Here is an excerpt from an outstanding article written by Paul J. H. Schoemaker and featured online by Inc. magazine. To read the complete article, check out other resources, sign up for free email alerts, and obtain subscription, please click here.
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In the beginning, there was just you and your partners. You did every job. You coded, you met with investors, you emptied the trash and phoned in the midnight pizza.
Now you have others to do all that and it’s time for you to “be strategic.”
Whatever that means.
If you find yourself resisting “being strategic,” because it sounds like a fast track to irrelevance, or vaguely like an excuse to slack off, you’re not alone. Every leader’s temptation is to deal with what’s directly in front, because it always seems more urgent and concrete. Unfortunately, if you do that, you put your company at risk. While you concentrate on steering around potholes, you’ll miss windfall opportunities, not to mention any signals that the road you’re on is leading off a cliff.
This is a tough job, make no mistake. “We need strategic leaders!” is a pretty constant refrain at every company, large and small. One reason the job is so tough: no one really understands what it entails. It’s hard to be a strategic leader if you don’t know what strategic leaders are supposed to do.
After two decades of advising organizations large and small, my colleagues and I have formed a clear idea of what’s required of you in this role. Adaptive strategic leaders — the kind who thrive in today’s uncertain environment – do six things well. [Here are the first two.]
1. Anticipate: Most of the focus at most companies is on what’s directly ahead. The leaders lack “peripheral vision.” This can leave your company vulnerable to rivals who detect and act on ambiguous signals. To anticipate well, you must:
o Look for game-changing information at the periphery of your industry: Search beyond the current boundaries of your business
o Search beyond the current boundaries of your business
o Build wide external networks to help you scan the horizon better
2. Think Critically: “Conventional wisdom” opens you to fewer raised eyebrows and second guessing. But if you swallow every management fad, herdlike belief, and safe opinion at face value, your company loses all competitive advantage. Critical thinkers question everything. To master this skill you must force yourself to:
o Reframe problems to get to the bottom of things, in terms of root causes
o Challenge current beliefs and mindsets, including your own
o Uncover hypocrisy, manipulation, and bias in organizational decisions
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Do you have what it takes?
Obviously, this is a daunting list of tasks, and frankly, no one is born a black belt in all these different skills. But they can be taught and whatever gaps exist in your skill set can be filled in. I’ll cover each of the aspects of strategic leadership in more detail in future columns. But for now, test your own strategic aptitude (or your company’s) with the survey at http://www.decisionstrat.com. In the comments below, let me know what you learned from it.
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To read the complete article, please click here.
Paul J. H. Schoemaker: Founder and Chairman, Decision Strategies International. Speaker, professor, and entrepreneur. Research Director, Mack Center for Technological Innovation at Wharton, where he teaches strategic decision-making. Latest book: Brilliant Mistakes: Finding Success on the Far Side of Failure.
Here is an excerpt from an article, featured in The McKinsey Quarterly published by McKinsey & Company. It includes an excerpt from Daniel Kahneman‘s book, Thinking, Fast and Slow. To read the complete article, check out the abundance of other free resources, obtain information about the firm, and sign up for email alerts, please click here.
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In an excerpt from his new book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, the Nobel laureate recalls how an inwardly focused forecasting approach once led him astray, and why an external perspective can help executives do better.
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In the 1970s, I convinced some officials in the Israeli Ministry of Education of the need for a curriculum to teach judgment and decision making in high schools. The team that I assembled to design the curriculum and write a textbook for it included several experienced teachers, some of my psychology students, and Seymour Fox, then dean of the Hebrew University’s School of Education and an expert in curriculum development.
After meeting every Friday afternoon for about a year, we had constructed a detailed outline of the syllabus, written a couple of chapters, and run a few sample lessons. We all felt we had made good progress. Then, as we were discussing procedures for estimating uncertain quantities, an exercise occurred to me. I asked everyone to write down their estimate of how long it would take us to submit a finished draft of the textbook to the Ministry of Education. I was following a procedure that we already planned to incorporate into our curriculum: the proper way to elicit information from a group is not by starting with a public discussion, but by confidentially collecting each person’s judgment. I collected the estimates and jotted the results on the blackboard. They were narrowly centered around two years: the low end was one and a half, the high end two and a half years.
A shocking disconnect
Then I turned to Seymour, our curriculum expert, and asked whether he could think of other teams similar to ours that had developed a curriculum from scratch. Seymour said he could think of quite a few, and it turned out that he was familiar with the details of several. I asked him to think of these teams when they were at the same point in the process as we were. How much longer did it take them to finish their textbook projects?
He fell silent. When he finally spoke, it seemed to me that he was blushing, embarrassed by his own answer: “You know, I never realized this before, but in fact not all the teams at a stage comparable to ours ever did complete their task. A substantial fraction of the teams ended up failing to finish the job.”
This was worrisome; we had never considered the possibility that we might fail. My anxiety rising, I asked how large he estimated that fraction was. “About 40 percent,” he said. By now, a pall of gloom was falling over the room.
“Those who finished, how long did it take them?”
“I cannot think of any group that finished in less than seven years,” Seymour said, “nor any that took more than ten.”
I grasped at a straw: “When you compare our skills and resources to those of the other groups, how good are we? How would you rank us in comparison with these teams?”
Seymour did not hesitate long this time. “We’re below average,” he said, “but not by much.”
