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.”
We were talking about the importance of taking the time to call out what you want the next generation to learn. That’s a key role for both parents and leaders. That’s one of the points I was trying to make in my post earlier this week about world-renowned chef Thomas Keller training the next generation of chefs in the kitchen of his Napa Valley restaurant, The French Laundry. Our conversation reminded me of a real life situation that happened to me years ago that taught me the value of calling out what needs to be said. I mentioned it to Diane and she said I had never told her the story. I couldn’t believe that because it’s one of my favorite stories. I told her the story and she loved it. So, I’ll share it with you too. Maybe you’ll love it.
Here’s the challenge I see for staff leaders. Rightly or wrongly, most line leaders feel like what they do is way more important than what the staff leaders do. As a result, they often don’t have a lot of patience with the different initiatives or requirements promoted by staff leaders. One result is a disconnect between the line and the staff. Lots of time and effort is spent on initiatives that don’t get a lot of traction because the line leaders don’t value them and spend as little time as possible on them. So the result of that for staff leaders is that their roles and internal brand become diminished and they don’t make the contributions they could or should.
One of my mentors, Dave Ulrich, summed up the solution to this dilemma in a simple mathematical statement years ago:
D > d
You may not think that an entire book about checklists could possibly be interesting, but surgeon Atul Gawande pulls it off in The Checklist Manifesto. A skilled and engaging story teller, Gawande uses examples from medicine, aviation, finance, cooking, construction and other industries to explain how checklists raise performance in complex situations. Since so much of what we do today involves a series of complex steps, knowing how to construct and use a checklist is a good skill to have.
The FT article focused on a couple of young chefs who are in the midst of three month stints in the kitchen of The French Laundry. Both of these guys are accomplished in their own rights and one of them comes from a family of French chefs that owns a Michelin three star restaurant of its own. They’re no slouches themselves and, yet, they take three months off to apprentice alongside Keller and the rest of his team.
The Wine Spectator ran a special issue on Keller last month and part of the package was a two page spread on the dozens of great chefs around the world who have trained with him. Along with creating great food, Keller is clearly passionate about building a legacy of talent that will carry on long after he’s hung up his apron. How is he teaching this next generation? Here are a few things I learned from the FT article on his apprenticeship program that could apply to just about any leader who wants to build a legacy for the future:
There are some results in the DDI/IED study that seem to line up with the conclusion I’m drawing from my interviews. The study authors surveyed a wide range of global executives and development professionals who support them. One of the questions in the survey was, “What unique skills make for an exceptional global executive?” Here are the five skills that the global executives themselves think are most important:
So, it was with the Prada movie in mind that I read an article in the New Yorker last night on a web site called Polyvore. The simplest way to describe Polyvore is that it’s an online destination for over 6 million visitors a month to cut and paste clothes they see elsewhere online into sets of items that they think look good together. As someone in the article said, it’s like the cyber version of playing with paper dolls.
For me, the article was interesting because of the larger implications it held for leaders in the digital age. Not to oversimplify, but it seems like the command and control leadership style exhibited by Streep/Wintour in the Prada movie is a relic of the analog age. The people behind Polyvore seem to have figured out what it takes to engage and lead people in the digital age. Here are a few of the ways I think they’re doing it:
In this week’s Video Book Club, I share a couple of my favorite lessons from my dog eared, marked up copy of Managing Transitions.
That got me thinking about how the tournament has gone this year and a broader lesson about talent management. For the most part, the teams that have made it to the Final Four or who exceeded expectations earlier in the tournament have top scorers who are more experienced players. Take a look at the Final Four. The top three scorers for both Duke and Michigan State are two juniors and a senior. For WVU, it’s a senior and two sophomores. For Butler, it’s a junior and two sophomores. When you look at the stats for the two big Cinderellas of the tournament, Cornell and Northern Iowa, there are five seniors and one junior making up the top trios of those teams. In contrast, Kentucky’s top three was made up of two freshmen and a junior.
The point I’m trying to make is that great teams need time and experience to gel. So, with that in mind, here’s a quick list of talent management lessons that can help keep your team from being “one and done.”
Webber offers 52 Rules of Thumb for life in his book. I’ve reviewed the list several times now and thought I’d share my five favorite (or 9.62%) of Webber’s 52 rules. Here they are: