Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Winner's Brain

It is another beautiful day out. Of course I do have some worries that New York should not have this much snow. Interesting article in the NY Times on climate.

I read a lot about brains. I think I must put a great value on what we can get by using them well. And I am fascinated by how they work and how they impact behavior. Perhaps it is the marketing angle also?

I have read all sort of books on the topic - like Make a Good Brain Great, Save your Brain, Brain Rules, and many on psychology as well.

One brain book is "The Winner's Brain: Eight Strategies Great Minds Use to Achieve Success" by Jeff Brown, Mark Fenske and Liz Neporent.

Their 8 ways including my comments:

1 - Self Awareness. This one has always been a focus for me. I definitely see a connection between that and success. The beauty of self awareness is it can be studied and learned (I think that is one reason I read so much)

2 - Motivation. Again, this one is obvious to me. I spend a lot of time on goal setting and goals only work with good motivation. Part of doing well on goals is finding and strengthening the link to motivation.

3 - Focus. Again, any successful person that I know has high focus. And I constantly work at seeing how I can improve it.

4 - Emotional Balance. I will not say I am perfect in this one. But I certainly handle stress well.

5 - Memory. For me, this ties into focus. It is about memory of the right things. I do not bother to remember music, actors or sports scores. My theory is this leaves more "space" for other things that I value more.

6 - Resilience. I have long believed it is critical to be able to deal with adversity. It is not falling down that is the problem, it is getting back up quickly.

7 - Adaptability. The brain can always change and learn even into old age. Use this for advantage.

8 - Brain Care. Obviously eat right, exercise the brain and the body. I have made these a part of my life.

I am hoping to maximize my brain - are you?

Friday, January 28, 2011

5 Leadership Styles that Work

A guest post by Art Gould

Recipes for Success: 5 Different Leadership Styles That All Work!

There's more than one way to skin a cat.

Nowhere is this saying more true than in today's corporate world. The best way to find out what makes a company successful is to look at the top. And when you do, what you quickly see is that today's top executives are much more than bean counters. They are the founders and daily drivers of their company's corporate cultures. Of particular interest are those who have achieveda measure of prominence due to their accomplishments. The singular characteristic that they all share is their company's success. But when you look more closely and study their leadership styles, you tend to notice more differences than similarities. Here are examples of five different leadership styles that have all proven successful in various ways:

  1. Transformational

  2. This type of leader is one who is able to continually inspire his or her teams and influence
    subordinates to improve and/or change. Leaders like this are usually visionaries with boundless enthusiasm. Legendary corporate icons such as Lee Iaccoca and Jack Welsh would clearly fall into this category. A good present-day example of this type of leadership can be found in Virgin Group Ltd, a very successful corporation renowned for its presence in a wide variety of global markets. Many business analysts attribute a great deal of Virgin's success to the innovative leadership style of its chairman, Sir Richard Branson, who has demonstrated a marked ability to inspire his people to innovate and grow.

    One of the most striking all-time success stories associated with this leadership style is Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, the architect of what has evolved into the largest private employer in the U.S. Walton's characteristic leadership style included regular visits to Wal-Mart stores across the country, where he would meet with associates to show his appreciation for their contributions to the company.

  3. Service-Oriented

  4. This style is characterized by leaders who put the needs of their subordinates ahead of their own. They tend to rely strongly on their values and ideals, and they involve their teams heavily in decision making. Probably the best modern-day example of how this style can be successful is (once again) Wal-Mart, whose current chairman, S. Robson Walton, took over his father Sam's empire in 1992 and since that time expanded its annual revenue by almost 800 percent! The secret to Rob Walton's success is that he does not pretend to be his father and has indeed adopted a different style of leadership. Walton has implanted within his teams the overriding philosophy to always listen to the customer and put the customer's needs above all else. He has imbued the entire corporation with a service culture that is reaping record-shattering rewards in terms of corporate success.

  5. Participative

  6. Similar to the service leadership style in that team members are involved in decision making, this style is characterized by a leadership that makes decisions in joint fashion. Google, one of the world's fastest-growing and most successful organizations, is a vivid example of how effective this style can be. For several years spanning a period of extraordinary growth, the company operated under an executive management group comprised of three individuals who shared responsibility. The success of this business model spawned many imitators who have since adopted this style within their corporations.

