A bit of splashing would surely make drowning easier to identify, but sadly, drowning tends to be a silent assassin. As retired Coast Guard Aviation Survival Technician Mario Vittone (2013) shares, "Sometimes the most common indication that someone is drowning is that they don't look like they're drowning." The same could be said for massive organizations who collapse like an avalanche, hiding their danger until one additional stress unleashes destruction. But, such collapses also tend to be masked - and they tend to be masked in the same way that drowning conceals itself. This would seem contrary to intuitive assumptions about staving off death. Vittone and Pia (2006) voice our expectation:
Most people assume that a drowning person will splash, yell, and wave for help; and why wouldn’t they? That’s what we see on television. Without training, we are conditioned first to think of drowning as a violent struggle that is noisy and physical. It is not.
Instead, the expert survivalists share what generally takes place. Instinctive Drowning Response represents a person's attempts to avoid the actual or perceived suffocation in the water. The suffocation in water triggers a constellation of autonomic nervous system responses that result in external, unlearned, instinctive drowning movements that are easily recognizable by trained rescue crews.
The struggle is not one of rational thinking about what is the most thoughtful means of communicating the need for help; rather, the body’s automatic survival mechanisms kick in, often inhibiting secondary response systems, like speech or flagging which unnecessarily utilize energy and oxygen for communicating need or concerns.
Organizations, too, have analogous systems of automatic response to life-threatening circumstances. And, those responses, like cost-cutting efficiency measures can be effective in the extremely short-term to keep the books balanced and creditors appeased. But, drowning is often the result of an incapability to peacefully and continually engage the present. This is why the one drowning strains to stay afloat with minimal exaggeration while sucking in watery breaths. Eventually, however, such measures fail. And, if someone does not save them, then they die.
Aiming for icebergs is a choice
But organizations are not destined to drown. They “go under,” because leaders lack the strategy capable of engaging the present. That is not to say the strategy is poor. It could be an imminently logical and thoughtful approach to achieve organizational goals. But, it could be a strategy that could not foresee the present context, and therefore operates under assumptions no longer tenable. Consider the drowning victim’s automatic response: struggling to remain “above” by pressing down on what lay below works when the objects pressed upon are solid, but when the medium is liquid, the result is a cyclical bouncing which actually works against the victim. So what is an organization to do if even quality strategy development can fail? The answer is to develop a strategic foresight competency.
No one working in your organization can foretell the future. And, you will not be hiring such a prodigy anytime soon. Still, that does not prohibit you from preparing for it better. And, if an unpredictable future can upend your plans and purposes so easily, then any improvement would seemingly be worth pursuing, especially if the improvement were to be a process competency enhancing the organization’s strategy work rather than a time-bound idea or assumption-restricted strategic plan. Essentially, this means strategic plans are only as valuable as the assumptions they are based on are true. Assumptions, which must be accurately predictive or flexible enough to qualify the plan, underpin strategy making, and strategic foresight is the competency that aids the organization in confirming, disconfirming, hybridizing, and generating assumptions. It is the work of enriching the strategy making process so that what results is more resilient to environmental changes. Alternatively, it heals strategy of its brittleness. As a result, strategy making is more robust and resultant strategies more adaptive and savvy. To illustrate the process, consider the following reasoning, which is not a prediction, but rather is an example of how foresight work might look in leading strategy formation.
When Facebook died: A marketing mockup
User tracking data seems to point toward Facebook’s loss of users and bloated registries (Canarella, 2014; Marks, 2013). Like population trends, signups occur, but they are less impactful than deactivation – especially for the company’s bottom-line, which is inherently tied up in sheer user population mass to which advertisements, desktop and mobile app, are pushed and from which user data is pulled. Of course, a different strategy could change the impact of user-numbers on that bottom-line (Edwards, 2014). Yet, with the loss of perceived invulnerability, that unbridled optimism for growth prospects, comes the loss of momentum. Surely, the pendulum of biases could lead onlookers to assume that geometric growth is only succeeded by geometric decline, but that would be narrow-minded. Arithmetic growth, a cyclical hybrid, cycles of growth and decline – like booms and busts – could also occur, among other possibilities (Risen, 2014). Assuming rigidly makes the strategic planning simpler, but it makes the strategic plan less flexible – and therefore less useful. In Facebook’s case, to assume the organization is rigidly stuck in a position of imminent and unalterable demise, would be to assume their strategic plan is rigid and could not anticipate for loss, like in the instances of younger-user interest or user disillusionment with the platform’s commercialization.
Supposing, however, that Facebook could be entering long-term decline as a potential future, how could that foresight consideration be leveraged as a strategic tool? Perhaps the marketing department in your organization has a social media presence. Perhaps they utilize Facebook promotion posts and analytic tools to gain understanding of your market segments. If Facebook is in decline, then how useful will that platform be for such marketing activities, for customer analysis, and for cultivating a strong marketing competency long-term? It would seem less useful than when Facebook, as a platform, presented an untouchable tool for social connections and user-information divulgence. In the medium-term, that horizon to which strategic planning looks, might the marketing department, therefore, contemplate shifting reliance upon Facebook to other platforms – as well as reestablishing marketing functions that are less platform reliant? And, in the short-term horizon, the department may respond by budgeting less heavily for Facebook ads placement and Page development. Furthermore, they might consider training in the use of competitive platforms as well as explore opportunities to transition their fans from Facebook to a proprietary website or blog.
The above mockup of the way in which a single, confirming trend could affect a major social platform that is heavily leveraged by many companies’ marketing departments is a sample of how foresight can be strategically applied for organizational enrichment. Simply, this is what strategic foresight does, and why, as a competency, it enables organizations to remain adaptable amid uncertain futures. For the marketing department that uses Facebook as a key social media marketing platform, such foresight could be leveraged to gain the insight that putting all the marketing hopes in the Facebook basket may not be the wisest path forward. Moreover, Facebook’s adaptive planning may be less concerned with ensuring other organizations have access to the greatest number of customers than assumed.
