How to Reduce Organizational Bureaucratization and Keep Executive Egos in Check

How to Reduce Organizational Bureaucratization and Keep Executive Egos in Checkby Chris Banescu –
In his groundbreaking book, Up the Organization: How to Stop the Corporation from Stifling People and Strangling Profits, Robert Townsend, unconventional business executive and former CEO of Avis Rent-a-Car, provides us with witty and practical advice on how to tackle misguided organizational processes and attitudes that stifle people and undermine profitability. Townsend despised the constant organizational push by management towards additional bureaucratic processes and cumbersome institutional procedures that increased in size and complexity as a company grew. He also offered smart suggestions on how to keep the executives’ egos in check.

His first proposal on dealing with the bureaucratic danger is to make the CEO the initial guinea pig for institutional experimentation. Before anyone else in the company is forced to follow any new process or procedure, or fill out a new form or questionnaire, the chief executive must complete it in full first. Townsend surmised this approach alone would “kill a lot of bad ideas early.”[Read more…]

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Rewards and Recognition Programs – Guiding Principles and Key Characteristics

Rewards and Recognition Programs - Guiding Principles and Key Characteristicsby Chris Banescu –
There are four guiding principles that leaders must consider when leading their employees. All rewards and recognition programs should be: personalized, noteworthy, meaningful, and motivating. This raises the bar on organizational performance, helps motivate employees, promotes and strengthens employee engagement, and nurtures healthy and constructive competition based on value-creation and operational excellence.

“The right total rewards system – a blend of monetary and nonmonetary rewards offered to employees – can generate valuable business results.” – Robert L. Heneman, Ph.D.

“[Think about] actions that are meaningful to [the employee] versus what’s meaningful to the giver.” … “We tend to give appreciation in ways that are meaningful to us, but if [the recipients] think it’s not authentic, it can create damage and make them think you’re trying to manipulate them.” – Paul E. White, Ph.D. [Read more…]

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Rewards and Recognition Required to Motivate and Retain Employees

Rewards and Recognition Required to Motivate and Retain Employeesby Chris Banescu –
Companies and organizations must reward and recognize their employees in order to succeed and insure that they continue to be engaged, motivated, happy, and productive.

It is not just rewards or just recognition. It is not an either/or proposition. It’s also not rewards versus recognition. One does not have priority over the other.

It is rewards AND recognition. Why? Because it’s ethical, fair, and right, and it works!

Both are required in order to justly compensate, effectively lead, capitalistically reward, and ethically motivate and recognize your employees. Anything less will never be sufficient to attract and retain the talent necessary to insure the long-term success, profitability, and prosperity of any enterprise. [Read more…]

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Ricardo Semler: Set Employees Free for Long-Term Growth and Success

Ricardo Semler: Set Employees Free for Long-Term Growth and Successby Brad Wieners –
For nearly 25 years, Ricardo Semler, CEO of Brazil-based Semco, has let his employees set their own hours, wages, even choose their own IT. The result: increased productivity, long-term loyalty and phenomenal growth.

Ricardo Semler had the sort of reckoning at 21 that most executives don’t face until middle age. Fresh from law school, where he’d been a restless underachiever, Semler took over his father’s business, which manufactured pumps and propellers for the world’s merchant marine. He was awfully young, but his dad sensed that if he didn’t give his son a chance, he’d lose him to another career. Besides, Semler Sr. was a pragmatist. “Better make your mistakes,” he told his son, “while I’m still alive.”

Straightaway, Semler Jr. spearheaded an ambitious plan to diversify his dad’s ship-parts company, which, like the Brazilian economy in the mid-eighties, was sinking. At Semco headquarters, in São Paulo, he tried to learn everything there was to know, and, while a quick study, he irritated plenty of the old hands with his precociousness and micromanaging. Working from 7:30 a.m. to midnight every day, or jumping planes overseas to raise capital and find new partners and companies to buy, his live-to-work lifestyle seemed ripped from the pages of John Grisham’s The Firm. [Read more…]

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The Compass vs. The Clock, Put First Things First

Compass vs. The Clock, Put First Things Firstby Chris Banescu –
The realization that something is not right with our lives can manifest itself in various ways. A feeling of emptiness, a bothersome disquiet, or a strange pain, like a deep sadness or a heartache, gradually or suddenly begins to trouble our souls. We feel guilty, anxious, unsatisfied, stressed, or sad even in moments when we ought to be at peace and carefree; when we should be relaxing or enjoying ourselves. For some this pain is only a vague discomfort. For others, including yours truly, the pain can often be intense and unrelenting; sometimes lasting for long stretches of time.

