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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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Lead Like a Mom

by on October 29, 2010 10:30am
in The Next Level

With the beginning of a new group coaching cohort, I’ve been spending some time this week in one on one calls with high potential leaders to review their 360 degree feedback data. One of the calls was with a leader who I’ll call Nancy.  She’s a long term high performer with her company and the mother of two high school students. 

It was easy to see from Nancy’s 360 report how well thought of she is by her colleagues and our conversation made it clear why she is.  She’s smart, confident, humble and has equal measures of focus on results and relationships.  Using our online reporting system, we started reviewing her data by looking at the items that were rated highest by her colleagues.  To get things started, I asked her to look at her highest rated items as if she was looking at someone else’s report and give me a headline that summed up what she saw in the data.  With just a few moments of thought, she laughed softly and said, “It looks like a mom.”

The 360 I use is comprised of 72 leadership behaviors based on the research behind my book, The Next Level.  I’ve had hundreds of client conversations about the survey and have never before heard someone say that their results look like a mom.  When I looked at Nancy’s results with the mom lens on, though, I immediately agreed.  

Nancy’s highest rated behaviors ranged between a 4.44 and a 4.69 on a 5.00 point scale.  Yes, she’s good.  With her permission, let me share those high rated items with you.  Put your mom glasses on and see if you agree with Nancy:

Thankyounotes With a shout out to the folks at the Compensation Café blog, I just read an interesting post  on research that demonstrates the positive results that come from saying thank you.  So, as you read that last sentence you may have thought, “They needed a study to demonstrate that?  I learned that as a kid.” 

Yeah, me too. Specifically from my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Kreiger with some reinforcement from Miss Marilyn on the Romper Room TV show (along with her classic advice to “Do be a doo bee and don’t be a don’t bee.”)

Saying thank you is just the polite thing to do, right? Have you noticed, though,  that polite behavior doesn’t seem as prevalent as it used to be? In the ongoing battle for our attention between getting results and building relationships, the focus on results seems to be in the lead.  For leaders that are all about the results, taking the time to say thank you often gets pushed down the list of things to do.  After all, you’re busy. They know you’re busy and probably know you appreciate their help. If you don’t have time to say thanks, it’s not that big a deal, right?

The research suggests otherwise. Here’s a quick summary from the PsyBlog on the study that was published by Adam Grant and Francesca Gino in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: 

In the first study, 69 participants were asked to provide feedback to a fictitious student called ‘Eric’ on his cover letter for a job application. After sending their feedback through by email, they got a reply from Eric asking for more help with another cover letter.

The twist is that half of them got a thankful reply from Eric and the other half a neutral reply. The experimenters wanted to see what effect this would have on participant’s motivation to give Eric any more help.

As you might expect, those who were thanked by Eric were more willing to provide further assistance. Indeed the effect of ‘thank you’ was quite substantial: while only 32% of participants receiving the neutral email helped with the second letter, when Eric expressed his gratitude, this went up to 66%.

Saying thank you led to a 100% increase in willingness to help again in the future.  If you’re a leader who’s all about the results that should get your attention. Turns out that saying thank you is a pretty important skill to have if you want to get things done.  Here are some tips on how to do it:

Thanks go out to my friend Dan McCarthy of the Great Leadership blog for featuring my post, “What Is It That Only You Can Do?”  In ten years of executive coaching, I’ve found that’s a really important question for leaders to consider.  There are some caveats in answering the question, however.  For starters, it’s not about being indispensable. For more on this Coachable Moment from the new edition of The Next Level, head on over to Dan’s blog.

While you’re there, leave a comment and you’ll be in the running to receive a free copy of The Next Level.

Circus1 With everything that leaders have to juggle, it's easy to feel like the ringmaster of a three ring circus.  For Kenneth Feld, CEO of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, it must be hard to resist that feeling.  In it's almost always interesting Corner Office series, the New York Times ran an interview with Feld on what he's learned from leading the Greatest Show on Earth.

