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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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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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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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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Secrets of the Most Productive People I Know

Productivity Success Productive by Margaret Heffernan –
Like most everyone else, I worry about productivity. Since there aren’t more hours in the day, how can I get more done? That’s made me reflect on the truly productive people I’ve known or worked with throughout my career.

They all share certain characteristics:

1. They have a life.
Far from being the maniacally focused, late night or early morning types, truly creative innovators or problem solvers have a rich life outside of work. One of the finest CEOs I’ve known, Carol Vallone, founder of WebCT, coached her local softball team. She said it’s where she honed her leadership skills. It also meant she had to take her mind off work and think in different ways. No wonder academic research keeps showing that external commitments are highly correlated with high achievement. [Read more…]

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“No” is the New “Yes”: Four Practices to Reprioritize Your Life

Harvard Business Review logo by Tony Schwartz –
Saying no, thoughtfully, may be the most undervalued capacity of our times. In a world of relentless demands and infinite options, it behooves us to prioritize the tasks that add the most value. That also means deciding what to do less of, or to stop doing altogether.

I was sitting with the CEO and senior team of a well-respected organization. One at a time, they told me they spend their long days either in back-to-back meetings, responding to email, or putting out fires. They also readily acknowledged this way of working wasn’t serving them well — personally or professionally.

It’s a conundrum they couldn’t seem to solve. It’s also a theme on which I hear variations every day. Think of it as a madness loop — a vicious cycle. We react to what’s in front of us, whether it truly matters or not. More than ever, we’re prisoners of the urgent.

Prioritizing requires reflection, reflection takes time, and many of the executives I meet are so busy racing just to keep up they don’t believe they have time to stop and think about much of anything. [Read more…]

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The Secret to Mastering Patience

Patience Mastering Patience by John Baldoni –
Having trouble mastering patience?

Well, to combat that, you could try standing in the longest line at the supermarket. Or, when driving on the freeway, get behind someone observing the speed limit—and stay there. Or, if someone yells at you because you are not paying attention, turn and give him or her a big compliment.

The above suggestions were made by callers to an episode of NPR’s Talk of the Nation that featured author Allan Lokos speaking about his new book, Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living. Allan’s book is filled with many practical suggestions for how you can master patience.

Patience is a matter of control. I certainly do not possess it, but I do admire those who do.  And as someone who likes to be in control, as do most executives with whom I work, control may open the window to developing greater levels of patience. [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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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 Make Companies Think Long-Term

Harvard Business Review logo by Roger Martin –

In my latest book, Fixing the Game: Bubbles, Crashes, and What Capitalism Can Learn from the NFL, I wrote about the negative impact of executive stock-based compensation on corporate short-termism. Eliminating stock-based compensation would help reduce the incentive for executive leadership to focus on the short term. But there is a residual problem which has long frustrated me. The answer finally popped into my brain (funny how that works). As usual, the solution won’t be easy to pull off (but that has never stopped me).

The residual problem I’m talking about is corporate short-termism. Many companies face quarterly or even more immediate pressure from their shareholders (increasingly made up of hedge funds, program traders, and day traders) to deliver short-term performance. Worried that short-term-oriented arbitrageurs will put their company in play and short-term-oriented shareholders will gain majority or effective control of the company, ending their ability to steer the long-term trajectory of the company, they focus on making short-term decisions to protect their positions. The paradoxical result is that they never get around to taking those long-term-oriented decisions. [Read more…]

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Business Schools Add Courses On Ethics, But Are Graduates More Ethical?

Business Schools ethics MBA by Ben Schiller –
Post-financial meltdown, business schools are trying to make their graduates more responsible. But does taking one class on ethics work, or does a new ethical model need to permeate the curriculum?

Many industry watchers saw business schools as contributing factors in the financial crisis, arguing that, by failing to challenge orthodoxies, and overlooking “socially useless” activities, they helped create conditions for collapse. That nearly every relevant banker, regulator, and politician was an MBA graduate helped make the case.

But what about now? Have b-schools changed?

