October 2011

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


Section 1 - Topical Topics

Leadership Follow-Through

Cementing Outcomes . . .

In the past two issues, we’ve been looking at the practical aspects of effective leadership. I’ve been sharing some exchanges I’ve been having with my colleague Robert on the strategy of story-telling as a way of focusing other people’s intentions as well as some thoughts on subsequent roles in facilitating needed change.

Well, the story telling really worked for Robert; in fact it worked a little too well! He has become quite adept at influencing the perspectives and perceptions of his staff, to the point that he experienced a strong desire to share ownership of the changes rather than allowing them to do their own thing. This is ‘thin ice’ territory.

So, we’ve been concentrating on reducing this intrusiveness because it really doesn’t work well with today’s more independently-minded young people. Generations ‘X’, ‘Y’ or ‘Millennials' don’t respond well to control-centered styles no matter how well intentioned they are. Robert is learning to facilitate change and to be a catalyst, rather than a change agent, and this is tough for him; it’s not the way he’s been developed through his career to-date.

By shifting his focus ahead to the outcomes required — that is to solutions desired or results, as opposed to those processes needed to accomplish them — it’s been possible to minimize some less-than-desirable interventions that reflect his more traditional leadership and managerial styles. This creates room for his people to manoeuvre and to engage their unique knowledge, skills and experiences as well as their personal strengths as they contribute.

Now it sounds paradoxical but to change Robert’s focus to outcomes we’ve needed to reconfigure the beginning.

The Right Foot . . .

We can see at this point that there are three distinct stages in any successful leadership intervention – focusing, facilitation and follow-through. Although these are separate initiatives, and can be discussed as such, there are few clear distinctions in the elements that bind them together to get the desired results. There are seeds of each one deeply embedded within the other two.

In short, we should think about how we can best facilitate and also how we are going to follow-through even as we begin the focusing stage. We will likely have to link back to the focusing as we facilitate and also as we follow-through. So there will be themes that run through all three stages which need to be inserted into the process, often long before we will actually use them.

In focusing, which is the first step, our attention is properly on the desire for change that’s resident in other people. It is this motivating desire that we’re trying to focus at a conscious level of awareness. As we do this, however, we must not ignore the more fundamental question of why the change is needed, why it’s now timely, do-able, acceptable and beneficial. We can’t just take this for granted because we’re bound to need it later as we follow-through!

In addition, what we are focusing on is not always simple and crystal clear; it can be somewhat vague (like a feeling or state-of-mind response) and/or it may have multiple stages or potential expressions, all of which have to be managed in a complex market. The ‘trick’ is to keep it straight-forward and manageable while keeping everyone’s eyes on the ball in play.

Trust established between the leader and others will go a long way to resolving any discrepancies as we proceed. However, the legacies of uncertainty, doubt and confusion in people’s minds are inefficiencies in action and losses in interpersonal confidence; and both of these can erode trust!

One effective way to reduce the chances of future inefficiencies and unmet expectations is to ask questions, right up-front, such as "What would this look like when we achieve it?” and "How are we going to know that we’ve been successful in creating a sustainable change?” Early discussions that lead to consensus on these topics will create shared visions and make it so much easier for us to affirm that we’re on the right track even while we’re heavily engaged in implementation.

Other good techniques include splitting the total initiative into stages – bite-sized chunks – that are easier to manage, building in frequent review points, and creating a visible scoreboard. The objective is to ensure that everyone involved can know and feel the progress being made whenever the need arises.

Making It Work . . .

Robert’s emerging challenge is in securing sure and sustainable results from his team. He’s learned how to grab their attention and he’s mastering the art of harnessing their passions by allowing them to express themselves fully as independent contributors.

These actions, as good as they are, will not guarantee the results needed for the organization. He needs to monitor outcomes, as well as trends, to ensure that the sum of individual contributions is creating value as defined by the organization’s strategic thrust. A useful analogy here is the orchestra — as conductor he has to blend the unique, even virtuosi, contributions of each part of the orchestra to create a symphony in the ears of the audience that’s true to the composer’s score.

As this analogy infers, the leadership process isn’t, and cannot ever be, static; in fact, it’s totally dynamic, changing all the time and in all ways. This offers the insight that it has to be a collaborative exercise and the more people that are engaged in it, the better the chances of success.

