No, We Can’t “Be Like Steve”! Learning From One of the World’s Most Admired Leaders by Kimberly Wiefling

431459_522085357813472_268713462_n(Originally posted on ProjectConnections.com)

In my endless pursuit of becoming the kind of leader I admire, and helping others do the same, I review scads of research on what makes leaders admirable. Recently I came across a shocking ad hoc study where people were asked “Who is your most admired leader?” What was so startling was that the most frequent response was . . . wait for it . . . nobody! That’s right, these people couldn’t think of a single person whose leadership had earned their admiration. It gets worse, though. The second most frequent answer was a cartoon or fictional character, such as Harry Potter. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me since my #1 response to this question is Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the starship Enterprise, mostly because he has enormous power at his disposal combined with the wisdom to use it with great restraint.Continue reading

Silent Exercises That Speak Volumes

Nuns-Shhhh(Originally posted on ProjectConnections.com)

How do the people on your team feel? Mind reading is difficult, and only about 30% of people are in touch with their emotions enough to tell you how they feel even if you ask them. (Don’t believe me. Do the experiment. Most people just stick with the socially acceptable reply “I’m Fine.”) Here are two quick exercises intended to take the emotional pulse of a team and inspire their hopes and dreams for the future. Both can be done in less than an hour with up to 20 people.

Team on a Journey: Break people into groups of 3 – 5 people sitting around a big piece of flip chart paper. Equip each team with a set of markers. Then ask them to imagine that they are, metaphorically, traveling on a journey in some sort of vehicle. Ask them to draw this vehicle and the journey together – each group collaborating on a single picture – SILENTLY.Continue reading

Et Tu, Brute? The Obsolescence of Power

Originally published on ProjectConnections.com August 2011.

Traditional sources of power are obsolete in the 21st century business world — or at least I hope they are. I came to this realization on a recent vacation, and it’s been nagging at me ever since. Every year I travel to Ashland, Oregon, for the annual Shakespeare Festival (which is a bit of a misnomer since it runs February through November). This year I saw Julius Caesar, with a twist that I really appreciated: Caesar was played by a woman, and the script was changed to use “she” and “her” to match. This play left me feeling emotionally unsettled for the next 24 hours, but it had nothing to do with Caesar’s gender bender. The intensity began before I even entered the theater. As I approached the entrance, a dozen huge banners featuring slain leaders from around the world hung from the lampposts and beat noisily in the wind. More banners adorned the theater lobby, and as I devoured the dates and details of each one, an icy feeling crept into my heart.Continue reading

Feedback – Painful, but Essential to Growth

Initially published on http://careershorts.com/startalk-blog/

Do you work with a global team? Have you ever wondered how your colleagues from around the world perceive you? If not, you should. We’re often unaware of how we are perceived, even misperceived, by others. You might be surprised if you took the time to inquire. Getting co-workers to share their impressions honestly may be a bit challenging, especially with a language barrier. (After six months of absolutely no feedback from his boss, one colleague from Eastern Europe asked his Japanese manager “How am I doing?”. The manager stopped checking his email momentarily, looked up and grunted “Hmm.  Good.” . . . and promptly returned to typing.) If you can tease out a bit more than this fellow was able to extract from his manager you’ll gain enormous insights into how effective you are as a global professional, and what’s getting in the way of improved relationships and results.Continue reading

Catalytic Mechanisms – Effortless Ways to Change Behavior for the Better

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For years I’ve been fascinated by something that Jim Collins labeled “catalytic mechanisms” in a 1999 Harvard Business Review article. The article, entitled “Turning Goals Into Results: The Power of Catalytic Mechanisms,” described how to powerfully influence people in organizations to change their behavior—easily, permanently, and nearly effortlessly. Recently a Volkswagen campaign called “Thefuntheory.com” rekindled my interest in the topic with their website dedicated to finding fun ways to change people’s behavior for the better, so I reread the HBR article and started pondering how this approach might be useful in influencing behavior on project teams. While I’m in the early phases of experimenting with catalytic mechanisms in my own work and life, I’m excited to share this with you so we can exchange ideas and all get busy transforming the planet for the better. (That’s my theme for 2010, and I have to admit it’s a bit daunting, so I can use all the help I can get!)Continue reading

Collaboration is Killing Me!