Yes, and no, according to a survey of how schools are teaching social, environmental, and ethical topics.[Read more…]

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Dealing with Your Incompetent Boss

Dealing with Incompetent Bossby Amy Gallo –

Everyone complains about his or her boss from time to time. In fact, some consider it a national workplace pastime. But there’s a difference between everyday griping and stressful frustration, just as there is a clear distinction between a manager with a few flaws and one who is incompetent. Dealing with the latter can be anguishing and taxing. But with the right mindset and a few practical tools, you can not only survive but flourish.

What the Experts Say
“Most people have had experience with someone who is incompetent, or at least unhelpful,” says Annie McKee, founder of the Teleos Leadership Institute and co-author of Becoming a Resonant Leader: Develop Your Emotional Intelligence, Renew Your Relationships, Sustain Your Effectiveness. Ineptitude in managers is unfortunately common. McKee says that’s because too many companies promote people for the wrong reasons. [Read more…]

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The Superiority of School Vouchers Demonstrated

School Vouchers by Gary Jason –
The failure of the American K-12 public school system has been obvious for decades. Some of us fossils can recall the public uproar that accompanied the release of the report “A Nation at Risk” back in 1987, documenting the mediocre at best, disastrously bad at worst performance of the nation’s public schools.

The public school special interest groups (the PSSIGs) — that is, public school administrators, education department professors, “labor studies” professors, textbook publishers, and most notoriously teachers unions and their members — managed to turn the outrage into support for jacking up spending.

Over the last quarter-century, we have nearly doubled our national per capita spending — we now outspend per capita for K-12 education every other nation on Earth but one. But our national student scores have remained flat, while internationally, we have dropped in ranking among developed nations from 14th during the 1970s down to 24th place today. [Read more…]

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How P&G Tripled Its Innovation Success Rate

Tide logo success by Bruce Brown and Scott D. Anthony –
Back in 2000 the prospects for Procter & Gamble’s Tide, the biggest brand in the company’s fabric and household care division, seemed limited. The laundry detergent had been around for more than 50 years and still dominated its core markets, but it was no longer growing fast enough to support P&G’s needs. A decade later Tide’s revenues have nearly doubled, helping push annual division revenues from $12 billion to almost $24 billion. The brand is surging in emerging markets, and its iconic bull’s-eye logo is turning up on an array of new products and even new businesses, from instant clothes fresheners to neighborhood dry cleaners.

This isn’t accidental. It’s the result of a strategic effort by P&G over the past decade to systematize innovation and growth.

To understand P&G’s strategy, we need to go back more than a century to the sources of its inspiration—Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. In the 1870s Edison created the world’s first industrial research lab, Menlo Park, which gave rise to the technologies behind the modern electric-power and motion-picture industries. [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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Five Things You Should Never Say While Negotiating

by Mike Hofman –
Every entrepreneur spends some time haggling, whether it is with customers, suppliers, investors, or would-be employees. Most business owners are street smart, and seem to naturally perform well in negotiations. You probably have a trick or two—some magic phrases to say, perhaps—that can help you gain the upperhand. But, often, the moment you get into trouble in a negotiation is when something careless just slips out. If you are new to negotiation, or feel it is an area where you can improve, check out these tips on precisely what not to say. [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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8 Ways to Foster Innovation in Your Company

Foster Innovation

Creativity fosters innovation, but how can you ignite creative sparks within your organization? Inc.com compiled lessons on developing a vibrant research and development strategy.

To come up with their best new ideas, most companies turn to an inexpensive and efficient source of innovation: their own employees. How can you unleash the creative spirit lurking in your workforce? Here are eight of the best strategies we’ve uncovered in recent months.

1. Let Every Employee Play Designer.
Three years ago, the five-person research and development team at pet-accessory company West Paw Design had a case of collective writer’s block. A production manager named Seth Partain proposed holding a contest for the company’s three-dozen employees. Everyone from salespeople to seamstresses were encouraged to spend an afternoon designing and producing prototypes for new products. Following an end-of-day vote, a winner was crowned at an award ceremony. By making employees feel a part of the idea-creation process, West Paw Design set up a new pipeline of product development. [Read more…]

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