“The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old...

Leadership-Direction How well are you and your leaders focused on building the new?
...but on building the new.”A hot topic in social media and around the business community, both for-profit and non-profit is the discussion around how to structure the workforce in the new reality. Questions abound around bringing employees back to the office full time, part time, not at all and what are the ramifications of these options on how the business continues to run and how leaders effectively lead. On multiple LinkedIn discussions, we’ve posted that those leaders who can only manage effectively when their team is back in the office as it was pre-pandemic are insecure and need to reflect on why they are only confident leading under those conditions in this new reality. Of course, those comments were mostly met by agreement and a few disagreements, even one challenging our credentials to even make the comment in the first place.Our underlying premise, and the reason for the title quote attributed...
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“That was Then...

Past-Present How will your business cycle end, starting now?
...This is Now!”As we continue to work with organizational leaders in both for-profit and non-profit businesses, a common theme has emerged that resonates across them all. This current business cycle is a recalibration to the new reality (not new normal) of the current VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) business environment. The inspiration for the title for this month’s discussion comes from an S.E. Hinton book by the same title published in the early 1970’s. It’s also been a movie (1985) and a song (1986) by The Monkees music group. However, we are using it to drive home a crucial reminder to today’s 21st Century Leaders as they adapt to the current VUCA Business environment.Specifically, the focus is on the Operational Support Elements that bridge the gap between the Strategic Thinking process that informs organizational direction and the Tactical Execution that produces the desired results for sustainable success. In our “Missing Piece”...
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“Experience is not what happens to you...

Learning What are you doing with your pandemic experience to be a more effective leader?
...it’s what you do with what happens to you”This quote by Aldous Huxley, the English author best known for his book, “Brave New World” speaks volumes about what leaders are asking themselves and their teams as the next phase of post-pandemic business starts to take hold. In previous posts, we’ve talked about the VUCA business environment and how leaders must adapt to the challenges it presents. The foundation for adapting is how leaders and their teams are learning from the events of last year and creating new experiences to support sustainable success.To help leaders better understand adaptability, it is helpful to look at the learning process through the lens of the Four Stages of Competence Model created by Noel Burch of Gordon Training International in the 1970s. He identified four stages of skill development providing leaders with a structure to identify and assess where they and their teams and companies are...
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“All I hear are excuses”

Reason-or-Excuse Is your team giving you reasons or excuses and how do you know?
As we continue to pull out of a year for the ages, effective leaders are closely monitoring the new methodologies and processes put in place to adapt to the new reality. As many are realizing, some on their team are adapting well to the new reality and others on the team not so much. As we work with these leaders across multiple industries, both for-profit and non-profit, we regularly hear them state some version of the title quote of this article. Our response is always the same:What’s the difference between a reason and an excuse?The most common response to this question is an extended silence followed by “I’m not really sure” or “I never really thought about it” or others to that effect. Aside from the fact that every leader must know the meaning of the words they use, in this case treating reasons as excuses or excuses as reasons, both...
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"Trust is Earned...

Trust How does your team trust your leadership?
...When Actions Meet Words”Last month, we explored the leader-follower relationship through the lens of followership. In this edition, we explore another element of this critical business relationship and a topic that many leadership conversations struggle with. Intellectually, every leader, even the poor ones, can agree that trust and trustworthiness is important to effective leadership. Unfortunately, not all leaders, especially the poor ones, know what it takes to be viewed as trustworthy. Moreover, they fail to understand the consequences of not being trusted until the damage to their team is done. As the expression goes, “Losing trust is like crumpling a piece of paper. No matter how much you smooth it out, it is never the same.”One of the simplest ways to break down the key elements of trust and trustworthiness comes via the Trust Equation developed by Trusted Advisor. The equation states Trustworthiness is equal to Credibility plus Reliability plus Intimacy...
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“We Get the Leaders...

Followership How does your team’s followership align with your leadership?
...We Choose to Follow”Earlier this month, I read the title quote in a post by Laurence Barrett from my LinkedIn network. His posts always get me thinking and this particular sentence got me thinking about an important topic that routinely gets little airtime yet is extremely important in the leadership development universe. When we ask leaders if they can truly be a leader if no one follows them, the obvious answer is no. Yet the topic of followership continues to lag in the leadership discussion.In the Leadership and Organizational Behavior class I teach in a local MBA program, we introduce the relationship between the leader, the followers, and the situation. One of the exercises we discuss is the idea of creating a course on followship and the key topics we would need to cover in such a course. After creating an exhaustive list of topics, I change the title from followership...
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“Nothing is Stronger...

building-habits How are your habits supporting your team’s desired results?
...than a Habit.”Last month, we discussed the importance of relevant leadership skills, knowledge and attitudes through the lens of leading in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) business environment. We received a lot of great feedback from the network, especially as leaders look ahead at how they will effectively lead in a new year. However, my friend and fellow leadership colleague, Nicole DeFalco reminded me there is a fourth piece to the leadership development tool we call the KASH Box.The KASH Box is a leadership development tool most widely credited to David Herdlinger, an experienced leadership business coach, author and speaker who runs KASHBox Coaching with his business partner Joan Walsh. I had the distinct honor of having been individually coached by both David and Joan in the early days of RPC Leadership Associates Inc. and credit both for their role in our success in those early years.KASH is an acronym...
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“Effective Leaders Operate in Understanding...