A lot of my work in the past couple of years has been consulting with a company in Tokyo called ALC Education.  It’s the biggest project of my life, with the longest time horizon of anything my A.D.D. brain has ever had to wrap itself around.  The goal of this project is nothing less than planetary transformation, something I’ve had a hankering to work on since my youth, but lacked the personal vision of exactly how to go about it.  All kidding aside, the senior executives who lead this company have told me quite matter-of-factly that they intend to transform the Japanese economy for the better, for the good of the world, through shifting the mindsets of leaders in international Japanese businesses.  When pressed, they estimated that it will take somewhere around a decade to get some traction on this whole mindset shift that will enable their clients to “solve global problems profitably”. Continue reading

Thanks for the Dish Towel!

DishTowelThis past Christmas one of my closest friends gave me a dish towel that says “Being unstable and bitchy is all part of my mystique.”  Knowing that there is truth in sarcasm, and understanding the importance of good communication skills and positive relationships to project success, I’ve decided to recommit myself to improving my relationships through improved communication skills.

Step 1 – Categorize the kinds of conversations I’m having.  I figure that being able to identify the different types of conversations should help me engage in each of them in more appropriate ways.  Here are a few of the most important that I’ve identified, and some guidelines for each:Continue reading

New Year, New Decade, Same Old Problems?

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“I long to accomplish a great and noble task; but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.” – Helen Keller

It’s the beginning of a whole new year and an entirely new decade. What do you want to be saying on Dec. 31, 2019? My wish for you is that you won’t be looking back with regret.  Personally, 10 years from now I intend to be looking back on a decade of surprising breakthroughs and unprecedented progress towards becoming the kind of leader I admire and the kind of human being I aspire to be.  And I sure don’t want the people of this Earth to be facing the same problems then that we’re facing now in this world.  (Nope!  Let’s have new and more exciting problems to tackle in 2020!)Continue reading

7 Deadly Sins of Global Biz Leadership Development

black devil with curly hair and angel on background

Originally published in collaboration with Yuko Shibata, executive at ALC’s Global Leadership and Talent Development Group, in a series of articles in KIGYOU TO JINZAI 企業と人材  Magazine.

Thomas Friedman said The World is Flat, and I certainly feel that the business world is getting smaller.  Many companies today are looking overseas for new markets and new customers in order to sustain the profitable growth of their businesses.  New behaviors, skills and thinking are required to succeed globally, and companies must act strategically in order to secure the talented people required to fulfill their increasingly global vision.  This has led many HR departments to pursue what they often call global leadership “training” programs, but you don’t “train” humans to be global leaders.  You train dolphins to do tricks in a swimming pool to earn fish treats.  Continue reading

The “Yes We Can” Boys of Akishima, Japan

It’s easy to be a cynic, like the person who made this ever-so-uninspiring sign . . . but . . . weird things are happening to me when I travel abroad since President Obama was elected.  I was recently at a local summer festival in Akishima, near Tokyo.  Now, just to give you some idea about the town of Akishima, it’s a good hour’s train ride from the center of Tokyo, and that’s on an express train.  They’ve got a bit of industry there, but it’s fairly “sleepy” as a town compared with Tokyo.  The big attraction for the festival, which was held at the elementary school near the train station, was a raised platform where the townspeople took turns amusing one another by belting out karaoke tunes.  My friend’s 87 year old mother snuck out of the house to go back to the festival after we’d called it quits, and we found her sipping sake and eating noodles with the over-80 crowd in the VIP tent when we finally tracked her down.Continue reading