Right from the very start, the leader who is offering focus needs to emphasize inclusivity and the big picture. It’s just like ‘nosing’ a single malt scotch or wine; you don’t stick your nose deep into the glass and inhale deeply, sucking the very essence out of the spirit. You approach gently and with short exposures, savouring each one as you build discovery and appreciation.

The focusing act thereby is a series of short, discrete interventions that gain a little ground, then retreat to allow others to catch up and contribute. For certain, going hard at it, making a short, single and overwhelming impact is probably going to miss the mark – building insights is more delicate than this.

Between these short, exploratory interventions the leader can insert the seeds for future facilitation and follow-through. People need time and space to hear and assimilate fresh perspectives and to figure out what this might mean to them – where it could make a difference to their current realities.

So, as the intervention unfolds, make time for consolidation and the airing of concerns. If potential followers have doubts, real or speculative, they’ll be seriously distracted from the outcomes being designed. It’s better to surface these and to deal with them as you proceed versus waiting until later when they’ve solidified as active or passive resistance to the cause.

The world is changing as we speak and this means that the future is shifting too. It won’t remain where we placed it originally. When an organization attempts to impose a strategic thrust to guide the actions of its people, it’s actually attempting to accommodate these shifts, not to eliminate them. The leader’s job in this respect is to guide current initiatives within the broad confines of a strategic pathway. This calls for frequent follow-through interventions with ongoing, minor course adjustments.

Long journeys will usually profit from periodic breaks; the pauses that refresh in many ways. Thus it is with the changes that emerge from leadership interventions. An unrelenting race to meet demanding deadlines, real or imposed, will only result in exhaustion and burn-out. The pace of the journey isn’t constant; there’ll be times when accelerated progress is necessary but denying the opportunity for discrete rest breaks is short-sighted.

So plan for periodic breaks and for changes in the pace of change and also allow for spontaneous breaks when the situation demands and permits. There are many battles in history where the outcome could have been quite different if an army had been allowed to rest and replenish before engaging the enemy.

The Ultimate Goal . . .

 Creating successful change is seductive; it’s also dangerous!

People do not always want what they think they want. The old adage is, "Be careful of what you want, lest you get it!”  The light of hindsight will often reveal consequences of past changes that we had not anticipated and which we do not desire. Having committed to the change though we are now incapable of winding back the clock, and guess who we are likely to blame for the error.

Since few of us are able to foresee all possible consequences going into the change, what could we do to mitigate the impacts that were not intended?

We cannot predict the future with certainty but we can affirm our values and longer-term aspirations. As we focus and plan for the change, and as we proceed through its implementation, we need to raise our heads and check that we’re still aligned with those deeper-seated values that have made us what we are. It’s very easy to lose sight of these values in the heat and dust of creating change.

The most obvious of all these are the relationships that are meaningful in our lives. It is here that we have invested so much of ourselves and at a foundational level. These relationships cannot be placed in danger by the potential benefits of a short-term change, no matter how intensely attractive and immediate it might be.

Similarly, each of us has ethical / moral principles that are profoundly meaningful to us and these should never be compromised. On the other hand, we cannot be closed to innovation and opportunities for healthy expansions so the risks associated with balancing possible gains against likely losses or shortfalls has to be carefully considered.

This is the domain of the subconscious mind which operates beyond our rational control – some call it intuition or ‘gut feel’. It will work for us if we give it time and opportunity and when it does, we should be listening and we should take it seriously. The pitfall is haste; if we do not set aside sufficient time and occasionally suspend action for a reasonable period, we’ll suffer consequences.

One thing is sure; the regrets associated with premature action are deep and long lasting; it’s better to make space for deep consequence evaluation while we still can.

The Bottom Line . . .

Focusing, facilitating and following-through – all are critically important aspects of the leadership process. They’re not separate and distinct steps that we can employ as a formula – a ritualistic approach; they’re integrated and component parts that work together to make the healthy body of change work as it should.

We must not get lost in the process though. It is vital that we make the right changes, not only in the short-term but also in the strategic arena. It’s also vital that we make such changes in the right way – protecting and preserving our values and principles as we go.

