Leadership Lessons Ripped from the Headlines

Through his work as an executive coach, leadership strategist, speaker and author, Scott Eblin has become known as a thought leader in identifying the behaviors that executives need to pick up and let go as they transition into new and larger roles. President of the leadership development and strategy firm The Eblin Group Inc., Scott is a former Fortune 500 executive, with a coaching client list that runs the gamut from Astra Zeneca to the U.S. Navy. He is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success which Business Book Review calls a “fascinating read” that “is full of potentially career-saving advice.”

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In this week’s installment of the Video Book Club, I’m sharing what I like about The Leadership Pipeline. The book has been around for about ten years and it’s become a go to resource for anyone charged with developing senior leaders.

In the video review, I walk through the simple yet resonant model of career path transitions that the authors Charan, Drotter and Noel outline in the book. Ten years later, the model holds up as very practical and applicable road map and diagnostic for developing leaders.

Management-roundtable Every so often, one of my clients will get a promotion to a job where the expectations are so different that it’s not clear to them how they fit in anymore. It’s usually a case where they’re moving from a pretty hands-on, directive leadership role and into a role in which they’re coordinating the work of a number of other leaders. This kind of shift can happen a number of times over a career. As the authors of The Leadership Pipeline point out, the first time is usually when the leader moves from manager to manager of managers. Further up the chain, the transition from business manager to managing a group of businesses is another.

If you’re a leader going through this kind of change, it can feel like you’re betwixt and between. It seems like the people both above and below you are making most of the day to day calls so how do you add value?

As I discuss in The Next Level, I suggest you start by asking yourself this question:

What is it, given the role that I’m in and the unique resources and opportunities that come with it, that only I can do?

Every leader needs to come up with their own answer to that question. That said, there are some tips that apply in most of these betwixt and between situations. Here are five of them:

Rockwell-spirit One day last week,  I took the rest of the afternoon off and drove into the District of Columbia to see the exhibition of Norman Rockwell paintings on loan to the Smithsonian American Art Museum from the collections of filmmakers Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Like a lot of Americans over 40, I have a soft spot in my heart for Rockwell’s paintings. For me, it’s probably because of my personal and family history with the Boy Scouts and the hours I spent as a kid looking at reproductions of Rockwell’s heroic paintings of Scouts. To see a few of those originals up close was a special treat.

The exhibit is called Telling Stories because it highlights what Spielberg and Lucas recognize as Rockwell’s genius for sharing a story in a single frame. There are 57 paintings on display that span the length of the artist’s long career. (For an informative and thoughtful review of the show, read Deborah Solomon’s in the New York Times.)  If you find yourself in DC between now and January 2, 2011 when the show closes, it’s worth a few hours of your time to go.


I hope you and your colleagues will join me for a complimentary tele-seminar on Leading at the Next Level on Thursday, October 14 at 2:00 pm ET.  You can sign up for the conversation here. Here’s the scoop on what we’ll cover. 

About the Leading at the Next Level Tele-seminar

The Next Level - Second EditionBased on the research behind the second edition of my book, The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success, I’ll share the highlights of a field tested roadmap of what high performing leaders pick up and let go of when they take on bigger roles.  In a fast paced 30 minute format (with brief Q&A following), I’ll share with you:
  • Fresh insights from global executives on what it takes to succeed in today’s fast-paced, matrixed environment.
  • Coachable Moments tips that hundreds of my clients have used to raise their leadership game.
  • Data Points that highlight some of the vital leadership behaviors that my exclusive research shows rising leaders and executives must master.
Click here to register online now for the tele-seminar and take a few moments to pose a question you’d like for me to cover during the call.  It’s a complementary event and I invite you to join in with your entire team.  I’ll provide a recording of the call to all who register.

Register for the Leading at the Next Level Tele-seminar with Scott Eblin on Thursday, October 14 at 2pm ET.

How to Lead Like a Pig

by on October 6, 2010 11:30am
in The Next Level

Leaderpig If you’ve been looking for a great case study of how quickly leadership can change the culture of an organization, look no further than David Carr’s front page piece in today’s New York Times. In it, he describes  how real estate investor Sam Zell and his minions destroyed the culture of the Chicago Tribune and other great newspapers in its holding company. To say that these people led like pigs is to do a disservice to pigs.

After he used the Trib’s own retirement plan as leverage to buy the company, Zell brought in a former morning zoo style radio shock jock named Randy Michaels. It wasn’t long after Michaels arrival that he was impressing his co-workers by offering $100 to a waitress at the nearby InterContinental Hotel to expose herself. In a truly innovative move, the new management team rewrote the employee handbook giving the green light to profanity and dirty jokes “because a loose, fun, nonlinear atmosphere is important to the creative process. This should be understood, should not be a surprise and not considered harassment.”

