Thursday, 28 December 2017

Passport Optimism

I recently renewed my passport.  When I was asked how long of a renewal I wanted – 5 or 10 years – the agent told me that the oldest person who opted for the 10 year renewal was 99 years old.  It struck me that the applicant must have had an optimistic view of life.

On the one hand, he was still alive and functioning at 99.  On the other hand, he was confident that he was still be fit enough to travel. Furthermore, his optimism was such that he expected to stay in this shape for a minimum of another 10 years.  I was impressed on all three counts.

I know many people 30 years younger than that who won’t buy an extended warranty for fear that they will not outlive the basic guarantee. Some won’t buy green bananas!

Attitude, you see, has much to do with your outlook on life. 

And it applies equally, if not more so, to the way in which you lead.

Your optimism, grounded in realism, rubs off on all within your sphere of influence.  Even if the prospects are bleak, you have a responsibility to find the positive and to build from there.

Without hope you have little likelihood of success.  And you certainly cannot motivate others to higher levels of achievement. 

As we approach 2018 we can be certain that some challenges lie ahead.  That is the nature of life as it is the nature of business.  Make the decision NOW that your response will always be one of optimism; accepting these challenges as a test of your initiative, your ingenuity and your skills as a leader. 

You don’t want to be a Pollyanna and deny reality.  But the positive attitude that you take in your approach will make success much more likely.

My very best to you and yours for a success in the New Year!

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Sophie's Choice

Increasingly we are being challenged to make a ‘Sophie’s Choice’ when discussing those in positions of leadership.  Our choices are, too often it seems, between competence and character.

In some instances it has been this whole issue of harassment – sexual, physical, emotional etc. – that so many leaders have exhibited.  The list grows daily and I suspect that we have only just begun to scratch the surface.

In other instances it has been fiduciary. We learn of schemes like those at Wells Fargo or TD Bank where fake bank and credit cards accounts have been set up simply to achieve financial goals.  This, in turn, has allowed executives to ‘earn’ substantial bonuses and inflate stock values.

And then there are the numerous cover up’s that we learn of only well after the fact.  Equifax, Uber and others come to mind as examples in which leaders have not been forthright with the public in disclosing data breaches or other activities of material interest and importance.

In all of these examples, those in positions of responsibility have somehow concluded that leadership is an either / or proposition.  They expect us to make Sophie’s Choice between competence and character.  Essentially they want us to overlook their moral, ethical and legal shortcomings because the delivered on the performance metrics.

But they miss the point.  Leadership must always be a BOTH / AND proposition.  Competence and character are interlinked.  Indeed the former is only confirmed by the latter.  There cannot be true competence without unimpeached character.

Sadly, we have come to not only tolerate this type of behaviour but to expect it.  There is no universal outcry or rally against it nor is there any true penalty.  Abusers simply cash in their chips and move on.  The consequences rarely fit the crime!

Authentic leaders need to be more vocal in their condemnation of their peers’ behaviour.  The media must find a moral compass and communicate truth.  The public must demand more!

If you are in a position of leadership then you are also in a position of influence.  Make 2018 a year in which you elevate your competence, your character and your voice.  The silent majority must also take its’ stand against these trends and end the Sophie’s Choice dilemma.

Taking a strong position often requires that we offend others.  But the stakes are too high to ignore.  Leaders must lead!

Thursday, 7 December 2017

A Leader's Challenge

Every day brings it unique challenges.  Whether your business is prospering or languishing, or somewhere in between, no two days are identical. Your skills as a leader will always be tested in new and different ways.

To succeed you must depend upon the support of your team and the intrinsic skills and commitment that each individual brings to the table.  Your job is to maximize their performance each day and thus to bring closure to each challenge.

The question then is how best to secure this maximized performance. 

Should you use your motivational skills to stoke the flames of determination?  Should you step in and install a ‘how to’ approach for problem solving?  Maybe you roll up your sleeves and pitch in. Any of these tactics might help but you would likely have to hit the ‘repeat’ button each time a new challenge presents itself.

