for reasons connected with ‘heart’ (passion or lack thereof).

An analogy I like to use is that our strengths equate to the engine of a car, while our cognitive competencies are the transmission and our behaviors/actions are the wheels. This fits well with the relative roles of our unconscious mind versus that of the conscious or rational mind. We tend to be driven more by our passions and controlled more by our rationality.

Obviously the two minds need to work together and preferably in a synchronous way; doubt, confusion and inconsistencies in action are not particularly business friendly. Since our ‘two’ minds have significantly different scopes, work using different processes and at radically different speeds, this synchronization is difficult to manage deliberately. In the hands of a skilled driver, one who knows his or her vehicle intimately, the meshing of gears is less of a problem but, generally, we’ll manage it best if we allow for an automatic transmission to operate.

Most of us do not know our minds or how they work; we can’t find our User’s Manual! We need to take the time and make the effort required to achieve mastery – or at least some reasonable competency. Self awareness is the one approach that works to accomplish this yet this can elude us until we’re manoeuvred into a situation where we are obliged to learn the lessons needed. In my experience these lessons will be repeated until we have learned them!

Whether we are Board members or Management though, there’s a pervasive and overwhelming temptation to stay on familiar, comfortable ground – where we learn very little about ourselves. We really need to know our self and particularly our strengths and passions lest they manage us instead of the other way around. Progress in this area is often made in the form of ‘aha!’ experiences or insights and also when we are stretched beyond our normal expectations.

We will always profit too, if we both recognize and engage the strengths that others have to offer – a collective approach. So, for Board members and managers alike, self awareness is a foundational requirement for success; and self discovery is usually so very exciting.

. . . Outcomes
If there’s relatively little variance as Board members or managers in how we engage our inherent strengths to advantage there is certainly a substantial difference in how we perceive outcomes. Indeed, it’s this singular difference that spawns the real value of having these two distinctive roles contributing to the same organization.

One traditional perspective is that Boards need to have a longer-term focus while Management focuses on more immediate responses – but this is simplistic. It’s likely more appropriate to say that managers need to think forward from wherever they might be at the moment, to predict market responses to current initiatives and to anticipate possible opportunities and consequences.

Board members, on the other hand, can deliver best value if they work from the future, identifying outcomes that are realizable and safe yet also unique and stretching, that will take the organization to where it could be. To achieve this, potential ‘futures’ have to be created, assessed and designed in such a way that Management are able to implement them, so the Board has to be able to think from the future back to the present.

There’s more to outcomes than just the timing though. Outcomes have to be matched to realities – to market needs, quality and quantity standards, to regulatory demands, technological possibilities and to cost restraints, among many other criteria. The issues center not only on practical concerns but on ethical, political, social, and perhaps even upon philosophical issues too. There's a call for ‘judgements’ here which can be expressed mainly in the wisdom dimension.

Again, for Board members the need is to deal effectively and efficiently with uncertainty — to take a more subjective approach to the issues. There are usually extensive variables which make rationality a challenge and, at the same time, reliance on past experience in all its diversity is a clear advantage.

Management has the task of creating new ‘realities’, achieving expected results through the intelligent application of resources and standards. Often managers are beset with the same need to juggle multiple variables but usually with a view to taming them — bringing them under effective control. Outcomes for the Board can be speculative and sometimes imprecise; for Management they are practical, tangible, measurable and definable.

The Bottom Line . . .
Board members and managers require wisdom, strengths and outcomes in good measure. There may well be strong parallels in the application of strengths, individual and collective, but there are significant differences in the other two areas, sufficient to warrant separate perspectives, perceptions and unique strategies.

It’s not contested that experienced managers can become contributing Board members, and there’ll always be a role for the executive director, but it is also clear that the same practices that led to Management success will not automatically create success in a governance role. We need to make conscious changes.

This isn’t such a strange idea though; we’ve encountered it on several occasions in our respective pasts — like when we make the transitions from suitor to spouse and from spouse to parent. As we do so, we don’t surrender all that we were, rather we fold our proven competencies into our emerging awareness — we grow and develop.
As the role changes, so must the strategies we need for effective performance.

Think about it!

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A Note to Our Readers

I’d welcome your questions, comments and suggestions. We can all learn through dialogue and your viewpoints will undoubtedly gain more value when shared. Please contact me at david@andros.org.