  7. Charismatic

  8. A charismatic leader relies on personal charm to lead and inspire. This type of leadership usually creates a feeling within the organization that there is a direct connection between corporate success and the presence of the charismatic leader. As such, it can be a double-edged sword, highly dependent on the leader sticking around. But it can also lead to great success. A good example is Thomas Watson, Sr., who oversaw IBM's monumental growth into a dominant international force during the early part of the 20th Century.

    Watson infused his charisma within the organization by instituting policies and rituals tied to his personal beliefs. For example, he instituted a corporate dress code of dark suits and white shirts so that his salespeople would feel like executives. This worked very well for many years, as it built a sense of pride that became a corporate calling card. Unfortunately, this same policy became emblematic of the company's rigidity and conformity, demonstrating one of the drawbacks of the charismatic style.

  9. Situational

  10. This is perhaps the most generally successful leadership style because it requires the leader to be adaptable to the situation, the abilities of the teams, and the capability of the leader himself. This style requires the leader to continually adjust to emergent constraints and limitations imposed on him. History is replete with examples of successful leaders of this type, not only in the corporate world but in all facets of life. Most of the top military leaders in history can lay claim to having used this style of leadership to great and lasting effect.

Art Gould is a division manager with Self Storage Company, which operates a group of websites, including a Nashville self-storage locator. Though busy, Art enjoys meeting new people and clients when traveling to sites throughout Tennessee like the Memphis self storage center.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Elements of Power

It is beautiful here. We got a light dusting of snow (over a foot) so I am now snowed in for a while. If I were a more frivolous person, I would be building a snowman or having a good snowball fight.

I read a great book The Elements of Power - Lessons on Leadership and Influence by Terry Bacon.

A part of me thought power was bad and not something to strive for. I think this is because it is often misused. Also my perception was often of coercive or oppressive power which although are powers, tend to be less powerful than good power. I always prefer to inspire (which still requires power).

Bacon has a section on the morality of power.

In order to accomplish things, we need power. "Power is like a battery. The more voltage (power), the more it can potentially do." Hence the importance of a book on power. The more we understand the sources of power, the better able we are to tap them.

I like the chapter summaries (Bacon calls them Key Concepts) at the end of each chapter. There is also a "Challenges for Readers" at the end of each chapter - questions to stimulate thought.

Key Concepts from the first chapter:

1 - People have 5 sources of organizational power (role, resources, information, network and reputation), 5 sources of personal power (knowledge, expressiveness, attraction, character, and history) and one metasource (will).

2 - Power is like a battery...

3 - Power is relational and dependent on the domain in which the person is operating.

4 - The magnitude of your power is dependent on your relationships.

5 - Each power source can also be a power drain.

6 - Power can be diminished (EG when a person leaves a position)

7 - Power is not immoral (although it has the potential to be - especially when the power is absolute)

The rest of the book elaborates on these seven points showing us how to enhance them and giving stories of how they have been gained, used or lost.

As I read the book, I realized I actually intuitively cultivated many power sources. I know those elements of power have allowed me to accomplish what I have. And I also realized how charmed I am to have much of the power that I have (caused by history, network, information etc.)

I loved the book. It is well organized, well written and thought provoking.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Secrets of Business Success

I am having a productive morning. For some reason I find early mornings in themselves tend to yield productivity. I reflect on the charmed life I lead. Many people ask me my secrets of success and I am not sure there is any one thing that really stands out. Success is the result of a little small things done repeatedly like:

1 - Work ethic. I worked hard and long. In my younger years I often sacrificed sleep to allow me more time to work. My Time Management book even advocated that in the first 3 edition. I no longer believe this is a good idea and I try hard to sleep more.

2 - Focus. For me it was not necessarily focusing on just one thing in business but rather it was almost always focusing on some aspect of business.

3 - Systems and process. I have spent a lot of time perfecting systems (which always need fine tuning still) that support what I do. Simple things like regular exercise, getting up early, etc.

4 - Knowing priorities. This is the basis of time management. Knowing what is most important and doing it.

