Of Gardeners and Grasscutters

Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there. It doesn’t matter what you do … so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.

Ray Bradbury

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Developing the Best Leaders

U.S.News & World Report and the Center for Public Leadership at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University just published their list of America’s Best Leaders.
The panelists rated nominees from to 1 to 5 based on how well they met the following criteria:

Sets Direction (25 percent):

  • by building a shared sense of purpose;
  • by setting out to make a positive social impact;
  • by implementing innovative strategies.

Achieves Results (50 percent):

  • of significant depth and breadth;
  • that have a positive social impact;
  • that are sustainable;
  • that exceed expectations.

Cultivates a Culture of Growth (25 percent):

  • by communicating and embodying positive core values;
  • by inspiring others to lead.

If your employees were given the chance to rate you against these same criteria then how do you think you would do?

  • What if you were rated by your boss?
  • Your peers?
  • Customers?
  • Investors?

For each of the three criteria what can you do in 2009 to so that you are able to rate yourself at least one mark higher than you do at the moment?

Full post – including the list of ‘America’s Best Leaders’ is here.

Inspiration…

I really enjoyed this clip on you tube – 40 inspiring speeches from the cinema condensed into just 2 minutes.

The Importance of Praise and Feedback

Silent gratitude isn’t very much use to anyone.

Gertrude Stein

Tom Peters: Twenty-seven Practical Ideas That Will Transform Every Organization

I have been following Tom Peters work for over 20 years now and he rarely disappoints. On his blog today he publishes a list of 27 practical ideas that will transform an organisation.
Read, pause, think, do!

The Top 27: Twenty-seven Practical Ideas That Will Transform Every Organization

1. Learn to thrive in unstable times—our lot (and our opportunity) for the foreseeable future.

2. Only putting people first wins in the long haul, good times and especially tough times. (No “cultural differences” on that one! Colombia = Germany = the USA.)

3. MBWA/Managing By Wandering Around. Stay in touch!

4. Call a customer today!

5. Train! Train! Train! (Growing people outperform stagnant people in terms of attitude and output—by a wide margin.)

6. “Putting people first” means making everyone successful at work (and at home).

7. Make “we care” a/the company motto—a moneymaker as well as a source of pride.

8. All around the world, women are an undervalued asset.

9. Diversity is a winning strategy, and not for reasons of social justice: The more different perspectives around the table, the better the thinking.

10. Take a person in another function to lunch; friendships, lots of, are the best antidote to bad cross-functional task accomplishments. (Lousy cross-functional communication stops companies and armies alike.)

11. Transparency in all we do.

12. Create an “Innovation Machine” (even in tough times). (Hint: Trying more stuff than the other guy is Tactic #1.)

13. We always underestimate the Innovation Advantage when 100% of people see themselves as “innovators.” (Hint: They are if only you’d bother to ask “What can we do better?”)

14. Get the darned Basics right—always Competitive Advantage #1. (Be relentless!)

15. Great Execution beats great strategy—99.9% of the time. (Make that 100% of the time.)

16. A “bias for action” is a “bias for success.” (Great hockey player Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”)

17. No mistakes, no progress! (A lot of fast mistakes, a lot of fast progress.) (Australian businessman Phil Daniels: “Reward excellent failures. Punish mediocre success.”)

18. Sometimes “little stuff” is more powerful than “big stuff” when it comes to change.

19. Keep it simple! (Making “it” “simple” is hard work! And pays off!)

20. Remember the “eternal truths” of leadership—constants over the centuries. (They say Nelson Mandela’s greatest asset was a great smile—you couldn’t say no to him, even his jailors couldn’t.)

21. Walk the talk. (“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”—Gandhi)

22. When it comes to leadership, character and people skills beat technical skills. (Emotional Intelligence beats, or at least ties, school intelligence.)

23. It’s always “the little things” when it comes to “people stuff.” (Learn to say “thank you” with great regularity. Learn to apologize when you’re wrong. Learn the Big Four words: “What do you think?” Learn to listen—it can be learned with lots and lots of practice.)

24. The “obvious” may be obvious, but “getting the obvious done” is harder said than done.

25. Time management is the only real “control” variable we have.

26. All managers have a professional obligation to their communities and their country as well as to the company and profit and themselves. (Forgetting this got the Americans into deep trouble.)