The interview itself is worth five minutes of your time.  In the meantime, here are some of the leadership lessons Feld has learned that stuck with me:

How To Tick Off Your Peers

by on October 22, 2010 9:30am
in The Next Level

Want to give a big shout to fellow blogger Mary Jo Asmus who's featuring my post, "Why Your Peers Can't Stand Working With You," on her Aspire-CS blog. Here are three reasons why you should head on over to Mary Jo's blog and check out the post and what else is there:

  1. Mary Jo is a terrific writer, thinker and coach with a wonderful humanistic approach to leadership issues.

  2. The post on peers cites exclusive research on what annoys peers about their high potential leader colleagues.  Could be valuable information to you or someone you know!

  3. If you leave a thoughtful comment, you'll be in the running to win a copy of the new second edition of my book,  The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success, 2nd Edition

My guest blogger tour continues today with a post on the thoughtLeaders blog. If you're looking for practical, straight talk on leadership, the blog written by Mike Figliuolo is for you. In conjunction with the launch of the second edition of The Next Level, Mike is graciously running a post from me on one of my favorite topics, Five Changes Go-To People Must Make to Keep Going.

Please take a moment to check it out and, while you're there, subscribe to Mike's blog.

If you're looking for new content from me today, head on over to where I'm guest posting today on Three Common Mistakes That Leaders Make (and How to Avoid Them).

Michael is the CEO and President of Thomas Nelson Publishing and has a fantastic following as one of the best leadership bloggers around. I'm very grateful for the opportunity to reach his readers directly. Thanks Michael!

If you'll head over to his blog and leave a comment on my post, you'll be entered in a drawing to win one of 100 copies of the new second edition of my book, The Next Level. Hope you enjoy the post and Mike's blog.

This week’s installment of the Video Book Club can’t hit any closer to home for me. Today, October 19, is the official publication date of the second edition of my book, The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success

With thanks for indulging me for three minutes, in this video clip I want to share with you (and show you) some of the new features in the second edition. It builds on everything that my clients and readers have told me they like about the first edition and, among other things, adds some fresh executive insights, field tested coaching tips and highlights of the specific behaviors that rising leaders need to master.

I think you’ll like the new edition of The Next Level and hope you’ll check it out. It’s available now on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and wherever books are sold.

Here’s more info on what’s new in the second edition:

Whistle1 One of the new features in the second edition of The Next Level is a series of sidebars called Coachable Moments. Each of these Moments offers a context specific, road tested coaching tip that you can use to increase your leadership effectiveness or that of leaders you’re coaching.

One of my favorite Coachable Moments from the chapter on picking up defining what to do and letting go of telling how to do it is one I call the 20/80 Analysis. Here’s how it works:

When I was a kid, my mom let me stay home from school the day that the astronauts of Apollo 13 came back to Earth after their spacecraft suffered an explosion on the way to the moon. Like millions of others around the world, we anxiously watched the TV waiting to see if the capsule would survive the reentry through the atmosphere. I remember I cried when the camera caught the first glimpse of the chutes on the command module opening and the crew members made radio contact with mission control as they floated down to the ocean recovery zone.

Chile5 Watching live coverage of the rescue of the Chilean mine workers over the past two days stirred those memories from long ago. It was inspiring to look at the faces of the rescue team members as they embraced one of their comrades before he stepped into the rescue capsule to be lowered into the mine.  And then 20 or 30 minutes later, the cameras underground captured him stepping out of the capsule and into the embraces and handshakes of the miners below. As they saw the scene on the Jumbotron, the crowd gathered above at Camp Hope broke into song and cheers of Chi! Chi! Chi! Le! Le! Le!  About the only thing that gets any better than that was seeing the miners emerge on the surface over the next 24 hours with amazing health and vigor to greet their loved ones, their rescuers and Chile’s president.

Last month, I wrote a post on What We Can Learn About Leadership from the Chilean Miners. The complete success of the rescue effort bears out how important it was for the miners to lead themselves and each other to survive so well underground for 70 days. Much like the astronauts of Apollo 13, they showed grace and calm under pressure, maintained their discipline, drew on their training and supported each other to get through a crisis. And, as was the case with the astronauts, the miners could not have made it safely home without the efforts, talents and leadership of thousands of others. There are leadership lessons to learn from the rescuers as well. Here are some of the ones I’m taking away:

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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