5 - Have good people. I have been fortunate to have a lot of great people who worked with me. Any medium sized business is much more than one person (even though the press seems to want to exalt just one person). To scale a business needs good people.

This could be the topic of a whole blog post. I am not even certain how I managed to attract so many good people. I would like to say I empowered them thus giving them the ultimate satisfaction but I struggled with that part of management.

I read Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers and Transform Your Business by Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler. (awesome title that is inspirational on its own). As the title suggests, it is all about why and how to empower people. Many of the earlier stories center around social media and customer service. Pointing out how short sighted companies can be to not give staff power to solve problems quickly. And pointing out that the new media (blogs, twitter, etc) give great power to the customer. So empowering customers is also important.

I like that it also talks about the complexity, cost and importance of the task and how that can help determine how much empowerment can be given.

It talks in terms of HEROs - Highly Empowered and Resourceful Operators and makes the case that businesses need HEROs now more than ever in order to thrive.

6 - Be lucky. I have had a lot of luck in life.

7 - Seek the success for the business not the trappings of success. I always wanted a business that was successful and lived a highly frugal personal life. Interestingly, this is also a time management tip since things tend to take time. It is only now that I have started to spend a bit more in some areas (although I still drive a Prius). I think frugality also really helped the business. I saw many businesses that spend beyond their means and ended up in trouble.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Power of Reflective Thinking

Beautiful weather we have been having. A bit of snow. Warm (but not warm enough to melt it)

I always like adding to my Time Management Systems. Wall Street Journal had a great article that adds to my thoughts.

I have been over busy lately. I know that I create my own busyness. Something in me does not allow me to not be super busy. I think to some extent it also helps my productivity. I feel the weight of everything I have on so I work hard at being efficient.

At some level though I know this busyness hurts my truly greatest value. My creativity. We all need time to reflect.

So of course to add to the pressure I read a book. Consider Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking in Your Organization by Daniel Forrester.

When anything is referred to as powerful it makes it seem well more powerful.

There is a huge push in business for a bias to action. This is what Forrester argues (successfully) actually can hurt the business more than help it.

The book refers to the email abuse that causes much of the "rush" for most of us.

From an article by Forrester:

"It was said that Thomas Edison would often take his fishing rod, sit at the end of the pier, cast away, and then just sit there for hours. However, he would never put any bait on his hook. He didn't really want to catch any fish. What he wanted to do was to sit there uninterrupted, just reflecting on the issues of the day, on his work, or on whatever else came into his mind. He knew that if he looked as if he were fishing, no one would bother him, so he could reflect uninterrupted. All he really wanted to do was catch ideas. Edison singed many pictures for friends and admirers filled with the visionaries' advice. To one friend he said, "All things come to him who hustles while he waits. Your friend, Thomas Edison."

I buy into the theory. I even try (largely unsuccessfully) to practice it. The challenge I see in business is would anyone tolerate a bunch of people simply sitting in their offices staring into space. Not sure they would be the people getting the promotions.

The book provoked thought (which for me makes it a good book) and perhaps ironically made me think of a plan of how I could get reflective time. Of course perhaps because I am so caught up in my busyness, many of my ideas do double duty. Reflective time and something else (in most cases exercise). My top 7 are:

1 - Take a walk

2 - Go for a run

3 - Close my eyes on trains and planes sometimes (to reflect - not sleep)

4 - Do manual chores around the house. When I was in high school I painted houses and recall this provided a lot of time to think since the task itself was not all consuming.

5 - Close my door

6 - re-analyze my busy to see what can be eliminated

7 - block time for reflection including a relaxation process to still my mind.

And of course I know in order to make this a good plan, I need to be more specific. How often, when, where etc. So still working on it.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Leadership Pipeline

I often read more than one book at once. This is great for stimulating thought but may cause an intermingling of thought on my book reviews.

The Leadership Pipeline - How to Build the Leadership Powered Company by Ram Charan, Steve Drotter and Jim Noel was awesome. It is a must read for any aspiring leader at any level. And of course every HR dept needs multiple copies.

I like Ram Charan's books. He is a clear thinker.