There may be a place for any of these approaches in certain circumstances.  But the one that produces the best and most rewarding results is when you encourage your staff to THINK FOR THEMSELVES.  Define the problem and what would represent an acceptable outcome and then let them get to it.  You are there to equip and facilitate and offer advice when asked.  Your fingerprints don’t need to be all over the solution and you don’t need credit for the success.  The success (or failure) of the team is the testimony of your leadership.

As the leader, what do you need to do to define your success?  I submit the following:

1.    The courage to let go to offer others the opportunity to grow.
2.     A willingness to allow failure to teach because not all outcomes will be a success.
3.     Humility that rejoices when others receive praise while you simply reflect their success.
4.    Satisfaction when these three come together to the mutual benefit of the team.

Those who understand authentic leadership recognize that you can move forward by stepping back when others are recognized for their contributions.  Curiously, there is always enough praise to go around.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

The Sign of Authentic Leadership

There is a common thread in the hiring process.  Seek out the best candidate you can; train and equip them; and then get out of their way and allow them to perform to the best of their abilities.

Isn’t leadership easy?  Make the right hire and your job is done…

But in the real world, not every employee is a superstar.  Sometimes you inherit mediocrity; sometimes, despite your best efforts, you make a hire that is not so stellar.

It is for these circumstances that authentic leadership must step in.  I don’t mean that this leader is someone with the resolve to terminate mediocrity.  Rather, authentic leadership is that which is able to work with people of varying levels of talent, self- motivation and dedication to draw out the best of their potential. 

Jack Welch, former CEO at General Electric, was famous for his policy of firing the bottom 10% of his sales and management staff every year, regardless of their actual performance.  In my opinion, this approach takes no degree of leadership.  In fact it strikes me as an abdication of leadership.  All it fostered was an environment of fear and internal competition rather than cooperation and collaboration to the corporate good.

Authentic leadership exercises competencies that are both learned and those which are a reflection of character.  Today’s workforce looks for and responds best to the empathetic leadership model which is required when moving mediocrity towards greatness.

We are well to remember that not everyone is destined for the stars.  Indeed, the elite performers are amongst the top 10% of your staff, perhaps even less than this.  But the other 90% have much to contribute and this is where your leadership focus has the greatest impact.  The 80/20 rule may be true.  But it is the performance of the 20/80 remainder that is the difference between success and failure; between achieving your goals or not.

Leading a company requires courage, intellect, experience and no small amount of luck.  Leading people requires an additional dimension of your character that does not come easily to many. As is being revealed on a daily basis, many of those whom we have elevated to positions of influence and power have apparently lacked the fundamental character traits of authentic leadership.

My plea is that, in your leadership role, you are able to lead with the dignity of character that embraces and encourages everyone in your sphere of responsibility to reach their fullest potential.  And that they achieve this potential without intimidation; without harassment; and without fear or guilt.

Men and women of character must rise up and join the chorus that demands a higher moral and ethical standard in the workplace.  I am convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that this will only lead to a safer work environment which in turn leads to a more productive workplace. 

Your authentic leadership is the key! 

Friday, 3 November 2017

# me too

It is well past time for a collective ‘mea culpa’ among men.  The Harvey Weinstein’s among us have existed for as long as I have been in the workforce and I am an early baby boomer.

I have never done what he has done (let’s drop the ‘alleged’ shall we) but I have seen or heard of this type of behavior.  It may not have been as pervasive or persistent as Weinstein’s but this is not a time to split hairs and suggest that there are degrees of harassment because that implies that some may not be so bad.

The collective mea culpa is necessary because even though most men are not predators and have not participated in sexual harassment activities, most of us have not stepped forward to condemn and shame those who have.  We may have had the water cooler conversation about someone’s behavior but it ended there.  No confrontation; no report to HR; no consolation and support of the victim. We shake our heads and then hide them in the sand never fully grasping the full impact of these cowardly activities.

