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(Editor’s note: Listen to a podcast with Tony Schwartz, the author of this post at http://blogs.hbr.org/ideacast/2010/05/managing-the-productivity-para.html)
Above all else, a leader is the chief energy officer.
The most fundamental job of a leader is to recruit, mobilize, inspire, focus, direct, and regularly refuel the energy of those they lead. Energy, after all, is contagious — especially so if you’re a leader, by virtue of your disproportionate position and power. The way you’re feeling at any given moment profoundly influences how the people who work for you feel. How they’re feeling, in turn, profoundly influences how well they perform. A leader’s responsibility is not to do the work of those they lead, but rather to fuel them in every possible way to bring the best of themselves to their jobs every day.
Think about the best boss you’ve ever had. What adjectives come to mind to describe that person? My colleagues and I have asked this question of thousands of people over the past decade, and here are the ten most common answers: Encouraging, Inspiring, Kind, Positive, Calm, Supportive, Fair, Decisive, Smart, and Visionary.
Only three of those qualities have anything to do with intellect. More than two-thirds are emotional qualities — and they’re all
positive ones. No one has ever said to us, “What I loved about my boss is how angry he got. It showed me how much he cared.” Negative emotions may prompt instant action, but they don’t inspire people in the long term. Even in small doses, negative energy can take a considerable toll on people.
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Leaders lead not just by the actions they take, but by the way they make us feel along the way. It’s not false or half-hearted praise most of are looking for, but rather simple recognition and appreciation for real effort and for our tangible contributions. So what kind of boss are you? What adjectives would your employees choose to describe you? For starters, you could try out our Leadership Audit, which we developed at The Energy Project as a very rapid way to assess how you are influencing the energy of others. Even better, ask your employees to take it too — it’s an efficient way to get instant feedback about their own experiences.
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To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Review’s Daily Alerts, please visit firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tony Schwartz is president and CEO of The Energy Project. He is the author of the June, 2010 HBR article, “The Productivity Paradox: How Sony Pictures Gets More Out of People by Demanding Less,” and co-author, with Catherine McCarthy, of the 2007 HBR article, “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time.” Tony is also the author of the new book The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working: The Four Forgotten Needs that Energize Great Performance (Free Press, 2010).
There is a lot being written about the way(s) the internet is stealing our ability to focus long and hard on a single thing – like a book. I have blogged about it recently.
But I would not give it up. It brings me too much – like Ebert!
And, now I tweet. (Follow me here). I suppose I use it too much to publicize our blog posts. I have not yet learned how to tweet well.
Roger Ebert won a webby, and gave his three word acceptance speech last night. (five word maximum. Watch the acceptance speeches here). Here was his speech, in full:
“Veni, vidi, vici.”
And here are a couple of paragraphs from his latest blog post, Tweet! Tweet! Tweet!:
I vowed I would never become a Twit. Now I have Tweeted nearly 10,000 Tweets. I said Twitter represented the end of civilization. It now represents a part of the civilization I live in. I said it was impossible to think of great writing in terms of 140 characters. I have been humbled by a mother of three in New Delhi. I said I feared I would become addicted. I was correct.
Twitter is now a part of my daystream.
I’ve made a change recently. After writing my blog, “The quest for frisson” and reading two recent articles about internet addiction, I have looked hard at my own behavior. For some days now I have physically left the room with the computer in it, and settled down somewhere to read. All the old joy came back, and I realized the internet was stealing the reading of books away from me. Reading is calming, absorbing, and refreshing for the mind after hectic surfing. Chaz and I have quiet chats where we sit close and she talks and waits for my reply and this is soothing after the online tumult. I like the internet, but I don’t want to become its love slave.
…women make the best tweeters. They tweet more about life, and less about facts. Okay, so tell me I’m wrong.
We read to learn and connect and think and grow. Ebert is one that I read to keep learning and hopefully keep growing. I still read books – - fairly thoroughly and carefully. But there are so many books, and then so much more, to read…
(follow Ebert on Twitter here).
Q. Your systems mindset message seems to repeat itself. Are you a one-trick pony?
A. I take that as a compliment if you are suggesting that I have a single, simple lesson to teach. Here’s the thing: The beauty of the systems mindset is that it is a root-concept and therefore has an infinity of real-world effects. The simple mental posture has many positive ramifications.