Learning to swim
To reassert our starting point, drowning often occurs without radically successful survival efforts ever emerging. In moments of panic, we tend to hold fast to our assumptions rather than revisit them. Frankly, in the throes of death, all we can do is struggle and hope for rescue, unless, of course, we have prepared for the emergency. Critical emergency training is akin to that strategy work directing how to manage defined contexts. And, strategic foresight, therefore, is the overarching wisdom that emergencies happen, and training is a useful manner of preparing for them. You see, useful strategy work arises from foresight work, from the realistic and humble assumption that contingency thinking is reasonable. Assuming the future your strategy is built for is the future your strategy will undoubtedly face, however, is not.
About the Author:
David M. Stehlik is a passionate strategist and organizational motivator. Alongside private consulting, he is an instructor for the University of Saint Francis’s new online MBA program. He earned a BA in Political Economy and Christian Studies from Hillsdale College and an MBA in International Business, Marketing, and Administration from the University of Saint Francis, and he is currently finishing a doctoral degree in Strategic Leadership from Regent University. His international experience is extensive, including travel through Africa, South America, and Southeastern Europe. Beyond the U.S., he has consulted for leaders in Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania, and Serbia as well as for Midwest businesses, youth camps, and various entrepreneurs.
*Image courtesy of Koratmember / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Cannarella, J., & Spechler, J. A. (2014, January 17). Epidemiological modeling of online social network dynamics. In arXiv. Retrieved May 19, 2014, from http://arxiv.org/pdf/1401.4208v1.pdf
Edwards, J. (2014, April 29). This is what the decline of Facebook looks like. In Business Insider. Retrieved May 19, 2014, from http://www.businessinsider.com/decline-of-facebook-user-numbers-2014-4
Marks, G. (2013, August 19). Why Facebook is in decline. In Forbes. Retrieved May 19, 2014, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/quickerbettertech/2013/08/19/why-facebook-is-in-decline/
Risen, T. (2014, January 27). Don't predict Facebook's decline yet: Facebook should pursue growth despite overhyped Princeton research. . In USA News & World Report. Retrieved May 19, 2014, from http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2014/01/27/dont-predict-facebooks-decline-yet
Vittone, M. (2013, June 4). Drowning doesn't look like drowning. In Slate: Snapshots of life at home. Retrieved May 19, 2014, from http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/family/2013/06/rescuing_drowning_children_how_to_know_when_someone_is_in_trouble_in_the.html
Vittone, M., & Pia, F. A. (2006). “It doesn’t look like they’re drowning” - Recognize instinctive drowning response. On Scene, 14. Retrieved May 19, 2014, from http://www.uscg.mil/hq/cg5/cg534/On%20Scene/OSFall06.pdf
Deadly assumptions: Cultivating strategic foresight while there is still time
A bit of splashing would surely make drowning easier to identify, but sadly, drowning tends to be a silent assassin. As retired Coast Guard Aviation Survival Technician Mario Vittone (2013) shares, “Sometimes the most common indication that someone is drowning is that they don’t look like they’re drowning.” The same could be said for massive organizations who collapse like an avalanche, hiding their danger until one additional stress unleashes destruction. But, such collapses also tend to be masked – and they tend to be masked in the same way that drowning conceals itself. Read More >David Stehlik Articles
Engagement. It’s the new business buzzword. It just sounds good coming off the tip of your tongue. What is it? Well, there are a lot of different interpretations of the definition of engagement, but there is one thing that most everyone agrees with: it’s a problem. While people may be struggling to figure out what the best definition of ‘engaged’ is, more people agree on what an actively disengaged employee is. According to Gallup Poll, an actively disengaged employee is, “unhappy and unproductive at work and liable to spread negativity to coworkers.” (Gallup) According to Gallup Poll results released for 2012, 24% of workers worldwide are actively disengaged. With statistics like that, it’s no wonder executives are scrambling to try and fix the engagement problem.
One common method to identify why employees are disengaged is to take a survey. Gallup Poll and other companies will happily take a company’s money to perform this service. However, I would propose to you that there are several potential flaws with this approach. First, by the time most executives get to the point of paying another company to perform a survey, they already know they have a problem. Second, performing a survey once may identify areas within the company that could be strengthened, but to see if a company is making any progress, the survey must be run over multiple years. Third, are the engagement plans. Once weak areas have been identified, management has to try and fix the problem. So they work with their employees to create engagement plans. This is where I have to take a pause. According to the National Business Research Institute, one of the most common employee complaints is being overworked (NBRII). If one of the causes of employee disengagement is overwork, then how is giving them more work in the form of engagement plans supposed to help fix things? This sure sounds like the catchphrase, “The beatings will continue until morale improves.” Next, there is a very tempting trap for managers to fall into, and that is improving scores instead of digging down into the true heart of the difficult issues that are the cause of poor engagement. Let’s face it, educating an employee on how to take the poll to increase their score is a whole lot easier of a way to show that you are making progress on engagement on paper.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that engagement polls are necessarily a bad thing. I will say that I think the expectations of many senior executive leadership are too high when it comes to these surveys. The Gallup Poll has been conducting engagement surveys for over 30 years. Many of the companies that are just now taking their survey for the first time have also been in business for that long or longer. How is the culture of a business, which is shaped and fostered by the executive leadership style over decades, supposed to change in just a couple years? Sure, executives are part of Gallup’s survey, but if they weren’t 100% engaged with their company’s business strategies, then they would have never made it to the positions they are in. The more senior the executive, the higher they tend to score. Scores begin to deteriorate the farther down the management chain you go, until finally you reach the employees, where it appears all of the engagement issues are occurring. The reality is the motivation of the executives giving the survey is not focused on the well-being of the employees. So if executives are engaged, and year after year we continue to see employees disengaged, maybe it’s time to change our focus.