In my career I have called some to account.  To my surprise, it revealed a serial type of behavior.  What I witnessed was only the tip of the iceberg.  It seems that leopards really don’t change their spots; they just move on to the next target. 

I am not in the formal workplace now but I still have eyes and ears.  I also have a wife, daughters, a sister and sisters-in-law, nieces, etc.  I know how I would react if I knew that any of them had been harassed or were being harassed… and the picture is not pretty. 

The fact that we men may not have any personal connection to the victim does not preclude our requirement to step up whenever and wherever we are witness to these incidents.  If we don’t know all the circumstances, err on the side that asks for forgiveness and not permission to confront a predator.  It may be uncomfortable, but I suspect that these cowards are more likely to retreat than attack.

Our silence condones. In these circumstances, we all must LEAD!!!

Friday, 20 October 2017

The Next.

After an important victory in North Africa during WWII, Winston Churchill cautioned Parliament with this statement.  “…This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end.  But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning…”

Churchill had an appreciation of the importance of the victory but he remained focused on the ultimate objective which was to win the war.  Battles count, but only the final battle really matters.  There was much more to be done and he was not about to get ahead of the game and assume victory; it had to be earned.

I see a lesson for all leaders in Churchill’s statement.  You have done the academic preparation; you have worked hard to excel in your position of responsibility; and you have gained the experience necessary to take on the next role.  When it comes, there is a certain amount of self- satisfaction that the culmination of your efforts has been recognized and the promotion realized.

But the warning is that you are not at the end or likely even close to it.  The same effort and drive that brought you to this place is now doubly critical if you are to succeed.  There will be much to which you acknowledge that ‘…I don’t know what I don’t know…’  This is true of all promotions.  It simply means that you must continue to grow through education, experience and effort.  The hill may have been climbed but the mountain remains unscaled.

There are many elements that can get you to the next level. This list is hardly exhaustive but it provides you some clues.
  1. Lean on predecessors to learn from their successes and failures.
  2. Continue formal education at a post graduate level with a primary focus on your area of responsibility.
  3. Find a mentor willing to share experiences, ideas and insights based on their own past and their knowledge of your capabilities.
  4. Join a peer group that is willing to honestly and constructively build into each other.
  5.  Hire a consultant with appropriate expertise to provide a critical assessment of the situation and then come forward with recommendations.

Most of all remember that you were not hired or promoted because you necessarily have all the answers.  Rather, your appointment in a signal that others believe that you have the potential to find them.  Your new position is not the end, nor the beginning of the end.  It is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.  And if you take this approach that a battle victory is not a war won, you have the foundation upon which you can fulfil your personal potential and expectations.

No leader is infallible. No leader has all the answers.  The best leaders acknowledge these truths and work towards improving, knowing that perfection is a goal that, though unattainable, is still worth pursuing.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The Missing Ingredient


Since the year 2000, 20% more women than men have graduated university/college with a degree.


Women now represent 40% of MBA graduates and that number continues to climb.


Women graduate at a much higher rate in fields like marketing and strategic planning.  These are typically the drivers for success in a company as opposed to finance or IT which tend to be male dominated but are seen as support functions in most organizations.


Women represent only 6.4% of CEO’s in the Fortune 500 list…

I am dumbfounded by this last statistic!  What it tells me is that there are far too many senior executives still living in the Stone Age and continuing to practice cronyism. 

The ‘old boys’ networks need to be dismantled.  Search firms and search committees need to re-evaluate their criteria.  I especially blame search firms for their failure to seek and present qualified women simply because it is safer, in their minds, to stick to the ‘tried and true’ practices of the last century.

If your organization does not have women represented at positions of significant influence and responsibility, chances are you are missing out on some incredible insights.  Furthermore, you are likely losing share to those who have ‘seen the light’ and pursued a practice and policy of gender representation in their firms.