I discovered the reason for this mysterious affliction in the book First Things First, written by Stephen Covey, Roger Merrill, and Rebecca Merrill. They describe this particular grief as the “pain of the gap,” the gap we sense between the compass and the clock in our lives. Every time we don’t put first things first, when we fail to follow our calling and vocation and focus on the most important things in life, our conscience warns us that something’s not right and corrective measures and proactive actions are required. [Read more…]

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Three Things a Great Leader Would Never Say

Things a Great Leader Would Never Say by Les McKeown –
Great leadership is hard. Very occasionally, it’s pretty simple– like just not saying dumb things.

In the spirit of simple leadership, I give you my personal top three dumb things leaders shouldn’t say. No doubt your mileage will vary:

1. “Don’t bring me any surprises.”
I hear it all the time, and so do you (maybe you’re even guilty of it yourself)– a leader is blindsided by some event they couldn’t have predicted, and, out of embarrassment, swears they’ll never be caught unawares again.

At first they work harder, longer, assimilating data like an apocalypse is on the horizon that only they can avert, but then…bam. Another unexpected shoe drops, another unpredictable event occurs, and our leader is left with egg on their face all over again.

Redoubling their efforts, the leader adds another layer of protection against catastrophe – a mantra they begin doling out to all their direct reports: “Don’t bring me any surprises” (or its close cousin “Don’t bring me any bad news“). [Read more…]

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The Sociopath In The Office Next Door

Sociopath In The Office Next Door by Davia Temin –
Evil in the office. If you think about it, you’ll probably realize you’ve seen it play out at least once in your career.

All of a sudden a well-running, friendly, effective group or company begins to disintegrate for no apparent reason. People start to become demoralized and dysfunctional, efficiency plummets, client service and sales suffer and convoluted mistakes are made, up to and including illegal behavior such as fraud and larceny. Employees begin to develop psychosomatic illnesses, sick time rises and the best talent starts to leave.

What used to be a great work situation turns into a nightmare.

More often than not this dysfunction can be traced to the entry of one new employee, perhaps the boss, his or his assistant, the head of HR or a new shop steward. And when you start to explore, you find that, though the person may look and act apparently normal–even charming–all those around him or her are suffering. [Read more…]

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Jeff Bezos (Amazon): Top Ten Maxims for Business Success

Jeff Bezos Amazon Top Ten Maxims for Business Success Chris Banescu –
Jeff Bezos, the founder and current CEO of Amazon.com, offers ten maxims that have helped him turn Amazon into the world-class company it is today. Leaders should consider these important principles if they want to insure the long-term success of their businesses. The list was compiled by George Anders, Forbes contributor who writes about management, careers and unforgettable personalities. This story appeared in the April 23, 2012 issue of FORBES magazine.

1. “Base your strategy on things that won’t change.”
Selling lipstick, tractor seats, e-book readers and data storage is all part of one big plan with three big constants: offer wider selection, lower prices and fast, reliable delivery.

2. “Obsess over customers.”
Early on Bezos brought an empty chair into meetings so lieutenants would be forced to think about the crucial participant who wasn’t in the room: the customer. Now that ­surrogate’s role is played by specially trained employees, dubbed “Customer Experience Bar Raisers.” When they frown, vice ­presidents tremble. [Read more…]

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Seeing Yourself as Others See You Key to Being a Great Leader

Seeing Yourself as Others See Youby Linda Hill & Kent Lineback –
Becoming a great boss required courage — in particular, the courage to find out how others see you. Almost certainly, others’ perceptions of you will differ in important and perhaps disconcerting ways from your self-perceptions.

This is an important topic. It’s not about being liked or popular, as some assumed in reading our previous blog. It’s about your ability to exert influence, which is your major task as a manager. If you don’t know how your words and actions are perceived and understood, if you don’t know if others trust you (and if they don’t, why not), if you don’t know what others want and expect from you, how can you exert the influence you want?

The problem is, how do you find out? … Simply asking is unlikely to produce a true or complete answer. As the boss, you will often have trouble finding out the truth about anything, especially when it’s negative or problematic. Even if you’re trusted, people are still aware you hold the keys to promotions, pay, and choice assignments. And if you’re not trusted, why would anyone tell you the truth?

Though there are no simple solutions, we can offer some guidelines: [Read more…]

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Motivating Employees: 7 Things Great Bosses Do

Things Great Bosses Doby Jeff Haden –
Great bosses do these things. The rest don’t–because these simple gestures would never occur to them.