Let’s start by looking at the executives who run the companies with the highest engagement scores. Stephen Cannon is the CEO for Mercedes Benz, who was ranked 94th in Forbes best 100 companies to work for this year. Stephen states, “We’ve been investing in programs to allow our leaders to create great places for our employees to work. Great organizations are all about people.” (Linkedin) In an interview with Paul Amos, CEO of Aflac, he discussed his basic employee principles in the Aflac Way handbook. “Everyone is important. No matter who walks through the door, whether it’s the man in overalls or a straw hat or the man in a $500 suit, everyone is treated equally.” (Faith&Leadership) Aflac is number 58 on Fortune’s top 100 companies to work for this year, and they have been on the list for the last 16 consecutive years. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos and number 38 in this year’s Fortune list states the following: “It actually doesn’t matter what your core values are.” “What matters is that you have them and commit to them. And by committing to them, you’re willing to hire or fire based on them independent of actual job performance.” (Greatplacetowork) Last, Larry Page, CEO of Google and Fortune’s number one business to work for states the following; “My job as a leader is to make sure everybody in the company has great opportunities, and that they feel they’re having a meaningful impact and are contributing to the good of society.” (Fortune)
What’s the common theme from these executives of Fortune’s top 100 companies to work for, over and over again? People and core values. It’s no secret that business are in business to make money and increase shareholder value, but it’s how a business makes its money that effects employee engagement. If the employees of a company are treated as just a tool to increase stockholder value and like they are easily replaceable, then of course they will be disengaged. The bottom line is that it’s about trust; it’s about a culture that puts the employee and customer needs as the top business priority and it all starts from the top of a business, down. Employees need to have trust in their organizations to perform at their best, and CEO’s have to work on that trust from the top. If companies truly want to become great places to work, then they have to focus on their employees and their employee’s needs. Trust comes into play because a lot of what the employees need may seem counterproductive to increasing shareholder’s wealth. Better pay, more recognition, a balanced family-work life, flexible hours, are all things that can contribute to better engagement, but might hurt the bottom line of a company on paper.
By the time a company gets to the point of taking a survey, chances are they recognize that there is already a problem and that the current way of doing business just isn’t cutting it. This is when executive leadership engagement comes into play. I propose that the mission statement of a business is the place to start. This is nothing new or earth shattering, but it’s where I feel executives can get huge results from their company while maintaining a loyal workforce. Does the mission of the company have more of an employee and customer focus than money? If not, then maybe it’s time for a change. If it does, then maybe the business has strayed away from its core mission over the years and forgotten how important the employees are to that mission. How do CEO’s and executives learn what matters most to their employees? A survey might give them some clues, but are often expensive and time consuming. I propose that good old fashioned face-time is the best method. Take an interest in their well-being, and find out what would motivate them. It’s already been shown by many businesses who repeatedly made the top 100 places to work list that it can be done, and the results can be amazing. Take the leap of faith, together as executives and employees as one company and see what the results of true engagement can do.
*image courtesy of imagerymajestic/freedigitalphotos.net
Worldwide, 13% of Employees Are Engaged at Work. Retrieved from
10 Things employees dislike most about their employers. Retrieved from
Mercedes-Benz CEO: Customer Experience is the Brand!! Retrieved from
Paul S. Amos: This is not who we are. Retrieved from
How Zappos Creates Happy Customers and Employees. Retrieved from
Larry Page: Google should be like a family. Retrieved from
“Forget About Employee Engagement, Let’s Talk Executive Engagement”
Engagement. It’s the new business buzzword. It just sounds good coming off the tip of your tongue. What is it? Well, there are a lot of different interpretations of the definition of engagement, but there is one thing that most everyone agrees with: it’s a problem. While people may be struggling to figure out what the best definition of ‘engaged’ is, more people agree on what an actively disengaged employee is. According to Gallup Poll, an actively disengaged employee is, “unhappy and unproductive at work and liable to spread negativity to coworkers.” Read More >Steven Madison Articles
Congratulations! You have just been promoted to a top leadership position in your organization. You have over 3,000 people working for you in four different states. Your budget is in excess of $25 million. Good luck, and remember, don’t screw this up.
You didn’t get to this position because you’ve been a slacker – you’re a proven leader and experienced manager. It feels good at the top, as they say, and you’re excited to start making things happen! The amazing acceleration of technology and globalization sets a scene ripe for new opportunities and growth. You know in order to flourish and grow an organization needs creativity and innovation. How many organizations have you seen be marginalized or even fail as a result of stifling change or new ideas?
A large part of your past success has been your natural encouragement of new concepts and your ability to drive fear out of your organization. Like preparing a garden for the seeds, you set conditions for creativity to thrive. Things are a little different now, though. You have people who work for you that you have never met, some are even located hundreds of miles away. There are several layers of management between you and those employees who are in contact with the customer on a day-to-day basis. You know most of your middle managers are solid leaders but you are wise enough to know some may, knowingly or unknowingly, be placing barriers up which block creativity and innovation. Can your passion for encouraging creativity and innovation successfully permeate down through the layers of management? Will ideas and recommendations be able to percolate up to your level?