I am not pushing for a quota or even a specific minimum percentage.  Companies and their industries differ and the talent base of women varies in every case.  But the mindset that suggests that women are ok to a certain level- but not executive level -is simply archaic nonsense.  Those in the 6.4% referenced above come from industries as varied as auto manufacturing to network and software development to banking and energy.

Open your minds to the possibilities and you will open your company to the latent potential that resides therein.  Fear not the fact that women are as competent as any male.  Rather fear the fact that you are not part of the revolution that is occurring.

Just as Amazon has disrupted the retail market space and made obsolete many of the traditional retail models, women in positions of responsibility will bring a new and overdue perspective to the companies that welcome them.  Trust me, the future will be defined by those firms that empower women rather than those who continue to be threatened by that prospect!!!

Wednesday, 27 September 2017


Strategically speaking, one of your most important tasks is that of identifying and promoting individuals.  In the extreme it is called succession planning but it can be as routine as filling a supervisory position.  In determining the  best candidate to fill the role, what are you looking at?

Some leaders look at the body of work that an individual has accomplished during the time in their current role and make a decision based on that evidence.  When promoting for a lower level position in which the individual may have a very ‘hands-on’ approach, this method of evaluation may be sufficient.  The past will have an important imprint on results so why take a risk on someone with less knowledge.

Other leaders look at the present.  Who among different candidates is respected by their co-workers and would be able to continue to motivate them despite the sometimes awkward situation that arises when one becomes the ‘boss’ of former associates?  Many times the most popular person is selected from the group so that the team feels a sense of continuity.  It also serves to confirm that promotions from within are still policy.

In both of these situations the decision is pretty safe.  And if that is a reflection of your character, these approaches are likely the ones that sit well with you.  But I want to offer a contrarian thought.

Why not look to the future the next time you need to promote?  To truly differentiate your company from the rest of the field may mean that you need to take some risks.  The ‘same ole, same ole’ may be fine in the short term but it will be a hindrance in the long term.

Look at the potential that candidates offer.  Who will not be satisfied with the status quo?  Who will stretch others outside of their comfort zone to find new and better ways to accomplish tasks?  Who has a vision for what might be possible if only you were able to cast off the shackles of the past and present?

Clearly you introduce more risk choosing this option.  But decisions always present a risk/reward proposition.  If you are truly leading and not simply managing then looking to the future is imperative.  And if you cannot stomach the prospects of risk then the deeper question is ‘…are you the right candidate for the leadership position that you hold…’

In today’s increasingly competitive world you must strive to survive.  The status quo means that you are losing ground.  Looking to the past seldom moves the needle forward so look to the future, take some risk and lead.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Is your environment safe?

I recognize that there are many ways to interpret this question. 

You may ask if one is personally safe from physical or emotional harassment. 

Is one safe from all of the multiple forms of discrimination?

Perhaps it centers on the question job security; is your company and/or your role in it going to be viable in a year or a decade from now?

Is it safe for you to express opinions and suggestions without fear of retribution?

All of these are reasonable questions to ask of any employment situation, regardless of the position you hold. 

How does one come to that sense of peace that calms these fears and which then allows you to maximize your personal potential and job satisfaction?

I submit that it is your role as a leader to ensure the ‘safety’ of your team members and, by extension, other members of your company.    You do this not by your competencies but by the compass of your character, and specifically by your moral and ethical conduct.

It is this compass that provides alignment throughout a team or across a company.  This compass dictates the values and principles by which business will be conducted.  It confirms what is and is not acceptable.  It establishes the guidelines and boundaries; it sets the examples of conduct; it says by word and by deed ‘…I care and I WILL defend and protect you…’

Ethics and morals are not situational; they are not elastic; they are not conditional.  Every leader must be clear and consistent in their definition and application of the code of conduct that applies to all. 
The absence of clarity and consistency is chaos.  When anyone is able to assert a personal standard or definition, then the ugliness of chaos is given license.

