Happy New Year Everyone! As we close the book on 2020 and begin to author a new story for 2021, I wanted to share a song and artist that has been very inspirational to me. Paul Weller has been a true artist for 5 decades now. He follows his own muse without regard to fame […]
By Glen Calderon In January 2014, McKinsey & Company conducted a study that examines the 4 main reasons why leadership development programs fail: 1. Not allowing for context. Simply, leadership development training is unique. One size does not fit all regardless of a homogenous company, management or culture. An organization should ask why do we […]
Sadly, sometimes a leader sticks around too long. I am a huge fan of Arsenal Football Club and this has become a much more difficult chore than it used to be. The club that used to be known for its innovative offensive playmaking and rock-solid defense has become sadly predictable to defend and quite easy […]
In our society that rewards constant action, it is often hard to step back and reflect about where you have been, what you have learned, and where you should be going. However, leadership requires thinking and reflection as much as it is supposed to stimulate action. Many people I know are busy at doing the wrong things. They are working hard but not smart. Every day is just one more attempt to push the boulder up the hill and hope that at some point positive sustained momentum will push them over the top. Unfortunately as the slope of their climb increases the weight of their responsibilities also increases and the path they are treading becomes less predictable and stable. You can’t push forward into unchartered territory and not expect to learn some tough lessons along the way. If you are not careful, you may slip or fall and the boulder will roll right back over you.
One of the most frustrating and disheartening things that someone in my position has to deal with are leaders who have a tendency to ignore reality and follow a flawed strategy or other key decision off a cliff. Pride almost always gets in the way as he/she thinks that changing course would represent failure or unnecessary pain. Usually there is a difficult decision that has to be made about people, finances or the current business model (sometimes all three). The inability to make these types of decisions tends to lead to one outcome – failure. A reasonably competent leader may delay the timing but the end result is inevitable.
As my kids begin another school year school this morning, it is always interesting to watch how both the children and parents are transitioning. In some cases either the kids and/or parents will be a bit anxious or nervous, unsure of what is to come. In other cases, there is an almost a giddy excitement about the new challenges. Old friends will greet each other joyfully, while the new children and parents will be feeling their way on how to best fit in. Some children will walk to school alone, while others will have both parents with them and be accompanied all the way to their new classroom. Many of the teachers will carry themselves with an air of confidence and enthusiasm, while others will be a bit more reticent and laid back.
Anger is a part of life. Everybody gets angry sometimes. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t access all of your emotions occasionally. However, I highly encourage you to pay attention to your dominant emotions. If you start the day in a bad mood and it only goes downhill from there, then what did you expect to happen. If you are too easily negatively triggered by the actions of others, then why should you surprised when people disappoint, annoy or avoid you. More often than not, we create the conditions under which we operate. Personal energy is infectious. Everyone we interact with is only feeding off the energy we put out. Just experiment with frowning all day and smiling the next. You will see a big difference. How are you showing up every day? What impact are you having on the people around you?
Inflexibility is rarely a virtue especially when it comes to business. The landscape of business history is littered with failed business leaders who were either unwilling or too slow to change their thinking. Just because something has worked in the past doesn’t mean it will work in the future. The only constant in life is change. Markets change. Customer attitudes change. The best method for doing business changes. Technology changes. As a business leader you must be willing to adjust to your changing circumstances or risk the consequences.
There is certain randomness to a natural disaster which is hard to explain. Sure, we have weather forecasters who are diligent about keeping us informed, but even they can’t predict where the damage will be worst and who will be the most affected. People on opposite sides of the same street can have completely different experiences. I’ve seen pictures where a tornado wipes out one house and leaves the one next to it completely untouched. I imagine that when you are one of the unfortunate victims of these events you struggle a long time understanding why you were the unlucky one. The truth is it could have been any one of us.
A strange thing happens to us as we age. We become more risk adverse and less open to the learning and growth possibilities abundant in life. We get set in our ways and habits. Our worldview becomes fixed. We are less willing to challenge our own perspective and very judgmental of others who disagree with whet we think. We tend to look backwards not forwards on social issues. The past gets sentimentalized while the future is rife with doubt and uncertainty. We are skeptical that the younger generation has what it takes to solve the problems that ironically enough our generation created. We become closed rather than open to possibility.