This article will examine some methods top leaders can use to help free an organization of destructive barriers to creativity and innovation. Organizational design expert Jay Galbraith’s Star Model will be used to provide a practical framework helping to ensure no major areas are left out. The Star Model is designed with five points; strategy, people, structure, processes, and rewards. The key point of the model is strategy as it drives the overall organization. If the other four points of the star don’t align or support the strategy, chances for organizational success are greatly reduced. Galbraith puts it this way, “if a company chooses a structure and a set of management processes that require integration across countries, it must also select and develop people who have cross-cultural skills, as well as a reward system that motivates them.”
“Creativity without strategy is called art” - Jeff I. Richards
Some may argue that strategies may restrict innovation and creativity rather than encourage it. However, if innovation and creativity are an inherent part of the strategy employees will be encouraged to contribute their ideas and middle managers will be less likely to block them. McCrae (2014) suggests successful business strategies should include research, creativity, and strategic planning during their development. Once developed, it should influence the behavior of everyone in the organization to positively contribute to that strategy. In order for this to happen, the other four points of the star model must support the strategy. It cannot succeed if there are hidden barriers which prevent employees with ideas to bring them to the attention of leaders. Let’s say, for example, your strategy is to expand your business into additional states or countries. Do your personnel policies encourage those employees who are face-to-face with the customer to provide suggestions and feedback? How can you be sure there is not a middle manager whose tyrannical ways discourage lower level employees from contributing ideas? Top leaders must actively look for barriers which block creativity, dismantle them, and make innovation part of a holistic management system. By carefully considering the overall strategy and how the other four points of the Star Model support that strategy, barriers to creativity and innovation can be identified and appropriately addressed.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more,
do more and become more, you are a leader." – John Quincy Adams
Everyone is on their toes when a new top leader comes into an organization. “What will he or she be like,” “what changes will occur,” and “are jobs secure” are just a few among many of the questions employees will have. When a new leader takes over a military command, there is a formal change of command ceremony which all personnel attend. Here, leaders can put out their vision and what is important to them. New civilian leaders should arrange for a similar opportunity to address all employees in person. A clear, well-articulated vision which includes a strong belief in people, participation, innovation, fairness, security, and learning will go far in warding off fear and organizational politics (Tushman & O’Reilly, 2002, p. 49). Letting everyone know what you stand for, what will not be tolerated, your vision for the future of the organization, and the important role of all employees to get there will set the stage for the growth of creativity and innovation at all organizational levels. Reiterating that vision at every opportunity will promote a more consistent relationship between the leader and all employees (p. 49). By letting all employees hear it from the horse’s mouth, as they say, middle managers are less likely to put their own spin on your vision.
Leaders must create a culture of trust which encourages people to try new ideas without a fear of what may happen if the idea bombs. An organization’s capacity for innovation increases if it can tolerate failure and accept change. Once again, this must come from the top. Even if middle managers encourage employees to innovate and try new ideas, they will be hesitant to do so if don’t feel the top leadership supports it.
There will be times when a new leader will find there are people in management or other positions whose actions do not support the organizational vision or strategies. Dr. Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcast Network, notes good leaders may have to remove some people and “in most cases, it is kinder to terminate people who are not performing adequately than to let them continue as deadweight, dragging down the organization as well as themselves.”
“The pyramids are solidly built, have a nice view from the top,
and serve as a resting place for the dead.”
– Gerald Michaelson
Existing organizational structures should be examined to determine how they support the strategy. If creativity and innovation are important to the strategy, organizational structure expert Sabina Jeschke recommends an organic structure. This type of structure veers away from an ivory tower makeup instead leaning towards minimal hierarchical and bureaucratic tendencies and a strong focus on quality. Cooperation between departments or divisions is frequent and friendly and there is “an interactive, communication-friendly corporate culture.”
Google, Inc. is an example of a successful company with an organic organizational structure with minimal hierarchy. Communications are strong throughout the organization and the work is organized by projects, allowing different employees to take the lead on different projects. Each team is responsible for self-organizing, deciding how to accomplish the goals, and identifying and fixing problems. Perhaps the most unusual feature of Google’s organizational structure is it not only permits flexibility in hours and workplace, it encourages new ideas and experimentation by allowing employees to use 20% of their work time on self-directed projects. The organic organizational structure Google, Inc. uses directly supports their corporate strategy of using innovation and new acquisitions in order to support their position as the market leader.
On the other hand, an organization which has many levels of management and is highly bureaucratic will have difficulty promoting innovation and creativity from below. This type of organization provides fertile ground for all kinds of barriers to grow in and is usually resistant to risk-taking. Lower- and middle-level managers may retain strict control over their areas, blocking employees from expressing or trying new ideas. Top leaders need to understand how different organizational structures can create barriers and, using this understanding, examine if the current structure will support their organizational strategy.
“The only things that evolve by themselves in an organization are disorder,
friction, and malperforformance" – Peter Drucker
Processes within an organization consist of a set of activities performed by employees which result in a desired outcome. These processes are guided by organizational norms, regulations, policies, and procedures. There are two types of processes that are important when considering barriers to creativity and innovation; business processes and administrative processes.
Employees normally follow the steps outlined in the process workflow in order to accomplish the desired outcome. Many leaders are familiar with Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s famous advice to reduce variation in business processes in order to increase quality. However, if these processes are not properly developed, they can easily crush employee’s creativity. An impressive example of encouraging ingenuity is the U.S. Navy’s Beneficial Suggestion Program. The Navy is by nature hierarchical and bureaucratic and most processes are tightly controlled leaving little room for innovation. The BeneSug Program, as is it called, provides a forum and encourages military and civil service members to submit suggestions to reduce costs. Those personnel whose ideas, inventions, or scientific achievements are accepted receive a hefty cash award. Millions are saved annually through this popular program. If not already in place, implementing a similar program in a large organization can facilitate bringing innovative ideas to the attention of top leaders.