However, when clarity is confirmed by conduct and consistency, every employee can have a legitimate expectation for their workplace.  This is true for a department, for a company or even for a nation. All people need to know and believe in the high principles established by leadership.

It is then and only then, that they can feel SAFE!

Set a standard; publish that standard; live that standard.  Lead with clarity and consistency of purpose…for this is your most important duty.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Let's talk Loyalty.

Many leaders feel that loyalty is a given.  Anyone on their team must adhere to the policies and principles that are set out by the leader.  To run contrary to these values is to be dis-loyal and the ‘offender’ is subject to discipline up to and including dismissal.

In many instances, I concur with this generalization.  One should know and agree with the culture of the company before accepting employment.  To state afterwards that you do not agree with aspects of the culture is not a valid complaint.

What many leaders fail to recognize is that loyalty is a two way street. 

As the leader, the culture that you establish significantly influences the reason that individuals are attracted to work for you and to continue to work for you.  It is on the basis of this culture which aligns with the individual’s personal beliefs that relationships are established and maintained.

This cultural alignment also extends externally to your clients and your suppliers.  It is not unreasonable to say that these are relationships based on loyalty to you and, by extension, to your company.  As a provider of goods or services, your loyal clients have built trust in your recommendations and look to you almost as a partner in their business. 

As much as loyalty serves your interests - whether that is the internal loyalty of staff or the external loyalty of others - it is important to recognize that the loyalty is built on a two way street.  You must remain loyal to the culture which attracted both in the first place.  It is a relationship built first and foremost on that which you offer them, not vice versa.  Their trust, their commitment, their loyalty is built on the foundation of trust and commitment and loyalty that you present and maintain.

In most instances these people, internal and external, will remain loyal unless and until your position changes, i.e. until you cease to be loyal to that which you first represented.  When you make a material movement away from that foundation, you have ceased to be loyal to the vision; you have broken the bonds that formed the relationship.  Therefore, when others respond by pulling away or disconnecting entirely, the fault lies with you, not them.  

Your behavior was the catalyst of change and their response is not one of disloyalty.  Rather it is a normal and healthy response that affords them the time to analyze whether or not the changes that you initiated constitute enough of a violation as to prompt their changed loyalty.

Loyalty is not synonym for allegiance.  The two are quite different.  Loyalty is a choice and is two way.  Allegiance is a command and goes only one way.  The problem arises when the leader asks for loyalty but expects allegiance.  This prompts unrealistic expectations on both sides of the relationship.  It is only a matter of time before the disconnect results in a complete breakdown and disintegration of the union of the parties.

You are the leader.  You set the tone; you set the culture; you control the work environment; you establish and maintain the parameters under which the business or the unit will function.  Continually check to ensure that the standards that you presented are kept – or improved.  In so doing you will have done your part in holding true to the part of the loyalty equation which is your responsibility.  And you should reasonably expect others to do likewise.  It is this partnership that makes your efforts a success.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Conspicuous Consumption

Many businesses across North America, and indeed around the world, are consumed by the financial imperatives of the next quarter.  They spend enormous amounts of time pouring over numbers and generating budgets and estimates and then breaking them down into bite sized units of quarters, months and sometimes even days. 

The organization becomes singularly focused on meeting or exceeding the next set of results that is anticipated by the ‘street’.  Protecting and growing shareholder value is the principal reason for every decision.  The bar is set higher and higher and the pressure to perform mounts with each passing financial report.

Once a target is met, it’s on to the next.  Like the dog chasing its own tail, the pursuit is endless.

I want to offer a contrarian opinion.

As the leader, you must be consumed by the process of achievement; you cannot be consumed by the achievement itself.  Let me explain.