Attitude-Adjustment As a leader, how are you and your team going to achieve desired results?
...What Can Be Done.”Happy New Year!Over the last few weeks one of the more common comments comes from folks who apparently thought changing over to a new calendar year would suddenly make the challenges of the previous year somehow fade away. The reality, of course, is the issues leaders regularly tackle do not abide by our sense of time. They happen unannounced, they linger until resolved and reoccur if poorly resolved. This inspired the theme of this discussion with the title taken from a conversation between my friend Rick Kolster and Col. Allen West on Rick’s podcast, “The Bald Truth”.The title is a quote from Col. West during that discussion which got us thinking about what leaders need to focus on to understand what can be done, especially in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) business environment. In our experience, we can categorically look at three key areas that form the...
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“What have we learned?”

Learn-and-lead As a leader, what have you learned?
As we close out the year for the ages, many are using the time to reflect on the recent past in order to set the stage for what is next. Our experience tells us that for most, this is a loosely defined informal process which tends to produce minimal, if any, change in attitudes and behaviors. For this reason, we focus our coaching with clients, as well as the theme of this post, on learning. By definition, learning results in modifying behaviors by experience. We focus on the issue of learning because without the observable modified behavior, we could argue actual learning does not occur.As early as this past summer, we began asking our clients what they had learned about themselves over the previous 3-4 months. The idea is centered on leaders making time to consciously capture their experiences to learn what changes to make in their businesses. In our experience...
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“A goal is planned conflict...

conflict-with-status-quo How will your goal planning process defeat the enemy of your success?
...with the status quo.”It is the time of year when leaders evaluate the results of what has been a very challenging year. The purpose is to presumably create new goals to continue achieving desired results next year. Yet, no matter how many leaders I ask what their goal planning process looks like, the vast majority simply do not have one. The closest processes resemble an organizational to-do list with little or no context behind them. But is that enough? As the title quote from Hyrum W. Smith suggests, those goals must be strong enough to move to a desired future that is likely in conflict with the status quo.The challenge is that merely setting goals is never enough in and by themselves to create the necessary level of planned conflict. We wrote about this idea two years ago on how an effective goal planning process is a great motivator for success! The...
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Who are you...

Who-Am-I-2
...really? It has long been a tenet of effective leadership that it really begins with effective self-leadership. So much so that in our coaching practice, we maintain that if one cannot lead themselves, they do not have the right to lead others. While that may come across rather strong, we’ve seen it play out as advertised, both positively and negatively over the last several decades.Self-awareness is obviously key to effective self-leadership, yet it remains a challenge for far too many leaders. In a January 2018 article in Harvard Business Review titled, “What Self-Awareness Is (and How to Cultivate it)”, Tasha Eurich stated that their four-year research study estimated that only 10% to 15% of their over 5,000 study participants were actually self-aware.In some of our more recent posts, we discussed how the pandemic has been a bit of “truth serum” for leaders across the globe. No one has escaped the need...
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“I Love It...

strategy_-thinking-journey What does it look like when your next plan comes together?
...When a Plan Comes Together!” Many might remember this often-used phrase from the fictional character Hannibal Smith, the leader of “The A-Team” from the mid-80’s TV series (or the 2010 movie). In many cases it always seemed there was no plan, but in the end, things worked out for the team eliciting his infamous phrase while lighting the obligatory cigar! Suffice it to say, most, if not all, plans for 2020 were shot to hell due to the pandemic. However, as business leaders adapt to the new reality and start to put 2020 in the rearview mirror the narrative becomes, “What’s next?”The 4th Quarter of 2020 is shaping up like no other in recent history. In addition to the lagging effect of the pandemic, the effect of schools in various stages of openness, continued social unrest and a very contentious national election, what is a business leader to do to plan...
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“Action and Adaptability...

VUCO-2-0 What new opportunities are you taking advantage of?
...create Opportunity.”At the risk of sounding redundant and a little like Captain Obvious, the new reality challenged every leader’s script for success. It reminds me of a term from my former life, VUCA which is an acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. It was coined by the Army War College in the late 1980s as part of post-Cold War planning discussions. There is little doubt today’s 21st Century business environment encompasses all of these conditions!Instead of dwelling on each of these conditions and their impact on leadership, let’s look forward and see how today’s leaders can create opportunity as motivational speaker Garrison Wynn suggests in the title quote. By way of structure, we will use the VUCA 2.0 Model coined by former Medtronic CEO Bill George. He simply redefined the original letters in the acronym to now mean Vision, Understanding, Courage and Adaptability. Let’s explore each in more detail:Vision ~...
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If You’re Not Listening...

