Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Best before Date

I have written in the past about the need for so many of those in Executive positions to re-examine their ability to make meaningful contributions to their companies.  On balance I have not been kind to the Baby Boomer generation and the type of leadership that they have provided.  And I speak as an ‘early adopter’ member of the group.

The fact of the matter is that the primary objective of the vast majority of these CEO’s has been to ‘maximize shareholder value’ while simultaneously lining their own pockets with over sized compensation packages that reward them with stock options for fundamentally just doing their jobs.  And in too many instances they have padded their security blankets by ensuring that the Board is comprised of ‘friendly’ members.  For perspective, simply look at the exit package Boeing handed their departed CEO for his abject failure to navigate their recent fiasco.

With rare exceptions it is time for a changing of the guard.  The future will demand radically different thinking and the baby boomers are too tied to the present, and the past, to lead us there.  They lack personal understanding of the levels of technology that is needed.  Simply having brilliance as part of the team is insufficient to fully comprehend and implement the changes that the immediate future demands.

Succession plans must be implemented NOW.  The skills sets of the future are not embodied in the baby boomer generation.  Those in the corner office need to read their personal ‘best before date’ and make some painful admissions.

Oh, just a quick reminder, as you leave make sure you put the seat down in your personal washroom.  The next occupant prefers it that way!

Monday, 4 May 2020

Our Defining Moment - Part 2

In my previous message I stated the importance of the leader planning beyond this crisis.  Transitional, intermediate and long term planning that provides the direction of your company, or your team, in what is becoming the ‘new normal’.

I fully appreciate that there are a number of unknowns as you look into the future.  And I expect that this will be a very fluid situation with unanticipated factors impacting your decisions.

That said, it is vital to understand this.  Having a goal or an objective is not a plan.  Too often leaders confuse the end with the means and are surprised when the objective is unmet. 

This period of uncertainty is new to everyone.  Whether you anticipated it or not, there was no way to predict the impact and ultimate outcome. 

Lily Tomlin once opined that ‘truth is nothing more than a collective hunch’ and during these times one may be inclined to agree with her.

We are in the early stages of this pandemic.  Everyone is anxious to have things return to normal.  We think that a lifting of the shut-down represents the end.

The reality is that it may represent a small victory. I think that Winston Churchill’s words best represent our current situation.  During WWII he commented after a victory in North Africa “…this is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end.  But this may be the end of the beginning…”

Soon you must commit to a course of action.

Once you have, communicate, communicate, communicate.

Care and listen, not the other way around. 

If your team doesn’t think you care, they won’t say anything that you can listen to!

Only now can you focus on execution.  Stay focused on the process because this is uncharted territory for all of us and the end may not even be where we think it should be.

Your leadership mettle will never be more severely tested.  I urge you not to go it alone.  If you succeed there will be glory enough to share.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Your Defining Moment!

For the past decade we have all enjoyed a level of success and prosperity that has seldom been matched in our collective histories.  To have led and succeeded during this period was less a testament to our abilities and more a testament to our good fortune.  I don’t mean to understate the value of quality leadership, but candidly, you had to mess up pretty badly to have failed in this period.

But now we are individually and collectively facing a challenge that is literally unprecedented.  This is no understatement in the face of the response that seems to be necessary for us to pass through this portal of time.

I think that it is fair to say that for those in leadership at this moment, your legacy will be defined on the basis of how you respond in crisis. Here are my recommendations.

1.    Be present.  Even when you don’t have all the answers, your teams are looking to you for optimism and inspiration.  You must be present and available. 

2.    This is not the time for hyperbole; it is a time for humility.  No one has all the answers and speculation only causes more confusion.  Hope is a virtue, but false hope only disappoints.

3.    This is not the time for empty rhetoric; it is a time for honesty and action. 

4.    This is not a time for sounding an alarm; that time has already passed. It is a time to respond to the alarm and trust those whose advice is based on the best scientific evidence.

5.    We don’t need to hear how bad things are; dwelling on the obvious is for the historians. We need to hear how we are going to make things better; we need to be assured that the sun will follow the darkness.

6.    We need inclusive strategies that offer purpose to everyone.  Being part of the solution builds a sense of community and that will be critical in a successful recovery.

7.    Leaders must have multiple strategies.  There is the immediate; what are you doing during the crisis to survive. There is the transition time, how are you going to move from today to recovery as the disruptions are gradually lifted.  And then there is the new normal.  You need to determine how this crisis alters your business in the future.  What changes are permanent; is there long term impact on your employees; with your customer base; with your supply chain.  You need to be planning now and putting together different scenarios because none of us have any certainty what the future holds.

Right now, nothing is easy.  But just because we don’t have all the answers doesn’t mean that we won’t.  You must lead in a manner that demonstrates concern for the present; optimism for the transition and confidence for the future. 

Lead acknowledging these truths and others will follow!  

Saturday, 4 January 2020

Obituary Decisions

Every year presents us new challenges.  As leaders you will be required to make some difficult decisions that will push your moral or ethical standards to the limit.  And if your standards are not clearly established you may find that your ‘limit’ is flexible based on the situation.

My recommendations for these instances are twofold:

1.    Make your standards fixed.  Situational ethics or morals mean that those who depend upon your leadership never know with certainty what to expect.
2.   If you ever find yourself in a dilemma over which way to go on a decision, ask yourself ‘…what would I want to read in my obituary…’ as to how I responded under pressure.  Did I hold to the standards that I set or did I cave?

Clearly the easier decision, in the short term, is to turn the blind eye and move on.  But this only leads to more trouble down the road.  The right decision, the tougher decision, is one that you will be able to defend to the grave.

What you will find is that having made the tough call, it actually becomes easier over time.  Others know that you hold yourself to the same high standards you expect them to adhere to and they respond accordingly.  There will be no misunderstanding.  No one will be able to say ‘…but last time…’ when recalling a similar situation.

I am reminded of a quotation from a highly respected college basketball coach who said:

        ‘…reputation is what others think about you; character is what you really are…’
I know what I want in my obituary.  Hopefully you do too.

A side note.  In my blog dated November 9th, 2019, I wrote about the different responses to failure in Boeing and McDonald’s. 
It was recently announced that Boeing has fired their CEO for the culture that he created that allowed their Max 8 planes to be delivered with a potentially fatal software flaw.
It took the Board too long to act, but at least they finally did.