Your role is to pour your passion; your integrity; your experience; your knowledge and your vision into the process of achievement.  It is only in the process that you have the opportunity to interact with your team and to build into each person the culture and values that keep your enterprise successful.  The achievement itself- the attainment of the goal – becomes the natural outcome of the work done in the process. 

It may seem that I am splitting hairs but I assure that I am not. You can and must separate the process from the result.

 Let me use this simple example.

Two writers are asked to write a mystery novel.  Writer #1 submits 20 chapters of increasingly complex detail and intrigue before finally revealing the mystery.
Writer #2 submits just one line … ‘the butler, in the parlour with a candlestick…’

Both arrived at the same place but which was the successful submission.

Being fully committed – being consumed – by your role is not, in and of itself, a bad thing.  Provided that you maintain a balance in your life, being consumed is much better than a half-hearted effort.  

But keep your focus on that which matters and the results will come.  If you are consumed only by the goal and not the process you will lose your joy that comes with the achieving on the way to the achievement.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

A eulogy for the living.

From time to time I reflect on my career, its successes and failures, and I am reminded of all the people whose support, wisdom, counsel and example have helped to shape the type of person and leader that I became.  The truth of the matter is that regardless of our personality; regardless of our intellectual capabilities; regardless of our good fortune; regardless of our merit, none of us has come to the role that we currently hold without an abundance of influence from others.

Sometimes it was the example of a superior.  Other times it was the encouragement of a peer.  And at other times it was the efforts of our direct reports.  We can look back and see how every contact was important in some way and has sculpted us.  Even when that point of contact was difficult, learning to persevere and grow meant that the contact had purpose.

Viewed through this lens, those in leadership ought to have an expression of thanks and appreciation towards others…an attitude of gratitude!

To that end I encourage you to reach out and genuinely thank those who have made your journey more successful; your load lighter; and your experiences more pleasant.  Take the time to write a ‘eulogy for the living’ and express some thoughts that you might have been holding back. 

Consider what you would want to say at their funeral.  How this word or that example impacted your future behaviour.  How a kindness paid forward changed an attitude or opened your mind to new possibilities.

Expressing appreciation is good for both the giver and the recipient.  For the giver, it helps to keep you grounded and focused.  The recipient is strengthened through gratitude and encouraged to continue building into others.

I confess that I am preaching to myself and that I have not followed this advice as frequently as I have cause to do.  But know that I will take some time – not in a broadcast email – to address this oversight.

Leaders are the beneficiaries of others efforts, input and opinions.  Make sure that they know how much you appreciate the contributions that were made to your success.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

United...the problem was not in Chicago!

Regardless of the scope of responsibility that you hold in your position of leadership, the culture of your company, your division, your team flows from your example. People naturally look to the leader to set the example and to define either in words or deeds – ideally both – the kind of culture that is acceptable and therefore expected.

So what are we to say about United Airlines and the recent incident in which a paying passenger was ‘escorted’ from the plane and ‘re-accommodated’? Most of you have seen the video.  

If not, check out this link

This was followed by a message from the CEO.  See

What were these people thinking?  How could a culture exist that suggested to ground staff that this was an acceptable response to an over booking problem created by United’s own systems.

My finger points to the top.  Airlines have consistently squeezed the paying public by charging for virtually every extra.  First it was baggage; then seat selection; then meals.  They re-worked planes to provide less legroom and thereby more seats. All of this points to a culture that says that the passenger is nothing more than a pigeon waiting to be plucked and when the last dollar has been shaken out of their pockets, 
maybe they will be allowed to fly.

Three important errors emanated from the top.

In his first response, the CEO takes no responsibility for the regrettable incident.  The fact of the matter is that the first response should have been his apology for allowing the culture in the company to deteriorate to the point where no employee came forward to say ‘STOP’ the madness.  The people were only parroting the same type of behaviour that the executive office had been communicating for years.  Why should we be surprised that the staff acted in lock step with the example that had been ingrained 
from the top?

