(This article is first published in Japan in the English Journal by my agent ALC Global Leadership and Talent Development Division.)
QUESTION: “I have trouble making positive comments to my subordinates. All of them are so lazy and slow, and don’t achieve the results we need, so I have to outsource all of our work! Obviously there is nothing in their work to be praised, so I don’t feel it’s necessary to say good things to them. And my boss has never said good things to me, so why should I praise others? What should I do?”Continue reading→
Globalization in today’s business world is rapid and inescapable. As a result, many projects these days involve geographically dispersed teams comprised of members from a wide variety of countries and cultures. While language barriers, decision-making style, and time zones are well-recognized challenges, the positive benefits of global teams continue to drive this trend.Continue reading→
One of the strong beliefs that I have about effective project leadership is that it cannot be done by someone who has a mortgage, kids in college, or a spouse who doesn’t work. I don’t have kids, my spouse does work, and I am totally open to living in my car, if necessary. In my experience, a project leader must often operate in an environment where the very people who sign their paychecks are also the biggest obstacles to success. That’s why I developed Scrappy Project Management, a take-no-prisoners approach to getting the job done no matter what, with little or no regard for your own professional future beyond the end of the project.Continue reading→
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→
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→
In 1995 I decided to embrace optimism as a strategy for creating possibilities. It wasn’t a rational choice, it was an intuitive leap of faith. My many years of education as a physicist had taught me to ignore my intuition, but logic was insufficient to overcome my exuberance. You see I’d just had my eyes opened by a truly gifted coach who’d helped me discover that the person holding me back my entire life had been myself. Once I recovered from the shock of that revelation I made a decision to use my enormous power to shape reality to create a more hospitable environment, starting with my own attitude. Continue reading→
Somewhere around the spring of last year I started to forget to take care of myself. Maybe it was brought on by the shock of repeatedly watching the video of the March 11 tsunami sweeping away tens of thousands of lives on the east coast of Japan, a country I travel to on business nearly every month for the past five years. Or maybe it’s just an old habit resurfacing, like a recurring rash. Either way, I started ignoring my need for balance in my life, and focused single-mindedly on the enormous pile of tasks and projects I had accumulated.
By December, I was a mess! As I said my end-of-the-year goodbyes to my colleagues in Tokyo, I bellowed (only partially jokingly), “I know you’ve all been working just as hard as I am, but frankly I’m too tired to care!” And I truly was. In exhausting myself, I had lost my ability to care about my teammates. What a pity!
This is a place that a leader cannot afford to end up. And yet, in the demanding, deadline-driven business environment, it’s all too easy to exhaust ourselves to the point that we’re ineffective (and not much fun to be around).Continue reading→
Women held 16.1% of board seats in 2011, compared to 15.7% in 2010.
Less than one-fifth of companies had 25% or more women board directors.
About one in ten companies had no women serving on their boards.
Women of color still held only 3% of corporate board seats.
Women held 14.1% of Executive Officer positions in 2011, compared to 14.4% in 2010.
Women held only 7.5% of Executive Officer top-earner positions in 2011, while men accounted for 92.5% of top earners.
Less than one in five companies had 25% or more women Executive Officers and more than one-quarter had zero.
This is truly a pity, especially for business people who want to make a profit. Consider this from our friends at Catalyst. Companies with three or more women on their board of directors, on average, outperformed companies with zero women board directors:
Here’s another personal musing promoted by what I’ve come to call the “alcoholidays”.
This time of year my mind wanders to gratitude. I’m grateful for the incredibly talented colleagues who have made this year’s relentless stream of work border on enjoyable. And I’m thankful for friends who have made life’s normal burdens lighter through their kindness and support. A garden of friends and colleagues has made this terrifically challenging year much more pleasant for me. But, like all gardens, it occasionally needs weeding.
Many years ago when I was exiting physics graduate school, and sad to be leaving friends behind, one of my professors advised me to let go of relationships that had passed their time, and not to grieve for their loss. While many relationships grow more satisfying over the years, he cautioned that clinging indiscriminately to all past relationships can burden a person – like accumulating too much baggage on an around-the-world tour. This was a man whose life’s ambition was to get all of his worldly belongings into no more than 2 suitcases. I must say, now I see his point.Continue reading→
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→