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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Picking Up and Letting Go at Sea

by on September 16, 2011 10:41am
in The Next Level

About a month ago today, I was a guest on the US Coast Guard Cutter Venturous leaving their station in St. Petersburg, Florida and getting under way for a patrol in the Florida Straits. In this last of the videos from the trip that I’ll be posting on this blog, you can see what it [...]
Let’s hear it for Doug Elmendorf! It’s possible that, as was the case with me until yesterday afternoon, you don’t know who Doug Elmendorf is. He runs the Congressional Budget Office and was the star witness at a hearing of the Congressional Super Committee charged with reducing the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion. I heard [...]

Three Things Resilient Leaders Do

by on September 12, 2011 9:51am
in The Next Level

Watching the ceremonies on TV yesterday, I was struck by the beauty of the 9/11 memorial in New York. It’s a park built around the footprints of the World Trade Center towers and waterfalls flow into the footprints. Looking at the memorial, I was reminded of the first time I saw Ground Zero after the [...]

What It Takes to Be Ready

by on September 9, 2011 10:38am
in The Next Level

There are a lot of memories coming to the surface as the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks approaches. Of course, some of the most vivid memories are of the first responders who showed so much courage and skill in the minutes, hours and days after the attacks. Even though they had never dealt [...]

Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post called Can This Marriage (Customer, Team, Leader) Be Saved? in which I referenced a book called The 5 Love Languages and riffed a bit on how those might be applied at work.  A couple of days later, I got a nice email from Dr. Paul White letting me know that he was co-authoring a book with Dr. Gary Chapman, the author of Love Languages, on how they could be applied in the workplace. 

Book-chapman It’s out now and is called The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.  I spent some time talking with Dr. White yesterday and, with his permission, recorded the call so you could listen in. He talks about what the research says about motivating through appreciation and the top ways in which most people want to be appreciated. Here’s the interview:

 

He was also nice enough to share his top ten easiest ways to show appreciation to almost anyone.  You can download that here

This stuff is easy to do and likely to make a difference, folks. Think about it:

  • What kind of difference does it make for you when your boss or a co-worker expresses their appreciation?
  • What kind of difference would it make for your team members if you expressed your appreciation in a way that works for them (hint:  something beyond the “great job everyone” email)?
  • What is your number one idea for anyone who wants to do a better job of showing appreciation to others at work?

 

Potus-tv There’s lots of speculation about what President Obama will say in his jobs creation strategy speech to Congress on Thursday night.  Will he be bold?  Will he be meek?  Will he seek compromise? Will he draw a line in the sand?

Perhaps the most important question is will he offer a viable strategy for creating jobs and reducing the unemployment rate? Lately, I’ve been reading a book that will help you and me answer that last question.  It’s called Good Strategy Bad Strategy  by UCLA business professor Richard Rumelt. Back in December 2008, Rumelt wrote in the McKinsey Quarterly  that the great recession was not the typical downturn, but a structural break that would require difficult fundamental changes to get the economy back on track. Almost three years later, it looks like he called it.

Since one of the basic jobs of leadership is to define a strategy that can lead to success, Thursday’s speech provides an opportunity for an evaluative case study.  In Good Strategy Bad Strategy, Rumelt says that there are three key elements that represent the kernel of any good strategy. Conversely, there are three signs of a bad strategy. 

So, building on what Rumelt offers, here’s your viewer’s guide to whether the President is offering a good jobs strategy or a bad jobs strategy on Thursday night. (The guide just might help you in your next strategy conversation as well.)

Long term readers of this blog may have noticed that I don't write nearly as many posts as I used to that are based on politics. There are a couple of reasons for that. First, I try to keep this blog in the ballpark of leadership news you can use and there just aren't that many good examples coming from our national political leaders. That leads to the second reason I'm not writing about them much anymore. What they're doing is just flat out depressing.

So today's post is a bit of a combo platter. On the one hand, it's a cry of frustration. On the other, it's one of those learn what to do by not doing what they're doing posts.

Before Congress recessed for summer vacation and the President left for Martha's Vineyard, the two sides (Why is it always about the two sides anymore anyway? Ah, but I digress.)  took each other and the country to the brink by locking horns over the debt ceiling. Historians may well look back on that fiasco as the tipping point into complete dysfunction. I guess it was too much to hope that as our leaders took some vacation that they would step back, reflect on what happened and come back ready to do things differently for the good of the country.