So, with the new handbook in place, it wasn’t long before Michaels and another senior exec were heard on an open balcony loudly rating the hotness of various female employees. Company sponsored poker smokers, illicit liaisons and other forms of loose, fun, nonlinear behavior ensued. With the newspaper industry being what it is, the employees of the Trib had some choices to make. They could leave and hope to find another job in their profession, they could stay and grit it out or they could stay and try to improve their career prospects by joining in on the Animal House leadership style. Different people chose different options. The Tribune Company was bankrupt a year after Zell bought it and, almost two years later, the case is still in bankruptcy court.

A coaching friend of mine likes to say that presence begets presence. The presence of the leader influences the presence of those being led. This dynamic can play out for good or for bad. The example from the Trib is extreme in that it’s rare for management to codify bad behavior as official company policy.  Still, it’s really easy for leaders with titles to underestimate the impact of their leadership footprint. In my book, The Next Level, I write about the need for leaders to pick up a big footprint view of their role and let go of the small footprint view. Here are some big footprint behaviors that experience shows leaders need to monitor:
This week’s installment of the Video Book Club features a new favorite of mine, Resonate by Nancy Duarte.  The subtitle of the book sums up what it’s about: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences. If you’ve watched some of the speaker videos from the TED conference, you’re familiar with Nancy’s work. She and her company help speakers present stories that engage the audience mentally, visually and emotionally. 

Her book, Resonate, explains her philosophy of presentations and reveals, step by step, how she puts them together. In this video clip, I go into a few of the details that shares in Resonate including her belief that presenters need to view the audience as the hero, let’s say Luke Skywalker, and themselves as the mentor, Yoda for instance. 

The Joy of Facts

by on October 4, 2010 10:30am
in The Next Level

Moynihan George F. Will ran a nice column over the weekend that highlighted some of  the gems from a collection of writings by the late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. My favorite Moynihan quote is my favorite because it so aptly describes the root cause of the failure of leadership that so much of the American public is concerned about today.  “Everyone, Moynihan said, is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

When I think about what concerns me the most about the direction we’re headed in, I think it comes down to the realization that facts don’t seem to matter much anymore. 
Draper-gekko Don Draper and Gordon Gekko are two guys who are making a lot of money.  While that statement may be true in the fictional realm, it’s definitely true in the literal realm. Over the past four years, Mad Men, with its lead character, advertising exec Don Draper, has become more and more popular as evidenced by ratings, buzz and marketing tie-ins. This past weekend, Gordon Gekko was back in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. It was number one at the box office.

What is it about these two guys that fascinates us so much? A lot of it can be summed up in a funny bit that actor Jon Hamm did in character for Saturday Night LiveDon Draper’s Guide to Picking Up Women. The secret, as Don says, is to have a great name, look fantastic in a suit, look fantastic in casual wear, be uncannily successful at your job and blow people away anytime you say anything.

All of that seems to work for Gordon Gekko as well – especially the part about blow people away anytime you say anything. My wife and I went to see Wall Street 2 over the weekend and loved it. One of the early scenes in the movie is Gekko giving a speech to promote his new book, Is Greed Good?, to a full house of business school students. Since this is a PG-13 rated blog, I won’t share his opening line but there are a lot of good ones such as, “You’re the NINJA generation – no income, no jobs, no assets.”  

So, what , if anything, can we learn from Draper and Gekko?

Video Book Club: Anytime Coaching

by on September 28, 2010 9:30am
in The Next Level

Book-anytime-coaching Let me acknowledge a deeply held personal bias. Any leader who manages people needs to know how to coach for performance. In their book, Anytime Coaching, my colleagues Teresa Kloster and Wendy Swire provide the framework, tools, exercises and tips that you need to build or improve your coaching skills.

As I discuss in The Next Level, one of the key shifts that leaders have to make as they move into bigger roles is to pick up looking left and right as they lead and to let go of just looking up and down as they lead. What I mean by the picking up part is that higher level leadership requires getting out of your own lane and collaborating with peers to get meaningful things done. What I mean by the letting go part is that you have to expand your field of vision beyond the vertical axis of just focusing on what your boss wants and what your team needs. To be effective, you’ve got to go broader.

When I was doing the research for the second edition of The Next Level, I was reminded that your field of vision needs to extend even further – beyond left and right and up and down. You also need to work the diagonals.  So, that’s one of the changes I’ve made in the second edition. The advice from successful executive leaders is pick up looking left, right and diagonally as you lead and let go of primarily looking up and down as you lead.

One of the leaders I interviewed for the new edition was Avon’s Chief Information Officer, Donagh Herlihy.  Here’s some of what he said about his diagonal leadership strategy:

I’m very informal… I build relationships and trust with peers, but I also like to know their people up and down the organization… I have lots of different informal data points.  A lot of it is just when you bump into people and you know them, even though there are two levels of separation from you… Having a kind of richer data set in terms of informal feedback is very, very helpful.

So, how do you work the diagonals?  Here are three ideas for how to do it:
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