Q. If I “get” the systems mindset and then find peace and freedom, will I finally be happy?
A. You’ll have more control of your life and so you’ll be happier but it still won’t be all roses and cupcakes, especially at first. Obtaining extra time and money, good health and better relationships in a short period of time is a challenge in itself and it takes some time to learn to manage this new condition without going a bit gaga. I personally dealt with this challenge and in time learned to better manage the new prosperous condition. In any case, having enough money to do what you want and being healthy and gregarious is way better than the opposite. Do I still have my ups and downs? Yes, but I’m up 98% of the time, and the 2% down-times are almost always due to a temporary personal system problem (e.g. a nap or a good night’s sleep usually snaps me out of it).
Q. Is there work to do to “get” the mindset and then make the changes?
A. If you’re in business there is some documentation. But it’s documentation you would have to create anyway if you are to be successful. There are no large, successful businesses that don’t have things down on paper! If you’re not in business, paperwork is minimal.
Q. Is the systems mindset really that simple?
A. I describe its underlying concept as dirt simple. We humans have a powerful tendency to complicate things so the elementary reality of the systems mindset is overlooked by almost everyone.
Q. What is the advantage of the systems mindset over the common hyper high-energy, web-surfing, multi-tasking mindset?
A. I call the frame of mind you describe, the “Red Bull Mindset.” A lot gets done but much of it is to no avail. It’s inefficient. But in contrast, those who calmly focus on working the systems of their lives are highly efficient. And, newsflash! Whether you like it or not, and whether you know it or not, your life is made up of individual systems that produce individual real-time results that you must deal with every day. Get this: The systems mindset continuously “works” individual systems so they produce desired results, while the non-systems mindset ignores underlying systems that, as a result of not being managed, continuously produce random and recurring bad results. Dealing with bad results is called fire-killing. (That’s a mouthful, but read it again. It’s the heart of the methodology.)
Q. It’s hard for me to even think about my systems, much less document them. How do I relax enough to do this?
A. Due primarily (but not exclusively) to the Internet, too many of us are becoming superficial, inefficient thinkers…and superficial thinking is the antithesis of quiet, relaxed systems mindset thinking. With too much screen-time, our day-to-day thought process has become nervously flighty; almost spastic. Here’s an excerpt from The Shallows, a new book by Nicholas Carr: “What we seem to be sacrificing in all our (Internet) surfing and searching is our capacity to engage in the quieter, attentive modes of thought that underpin contemplation, reflection and introspection. The web never encourages us to slow down. It keeps us in a state of perpetual mental locomotion.” The cure? Reading! In our society, thoughtful page-turning has become a rarity and it’s too bad because it’s the antidote to the Internet’s scrambled-brain conditioning. Carr says, “Whereas the Internet scatters attention, a book focuses it. Unlike the screen, the page promotes contemplation.” This doesn’t suggest one should give up the web! The Internet is an incredible tool that most of us can’t live without. Carr’s point is that a regular routine of reading will do much to counter the bad effects of web surfing…while promoting the kind of relaxed contemplation that is required to get one’s systems in order. A contemplative mindset is necessary in order to be able to slow down enough to see, analyze and then adjust one’s underlying systems. I wrote more about Carr’s book in a previous post.
[Here’s a link: http://www.workthesystem.com/2010/05/31/rewire-your-brain/.]
Read more »
What’s the fastest way to stop someone in their tracks and create an atmosphere of confrontation?
Agree with them, and then negate the first part of your sentence with “but” or “however.”
“I respect your work but I don’t agree with your new idea.”
“I hear what you’re saying, but I have a different point of view.
“I understand your point, however I think you’re missing mine.”
A quick way to turn a negative into a positive is to change “but” or “however” to “and.”
“I respect your work. And I have some reservations about this new idea.”
“I hear what you’re saying. And I have a different way of seeing this.”
“I understand your point, and I think you’re missing mine.”
A small change in words can take you from confrontation to cooperation. It pays to choose your words carefully.
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To sign up for a free subscription to receive Communications Capsules and check out all the resources at Goldman’s website, please visit http://www.lyndagoldmanink.com/.
Lynda Goldman is the published author of 30 books and countless articles, also writes and produces educational tapes and CDs, and creates an abundance of content for her own website as well as for several others.
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(Editor’s note: This post concludes a six-week blog series on how leadership might look in the future. The conversations generated by these posts will help shape the agenda of a symposium on the topic in June 2010, hosted by HBS’s Nitin Nohria, Rakesh Khurana, and Scott Snook.)
Six weeks ago, Harvard Business School professor Scott Snook (along with his colleagues Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khurana) launched an online conversation on the nature of leadership. They invited top scholars and practitioners in the field to talk about our traditional assumptions and practices and how and whether they hold up in a new era — one shaped by modern warfare, severe economic pressures, natural disasters, rapidly changing technology, and some eyebrow-raising ethical choices. If the old models are broken, then what should replace them? They asked these experts, in other words, to imagine the future of leadership. We received 33 posts, each representing a thoughtful, enlightened point of view. As the editor for the series I’ll mention a few themes that came through, but urge you to visit the rest of the series for more.