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Timely Insights

  • Commit to an Advisory Board. . .

I love PROFIT magazine’s current series of Growth Planner instalments, timely advice for entrepreneurs from their peer group. The most recent is a short article by Greig Clark of College Pro Painters on the advantages of setting up and maintaining an Advisory Board.

He offers a concentration of sound, practical advice that is pure gold for business owners and consultants alike. Take a few moments to digest and then reflect; if you appreciate the style, sign up for PROFIT’s newsletter and follow the series.

  • Go for It Now – or Later?. . .

Harvard professor David I. Laibson has authored a great article that explains how we make gratifying decisions – where we resolve to exercise more, but end up in front of the TV at the end of the day instead of at the gym; we promise to clean up our diet and then overindulge at the office holiday party; we pledge to put money away for retirement, but end up maxing out credit cards that charge 14 percent interest.

This is insightful and illuminating, whether you’re trying to understand your own or other’s behaviors; it seems that a deeper understanding of how our minds work is becoming a compelling topic for all leaders.

  • HBR's 10 Must Reads on Managing Yourself . . .
The path to your own professional success starts with a critical look in the mirror. What you see there — your greatest strengths and deepest values — are the foundations you must build on. Harvard has combed through hundreds of HBR articles on managing yourself and selected the most important ones to help you.

This collection of best-selling articles includes: "Managing Oneself"; "Management Time: Who's Got the Monkey?"; "How Resilience Works"; "Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time"; "Overloaded Circuits: Why Smart People Underperform"; "Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life"; "Reclaim Your Job"; "Moments of Greatness: Entering the Fundamental State of Leadership"; "What to Ask the Person in the Mirror" and "Primal Leadership: The Hidden Driver of Great Performance".

These collections can save you time and help you meet a specific management challenge. One-page overviews draw out the main points. Annotated bibliographies point you to related resources. Includes original HBR articles.

 Quotable Quotes . . .

"The happiest people don't have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything they have."                                         -- Anonymous
"The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action."   
                                  -- John Dewey
"Failure is never final and success is never ending. Success is a journey, not a destination."
-- Ben Sweetland

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Section 2 - Talk Back

Coach's Corner

A selection from frequently–asked questions
Dear Coach,
I’m not sure why, but I am finding that relationships with significant people in my life will always deteriorate. I seem to start well, whether it’s with a new boss, colleagues, friend or contact, but then I end up having to do all the work to keep the relationship going. The other person involved doesn’t appear to care whether the relationship continues or not. In most cases it has to continue!
I’m not aware that I’m doing anything wrong, there are no real incidents that happen, but things always seem to go sideways. What am I doing wrong here?

There’s a pattern in your description of the issue that’s revealing; the relationships ‘start well, and then appear to deteriorate’. There’s little evidence of causation but inevitably the relationships decline over time.

When agreements and expectations are clearly constructed at the outset, it’s relatively easy to detect when they are coming off the tracks. Relationship agreements are rarely this clear cut, however. As a result any relationship can morph from one which appeared to be acceptable, even desirable, into one which is border-line and even into one that’s problematic.

As this happens we may not detect the changes until they become very obvious and, as a result, we don’t take action to build or sustain the relationship. Now, I suspect that all relationships, if left to chance, would slowly atrophy and I also believe that every relationship requires some measure of sustaining initiatives.

After all, our long-standing friends and close acquaintances can begin to ‘wear’ on us at times. This can happen especially where they’ve had a downturn in their fortunes and become generally negative as a result, or when they become fixated on their own realities and show little or no interest in ours. Even our life partners can become self-absorbed and fail to show proper appreciation for the efforts we might be making.

What can emerge from these trying situations is that we create stories to explain their less-than-desirable behaviors.  These stories will now convince us that the fault must lie within them – their situation, upbringing, temperament or whatever – so there’s nothing we can do about it and we cast ourselves in the role of victim.