Front-end loading our considerations to keep the big picture clearly in mind for everyone who is involved in and affected by the proposed change is a central responsibility. Guiding our people into the change sensitively and gently, protecting them, sometimes from themselves, will ensure that our relationships and our principles are not violated or compromised.

It’s an awesome responsibility for sure but I believe that it’s one of the most rewarding that we shall ever know.

Think about it!

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.

^ ^


Timely Insights

  • Three Keys to Guiding Change . . .

If your business has been through a massive change—the kind of endeavor that alters your business processes from end to end—you’ll know that it’s not easy to get every employee on board. Some may object to the new way of doing things, others may drag their heels. Without buy-in at all levels, it’s unlikely the transformation will be as effective as it might be otherwise.

You can avoid this undesirable outcome by guiding your employees through the change in a strategic fashion. In Faster, Cheaper, Better: The 9 Levers for Transforming How Work Gets Done, business process transformation specialists Michael Hammer and Lisa Hershman explain the leadership tactics you can use to make organization-wide changes stick.

For the full story, go to this profitguide.com article.

  • Make the Future Possible . . .

At your next strategic-planning session, don’t forget a crucial agenda item that most firms overlook. In your enthusiasm to identify what you need to do in order to build your business, be sure to set aside time to figure out what you should stop doing.

In Be Different or Be Dead, business consultant Roy Osing writes that it’s essential to cease any activities associated with your old strategy that are no longer consistent with your new direction. If you fail to do so, you’ll starve your new activities of the resources needed to execute them properly. Osing, former president of Telus Advanced Communications and now CEO of Brilliance for Business in Vancouver, suggests four ways to eliminate unnecessary activities

There’s more on this available at Great Ideas.

  • Quotable Quotes . . .

 "Love is not about finding the right person, but creating a right relationship. It's not about how much love you have in the beginning but how much love you build till the end."

-- Author unknown

"There's always going to be bad stuff out there. But here's the amazing thing -- light trumps darkness, every time. You stick a candle into the dark, but you can't stick the dark into the light."

-- Jodi Picoult

 "If I only had three words of advice, they would be, ‘Tell the Truth’. If I got three more words, I'd add, ‘All the Time."

-- Randy Pausch

"I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it."

-- Maya Angelou

"The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are: Hard work, Stick-to-itiveness, and Common sense."

-- Thomas A. Edison

"I've always believed no matter how many shots I miss, I'm going to make the next one."

-- Jonathan Swift

^ ^


Section 2 - Talk Back

Coach's Corner

A selection from frequently–asked questions

Dear Coach,

Recently, things went really sideways with a colleague who I’d trusted completely. He let me down in a major way and I was seriously compromised within my organization. When I confronted him on the issue he quickly admitted that he’d wronged me and he even went so far as to make a public apology so that others would know what had really happened.

My problem though is that I’m still very angry and hurt over the incident and, to top it off, I can’t see how I’m ever going to truly forgive and trust him again. How do I deal with this so I can move on?


Your last statement is most revealing and I’d like to deal with this more profound issue right up front.

I don’t know what caused the situation or how serious it might be at a general level but I can detect that you are feeling very vulnerable as a result of the incident. If the problem involved either physical or psychological injury resulting from the incident, then forgiveness is not your primary concern – safety is!

This is a fundamental matter; you really need to secure your present and future safety with this colleague. You’ll not be able to let go of the incident until you feel secure around him. To achieve this you may have to reconsider your basic relationship as friend and as colleague and perhaps move out rather than just move on.

Next, have you dealt with the real issue? Let me assume that the incident revolves around a broken commitment or an unrealized expectation. In such a case, if you dealt with the incident alone, you may have neglected to address the underlying concern of broken trust. Did you dig deep enough to uncover the basic reasons why you are feeling anger and pain?

A quick confession can often distract us from the causation. We’re so relieved to surface the symptoms of the problem and then to move forward that we neglect to discuss and reconcile deeper-seated attitudes, perspectives, beliefs and values that are the genesis. This could result in a recurrence but in another form.

Also, are you fully convinced that the solution or resolution you’ve created is the right one? If you aren’t confident that it will work out as intended you’re simply deferring effective action and the price of this will be residual pain and anxiety. Apologies too, are sometimes fast yet superficial and we register this in our unconscious minds differently than the way we accept rational actions – consciously you’ve accepted his apology but at the unconscious level you are not forgiving him.