Yeah, that was too much to hope for apparently. In scheduling his much anticipated speech on jobs creation (the New York Times has the recap), the President asked for a joint session of Congress on the same night as the first Republican debate to have all of the current candidates in the field. Of course, the White House press office claimed that this was a mere coincidence and that they had never considered big footing the GOP. Not to worry, the Speaker of the House, in a historically unprecedented move, rejected the President's request for a joint session. After an afternoon of naming, blaming and stare downs, the White House relented. The joint session speech is now scheduled for the next night, the start of the new season of the NFL. Great solution.

So, what's the leadership lesson in all of this? There aren't any good ones. So let's look for the counterfactual lessons: 

Irene1 The turmoil and damage caused in the Northeast last weekend by Hurricane Irene is just the latest reminder of how much we rely on first responders like the U.S. Coast Guard in times of emergencies and natural disasters. There was some dramatic video released yesterday of a  Coast Guard helicopter rescue of a boater in distress off the Rhode Island coast during the storm. Military.com provides a nice summary of the Coast Guard’s Hurricane Irene operations in this article.

There’s definitely a lot of courage displayed by first responders in emergencies but there’s also a lot of preparation and training on display as well.  As I wrote here last week, I recently had the opportunity to spend the weekend at sea with the crew of the USCG Cutter Venturous. The patrol that I was on was the first time on board for about a third of the 80 person Venturous crew. The training started immediately upon departure. Once we were under way, a series of drills were executed to get the crew prepared for emergencies that might arise. First up was a man overboard drill. You can see some highlights from that in this video:

The first afternoon at sea ended with an abandon ship drill and the morning of day two started with a migrant onboarding drill. Members of the crew were given the opportunity to come up with a plan for rescuing migrants from a raft, bringing them on board, securing them, processing them and sheltering them.  Here are some video highlights of the drill:

Not surprisingly, because it was the first time doing this for many of the crew, there were some kinks and bottlenecks in the process. It was a very fortunate thing, however, that the crew had the chance to run and debrief the drill. Twenty minutes after it ended the commanding officer announced that he had just gotten word that the ship would be bringing 15 Cuban migrants on board in about three hours. He wasn’t joking. A drill had quickly turned into the real thing.

Next week, I’ll share a video of the crew preparing to bring the migrants on board but, for now, here are three things I learned about how the Coast Guard prepares for emergencies:

Stevejobs1 There’s been so much written about Steve Jobs stepping down as Apple CEO this week. As an Apple fan and a student of business leaders, it’s hard to disagree with the many, many tribute articles that have sung the praises of Jobs. Anyone who changes multiple industries – computing with the Apple II, Lisa (remember that?) Mac and the iPad, music with iTunes, telecommunications with the iPhone, movies with Pixar – is a genius. When the history of innovation is written, Steve Jobs will be up there with Henry Ford and Walt Disney.  

There’s a lot of speculation that Apple will fade without Jobs on the scene. Is it possible, though, that the company might do even better in the future?

Based on a very limited amount of personal experience, I think it might be. Here’s the story.

Eathquake So, the big question on the East Coast yesterday evening was where were you when the earthquake hit? I was in a large conference room in Baltimore leading a group coaching session for rising leaders at a client company. They were working in small groups when I noticed the image on the screen jiggling crazily and saw the projectors hanging from the ceiling shaking back and forth.  We moved outside into the courtyard pretty quickly.  When the building was evacuated, we decided to call it a day. Definitely the first time I’ve ever ended a session early because of an earthquake.

What a great reminder that if you ever think you’re the one in control, you’re not.  In a way, that turned out to be the theme of the day. Just a half hour before the earthquake excitement, we had wrapped up a lunchtime conversation with a company executive who essentially said the same thing. She began her talk by holding up a sheet of paper with 75 names and pictures on it.  She told the group that this was all of the directors and above in that sector of the company in the year 2000.  “How many, she asked, do you think are still here?”  The answer was 23.  Then she showed a photo composite of the top 15 executives from 2004 and asked how many of them were still around.  The answer was one and he’s the current sector president. 

Her point was not one of those, “Look to your left and look to your right; one of you won’t be here,” kind of deals. Rather, she was making the point that there are so many things outside of your control in your career that you have to be prepared for change and make the most of the opportunities you have while remaining true to your values. In her case, that has meant:

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