Where employees are concerned, great leaders don’t take. Great leaders give–especially these seven things:

1. They give a glimpse of vulnerability.
To employees, you’re often not a person. You’re a boss. (Kind of like when you were in school and you saw a teacher at the grocery store; it was jarring and uncomfortable because teachers weren’t people. They were teachers.)

That’s why showing vulnerability is a humanizing way to break down the artificial barrier that typically separates bosses from employees. One easy way to break down that barrier is to ask for help. [Read more…]

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What Would Winston Do?

Winston Churchill Leadership In 1940, a war-weary Britain was on the verge of capitulation. Here’s how Churchill turned it around–and what it means for you.

by Hitendra Wadhwa –
In 1940, when Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of Great Britain, the nation was in a state of severe crisis. Not only had its military suffered several setbacks in World War II, but the Prime Minister’s war Cabinet, deeply demoralized, was pushing Churchill to reach out to Italy’s Benito Mussolini to help orchestrate a truce with Hitler.

Churchill knew that Hitler could not be trusted and that negotiating with him would effectively constitute surrender. He desperately needed to win over his Cabinet. So he told them, “I am convinced that every man of you would rise up and tear me down from my place if I were for one moment to contemplate parley or surrender. If this long island story of ours is to last, let it end only when each one of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground.” The response? A standing ovation. The voices of appeasement were quelled. [Read more…]

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When Is It Time to Throw in the Towel?

Time to Throw in the Towel by Chris Banescu –
This is an interesting perspective from veteran entrepreneur and Inc. magazine columnist Norm Brodsky. Most entrepreneurs are independent, visionary, and courageous spirits driven to work had and achieve success regardless of personal sacrifices and risks. However, there are situations in which no matter how hard we work we may need to throw in the towel and chose to pursue a different venture or path; while still taking away critical lessons and experiences that can be invaluable.

Passion, vision, and drive are important attributes of all entrepreneurs, but so is pragmatism. Sometimes walking away from an unprofitable business or problematic venture is the best solution in the greater scheme of things. Luckily, the lessons learned and knowledge gained from such situations will be useful in future business or other entrepreneurial endeavors. [Read more…]

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The Only Thing that Really Matters

The Only Thing that Really Matters by Tony Schwartz –
Think for a moment of the last time you felt triggered — pushed into negative emotions by someone or something. Here, for example, are several of my triggers: feeling taken advantage of, not getting a response to an email I’ve sent to someone, and not being acknowledged for good work I’ve done.

We move into negative emotions — what we call the “Survival Zone” in our work at The Energy Project — when we feel a sense of threat or danger.

But what is the threat exactly? Over the past decade, my colleagues and I have asked thousands of our clients to describe something that consistently triggers them and then explain why.

Remarkably, we’ve found that a trigger can almost always be traced to the same root cause: the feeling of being devalued or diminished by someone else’s words or behavior. Consider my triggers above. [Read more…]

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How Sony Pictures Gets More Out of People by Demanding Less

Sony Pictures Help Employee Productivity Success story by Tony Schwartz –
The way most of us work isn’t working. Study after study has shown that companies are experiencing a crisis in employee engagement. A 2007 Towers Perrin survey of nearly 90,000 employees worldwide, for instance, found that only 21% felt fully engaged at work and nearly 40% were disenchanted or disengaged. That negativity has a direct impact on the bottom line. Towers Perrin found that companies with low levels of employee engagement had a 33% annual decline in operating income and an 11% annual decline in earnings growth. Those with high engagement, on the other hand, reported a 19% increase in operating income and 28% growth in earnings per share.

Nearly a decade ago, the Energy Project, the company I head, began to address work performance and the problem of employee disengagement. We believed that burnout was one of its leading causes, and we focused almost exclusively on helping individuals avoid it by managing their energy, as opposed to their time. Time, after all, is finite. By contrast, you can expand your personal energy and also regularly renew it. [Read more…]

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Innovating in a Culture of Convergence

Innovation Product Design by Michelle Greenwald –
How exactly do we define innovation? While it’s probably the most overused term in business today, innovation is not a fad. It’s not even new. What differentiates a smart innovation—and makes it worth writing about—is that it has the capability of moving a business forward in ways that can result in more customers, more sales, more brand loyalty, more good will, or some combination of those effects. Smart innovation is capable of providing a company with competitive advantage. Innovations are smart when they are not just inventions for innovation’s sake, just to be new and different; rather they provide a strategic benefit.

