John Baldoni suggests that you ask these three questions:
1. What are the biggest challenges facing my organization? The easy solution is to consider market trends and the competition. These are important to know, but too often you may miss what is happening underneath. For example, Wal-Mart carved a market share that was off the consideration mark of Sears, which at the time was focused on JCPenney and Montgomery Ward. New competitors are not so easy to discern. Finding out the issues threatening your organization is essential.
2. What are the biggest opportunities my organization can exploit? Adopt the mindset of a niche player. How can you turn the playing field to your advantage? Starbucks, for all its current woes, adopted a mindset of becoming the “third place” to home and office. Rather than just sell coffee, it sells an entire experience. Consider things your organization can do to increase market share or provide better service to the customer.
3. What can I do to help my organization overcome the challenges and exploit the opportunities? Here is where you exert your leadership. Consider things the organization should be doing and determine how you can play a role in those action steps. It will require analytics and creativity, as well as old-fashioned gumption, to suggest things, or, better yet, carry them out.
* * *
From The AMA Handbook of Leadership co-edited by Marshall Goldsmith, John Baldoni, and Sarah McArthur and published by AMACOM in 2010.
* * *
Baldoni is an internationally recognized leadership consultant, coach, speaker, and author. He is the author of eight books that include Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up and Lead by Example: 50 Ways Great Leaders Inspire Results.
Management by Imagination
The perception that good management is closely linked to good measurement runs deep. How often do you hear these old saws repeated: “If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t count”; “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”; “If you can’t measure it, it won’t happen”? We like these sayings because they’re comforting. The act of measurement provides security; if we know enough about something to measure it we almost certainly have some control over it.
But however comforting it can be to stick with what we can measure, we run the risk of expunging something really important. What’s more, we won’t see what we’re missing because we don’t know what it is that we don’t know. By sticking simply to what we can measure, we come to imagine a small and constrained world in which we are prisoners of a “reality” that is in fact an edifice we’ve unknowingly constructed around ourselves.
The late 19th and early 20th century American pragmatist philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce was the first to point out that no new idea in the world was ever produced by inductive or deductive logic. Analyzing the past, crunching the existing numbers to produce the future can do nothing more than extrapolate the future from the past. So if you stick to measuring what you can already measure, you cannot create a future that is different than the past.
* * *
We need to get away from all those old sayings about measurement and management, and in that spirit I’d like to propose a new wisdom: “If you can’t imagine it, you will never create it.” The future is about imagination, not measurement. To imagine a future, one has to look beyond the measurable variables, beyond what can be proven with past data. While Motorola was projecting future sales volumes of “feature phones,” Mike Lazaridis, founder of Research in Motion, was imagining what executive life would be like if you could receive your emails on a handheld device. How compelling would an ordinary phone be if you could have a BlackBerry attached to your belt? He couldn’t “prove” that this would be a good idea. There was no data on the demand patterns for smartphones, because smartphones existed only in his imagination. But a mere 11 years after the launch of the product of his imagination, RIM leads Motorola by an ever-accelerating margin in sales, market share and profitability.
* * *
To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Daily Alerts, please visit firstname.lastname@example.org.
Roger Martin is the Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto in Canada and the author of The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage (Harvard Business Press, 2009). His website is: www.rogerlmartin.com.
Here is an excerpt from my interview of Kouzes. The complete interview is also available.
Morris: During the years in which you and Barry Posner have worked together, what have been the most significant changes in how effective leadership has been defined? Why?
Kouzes: The first change is that there’s no change in what people expect of leaders. In 1982 people wanted leaders who were honest, forward-looking, competent and inspiring. In 2007 we find these same four qualities are at the top of the list worldwide.
Second, in spite of the Internet boom and the pervasiveness of virtual connections, relationship skills have proven to be the most critical variable in leadership effectiveness. Third, while the content of leadership has not changed much, the context sure has. The most important shift is to a global economy. With outsourcing, the explosion of the Indian and Chinese economies, and the connectedness of people around the globe, aspiring leaders have to learn to work with people from a variety of countries and cultures.
The other major contributor to contextual change is technology. The Internet has dramatically altered the “ownership” of information. Power comtinues to shift from the organization to the individual.
Morris: Given your response to the previous question, what have been some of the most significant consequences of those changes?