One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn in my line of work is that you can’t save everyone. Despite your good intentions and best efforts, sometimes the formula will not work. In some cases, you might have to accept the fact that you are not the right fit for a given engagement or client relationship. In other instances, there is always a reason why someone is struggling and until they fully come to grips with this fact and take ownership of their behavior, there is only so much you can do.
As a New York Yankee fan, I must admit to not being all that excited about the movie Moneyball with Brad Pitt when it came out. The story is about the exploits of Billy Beane as General Manager of The Oakland A’s when he literally transformed his approach to running a baseball team. When it got nominated for an Academy Award I thought maybe I should see it one day, but didn’t rush out to but it. I finally saw it last week and was blown away. I guess at this point I should pretty much trust anything Aaron Sorkin is involved with. Not only is the movie well written, directed, and acted, it also has many important lessons that are applicable to my work with business leaders. It was almost as if they had a leadership/management expert on the writing team. I’d like to highlight the following takeaways:
I remember when they asked Jerry Seinfeld why he would turn down $5m an episode and leave one of the top rated shows in TV history and he said he wanted to go out on top. He also said he wanted to get a life and that work had become all consuming. At the time I couldn’t quite understand his decision but now I respect it. Too many people stay on past their prime whether its entertainment personalities, public officials, business leaders, etc. There comes a point for each of us where the value we are adding begins to diminish and it’s time to reinvent ourselves and do something different and/or focus on other priorities.
Every survey you read about work/career satisfaction is depressing. I can’t believe that so many people go to a job every day that they don’t like and/or are doing work they find uninspiring. Why would someone choose to live that way? I’ve never quite understood the whole idea of simply working until you retire. As people have to work for longer periods of time due to lack of pensions and/or other financial resources this means that individuals will be unhappier for longer periods of time with their chosen profession.
In business (and life) you are either growing and getting better or going in the opposite direction. Just like your muscles, your brain and natural abilities will atrophy if they don’t get exercise. You can’t stand still and expect progress. I see far too many people who “let up” at the very time they need to “push the envelope” and challenge themselves to do better. It’s also sad when a leader stays on too long and becomes more interested in ego, power and position than effectively navigating change and facilitating progress.
When something is not good for you there is usually a symptom or other sign. I was speaking with a colleague the other day and they said that watching the news only depresses them and puts them in a bad mood. I asked him why he watches it then and he said to stay connected […]
It’s interesting how the older we get the less willing it seems many of us are to embrace change. At some point we start preferring to look backwards rather than forwards in terms of making sense of our life. The word “new” starts to lose its positive connotation. I’m not exactly sure why this happens but I see evidence of it in almost every conversation I have with one of my peers. Thank goodness there is always a younger generation behind us pushing the envelope in terms of what’s possible and could be better. At minimum, as a society we need the collective adaptive capacity to adjust to changing circumstances.
What strikes me the most is how many organizations view planning as an event to get through rather than the impetus for an ongoing strategic dialogue that is critical to long term success. When it comes to planning, you are never done, just sharpening your focus and increasing your performance capability as you go along.
Whether we like it or not, “all things must pass.” Everything has a beginning and an end. As far as we know, nothing besides space is infinite. Youth, careers, relationships, roles, responsibilities, health, and ultimately life itself, all transition and ultimately conclude at some point.
Change for the sake of change is never advisable. All change should be rooted in some obvious reality that requires a shift in the status quo. When you have something that is working stick with it. This doesn’t mean you run it to the ground, but also doesn’t mean you abandon it too soon either. In general, there are usually more things that are right rather than wrong with an organization unless of course it’s a crisis situation. There should be many positives you can lean on and leverage for both short and long term benefit.
2009-2011 has been a difficult period for many people I know and care about. It’s almost as if the heavens opened up and terrible storm decided to descend on a vast number of unsuspecting people. In many cases, the signs may have been there, but none of us expected the difficulty it to be so prolonged and discouraging. They say “what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger.” I’m not sure I agree with this point of view. Not every challenge leads to strength; sometimes it just forces us to alter our perspective. Change doesn’t always mean growth or better, it often just means different. In addition, certain wounds don’t always heal as we would like them to, but they heal nonetheless – time will see to this.