This came as a complete surprise to all of us—including Seymour, whose prior estimate had been well within the optimistic consensus of the group. Until I prompted him, there was no connection in his mind between his knowledge of the history of other teams and his forecast of our future.
We should have quit that day. None of us was willing to invest six more years of work in a project with a 40 percent chance of failure. Yet although we must have sensed that persevering was not reasonable, the warning did not provide an immediately compelling reason to quit. After a few minutes of desultory debate, we gathered ourselves and carried on as if nothing had happened. Facing a choice, we gave up rationality rather than the enterprise.
The book was completed eight years later. By that time, I was no longer living in Israel and had long since ceased to be part of the team, which finished the task after many unpredictable vicissitudes. The initial enthusiasm for the idea in the Ministry of Education had waned, and the textbook was never used.
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To read the complete article, please click here.
Daniel Kahneman (Hebrew: דניאל כהנמן) (born March 5, 1934) is an Israeli-American psychologist and Nobel laureate. He is notable for his work on the psychology of judgment and decision-making, behavioral economics and hedonic psychology. With Amos Tversky and others, Kahneman established a cognitive basis for common human errors using heuristics and biases (Kahneman & Tversky, 1973; Kahneman, Slovic & Tversky, 1982; Tversky & Kahneman, 1974), and developed prospect theory (Kahneman & Tversky, 1979). He was awarded the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for his work in prospect theory. In 2011, he was named by Foreign Policy magazine to its list of top global thinkers. Currently, he is professor emeritus of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. Thinking, Fast and Slow was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition (October 25, 2011).
What do you need to focus on for organizational success? I think the number of issues is small. But so very few organizations master these.
Assuming you know and are successfully focused on your actual business (a big assumption — Peter Drucker: “What is your Business?”), here’s my current list:
1) Build leaders
2) Engage employees
3) Find and nurture genuinely happy customers
4) Always improve, and always innovate
5) Build and maintain exceptional quality, regardless of your “product”
I can think of “subsets” for each of these. For example, to take just one: in order to always innovate, you need to break down silos and practice continual collaboration…
And, I think these same issues cross all industries.
And there may be others…
What would you take away from, or add, to this list?
Here is a generous provision of “practical, immediately applicable tools with measurable results”
Whatever you call it (some call it a “sixth sense”), most of us realize when we are in the presence of people who are “special.” They attract us and we feel comforted rather than threatened by them. It’s as if we had entered a gravitation field and there is this almost electrical interaction. (Some call it “chemistry” or “instant rapport.”) The best word I can think of to describe it is “magnetic.” However, I cannot explain how and why it happens…but Olivia Fox Cabane can, and indeed has explained it in this book.
At the outset, I think it necessary to make a distinction between authentic and inauthentic charisma while conceding that both can be magnetic. Those who possess authentic charisma cherish mutual respect and trust. They possess emotional intelligence (e.g. empathy) as well as decency and kindness that almost glow. They radiate integrity. That is the effect that Mohandas Gandhi had on people when in his presence.
Those who exemplify what I characterize as inauthentic charisma are by nature or intent manipulative, predatory, self-serving, devious, and hypocritical. They will say or do whatever serves their purposes. They earn trust only to create opportunities. Appropriately, “con artists” are so-named because of their ability to gain — so that they can then exploit — another person’s confidence. They almost sparkle when ingratiating themselves. At least early in Adolph Hitler’s political career, people whose support he attempted to recruit found him “charming.” Later when he began to deliver speeches to vast audiences, he was widely described as “inspiring,” even “messianic.”
As Olivia Fox Cabane explains, people are not born charismatic, “innately magnetic from birth.” Rather, “charisma is the result of specific nonverbal behaviors, not an inherent or magical personal quality.” In fact, almost anyone can master “practical, immediately applicable tools…in a methodical, systematic way, with practical exercises immediately useful in the real world.” More specifically, she explains
o How to develop and enhance one’s charisma with three behaviors: presence, power, and warmth
o How and why “charisma begins in the mind”
o How to counteract charisma-impairing physical discomfort
o How to handle skillfully almost any difficult situation
o How to create charismatic mental states
o How to determine which charisma style (i.e. focus, visionary, kindness, or authority) is most appropriate to one’s character, the given goals to achieve, and one’s current and imminent situations)
o How to make a great first impression
o How to listen with charisma
o What “emotional contagion” is and how to manage it effectively
o How to deal effectively with difficult people
o How to deliver constructive criticism
o How to make a public presentation of almost anything with charisma
o How to respond effectively to a crisis
o The defining characteristics of “the charismatic life”
Cabane assumes that the information, insights, and advice that she provides in this book – the behaviors that project presence, power, and warmth as well as an entire toolkit to master those behaviors — will be used to serve purposes and achieve objectives that are not only legal but ethical and moral, that are life-affirming, that will help to make a positive difference in a world that so often seems hostage to negativity. This book will help authentic people to be significantly more effective in all areas of their life. Yes, the book will also help at least some inauthentic people to become more effective – at least for a while — and perhaps one day Olivia Fox Cabane will write a book in which she explains how to recognize them, avoid them, and protect ourselves and others from them.
For now, let’s all be grateful for what she shares in this book. Those who read it will increase their understanding of the art and a science of enriching their relationships with others. That is indeed an admirable goal. Helping her readers to achieve it is a precious gift.
Bonus: To check out a video during which Olivia discusses some of the core concepts in her book, please click here.