You can read the original post here.

27. EXCELLENCE. ALWAYS. (What else?)

Make Sure You Chop the Dead Wood

This was the title of piece written by Geoff Colvin – and it has always been both important and relevant – even more so at the moment.

Here is the nub of Geoff’s piece:

Let’s be clear about the corrosive effects of avoiding this problem (underperforming employees). A recent survey from McKinsey is fairly chilling: Keeping poor performers means that development opportunities for promising employees get blocked, so those subordinates don’t get developed, productivity and morale fall, good performers leave the company, the company attracts fewer A players, and the whole miserable cycle keeps turning.

It gets worse. Employees know who the underperformers are. They know that the top executives know who they are. So every day the top team fails to address the problem, it’s sending a message: We’re not up to managing this outfit. Refusing to deal with underperformers not only makes your best employees unhappy, but it also makes them think the company is run by bozos.

Why don’t companies act? Some fear it would lower morale, which is nonsense. Mckinsey asked thousands of employees whether they’d be “delighted” if their company got rid of underperformers, and 59% strongly agreed – yet only 7% believed their companies were actually doing it. Executives often say they leave poor performers in place because they want the company to be seen as humane. That’s just more evasion of reality, of course. As Ed Michaels of McKinsey says, “The attitude is, “Let’s be fair to Charlie. He’s been here 21 years.” But we say, “What about the eight people who work for Charlie? You’re not being fair to them”.

A senior executive at Hewlett-Packard, put it like this: “I feel there is no greater disrespect you can do to a person than to let them hang out in a job where they are not respected by their peers, not viewed as successful, and probably losing their self-esteem. To do that under the guise of respect for people is, to me, ridiculous.”

Managing underperformers is a critical management function.  Having the courage to use feedback and coaching to improve performance to meet organisational standards (rather than turning a blind eye) and if necessary coaching staff as part of capability procedures is difficult work but it must be done – if mediocrity is to be kept at bay.

So consider this as a possible New Year’s Resolution for 2009.  Resolve to fire your greatest under performer.

Making this resolution will force you to address the under performance issues – because I know that you will not want to fire anyone.  It will force you to make 121s more powerful and honest, to give more feedback, to coach more, to praise more – to do everything in your power to make them such a great employee that you can’t fire them.

You might have another resolution that you didn’t see through – but you will have achieved something much more valuable – to have developed an underperformer into an over whelmer.

Are you up to it?

Drucker on Time As a Resource

Time Management

“Mike, everything you are teaching us makes so much sense.  We can see how it could work.  BUT WE DO NOT HAVE THE TIME TO PUT IT INTO PRACTICE.  WE ARE JUST TOO BUSY FIGHTING FIRES.”

This is a line that I hear just about every time I train!  There is without doubt an issue of time management going on here – that the Drucker quote below might shed some light on.  However I think that what they really believe, perhaps sub-consciously, is,

“Mike, we are in a routine here.  We like to moan about it – but we don’t want to (or feel that we can’t) change it.  It is convenient to us to blame our performance on others (senior management, funders, customers, governments) because that means that I NEVER have to become fully responsible.”

So on to the Drucker quote….

“Time is also a unique resource. Of the other major resources, money is actually quite plentiful. We long ago should have learned that it is the demand for capital, rather than the supply thereof, which sets the limit to economic growth and activity. People — the third limiting resources — one can hire, though one can rarely hire enough good people. But one cannot rent, hire, buy, or otherwise obtain more time.

The supply of time is totally inelastic. No matter how high the demand, the supply will not go up. There is no price for it and no marginal utility curve for it. Moreover, time is totally perishable and cannot be stored. Yesterday’s time is gone forever and will never come back. Time is, therefore always in exceedingly short supply.

Time is totally irreplaceable. Within limits we can substitute one resource for another, copper for aluminum, for instance. We can substitute capital for human labor. We can use more knowledge or more brawn. But there is no substitute for time.

Everything requires time. It is the only truly universal condition. All work takes place in time and uses up time. Yet most people take for granted this unique irreplaceable, and necessary resource. Nothing else, perhaps distinguishes effective executives as much as their tender loving care of time.

Man is ill-equipped to manage his time.”

Peter Drucker – The Effective Executive

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