One thing I like about the book is it encourages organizations to look within for leaders. I do think it is good to have some outside talent but the culture of the organization is often best fostered by existing people. I think promoting from within also keeps knowledge within the company.

Leadership Pipeline talks of leadership mostly within larger organizations. This is not where my experience is.

The book talks about 6 passages of leadership.

1 - From managing self to others. Moving from technical proficiency to planning, delegation, coaching etc. There is a good table that lays out the changes/skills required in each phase.

2 - From managing others to managing managers

3 - From Managers to functional managers. At this stage, the leader needs to penetrate 2 levels of the company. I often call this the rule of 49. A good leader can manage 7 people who can manage 7 people. Beyond 49 people, style needs to change.

4 - From Functional managers to business leader. Interestingly, I started my career here. I started my business so was always responsible for the whole business. I grew through managing others in a few months. In a couple of years, I was managing managers. After that, it took me 8 or 9 years before I had to manage functional managers. I do not recall how many people I had in each year of our growth but I do recall sales numbers. It took us 9 years to reach $40,000,000 in sales.

I must have had trouble growing through that level since our sales stalled for 3 years at that level before growing to $68,000,000. We went public the following year and sales beat $100,000,000 the next year.

5 - The next step is going from managing a business unit to managing a group of businesses. I am not sure I really hit that stage at EMJ. Or perhaps I just touched it. At this stage, leaders need to learn to influence more than control.

I sold EMJ to SYNNEX when our sales were $350,000,000.

6 - Going from group leadership to enterprise leadership. I did some of this at EMJ but it was not until I went to SYNNEX and sale rose to over $1 Billion that this became more of the norm. Even then, SYNNEX was a small company so I still had much to learn and growth to do to truly become an enterprise leader.

One thing that limits leaders is their sticking to proven strategies. EG - an individual performer might dig in more to do the work instead of moving to a coach, trainer, mentor etc. Part of growing as a leader is being willing to let go.

I recall having to deliberately let go (and it was tough). For example, at one point, I decided I just should not enter an order or give customers delivery information (it was taking too much of my time and I was finding people I met were using me as their sales rep). It was tough.

Much of growing as a leader for me had to do with deliberate study. I would always ask myself what I would need to do or learn to get to the next level (not meaning these leadership levels meaning the next sales/organization size)

Leadership pipeline has a good section on identifying potential leaders and succession plans (SYNNEX did a fair job of that - and I only say fair since I think doing it well is almost impossible)

Great book - I highly recommend it.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Management - Its not what you Think

Management - It's Not What You Think is a book of articles edited and complied by Henry Mintzberg.

Some of the chapters:

"Accenture's next champion of waffle words," Lucy Kellaway
"PowerPoint is evil," Edward Tufte
"The opposite of profound truth is also true," Richard Farson
"Why most managers are plagiarists," Kellaway again
"'Change management' is an oxymoron," Jim Clemmer
"Ye gods, what do I do now?" Ian Hamilton
"Managing without managers," Ricardo Semler

The collection articles emphasize that Leadership is messy and there is no right answer. Lots of mess and unclear decisions to make. Lots of thought provoking articles.

And the cutest story from the book on outsourcing:

Air Maple Leaf today announced that the office of the President, CEO and the Chairman will be outsourced as of April 30, for the remainder of the fiscal year and beyond.

"At the end of the day, the cost savings will be quite significant," says Air Maple Leaf spokesperson. "We simply can no longer afford this inefficiency and remain competitive on the world stage", he said.

Rahdpoor Nahassbaalapan, 23, of Indus Teleservices, Numbai, India, will be assuming the office of President, Chairman and CEO as of May 1. He will receive a salary of $360 Canadian a month with proportional benefits. Mr. Nahassbaalapan will maintain his office in India and will be working primarily at night, due to the time difference between Canada and India.

"I am excited to serve in this position," Mr. Nahassbaalapan stated in an exclusive interview. "I always knew that my career at the Air Maple Leaf call center would lead to great things."

An Air Maple Leaf spokes person noted that Mr. Nahassbaalapan has extensive experience in public speaking and has been given the CEO's script Tree to enable him to answer any question without having the understand the issues.

The sad part is, that is the perception some people have of what doing the CEO job is all about.