Innovation has always been relevant because it aims to satisfy unmet consumer and business needs; as the new-product development time-to-market continues to shrink and product life cycles get shorter and shorter, the term will become even more relevant. What qualifies as an innovation, in my mind, is a product, service, aspect, or feature that is new, different, surprising, clever, fresh, attention-getting, challenging of conventional ways things are done, and is an obvious improvement on “what’s out there” in that particular product category and geographical area. [Read more…]

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Do the Incompetent Rise to the Top? Peter Principle Revisited

Peter Principle Incompetence Rises to the Top by Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D. –
How and why do incompetent people rise to the top?

Why are there so many incompetent leaders? Is your boss less than competent? How about that department head in accounting or HR that doesn’t know his/her job? How in the world do incompetent people rise to the top in many organizations? Here are the reasons:

We Don’t Do a Good Job of Selecting Leaders. We simply don’t invest the time or resources needed to select the best people for jobs. Time and time again, we take hiring shortcuts. We interview in a haphazard way, and select the person who appears best in the interview. The problem is that often the best performer in the interview is one of the least competent workers (they’re so good in the interview because they get so much practice, because they are often fired!). [Read more…]

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How to Lead With Purpose

Leadership with purpose compass by Marla Tabaka –
The purpose-driven company is led by someone who has a reliable inner compass guiding them. John Baldoni asks: What’s your direction?

Can you describe the purpose of your business in a single sentence? Do you—and does every single person who is connected with your organization—have a reason to believe in that mission? Internationally recognized leadership educator John Baldoni believes that when an organization succeeds, it is because everyone involved knows precisely what they do—and why they do it. Even in start-up mode, an entrepreneur needs to constantly consider his or her mission and purpose to ensure growth and success. I recently spoke with Baldoni, the author of Lead with Purpose: Giving Your Organization a Reason to Believe in Itself, about the the defining qualities and responsibilities of one who leads with purpose. [Read more…]

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Steve Jobs on Work, Passion, Life, and Death

Steve Jobs work passion life death by Chris Banescu –
As the world mourns the passing away of Steven P. Jobs, the visionary entrepreneur and creative genius behind Apple, it’s important to remember some timeless insights and essential lessons for life that he talked about. I was reminded of the maturity and wisdom of his message while watching a video of an inspiring and thoughtful Commencement address he delivered to the Stanford University graduating class on June 12, 2005. There are several notable comments and sage advice I highlight below. They have helped and reassured me, I hope they will help you also.

Steve Jobs on the importance of dealing with hardships, finding work that you are passionate about, loving what you do, and following your vocation:

“I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers.

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”

[Read more…]

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Lessons in Leadership from an Airline Captain

Captain Chesley SullenbergerIt is often in times of crisis and life-threatening emergencies that the real character of an individual is made manifest. The contrasts between the leadership of an American airline captain and that of our current president offer us an opportunity for personal and societal reflection. The differences could not be more striking.

On January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 took off from New York’s LaGuardia Airport with 155 passengers and crew on board. In the cockpit of the Airbus A-320 twin-engine aircraft were Captain Chesley Sullenberger and First Officer Jeff Skiles. With First Officer Skiles at the controls, the airplane climbed away from the airport. As flight 1549 approached an altitude of 3,000 feet, the plane struck a flock of geese and instantly lost thrust in both engines. At once Captain Sullenberger realized that both engines were failing and imminent danger awaited the passengers and crew. He quickly put his hand on the side stick, called out “my airplane” (at 3:53 in the video), and took over control of the aircraft from First Officer Skiles. There was no panic, no fuss, no paralysis, no moment of indecision — just calm, competent leadership and confident action. [Read more…]

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What If You Work for a Bad Leader?

Bad Leader Bad Bossby Michael Hyatt –
About once a week I get an email from someone who wants to know how to work for a bad leader. Maybe their boss is a jerk. Maybe he is just incompetent. Regardless, they are not quite sure how to lead well in this kind of situation.

Though I eventually became a CEO, I spent most of my corporate years in middle management. I had my share of bad bosses. A few were jerks. I imagined myself quitting or at least giving them a good tongue-lashing. Others were incompetent. I wanted to pull my hair out or rat them out to their boss.