Another way to increase creativity within business processes is to periodically examine them in an effort to see how they can be improved and to ensure they are properly aligned with other processes and the overall strategy. This kind of review should involve all stakeholders including lower level employees working in the process and suppliers. A few years ago, Hallmark Cards reviewed their process of card production. After their artists, writers, and editors examined the process they recommended complete restructuring. Instead of these three groups working separately, they suggested reorganizing as cross-functional teams which would focus on a certain kind of card (i.e. Mother’s Day, birthday, etc.). By encouraging creativity in examining the process, Hallmark increased performance and to reduced production time of a new card from years to months.
Most people don’t like paperwork but it is important to have organizational policies in writing. If not already in place, clear directives on equal opportunity, sexual harassment, and bullying should be developed along with a credible process to be followed if an issue occurs. This type of destructive behavior can be easily hid if top leadership does not take a strong stand. Discrimination, harassment, and bullying not only crush creativity and hurt the victim, they take an enormous toll on the bottom line as well. The estimated costs to companies range from $64 billion reported by CBS Moneywatch to $200 billion reported by Psychology Today. These estimates include the costs of excessive absenteeism, reduced productivity, reduced loyalty, workers compensation, high turnover, and associated hiring and training costs. What is harder to estimate is the cost of the barriers which these behaviors have on creativity and innovation. Top leaders must verbally express their commitment to a working environment free of any type of discrimination or harassment and ensure all personnel are educated on their rights. You cannot assume everyone has the same understanding of what behavior is acceptable or unacceptable, or what fairness means unless it is made perfectly clear. The processes to address incidents must be unambiguous, trustworthy, and have the clear backing of top leadership. Processes for redress which are not fairly enforced and credible can be hijacked by unscrupulous managers and result in continued organizational losses.
“The most neglected form of compensation is the six-letter word thanks."
– Robert Townsend
It is no surprise what gets rewarded or recognized gets repeated. If you want creativity and innovation to thrive in your organization, your rewards system must align with that strategy. A reward system should have both monetary and non-monetary components. There has been much discussion over the years about how much money really motivates people after their basic needs are met. However, most agree that receiving less compensation than others doing the same job is a definite de-motivator. An unfair and unaligned compensation system can be a barrier to creativity and innovation as people feel they are not valued. Discouraged employees are not as likely to come up with new ideas or to voice them. A consistent monetary rewards system helps to prevent one manager from playing favorites or usurping the system.
Thomas Jefferson one said, “The glow of one warm thought is worth more to me than money.” Recognition is an inexpensive and simple way to motivate people. One-on-one “thanks,” newsletter highlights, t-shirts, mugs, etc. can go far to encourage and motivate. Once again, the key is ensuring the recognition is properly aligned with the strategy. If the strategy is encouraging innovation and creativity, then all sincere attempts should be recognized whether they are successful or not. Grey Advertising does this with their “heroic failure” awards while Yum Brands awards a “rubber chicken” to those willing to step out and innovate even if their efforts are not successful. As with other components of the Star Model, top leaders have to set the stage for the whole organization. It is critical that middle managers understand the importance of providing recognition and that any perceived “punishment” of failures can put a chill on creativity and innovation.
“Trust, but verify” -Ronald Reagan
You feel good celebrating your one year anniversary with your new organization. Using the Star Model, you compared your strategy with the other points of the star and made adjustments as appropriate. Processes and policies have been put into place which you believe have banished those barriers which blocked your employee’s creativity and innovation. You have shaped and created a healthy work environment where people are free to contribute to their full potential unimpeded by discrimination, harassment, or bullying. New ideas and risk-taking are encouraged at all levels. At least you think so…but every now and then you hear a little nagging voice asking if the points of the star are really aligned? How do you know what you don’t know?
You may want to take a tip from the U.S. Navy. Over forty Navy officers or senior enlisted personnel were fired from their leadership positions in 2012 for not upholding the Navy’s core values. Almost all of these cases came to light through an annual anonymous command climate survey or hotline complaint. A work climate survey provides feedback on the organization’s work environment which influences employee’s behavior and their ability to do a job. How much effort and money could the Navy have lost if they did not have these safeguards in place? Many civilian businesses are implementing similar surveys to identify negative attitudes and behaviors which create barriers and negatively impact work performance. Other methods of determining employees concerns include hotlines, 360 degree evaluations, town halls, focus groups, and leader “walk-arounds.” Having some of these safeguards in place can help quiet that little voice!
Barriers to creativity and innovation in large organizations can fester in many areas not obvious to top leadership. The Star Model provides an organizational framework from which to examine various areas where barriers may be lurking. If your strategy is to encourage creativity and innovation, the other points of the star must be aligned properly to support that strategy. First, the right people need to be in place to convey the vision and strategy and set the conditions which encourages new ideas and risk-taking. Bureaucratic and hierarchal organizational structures support the creation and maintenance of barriers and should be avoided. Processes should be in place which encourage sharing of information and provide for a healthy working environment. Lastly, your reward system must be designed to encourage the behavior you want and have both a monetary and non-monetary component. How many barriers to creativity and innovation will you be able to knock down by following this shooting star?
*image courtesy of PinkBlue/freedigitalphots.net
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Krogh, G., Ichijo, K., & Nonaka, I., (2000). Enabling knowledge creation: How to unlock the mystery of tacit knowledge and release the power of innovation. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
McDonnell, J. (2013). A strategic conversation with Dr. Pat Robertson. Journal of Strategic Leadership, 4(2), Spring 2013, 26-34.
Weber, S. (2008). Organizational behavior: Google corporate culture in perspective. München: GRIN Verlag GmbH.
Weske, M. (2007). Business process management: Concepts, languages, architectures. Berlin, Germany: Springer.