Beyond this, there’s something more personal you may want to consider. Are you ready to accept him as a friend and colleague despite the hard proof that he’s less-than-perfect? We all make mistakes because we’re human beings and do not yet know perfection. Sometimes these mistakes are substantial though and some of these mistakes can be ‘unforgivable’ within our personal value systems.

When I see unforgivable imperfections in others it’s usually because they remind me that I’m far from perfect too and I don’t like to be reminded of this. This is especially true when I see elements of these same imperfections in my own behaviors.

I recall that I carried a deeply embedded grudge against a friend for several years. It all came about because he had been vocally judgmental about me in an area where he had been equally guilty some years before. I found this total hypocrisy! After this, nothing he said or did was acceptable to me; his physical presence made me uncomfortable and I even deplored the fact that others would speak well of him.

One day I could take it no longer and I launched into a detailed diatribe about how hypocritical he was. The calm, cool voice of reason (it may well have been my wife) gently drew my attention to my argument as being as descriptive of me as it was of him. I was ashamed at my lack of self-insight – I was acting precisely the way he had.

The pain I was feeling was coming from my own discomforts within myself, not the actions of my friend – he was only the trigger. I had to find a remedy for me, not for him; and this was tough medicine indeed!

Tolerance and forgiveness are close cousins. Still I am trying to learn that if I can be more tolerant of imperfections in others, then I’ll have less to forgive; I might even reduce my stress levels and live longer!

Examine why you feel strongly about this particular incident. If it was a single incident – a momentary lapse – then you’d likely not be concerned over it. If it is part of a continuing pattern of behavior, and this is more serious, it’s well worth taking the time to assure yourself that you are dealing with the root behaviour, not just with the symptoms, and that you’ve created a solution that will work for you both.

If the relationship is fundamentally flawed, then it has to be dealt with at this level. I’m often consoled by the knowledge that I’ll have friends for a reason, friends for a season and just a few friends for a lifetime.

I hope this helps.

^ ^



Are We Focused Properly . . .

At first glance this may seem to be an arrogant question so typical of management consultants. I ask it though in all humility because I’m concerned about recent emphases in our troubled world economy and also some of the broad assumptions that we may all be making.

Events in the European Economic Community appear to be somewhat remote from us in North America and yet every pundit is telling us we should be directly concerned. We may be able to see with some clarity the mistakes that are being made in Greece, Italy, and Spain as well as in Germany, France and Britain. They are "us”!

It’s obvious to some, if not many, that one reason the EEC was established was to level the economic disparities that have prevailed for much of history. This is good theory but it hasn’t worked out in practice. The ‘have’ countries are becoming even wealthier while the ‘have-nots’ are suffering and sliding into oblivion. Short-term bail-outs are not the answer, especially if the basic model is flawed, as it appears to be.

As a direct comparison, the same situation is manifest in our North American business model; we have relied largely on free enterprise to level our economy. When it fails to do so, we intervene with short-term solutions rather than test the underlying assumptions and reconfigure our longer-term, strategic intentions.

Yet, isn’t this the mandate we give our Boards of Directors and Executives — to test and prove our basic assumptions and steer us on a safe and sustainable course for a progressive future?

It seems to me that every performance incentive we apply to these august bodies is counterproductive. We expect them to run our businesses efficiently rather than effectively, to optimize current economic returns sometimes at the expense of longer-term social responsibilities, and to build organizations to return short-term benefits to selected stakeholders versus a balanced long-tern benefit to society.

Today’s business leaders are focused on fixing problems rather than encouraging innovative, strategic creations. That’s what we’re compensating and rewarding them for — quarterly or annual performance. Is this the best use of their undoubted talents?

The world today is in crisis. We need to challenge many, if not most, of our current assumptions about what makes good business and a good, sustainable society. Those best suited for this task are those who have direct awareness of the ranging complexities in our business economies.

There are a wide range of opinions at this level which is a great advantage for I’m convinced that no one person or group has all the right answers. Where we may be short though is in our ability to work collaboratively to find the answers. The question is, can we work together?