Fortunately, I didn’t do any of these things, though I was often tempted. And, I’m glad I didn’t. Each of these bad bosses served to make me a better leader. You can learn from positive role models. Sometimes you can learn even more from negative ones. [Read more…]

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How the Mighty Fall: A Primer on the Warning Signs

How the Mighty FallBy Jim Collins –
The author of Good to Great on how to spot the subtle signs that your successful company is actually on course to sputter—and how to reverse the slide before it’s too late.

I pondered and puzzled and finally settled upon the question: Is America renewing its greatness, or is America dangerously on the cusp of falling from great to good? While I intended the question to be rhetorical (I believe America carries a responsibility to continuously renew itself, and it has met that responsibility throughout its history), the West Point gathering nonetheless erupted into an intense debate. Half of the participants argued that America stands as strong as ever, while the other half contended that America teeters on the edge of decline.

History shows, repeatedly, that the mighty can fall. The Egyptian Old Kingdom, the Chou Dynasty, the Hittite Empire—all fell. Athens fell. Rome fell. Even Britain, which stood a century before as a global superpower, saw its position erode. Is that the U.S.’s fate? Or will America always find a way to meet Lincoln’s challenge to be the last best hope of Earth?

At a break, the chief executive of one of America’s most successful companies pulled me aside. “I’ve been thinking about your question in the context of my company all morning,” he said. “We’ve had tremendous success in recent years, and I worry about that. So what I want to know is: How would you know?” [Read more…]

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Entrepreneurs: Leading the Way Out

Entrepreneurs Lead by Greg Pesci –
Entrepreneurs, free to pursue their economic dreams, built America! They are, and always have been, its creators of jobs, growth, and wealth.

In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America:“It may be said that, in the United States, there is no limit to the inventiveness of man to discover the ways of increasing wealth and to satisfy the public’s needs.” He continued, “the primary reason for [America’s] rapid progress, their strength and greatness is their bold approach to industrial undertakings.” What impressed De Tocqueville most about business in America was “not so much the marvelous grandeur of some undertaking as the innumerable multitude of small ones.”

Data from the Census Bureau (Business Dynamics Statistics) demonstrate that since 1977 American entrepreneurs in firms less than five years old have been responsible for literally all the net job creation in this country. For more than 30 years, new companies have led job creation in America. Recently, Carl J. Schramm of the Kauffman Foundation stated, “new and young companies and the entrepreneurs that create them are the engines of job creation and eventual recovery.” With 9.8 percent unemployment, if we want to create jobs in America we need to free up entrepreneurs and not burden them with increased taxes or regulation. [Read more…]

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Intel CEO Otellini on Successful Company Culture

Intel CEO Paul Otellini
Intel CEO Paul Otellini
by Rich Karlgaard –
(Note: Last week I sat down with Intel’s Paul Otellini to talk about technology in the 2-to-5-year future. Can Moore’s Law continue? What will smartphones, tablets and PCs look like in two years? I will publish our conversation in the March 14 issue of Forbes magazine. Meanwhile, enjoy Otellini’s riff on Intel’s amazing 43-year-old corporate culture. Steve Jobs may be the iconic entrepreneur/CEO of Silicon Valley, but Intel, I would argue, is the iconic culture.)

Name a Silicon Valley giant that has managed CEO succession well. HP hasn’t. Sun blew it. Advanced Micro Devices never adequately replaced Jerry Sanders. Apple dropped the baton repeatedly its first incarnation – Steve Jobs to John Sculley, Michael Spindler and Gil Amelio — and it’s too early to tell if Tim Cook can replace Jobs this time around. Larry Ellison still runs Oracle, and Cisco is only on its second CEO, John Chambers. Google has gone back to its founders, and Facebook is not even yet public.

Among large companies, only Intel has mastered CEO succession multiple times. [Read more…]

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How to Turn Disaster Into Gold

Campfire logo 37signals by Jason Fried –
When one of our products malfunctioned, thousands of stranded customers erupted in fury. Yet we came out of the crisis more credible than ever. Here’s what we did.

It was a really lousy week.

One of 37signals’s key products is Campfire, a real-time chat tool for small businesses. For about a week in mid-December, Campfire, which users access via the Web, kept bouncing on- and offline. This was the first major problem we have had with Campfire since it launched in 2006. For a product that needs to be as reliable as the dial tone on your phone, things couldn’t have been worse.

Thousands of companies rely on Campfire. At 37signals, we use Campfire to run our business. Because we have employees in a dozen cities around the world, Campfire is our lifeline. It’s how we communicate with one another in real time. Campfire is where we make decisions, share designs, debate ideas, broadcast companywide announcements, and keep up to date on what everyone’s working on. [Read more…]

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