You appear to be enlightened in this respect; you are still conscious that there’s something you can or should do to remedy the situation — well done! You’re not sure though what you need to do or stop doing, so here are some practical suggestions:
Ask yourself —
  • Am I acting it out rather than talking it out? In this case we talk about the other person (perhaps only to our self but often we’ll include others) instead of talking to them about the issue.
  •  Am I fixated on my own concerns?  Is my inner voice telling me that I’m right, and that they are living down to my expectations; am I seeing in their behaviors all the confirming evidence that I’m anticipating?
  • Am I confirming that the problem is in them?  This way I cannot do anything about it – it would be too difficult and besides I don’t have the right to change them even if I could.
  • Am I telling myself there’s too great a risk in taking action? Would speaking up only make the situation worse than it already is, and that I don’t have the ability to make it better?
  • Have I lived with the situation so long that it’s almost comfortable? Is it really true that the devil you know is better than those you haven’t met yet? Why disturb it; it's not that bad, yet!

Start afresh —
  • Make a new agreement. Go back to the basic reasons for the relationship allowing that there are ‘friends for a reason; friends for a season and friends for a lifetime’ and renegotiate the agreement and expectations. If they agree, the job is done; if not, ask why not!
  • Share Intentions / Assumptions. Open up your reasons for having a relationship and solicit their input; state your terms and conditions and invite theirs; present your expectations and request that they do likewise. If there’s a relationship in the making you’re already half-way there.
  • Consider from the future back to the present. What’s the legacy you are seeking from this relationship? How will both sides be benefitted and enhanced through investing in each other? What are the outcomes, which can be different in form and substance, which each person might reasonably expect?
Whatever you design you must now support. You will have planted a seedling perhaps and it will need to be fed and watered intensely for a while until natural events can take over the job; keep the weeds at bay and don’t neglect to appreciate and reinforce it, to cross-fertilize it as needed and to harvest the fruits.

It may well be that you have been a neglectful gardener, or just that your initial planting techniques need a little work. If you desire the fruits, you’ll need to put in some deliberate work.

I hope this helps.

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Leadership from Within

I’ve recently re-read C. Otto Scharmer’s thought-provoking article "Uncovering the Blind Spot of Leadership” – thanks to Sharon Quarrington of Horse Sense.

I am struck once again by the clarity of his thought and the compelling argument he presents which most of us in leadership development persistently ignore. He begins with a simple but irrefutable suggestion that we all need to listen more deeply than we do, especially if we seek to lead others. He then proceeds to describe a journey that we must take, as individuals and collectively if we are to create real and sustainable change.

There’s no magic here, it’s not too difficult to comprehend and it’s unambiguous. So why doesn’t it happen?

Simple – it requires more time and effort than most of us are prepared to invest. But let’s take a closer look at that; if the return on the investment is enough, why would we not make the investment? If I were to give you a gilt-edged guarantee that a $10.000.00 investment would earn you a five-fold return - $50,000.00 – within thirty days, wouldn’t you find a way to scrape together the $10,000.00 and in a hurry?

Now, what if I told you that if you were to make the initial investment, gain and retain the return, you would then be eligible to repeat the process whenever you wanted with absolutely no limits and no risk of loss? Would you not be interested?

This is exactly what C. Otto Scharmer is offering us. Instead of dollars, it’s leadership effectiveness. Once you’ve mastered the process for yourself you are free to extend it to anyone else and derive secondary profits. What would that do to your prestige? What difference might that make in the foundational quality of your life?

Try it! Risk nothing as you test the merit of the system. If you’re not totally blown-away by its potential then walk away and leave it; but if you suspect that it has incredible merit and potential then invest whatever time and effort that’ might be required to master the process. I shall be doing that, precisely.

At this point there are two actions you can take to explore this further. The first of these is to read his original article in Leader to Leader magazine (Winter 2008 edition) attached. Second, download the executive summary (overview or full version) from his website.

So will you make the effort to investigate this opportunity?

Let me help you with a few reasons why you won’t:

  • You already know everything you need to know about leadership.
  • You’re already so far down the path to success you don’t have need for another approach.
  • If the idea / approach was that good you’d already have thought about it yourself.
  • You’re really busy right now so you’ll get to it later – much later, as I did when I first heard about it.
  • You know there are no ‘silver bullets’ in leadership so this one can’t have real merit.
  • If the approach takes that much effort, no one else will have tried it so it is unlikely to work.
  • It will work but only for those who are more senior / junior / specialized / generalized / etc. than you.
  • You likely won’t have enough opportunities to use it in practice so it’s not worth the effort.
  • It’s really designed for management consultants, teachers, coaches, etc - not for real leaders.
  • Shall I go on?