Williams, R. (2011, May 11). The silent epidemic: Workplace bullying. Psychology Today, Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201105/the-silent-epidemic-workplace-bullying
 Galbraith, J. (2000). Designing the global corporation. (pp. 9-10) San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
 Krogh, G., Ichijo, K., & Nonaka, I., (2000). Enabling knowledge creation: How to unlock the mystery of tacit knowledge and release the power of innovation. (p. 248). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
 Badal, S. (2012, September 25). Building corporate entrepreneurship is hard work. Gallup Business Journal. Retrieved August 26, 2014.
 McDonnell, J. (2013). A strategic conversation with Dr. Pat Robertson. Journal of Strategic Leadership, 4(2), Spring 2013, 26-34.
 Jeschke, S. (2011). Enabling innovation innovative capability - German and international views. (p. 39). Heidelberg, Germany: Springer.
 Ibid. (p. 39).
 Ibid. (p. 39).
 Weber, S. (2008). Organizational behavior: Google corporate culture in perspective (p. 5). München: GRIN Verlag GmbH.
 Ibid. (p. 5).
 Ibid. (p. 5).
 Ibid. (p. 3).
 Ibid. (p. 3).
 Weske, M. (2007). Business process management concepts, languages, architectures (p. 5). Berlin, Germany: Springer.
 Ibid. (p. 6).
 Cash Awards for suggestions, inventions, scientific achievements, and disclosures. (2007, April 26). Retrieved August 27, 2014, from http://doni.daps.dla.mil/Directives/01000 Military Personnel Support/01-600 Performance and Discipline Programs/1650.8D.pdf
 Hill, C., & Jones, G. (2013). Strategic management: An integrated approach (10th ed., p. 452). Mason, OH: South-Western, Cengage Learning.
 Holland, C. (2008, October 27). The costs of the workplace bully. CBS Moneywatch. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505125_162-30940457/the-costs-of-the-workplace-bully/
 Williams, R. (2011, May 11). The silent epidemic: Workplace bullying. Psychology Today, Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201105/the-silent-epidemic-workplace-bullying
 Clemmer, J. (1992). Firing on all cylinders. (p. 226). New York, NY: Irwin Professional Publishing.
 Ibid. (p. 229).
 Ibid. (p. 231).
 Carone, C. (2013, September 12). Want to Inspire Innovation? Reward Risk Takers. Forbes. Retrieved August 28, 2014, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/christacarone/2013/09/12/rewardrisktakers/
 Commanding officer, XO and senior enlisted firings. (2013, February 13). Navy Times. Retrieved from http://www.navytimes.com/article/99999999/CAREERS/302050309/Commanding-officer-XO-senior-enlisted-firings
 Johnston, J., Bradley, P., Charbonneau, D., & Campbell, S. (2003). The Army culture - climate survey. Informally published manuscript, Royal Military College of Canada, Brussels. Retrieved from http://www.iamps.org/10_Johnston_paper_IAMPS_2003.pdf
 Ibid. (p. 2).
Author Bio: Captain Jeanne McDonnell (ret.) served on active duty for over 25 years. Assignments included command of Naval Support Activity Norfolk and Transient Personnel Unit Norfolk, and service on the Joint Staff, the Navy Staff, Commander Surface Warfare Atlantic Staff, and Joint Forces Staff College. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in Strategic Leadership at Regent University.
What is Crushing Creativity in Your Organization?
Congratulations! You have just been promoted to a top leadership position in your organization. You have over 3,000 people working for you in four different states. Your budget is in excess of $25 million. Good luck, and remember, don’t screw this up. Read More >Jeanne M. McDonnell Articles
This morning I woke up about 5:45 AM. I couldn’t go back to sleep so I eventually got up and sat down in my favorite upholstered rocking chair. From the strategic position of this beloved chair I can look out our bedroom windows and see directly east.
During much of the year the sunrise is obscured by the growth of deciduous trees that cover much of our property. However, during the late fall and winter this thicket of bare trees stand tall as a lonely testimony of the coming winter. As I peered out the window this morning deep in meditation I was struck by the beautiful glowing hues of orange and pink light as the morning rays of sun peeked over the horizon. Once again I was reminded that each day is a gift.
For thousands of years poets and bards have written about the power and opportunity that exist within each day. Some sage scribes have wisely observed how a single lifetime is aptly portrayed in a single day. The sunrise begins a new day of life as the world comes to celebrate its fresh start through the sounds of birds, stirring insects and waking of mammals. The day continues on as it peaks in mid-day at full strength and full of brilliance. As the day continues to grow old it slowly wanes into a mellow evening. Finally each day ends quietly at sunset with a certain stillness. There are some lessons we can learn about the power of each new day.
We just simply assume that there will be many tomorrows. We sometimes act as if we are entitled to a long life...as if it is owed to us. This is a false assumption because no one has been given the promise of another tomorrow in this world. In western society we don't even like to discuss death. We want to mask its reality with words like "passed away" or "departed" or "no longer with us". We sanitize the prospect of death by sending many of the dying to hospitals and we use modern embalming methods to make the dead seem like they are still alive...only sleeping. But the reality is that life is short and if we receive the gift of another day...only then will we be here tomorrow. Everyday is a precious endowment and each morning, as the first waking consciousness of thought floods into our minds, we should be thankful for the gift of another day of life. Being a religious person, I personally thank my God for this special gift.