When I look at the power that certain business ‘interest’ groups can wield as they influence policy, I’m shocked and dismayed. The Oil & Gas Lobby, the Armaments Industries, the Financial Institutions and their paper wealth, among many others, worry the dickens out of me.

Am I alone? I think not!

This is a gigantic and perhaps unassailable issue but we are not powerless. All we need to do is begin to put our own houses in order, to manage our immediate businesses responsibly with long-term objectives in proper balance and to develop the next generation of business leaders with more expansive perspectives.

The economy, as well as society as a whole, is akin to an ocean liner; it’s moving forward with accumulated momentum or impetus and it can’t be turned on a dime. This is good news as well as bad. It means that we can put the right pressure on the helm and eventually it will come about to a more realistic heading. If we fail to exert the right pressure though, it will persist in the same course until we run aground.

As my sainted Scottish aunt used to say, It’s better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness!

^ ^


Section 3 - On The Horizon

Choosing Your Successor

. . . by Jeff Haltrecht

Jeff Haltrecht is a principal Leadership Coach at the Polaris Learning Academy and the Facilitator of the Polaris Alumni; he is a regular contributor to Polaris Digest

What type of leader will you hire to succeed you?

This scenario is written from the perspective of a business owner, but it could easily apply to anyone with a team of direct reports.

You are the owner and President of a successful mid-size company you founded 20 years ago.

The most recent seven-year period has been very good for business, with growth in the double digits.  Existing customers are buying more, while new clients continue to come on-board.

To support the growth, you promoted three of your most trusted and longest serving employees (who have been there almost since the beginning) to Vice President roles a few years back, allowing them to build their teams and support the growth.

You are a visionary leader and a great company spokesperson, leaving the day-to-day operations to your Vice Presidents.  They thrive in this environment and enjoy your hands-off approach, while still being accountable for delivering the results throughout the year.

The business is coming to the end of a solid growth spurt, and you know the next phase will come from international expansion.  None of your senior people have global experience.  You decide to hire a President from outside the company to fill the ‘experience’ void, moving yourself to CEO.

Will you hire a leader who is visionary and hands-off like yourself, or will you hire a hands-on person who enjoys putting ideas to action?

Before jumping to conclusions, think this through carefully.

Great leaders play to their strengths while hiring people to tackle areas they are weak in.  If you believe this theory, then you would hire a hands-on person to complement your visionary skills.

But wait!  Your current Vice Presidents are all hands-on people too.  Might that create friction between a new President and existing Vice Presidents?  If you went through with this hire, might that force a Vice President or two to leave?  Costly move perhaps.

Another option would be to hire a visionary with international experience.  The Vice Presidents would feel good with this move, but what about you?  You enjoyed the conversations with the VPs because they were in the details.  Will your talks with the new President be what you need?  And will you be happy so far removed from the business at this critical juncture?

As an owner of a company, hiring your own replacement is a strategic move that must be well thought out — on par with investing in a new manufacturing facility.

A few more questions to consider:

  • Why appoint a new President when what may be needed is a General Manager for an International division?
  • If you did hire a new President, what could be the division of responsibility between yourself and this individual, keeping you engaged in the strategic activities?
  • What are the development needs of the existing Vice Presidents and is there the opportunity to promote one of them from within?

In the scenarios presented above, I believe two options stand a better chance of long-term success:

  1. Hiring a General Manager for a new International division or…
  2. Promoting one of the Vice Presidents from within to lead the International growth

Both options keep you strategically engaged in the business (critical to achieving the vision), while allowing key leaders to continue to deliver in their areas of expertise. 

You may question the validity of promoting from within, given the current lack of International experience.  But that is a functional view of potential.  Rather, evaluate the Vice Presidents on their leadership skills and entrepreneurial capabilities.  You can always hire them (and yourself) an advisor to fill a specific International knowledge gap when needed.

Making this new strategy and structure work entails strong communication and a forum for dialogue and decision-making.  Consider establishing a monthly leadership meeting to give the executive team this much-needed place to align and share best practices.

Complement these meetings with one-on-one mentoring discussions with each Vice President and the International General Manager once or twice per year.  You will be creating a very healthy culture of communication, while ensuring the business team remains focused on adding value to its stakeholders.

What would you do in this situation?

^ ^


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.

^ ^


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.

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

^ ^