Or will you invest ten minutes and check it out for yourself?

Who Knew? Responding To A Negative Performance Review

..............Written Anonymously – for Polaris Digest

I had no idea so many people received negative performance reviews – until I was one of them. For those of us in multi-national corporate context, with highly formalized review systems, the Internet is replete with advice on how to respond.

My day came after eight years working in the same industry sector for two different corporations, always as a high achiever.  First things first: on telling a confidante about it, he presumed that I was exaggerating because my standards are high: "You probably got 75 per cent, right?". No, if I was marking it, I’d estimate it to be a 57.  I knew very thoroughly that this year had raised difficult challenges to my ways and style. Nonetheless, in the eight years, I had always "exceeded" on reviews; here I was with some "partially met" scores. I didn't quite comprehend those: what were the tasks I didn't do?

And so I took a deep breath. Then, as one does in our Age, I hopped on to the Internet. Advice for those in my situation generally fell along two lines: it is an end, or it is a beginning. That is, "they" are trying to fire "you" by making it your idea to quit, or instead, they are sending you an earnest message as to how they see you, albeit suddenly, as inadequate to their agenda - especially if the agenda of the corporation has changed. The key to determining which is the main point in your situation, according to Internet sources, is to view the review through the prism of your corporate culture: how do they tend to deliver good or bad news?

After reading several sites, I decided that I may never know all of the motives behind my employer’s review. Motives are always mixed. Far better to spend my time on, "What can I learn?" than "what does it mean?"

Even after deciding to take the "learning" route, however, advice is divided as to how to respond. Some sites advocate a simple response to the negative review. That is, these advisors say: register your objections, in brief, summary form. Don't be drawn into a Q and A that is just going to be demoralizing, use your allotted opportunity to respond in writing, and leave it at that.

Other sites recommend getting into the whole review in detail. "You say here, for instance, that I was "repeatedly late. However, I have records to show that..." This gives the fact-based critic a basis on which to adjust his or her score.

My review wasn't quite that fact-based. Maybe therein lies a clue as to how I can most productively respond. Up until now, the value I've added has been in the general areas of client relationships, credibility, thought leadership and understanding of the legal marketplace. I believe I have exceeded at those contributions; and I suspect my employer would admit so too. So perhaps there has been a shift in the measure of my contribution – is it now more quantifiable? Or is it that the job requirements have changed because the corporate agenda has changed – this too, is all about the facts.

Midway through my research and thinking as to the most effective response to my negative performance review, I do like this notion: rather than challenging my boss with my interpretation of the facts, I am contemplating asking him, and his colleagues, "What are the facts on which this is based; what measures went into this review?"

With these in mind, the learning, and thereby, the career advancement is bound to improve.

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Section 3 - On The Horizon

Value from Your Advisory Board

How can I get the most value from an Advisory Board?

........By Jeff Haltrecht

Deciding to form an Advisory Board for your private business may prove to be the smartest decision you make.  The ability to leverage the experiences of those who have gone before will help your company avoid unnecessary risk, while focusing employee efforts behind the opportunities that create long-term prosperity.

Here are my thoughts on how you can get the most value from your Board.

1. Identify The Advisory Board’s Mandate

Start by identifying what you want the Board to do for you and the company during this next phase of business (generally 3 to 5 years).

  • Is the Board’s primary mandate to build on existing wealth, or to protect it?
  • Do you want them to help prepare for, and oversee, an ownership transition?
  • Does the business need experienced guidance during a restructuring?

While an Advisory Board will play multiple roles, its mandate must be singular and clear to all involved.

2.  Own The Agenda

It’s your business and your agenda; articulate the goals and drive the topics, while allowing the advisors to engage you in robust dialogue.

Answer the 5 ‘What’ questions:

  •  What is the 3 - 5 year objective for the Board?
  • What is the over-arching theme for current year?
  • What are the 3 to 5 initiatives that must be accomplished this year?
  • What are the planned topics for each meeting?
  • What is the detailed agenda for the first meeting?