The distinctive impact of every day is that it holds the promise of a fresh new start. It provides the opportunity to do something different, start something new, break a bad habit, or establish a good habit. In other words, it gives us the power to choose a new course or direction. So why don’t we typically appreciate this fact and fresh prospect? Why do we continue to do and “choose” the same old things every day, including some that are detrimental to us? The answer lies in our life style. We are culturally programmed to desire comfort and resist change. We often know we should change things and we promise ourselves we will do it someday. The problem is that “someday” seldom comes and eventually we all run out of someday’s. This self-imposed “comfort zone” convinces us that change is always something we can do tomorrow. But, here is an absolute truth…today is a gift, and tomorrow is promised to none of us! Dr. Roger Birkman encourages self-discovery and reminds us that:
“Some people who have become successful at “hiding behind” socialized behavior are reluctant to consider the truth about who they really are. Most people don’t mind dealing with their strengths, but prefer to close their eyes to any possible weaknesses.”
Leaders are “agents of change”, and if change is to occur at all it must begin somewhere and within someone. The role of leadership is to envision a better future and become the change agent that makes this future possible. This is true of business, community or personal life. But it all starts with an individual choice to begin a process of change. It has been said that we must become the change we wish to see. Many businesses have “closed their doors” because its management waited too long to begin meaningful change. Many others have failed because they were so unaccustomed to change they were unable to motivate others to participate in their final attempt toward survival. In a similar vain, many individuals have self-destructed because they waited too long to change their dysfunctional lifestyles or to ask for needed help. What I am getting at here is one simple point! Whatever you need to change in your life, or in your business, the time to do it is now! Tomorrow may be too late and odds are if another tomorrow does come, you will also be unwilling to do it then.
I have the good fortune to teach management classes at Bellevue University. These are college Online courses particularly oriented for working adults. Most of these students have full-time family and career responsibilities. These classes are not easy. The outcome and expectation of these classes is the same as in a traditional classroom environment. To be successful requires a real personal sacrifice and dedication. Why do these individuals with other full-time responsibilities tackle a demanding and difficult one-year accelerated management program? Because a day came in their lives where they realized they needed to make a change. They also realized they needed to do it now! Like most individuals, each one of them could have come up with a dozen legitimate reasons why they couldn’t go back to school and get their college degree. Instead, they choose to make an important investment in themselves and their futures…and to do it now. You really have to commend and admire these change agents.
How about ourselves, and the changes we need to make? There is no time like the present. To fulfill our role as leaders requires us to “seize the moment” and begin the difficult process of change...right now. Problems and difficulties don’t go away or solve themselves by negligence; they tend to only get worst. Now please don’t get the wrong impression from this article. My intent is not to encourage anyone to plunge forward with a decision that has not been well conceived, thought out or planned. We need to get the facts and analyze the need for change before lurching into the unknown. However, when we are convinced and know that change is necessary, it is time to act and begin the process.
Do you see changes that need to occur in your personal life? Remember that tomorrow is promised to no one. Each day is a gift. Do you see changes that need to occur in your community? Become that advocate of change because tomorrow is promised to no one. Each day is a gift. Do you see changes that need to occur on the job, in your career or in your business? Become a change agent because tomorrow is promised to no one. Each day is a gift. As authors James Waldroop and Timothy Butler remind us:
“If you are alert to the signs and symptoms of the patterns that cause you trouble, if you are willing to recognize them for what they are, and if you are willing to work hard to keep yourself from falling into the old familiar behaviors---then over time your struggle with self-defeating behaviors will become less difficult and you will be increasingly successful in your efforts.”
I would like to conclude with a couple of thoughts...
Begin to look upon the start of each new day as something special. Don't take a single day for granted. Take at least a few moments during each day to walk around and observe the world. Savor the natural beauty and majesty of an occasional sunrise or sunset. Ask yourself, what did I learn today? Did I make a difference in someone else’s life? Did I encourage someone, thank someone, help someone or bring a smile to another person’s face? These are the soft-skills that effective leaders must master!
Learn to separate your work responsibilities from your family life. Don't carry your work and its frustrations home with you at the end of a day. There are many distractions in life and they can consume our minds and limit our happiness. Work is important...but there is more to life than work. Remember that no ones headstone has the following engraving. "I wish I had spent more time...in the office." Some people foolishly think they can achieve immortality through their work. I prefer the comment I heard in a Woody Allen movie. A character states, “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it by not dying!”
Each day let your loved ones know just how special they are. You may not get another chance in this lifetime. Too many people delay spending time with their loved ones thinking they can do it on vacation...or when we retire...or during the holidays. Like the need for change, it is often put off until it is too late. Especially if you have parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or elderly friends and relatives. Talk to them today…because each day is a gift. If you have a poor relationship with a former friend, coworker or neighbor, talk to them today. Make a serious effort to heal the breach and build a new relationship. Remember people are more important than possessions.
Tomorrow morning another sunrise will occur and a new day will dawn. Billions of individuals will see just another day much like the millions of days that preceded it, and the million more days they expect to follow it. But within this mass of humanity a few individuals will see something more meaningful. Some will be inspired by this unique opportunity to accept leadership roles and become advocates of change. They will realize that this single day is unique and there will never, ever be another one exactly like it. They will understand that they have the power to choose a different outcome in their lives or surroundings. They will make a bold choice to be, or do something different.
I hope that one of these unique individuals is YOU!
Comments to: email@example.com
About the author:
Greg has an extensive thirty-five years experience in public speaking and has spoken to hundreds of audiences worldwide. Greg has a Master of Arts degree in Leadership from Bellevue University, where he also has served as an adjunct professor teaching courses in business management and leadership since 2002. His first book, 52 Leadership Tips (That Will Change How You Lead Others) was published in 2006 by WingSpan Press. His second book, Making Life's Puzzle Pieces Fit was published in March 2009. Both are available at amazon.com. Greg is also the president of Leadership Excellence, Ltd and a Managing Partner of the Leadership Management Institute. Leadership Excellence, Ltd. effectively builds individuals and organizations to reach their highest potential through enhanced productivity and personal development using a number of proven programs. He is also the president and founder of weLEAD Incorporated.
