Friday, 27 June 2014

Listen to Aretha!

Every successful leader - those who are able to  maximize productivity amongst their team members - share one critical characteristic.  Aretha Franklin sang about it in her hit tune... R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Find out what it means to me.

Respect comes about by one of two means.  You either command (deserve and receive) respect or you demand respect.  How you achieve it defines whether or not your leadership is authentic or fraudulent and therefore whether you are able to maximize results or to simply get by.

If one demands respect it implies an underlying sense of insecurity.  The person knows that they are not as competent as they should be and they use this form of bullying to enforce their position. Rather than learn and practice the right way in which to influence - and thereby lead- others, this person insists that others respect them.

While it is true that some measure of performance will result from this style, the fact of the matter is this 'leader' will always be resented, distrusted and vulnerable.  Their leadership lacks authenticity.

In contrast, the individual who has understood that the principal roll of the leader is to serve others will command the respect of their staff because it is respect which has been earned. Typically this style of leadership results in greater engagement on the part of staff members which, in turn, leads to greater productivity. Coincidentally, this leadership style produces other positive benefits such as a healthier workplace environment and a superior corporate image. 

In today's ultra competitive marketplace, you cannot overstate the importance of  authentic leadership.  You must find and invest in those who command respect.  For those who only demand it, they need to learn the fundamentals of leadership because the train has left the station on their antiquated style.


Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The Death of Democracy

I speak from a North American perspective and therefore a similar bias.  As I understand the history of Canada and the USA, democracy was a fundamentally different hope than that which we currently 'enjoy'.  There were some principles that existed at our respective beginnings that  were based on the following assumptions.  These include:
  1.  Those who sought office did so out of an altruistic desire to serve for the general benefit of the people.
  2. While there were certainly differences of opinion regarding the proper approach to address the needs of the country, there was generally a measure of respect and civility in consideration of others positions.
  3. There were no special interest groups who could unnaturally influence opinion through the sheer force of money.
  4. The value of an individual's vote was considered sacred. (Notwithstanding the fact that women were denied the right too long.)  It was almost a sin to neglect to vote.
Fast forward through the years...what have we achieved.

  1. Too often we have career politicians who are conspicuous by their inability to succeed at anything else.  They seek power for the sake of power and will say and do almost anything to retain power.  A recent and blatant example occurred in my provincial jurisdiction with the expenditure of over $1 billion by the sitting government to 'buy' seats that secured their re-election victory.
  2. Governments in both countries have devolved to a point in which there needs to be an 'x' rated warning about the behaviour you should expect to encounter during a sitting of the legislature.  It isn't simply a lack of respect.  Rather it is closer to hatred for opposing views and it is often expressed in a manner that would warrant expulsion if it occurred in any of our schools or offices.
  3. Money is selling opinions.  I use the word advisedly because most frequently the message is not about facts but about debasing and misrepresenting an opposing point of view.  It is done in both a subtle and a blatant fashion and  uses the various forms of media. It becomes a case of repeating the lie so often so as to become fact.  The courts have upheld this right of deception as part of our freedom of expression.  He/she with the deepest pockets now has the greatest influence on the outcome.
  4. In response to the above, voter apathy is reaching a record at every election.  Often turnout is under 50% which means that majority victories are being won with only 20% of eligible voters expressing support.  Given the above, especially #3, this has the potential  to hijack an election using entirely legal means.
Who do we blame?  Look in the mirror...

I was sent the following 'obituary' and it seems very relevant.  Take a look.

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, COMMON SENCE, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:
    1. Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
    2. Why the early bird gets the worm;
    3. Life isn't always fair;
    4. And maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).
His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.
Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.
It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.
Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.
Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.
Common Sense was preceded in death by,

    1. his parents, Truth and Trust,
    2. his wife, Discretion,
    3. his daughter, Responsibility,
    4. his son, Reason.

He is survived by his 5 stepbrothers;

    1. I Know My Rights
    2. I Want It Now
    3. Someone Else Is To Blame
    4. I'm A Victim
    5. Pay me for Doing Nothing

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

The more things change, the more they seem the same.

The "New`` General Motors is certainly different than the old GM in at least one very important way. New GM apparently has added a new product line.  But they have made only one vehicle.  It is the world`s largest bus; large enough for CEO Mary Barra to throw 15 people under it at one time.

In case you did not hear, GM took over 11 years to acknowledge that a $0.57 ignition switch was a problem and that its failure likely contributed to at least  13 deaths and numerous injuries.  After an exhaustive investigation, Barra announced that a `pattern of incompetence` was uncovered and that she fired 15 people and disciplined 5 others.  Stunningly, over half of those dismissed were at an executive level.

But how innocent is Barra herself?  From February 2008 until June 2009 she was Vice President of Global Manufacturing Engineering and from February 2011 until her promotion to CEO in January 2014, she was Executive Vice President of Global Product Development, Global Purchasing and Supply Chain.  She has a Bachelor of Science degree and an MBA.  Surely Barra was in a position to be aware of and to understand the issue at hand, and the solution.  After all, her staff was responsible for the engineering the products that the design group created.  And her group purchased the product that the supplier no doubt knew, or suspected, was defective.

We are not talking about an insignificant concern; it is not a case that the paint colour chips don't match!  We are talking about an issue that has caused deaths at a rate of at least 1 per year along with hundreds of injuries.  It is simply incredulous to suggest that there was no hint or rumour around the water cooler in the executive suite of a serious problem lurking below the surface.  And it is equally incredulous that Barra and others at the executive level were unaware of these issues.  The fact that half of those she dismissed were executives is confirmation that the concern had filtered up the chain of command.

Barra is now driving the bus and those 15 people that she sacrificed are just numbers to add to the carnage of this faulty ignition switch fiasco.  Make no mistake...simply because she is a woman does not mean that she has not learned well the lessons from her predecessors.  She knows how to dress in Teflon and how to point fingers at the departed.  S--t has not been able to defy gravity and to flow uphill.  In many, many respects the NEW GM is no different from the OLD GM.

In my opinion, the first responsibility of Leadership is that of accountability.  Too bad that Ms. Barra has chosen to hold others accountable while escaping the spot light herself.  This was a pattern of the old GM.  You may recall that in the fall of 2008 when GM was seeking a government bail out, the executive team that headed to Washington to plead their case, chose to take a high cost charter jet rather than fly in economy with the rest of us. They so detached from reality that they could justify their actions to themselves if not to shareholders.

GM made history in the appointment of Barra.  Unfortunately, the more things change...the more they stay the same.