Secondly he blamed the passenger and praised his staff.

No amount of apologies; no amount of money; no amount of discipline is going to undo the damage.  The videos and the internal responses are out in the internet for the ages.  The case is so obviously bad it does not even warrant a Harvard Business Review analysis. 

Finally, the CEO acted arrogantly by believing that he could contain the issue without professional assistance.  By the time that damage control experts were deployed it was too late.

How have your actions helped to define the type of culture that you want and expect in your sphere of responsibility?  Clearly United did not think through the consequences and now it is too late.  Have you neglected this critical component of your duties?  It is almost never too late to change.  And it starts with you!

If the culture is poor it falls on your shoulders.  Start by defining what it should be and then apologise for your failure to properly nurture and model that culture.

Next, make it a priority.  As seen in the United example, failure can cost into the hundreds of millions of dollars.  I cannot think of any situation in which the cost to implement a proper culture would run anywhere near this expense.

Finally, recognize that this cannot be a onetime event.  Culture is not an act; it is an ingrained behaviour and response.

I understand and appreciate that there is a bottom line focus driving most organizations.  But it cannot be achieved by throwing away millions by failing to practice proper business fundamentals.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Lessons from The Donald part ii

I am not an American and I did not vote in their recent election.  I have no party affiliations or preferences.  This blog is addressing issues of leadership.

As many of you know, I have blogged extensively on fundamental aspects of authentic leadership and how one must adhere to the highest moral, ethical and legal standards.  Character outweighs competence on my scorecard.

Using these criteria as my baseline, it is easy to see why Donald Trump has had difficulty getting his administration and his policies implemented.  Let’s review his scorecard on the four elements.

  1.     Authenticity:  Trump was legally elected and has the full weight of the US constitution to validate his position.  That cannot be argued.  The problem that he faces is that he did not win the popular vote and there are reasonable grounds to question the amount that foreign (Russian) intervention influenced the outcome.  While these two elements do not disqualify his election, they do prompt some questions.  And if inquiries do tie his campaign to the foreign interference, then his authenticity is clearly in doubt.
  2. Moral standards.  Trump’s own words show that he has abandoned any moral authority.  He has spoken out in a misogynous manner in the basest of terms; he has used a broad brush to paint Mexican immigrants as ‘bad hombres’; and he has castigated Muslims as threats to American security.  His comments are indiscriminate and offensive …and wrong.
  3.   Ethical standards. Trump began to gain national attention some years ago by becoming the face of the ‘birther’ issue regarding the nationality of Barack Obama.  He unsubstantiated comments were questionable to begin with and proven false when Obama released his birth certificate.  But nothing has slowed Trump’s propensity to make other equally dubious allegations and yet he remains entirely unapologetic.  Consequently his own actions disqualify him from achieving the ethical standard of leadership.
  4.  Legal standards.  Trump constantly uses social media to express opinions or to disseminate fake news.  The issue becomes a legal one when his comments cross over from being merely smoke screens and enter the realm of libel or outright lies.  I have already referenced the ‘birther’ matter but more recent claims that the former President authorized wire- tapping of Trump move the needle into the another more serious category.  And if his campaign is found to have been complicit with foreign interference of the US election, then all bets are off with respect to his legal authority.
I have no axe to grind with Trump.  Had Clinton been elected, at least some of these characteristics may have been called into question as well. 

The issue is that leadership - to be effective, productive, and sustainable – must meet at least the minimum standards of acceptable conduct in these key issues of character.  When it fails to do so, the individual cannot gain the traction they need to accomplish what they set out to do.  Effective leadership is defined by getting things done through others.  When the ‘others’ have reasonable cause to question the leadership standards in play, they naturally withhold their best efforts. 

If you are unable to reach the goals you have set out for your team, your first task is one of self-examination.  Have you committed to maintaining these aspects of character and are you meeting those commitments.  Don’t look at the performance of your team until you can honestly say that you are providing the leadership that is necessary.