A few contributors took on the great-man model, arguing that it’s no longer relevant or particularly effective. HBS professor Bill George, for instance, said that the hierarchical model “simply doesn’t work anymore.” Knowledge workers don’t respond to top-down leadership. Barbara Kellerman, from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, argued forcefully against what she called the “abiding tyranny of the male leadership model.” In the U.S., she says, “so far as leadership is concerned, women in nearly every realm are nearly nowhere -— hardly any better off than they were a generation ago.” HBS’s Linda Hill wrote about “leading from behind,” a phrase she borrowed from Nelson Mandela.
We had a couple of posts about the simple art of paying attention. Harry Spence from Harvard’s Kennedy School, for instance, pointed to the danger of leaders unconsciously betraying their organizations thanks to personal agendas they’re not even aware they hold. Ellen Langer, a psychology professor at Harvard, wrote a thoughtful piece about “mindfulness” — actively noticing events and people. She cited a study of orchestra musicians who were instructed to be either mindless or mindful. That is, they were to replicate a previous performance with which they were very satisfied or make the piece new in very subtle ways that only they would know. Audiences unaware of the instructions listened to taped performances and greatly preferred the mindful versions (the players liked them better too).
Another series of posts focused on leadership development. Trina Soske (from Oliver Wyman Leadership Development) and Jay Conger Claremont McKenna College), for example, argued that companies aren’t getting their money’s worth with classroom efforts and that development projects should be focused squarely on real business problems. Daisy Wademan Dowling, an author and leadership development executive, and MasterCard International’s Matthew Breitfelder proposed that companies take a page from the Peace Corps, sending employees to volunteer across geographic boundaries. William Sullivan, from The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, argued for bringing leadership development and a sense of professionalism to undergraduate education, rather than starting with business schools.
Ellen Peebles is a senior editor with the Harvard Business Review Group. She was the editor for the HBS Imagining the Future of Leadership blog series.
Here are four from the list of ten that the group compiled:
People who can manage relationships with customers and partners: If you’re going to open up your organization to ideas from the outside, then you need “agile and people who have the soft skills of emotional intelligence” who can deal effectively with the idiosyncrasies of executives from other corporate cultures.
A willingness to accept that all of the smart people do not work for your company: At the same time, to be successful at open innovation, your organization’s culture must not only accept this idea intellectually, but also have a willingness to seek out these outside ideas. There’s a subtle difference here: acceptance (passive) versus seeking outside ideas (active). Without this drive, open innovation will end up being nothing more than a platitude and a “nice to do,” but will probably gain little traction within your firm.
An understanding that failures are opportunities to learn, and a willingness to reward those efforts and that way of learning: This idea is pretty radical for most organizations. Just think about what typically happens when a senior-level executive in charge of a major strategic project fails to implement it successfully. He or she becomes a pariah, overlooked for future promotions, or worse yet, laid off the minute the economy goes into a downturn. As Stefan points out, “Failure is a way of life for companies that pursue innovation seriously, and a leader’s response has a huge effect on company culture and, therefore, on future projects.” Celebrate failure and learn from it!
A willingness to help employees to build the knowledge and understanding of how an idea or technology becomes a profitable business: This can be accomplished via a job rotation program that could incorporate partners and customers, Stefan suggests. The people who develop new ideas and technologies tend to be scientists or technologists, with little idea about the dynamics of modern business. In order to support and extend your company’s open innovation efforts, they need to have at least a basic understanding of the dynamics of business growth, because it’s likely they will be on the front lines as relationships are extended across company lines in the early stages of open innovation partnerships. Not needing to always be first. “Building a better business model is better than getting to market first.”
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I have only just begun to read The Open Innovation Revolution, but am already impressed with Stefan’s thinking. He’s not some ivory tower prognosticator, but a relentless networker who gets out there and develops relationships with key open innovation movers like Thoen and encourages discussion on his Linkedin group. In other words, Stefan’s approach is very inclusive; by seeking out many voices, he has developed a deeper understanding of the emerging strategies and practices of open innovation than almost anyone else I know. If your company is thinking about implementing an open innovation strategy, then The Open Innovation Revolution is a must read as are Henry Chesbrough’s Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology and Open Business Models: How to Thrive in the New Innovation Landscape.
Stefan Lindegaard is a Copenhagen-based speaker, network facilitator, and adviser on open innovation and intrapreneurship as well as the author of the book, The Open Innovation Revolution and countless articles.