listening How is your listening adding value to your leadership?
...Sit Down and Zip It..Because, quite frankly, you’re not adding anything new to the conversation! While I’ve always paid particular attention to leader’s listening skills, it appears that in the last six months we are being inundated with examples of those intent on change by talking over everyone else in the conversation. We’ve written about this idea of effective listening many times over the years and it seems appropriate that we do so again to reinforce the idea that leaders must listen to learn fully what is new about a given situation. If they are only interested in talking, then they are literally adding nothing new to the conversation by only repeating what they already know! What does it take, then, to zip it and listen when the first instinct is to keep talking? Based on our experience, there are three key knowledge elements to effectively listening in order to learn...
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Too much Diversity Training...

inclusiveleadership How are you developing your inclusive culture?
...not enough Inclusion DevelopmentI had the pleasure recently of delivering our updated Diversity and Inclusion workshop to an audience of Human Resource professionals. We approach diversity and inclusion as a leadership development process as opposed to a program event. Introducing this through the workshop we realized this approach was new to many of the participants. It’s been known for ages that leadership training, while important, does not change attitudes and behaviors in and by itself. Millions of dollars have been spent to develop organizational leaders only to see little or no return because it was merely training disguised as development.In a simple formula we use in our coaching practice, we discuss the moving parts of leadership development; Skills, Knowledge and Attitude. We define skill as what to do and how to do something relevant to the job. For leaders, skills (hard and soft skills) such as how to set and achieve...
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Changing your Habits...

Old-vs-New-Habits What is your process to develop new leadership attitudes and habits?
...of ThoughtIn recent months, largely driven by the massive information assault on our lives due to the pandemic, social unrest and politicizing nearly everything under the sun due to the upcoming election, we’ve focused our writing around critical thinking. We’ve challenged readers to ask themselves why they think the way they do and digging deeper into how they think versus what they think.We know our thinking is a function of our beliefs and values and that our attitudes reflect our habitual thinking. With that in mind, let’s explore the five key questions leaders need to ask themselves as they change the way they think and act to stay relevant as 21st Century Leaders. These questions stem from multiple research sources and are conveniently summarized in “Leadership, Enhancing the Lessons of Experience” by Richard Hughes, Robert Ginnett and Gordy Curphy.How does a leader know what attitudes and behaviors to change? ~ One...
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“Education is not the learning of facts...

Thinker-Auguste-Rodin What is your process to expand your leadership knowledge box?
...but the training of the mind to think.”When Albert Einstein said these words, the internet did not exist. The networks that did exist in the form of telegraph and telephone did not provide access to data and information as we have now. One could almost say we no longer need to learn facts because we have access to them instantly through any number of Google searches. More importantly, the second part of his quote still resonates today. We would suggest it has become harder to train the mind to think than it was even in Einstein’s day.Training the mind to think is what critical thinking is all about, especially for 21st Century Leaders. According to Drs. Richard Paul and Linda Elder, critical thinking is where the thinker improves the quality of their thinking based on how they think and the associated intellectual standards. As human beings, much of our thinking is biased,...
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“Don’t mistake activity...

progress-measuring-device-color-tachometer-speedometer-icon-performance-measurement-symbol-scale-arrow-colorful-infographic-177784451 What are your new leadership best practices?
...for achievement.”Just over 20 years ago, I wrote one of my many papers for my MBA on telecommuting. In it, I outlined my thoughts on how telecommuting would impact organizational leadership based on the world as we knew it then and with an eye towards the future. Given the societal lockdown due to the pandemic, I recently re-read what I wrote in late 1999 and was surprised at how the ideas still hold up as relevant in an era where we now refer to it as working from home, mobile workforce or anything but telecommuting!The pandemic added social distancing as a new term in our day-to-day vocabulary. While society practiced physical distancing, the greater challenge is maintaining the social proximity we wrote about several months ago. In our ongoing work with corporate leaders, non-profit leaders and business owners, several key points from a 20-year-old paper still resonate.How to Lead – We...
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“Why Do You Think That Way?”

healthy-attitude2 Why do you think that way and how will it change the future for the good?
Likely one of the greatest leadership challenges of a generation is playing out in real time. No matter where one turns, the one-two combination of the pandemic and social tension has, in our minds, proven what we’ve known for quite a long time. We have a growing gap in effective leadership in all corners of society. The challenge is further supported by a leadership development industry that has largely failed to deliver a return on investment off the billions of dollars spent annually around the globe.Managers at all levels are too comfortable with the logistically convenient leadership training sessions without bothering to include accountability for applying the new skills and behaviors to the organizational strategy. This creates a scenario of too much leadership content and not enough leadership context to be effective. It’s almost as if doing the same thing over and over will generate a different result!One of the key...
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...Not Enough Action

Picture1 What is your call to action?
If ever there is a time for leaders of all stripes to influence change, it is now. We are recovering from an extended pandemic that saw the economy tank and where politics and science clash with the people as pawns of both sides. We witnessed a heinous abuse of individual power and lack of humanity in the death of a person of color at the hands of unthinking police officers. And through it all, the rhetoric keeps piling up. Too many leaders are saying the obvious and not enough of the hard truths. We must change the narrative from:Too much Past, not enough Future ~ The financial world likes to qualify what they say by claiming past performance does not predict future returns. We hear much too much airtime on the past when what we need is a picture of the future. Without a clear destination, the leadership journey is a...
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