Kouzes: The two most significant changes in context — the global economy and technological connectivity — have resulted in a curious dichotomy. While we are more connected, we are also more distant. That distance is both physical and emotional.
The physical distance is obvious, but the emotional distance is more subtle. It’s just human nature to trust people more like ourselves, so when leaders and constituents are culturally different, the emotional connection is not as strong. Cultural diversity brings with it different perspectives on the same issue. Exemplary global leaders must be more broad-minded, open to others, and keenly interested in others.
Morris: Don Bennett is among those you and Barry Posner interviewed. He was the first amputee to climb Mt. Rainier (elevation 14,410 feet) and got to the top on one leg and two crutches. You asked him how he did it. His reply, “One hop at a time.” That seems like excellent advice for anyone preparing for or already embarked on becoming an exemplary leader for others to follow.
Kouzes: I absolutely love Don’s response. When he told me that, he also added, “I imagined myself on top of that mountain one thousand times a day in my mind, but when I started to climb it, I just said to myself ‘anyone can hop from here to there.’ And I would. And when the going got roughest, and I was really exhausted, that’s when I would look down at the path ahead and say to myself, ‘You just have to take one more step, and anybody can do that.’ And I would.”
Leaders face similar challenges when trying to accomplish the extraordinary—the “mountain” looks too steep and too dangerous to even think about climbing. Getting ourselves and others to change old mindsets and habits and substitute new ones is daunting. Even with the best of intentions, people tend to revert to old and familiar patterns. Working out for a year to get in shape to climb a mountain requires discipline. Staying with it for five days in the freezing cold requires stamina and determination. Getting commitment to new behaviors, like solving big problems, is often overwhelming. So how do leaders do it? How do they get people to want to change the way they are currently operating, to break out of existing behaviors, to tackle big problems, and to attempt extraordinary performance? The answer: One hop at a time!
* * *
You are invited to check out the resources at these Web sites:
To read the complete interview, please contact me at email@example.com.
Sometime in the late 1980′s, my oldest son was taking piano lessons, and we stood in line for about two hours to meet Van Cliburn. He was signing autographs on one of his record album covers.
(Note to young readers: in the old days, we bought record albums — big flat disks that were played on a turntable with a needle. And by the way, the needle fit in the grooves of the record, and at some point, some person described listening to such a record as “groovy.” I know, it sounds so primitive).
Van Cliburn was appearing for this rare opportunity at a — record store — on Mockingbird near SMU here in Dallas. I think its where the La Madeleine is now. Though it carried all kinds of music, this particular record store was especially known for its comprehensive selection of classical music. We did meet Van Cliburn. He was gracious, encouraged my son to keep practicing, and we left with a wonderful memory.
During that same era, when I wanted to buy (and browse for) books, I went to a wonderful bookstore called Taylors, situated on the outer parking lot of Northpark mall.
Today, the record store is gone. In fact, practically every record store is gone. In fact, I do not know of a record store in Dallas anymore. Taylors bookstore? Gone.
So yesterday, in Barnes & Noble, I asked the young sales clerk at the Nook counter whether he thinks the Nook (and/or the Kindle and the Apple Tablet) posed a threat to the bookstore that sells the Nook. It was an interesting conversation. I told him about the record store/Van Cliburn story. (He would have been about 4 years old when I met Van Cliburn).
I wonder — if you had asked the people in that record store on the day that Van Cliburn signed autographs if they could conceive of a technological advancement that would threaten the very existence of record stores, would anyone had said “yes, I see the threat…?”
And where will the Van Cliburns’s of the future sign their autographs for young boys taking piano lessons?
If you are like me, whenever you re-read a book, or revisit your own highlights of a book, you have different quotes jump out at you. And, in my case, this especially happens when I present a synopsis a second, or third time.
Well, I presented my synopsis of The Black Swan: The Impact of the HIGHLY IMPROBABLE by Nassim Nicholas Taleb for the third time in the last few weeks just last night. And in presenting it, this quote seemed to grab me more than usual. I think it is really, really true to our experience:
“We do not spontaneously learn that we don’t learn that we don’t learn…”
And the fact that we do not know that we don’t learn that we don’t learn can be really bad…
To purchase my synopsis of The Black Swan, with audio + handout, go to our companion web site, 15minutebusinesssbooks.com.