3.  Establish a Meeting Schedule of Between 4 – 8 Meetings Per Year

For a private company, the advisory board should meet at minimum 4 times per year.  My personal preference is 6 times as it definitely helps build and maintain momentum.

If the company faces a number of opportunities that carry large investment or are deemed to contain higher levels of risk, it would be wise to meet with even greater frequency.

4.  Assign A Board Chair To Lead

A smart move by the owner would be to assign one of the advisors as chairman of the board.  By shifting the responsibility for conversation flow and board management, the owner is now better able to participate and actively listen.

5.  Prepare And Issue Pre-Reads Seven Days Prior

The curse of any business meeting is someone using valuable time to present content that could have been read in advance.

As the owner, it’s your responsibility to prepare and issue pre-read information a minimum of seven days prior to the Advisory Board meeting.  Likewise, the advisors must not only read, but prepare points-of-view and questions that will foster the dialogue.

6.  Be Bold; Communicate Openly And Honestly; Share Your Opinion

Advisory boards work best when you build a level of trust that allows you, and your advisors, to be bold with the thinking.

Talk openly and honestly amongst each other, while considering all options before making a decision.

7.  Deal With Opportunities Head-On; Don’t Skirt Around The Issues

Some of the most important topics regarding your business’ future can be uncomfortable to talk about.  While this unease is normal, push yourself to deal with the opportunity head-on.  You will find the decision becomes easier from the insight gained.

8.  Ask Probing Questions; Listen To The Board's Experience

An Advisory Board can be likened to ‘renting’ experience.  By surrounding yourself with individuals with complementary strengths and backgrounds, you can tap into a breadth of wisdom.

In advance of each Board meeting, prepare a series of open-ended questions that will get your advisors telling stories.  Now listen to their experience and think about how you can apply the learning to your business.

9.  Let Them Be The Company’s Catalyst For Change

Out of change comes opportunity, which in itself can lead to prosperity.  Having a great idea and a plan to get there is not good enough, however.  It’s too easy as a business owner to get marred in the details or carried off track by a few minor issues.

Your Advisory Board needs to be the catalyst that will help the company breakthrough its next phase.  Let them push you and your team for disciplined action that leads to planed results.

10.  Honor your commitments

There are many reasons to honor your commitments, with the obvious one respecting others.  But it goes deeper than that.  You will find that the more you follow through on topics of discussion; the more your Advisory Board will engage you.

This ‘circle’ of dialogue and follow-through is what propels the company forward.

There is no better time than the present to form an Advisory Board that will help provide leadership and oversight to the company.  Make sure you get the most out of the time you spend together.

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Bulletin Board

Introducing the NEW Polaris website

We are pleased to introduce the NEW Polaris website at www.polarisprogram.com.  The design communicates effectively the unique features and benefits of this highly acclaimed leadership development program.  You will find an excellent program outline along with resources, articles and discussion guides for your continuous learning at the new web site.  Be sure to take a look yourself and then refer the web site to colleagues and friends whom you believe would benefit from the Polaris learning experience.

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Your Development

Polaris Leadership Academy now accepting new participants.

Now is the time to register for participation in the next Polaris program.  This is your opportunity to grow significantly as a leader and to become a key driver of your organization’s future.
  • Are you finding it difficult to engage and mobilize your people and/or peers?
  • Do your messages and points of view go unheard in the organization?
  • Do you struggle to build strong relationships?
  • Do you often feel like a voice in the wilderness?
  • Do you know deep down that you could do more?
If you answered ‘yes’ to even one of these questions, you will profit from Polaris.  Through insightful assessment, tutoring and constructive coaching, we identify, stimulate and develop positive and enduring leaders and managers, helping you to prepare for more substantial contributions, more significant roles and greater responsibilities.

Over a period of a full year we cover 9 strategies in depth through a series of interactive workouts and practicums shared with peer-level colleagues and augmented by one-on-one individual coaching.  You will gain greater self insights and awareness of personal strengths and competencies as well as learn how to leverage knowledge, skills, experience and relationships to secure enhanced results. Through this experience you become increasingly focused, self confident and resilient, contributing real value to the organization in practical, measurable ways.

A new program will be offered in the Spring of 2011.

Visit www.polarisprogram.com  or call David at 416-254-4167 or Jeff at 905-601-0311 to find out more.

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