It is early days for Trump.  If he can find the humility to apologize and work to regain some of the moral and ethical high ground, the next four years can make the world a better place.  His failure to do so may take us all into precarious times.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Darwin's Theory

Very few companies are revolutionary in their thinking.  Over the past century we can point to only a few that changed the course of history.  I look at the invention of flight; the invention of penicillin and the invention of the internet among these few.  

None of these was invented by a company. Rather they were the result of innovative thinking combined with trials and errors that often developed in a laboratory or a garage. 

Today’s best leaders are not so much revolutionary in their thinking as they are evolutionary.  They have the ability to see not only the value of an invention but also its’ broader application.  Here are some obvious examples.

Microsoft did not invent the personal computer.  They simply saw ways to integrate a host of different processes on a common platform.  Google and Facebook did not invent the internet.  They saw ways to use it in ways that made it functional for billions of people.  Apple recognized that a cell phone could do more than make a call or receive a text.

In their evolutionary thinking they also recognized that only the strong survive.  Microsoft vanquished IBM; Google has out done AOL and Yahoo.  Facebook overwhelmed My Space and Apple has become the world’s most valuable company.  In each case, the genius was not inventing the tool but in using it.  Evolution, not revolution!

What is the implication for you as a leader? 

You need to be focused on two primary objectives.  The first is to be constantly innovating and evolving.  The status quo is not good enough.  When the leaders of Nokia faced the press on May 6, 2016 during their final days the CEO said, through his tears ‘…we didn’t do anything wrong…’ Well they didn’t do the right things to innovate and change.

The second, and equally critical objective, is extreme execution.  You may have all the innovation in the world but if you fail to execute, you will not survive.

Every day you need to be assessing your company’s performance against these two metrics.  What are you doing and how are you doing?

Darwin had it right.  The strong survive and dominate because they adapt.  They find their place in the pecking order and learn how to dominate in that space. 

Will you dominate or become extinct?  Your commitment to leadership will make the difference!

Friday, 10 March 2017

Pay it Forward.

There is an element of leadership that appeals to the lone wolf.  This person wants the responsibility of the final decision.  They don’t mind being held accountable.  They are very much a person for whom ‘…the buck stops here…’

The fallacy though is that these aspects of leadership apply to everyone in positions of responsibility.  It is not something unique to the lone wolf.  Every leader is ultimately accountable for the decisions made. But the wise leader also covets the counsel of a trusted mentor and the input of valued associates. The broader the base of quality input, the better that the final decision will be. 

Some may view this is as a sign of weakness; a lack of confidence; or a lack of competence.  In fact, the opposite is true.  When you recognize your own limitations and the value of input, you make superior decisions.  The issue is not the quantity of comments that contribute to the decision but rather the issue is the quality of the decision.

If you already have a mentor, you know what I am talking about.  If not, I urge you to explore your options.  Here are some suggestions worth consideration.

1.     Find someone in your industry in another geographic area whose business is a success.  Develop a relationship that allows both of you to share experiences and offer opinions and support.
2.     Contact speakers/consultants who appear at industry events who have impressed you.  Interview them to determine your level of comfort with their ability to communicate with you on a one to one basis.
3.     Connect with former associates with whom you developed a level of trust and confidence.
4.     Search out blogs that speak to your industry and consider contacting the authors for input.
5.     Use your Chamber of Commerce to source potential mentors whose experiences may not be in your field but who have been successful in their own right.

Clearly these represent only a few options.  The issue is that you find someone whom you trust and with whom you are willing to be open to the point of being vulnerable.  You want someone who is strong enough to be supportive and critical at the same time without you taking personal offence at that which you don’t care to hear.  The goal is to be better and that may not come without some polishing.

Over time you will grow.  Your decision making process and your decisions will improve.  And you will find yourself in a position to mentor others. Pay it forward!