Birkman, Roger. True Colors. Nashville, Tenn: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995
Waldroop, James., Butler, Timothy. Maximum Success. New York: Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc., 2000
Each Day is a Gift!
This morning I woke up about 5:45 AM. I couldn’t go back to sleep so I eventually got up and sat down in my favorite upholstered rocking chair. From the strategic position of this beloved chair I can look out our bedroom windows and see directly east.
During much of the year the sunrise is obscured by the growth of deciduous trees that cover much of our property. However, during the late fall and winter this thicket of bare trees stand tall as a lonely testimony of the coming winter. As I peered out the window this morning deep in meditation I was struck by the beautiful glowing hues of orange and pink light as the morning rays of sun peeked over the horizon. Once again I was reminded that each day is a gift. Read More >
Leaders are transitioning into the global arena at a greater frequency than ever before. This is the ideal time to address how to approach this transitioning. This article will briefly describe the utilization of cross-cultural transitioning as opposed to mere cross-border transitioning.
It has been stated again and again: most organizations are more global than local. When one considers the vendors with which an organization deals or the employees they hire or the software they utilize, there is a global flavor and dimension to even the smallest enterprise. However, there are legitimate events that occur that cause organizations to begin planning to take their actual operations global. Rising costs of resources, transportation issues, political conflicts, fluid tax regulations and an impoverished talent pool are but a few of the obstacles that may best be overcome by crossing business borders and becoming a truly global organization.
Crossing business borders as well as cultural borders may seem to be a daunting task when it is first approached. That need not be so. Moving to global operations requires some fundamental actions on the part of the manager(s) involved, but it can be accomplished. Briefly, consider the broad, sweeping moves that will be necessary when beginning the new global initiative. Why change operations at all? Identify the reasons behind the global expansion. Reduced transportation costs from factory to end user are a real concern; becoming global just because IBM is global is not a justifiable cause. Where shall the new operations be located? There’s no point in setting up the latest factory in Bangladesh if your customer base is in Switzerland; try moving a little closer. Bangladeshi prices may be just wonderfully affordable but the cost of getting product to consumer will be astronomical — donkeys have to eat as well. Is there a talent resource pool that can be easily accessed or do you have to know the Prince’s son-in-law to get the best people? These are but some of the logistical questions that must be answered when expanding globally. However, global expansion is much more than just spending the money and setting up shop in another land. The remainder of this article will address the most important aspect of global organizational expansion: the cultural crossing.
While crossing business borders can be daunting enough (remember those donkeys), crossing cultural borders is infinitely more exciting, challenging, and rewarding. Nuance plays such a critical role here. Glances and gestures, the position of the eyes or the posture of the body can all be communicative devices if one knows what it all means. Unfortunately, for most North American business people, these things mean nothing; only direct confrontation makes sense. This is understandable as these are the cultural lenses through which most North Americans peer. Though North Americans seem dominant on the global stage; this is often a cultural misunderstanding. In North American business schools and cultures, one is taught to be direct in communication with others. Those who work specifically for one manager are often referred to as “directs.” However, being direct in this manner will often derail an intercultural business proposition before it ever has the opportunity to be examined. In truth, one of the best instructions for North Americans breeching the cultural walls of global business is to “close mouth and listen.”
Having drive and initiative is often a highly desired trait in business. Initiative can actually erect barriers as one enters into global business relationships. Firoz, Maghrabi, and Kim, state, “research indicates that most management techniques are not portable and that cultural-specific training is desperately needed within the ranks of multinational organizations.” In other words, leaders do not rise to the place of global leadership without developing certain techniques that work for them in their current management arena, yet these very techniques may need to be “un-learned,” and new techniques developed in the global business scope. Communication is one place where this variance is clearly noted. Many people in other cultures operate in a “shame” or “face-saving” manner. Direct disagreement will virtually never occur as this may cause the new manager to lose face and cause the direct report to lose face if she is wrong. Instead, indirect communication is likely to take place. For example, the direct report may refer to a non-existent third party in order to place any possible shame on a party that cannot be injured. Again, remaining silent and listening often prove to be the very best means of leading.
Beginning an international venture is much like returning to college. One often learns the most by remaining silent, taking careful notes and practicing excellent listening skills. Additionally, developing intimate relationships with “locals” will give one a mentor to which to turn prior to making a cultural misstep. Global leaders “consciously seek out a sophisticated understanding of how complex data fit together, an understanding that has to be lived, not taught.” Global leaders will value the additional education that is needed to success on this level and will earnestly pursue opportunities that will allow them to improve their global “I.Q.” “Global leaders observe, deliberate, and ponder. They know that reflection, or meditative thinking, ‘does not just happen by itself.’”(Ibid, p 58) It is out of this observation and reflection that global leaders grow and eventually succeed.
By being inquisitive and committed to continual learning, the global leader takes charge of her success and direction. She continually seeks to know more about the culture she inhabits and compares those studies to that which she currently practices. This only happens with intentionality. The global leader understands that “the learning process of individuals in a cross-cultural context requires the creative destruction of barriers to learning and the broadening of access to new sources of knowledge and experience.” Destroying the barriers to learning is often no more than opening up oneself to that which is unfamiliar and agreeing to examine it from the understanding that a difference in leading does not necessarily indicate an inherent wrongness in either approach. It is vitally important for the global leader to allow herself to be a sponge for absorbing the information and cultural clues that will present themselves as she observes the characteristics of doing business in her new culture. By not allowing oneself to exhibit prejudice for one’s own business acumen and understanding that there are numerous ways of doing things across the world; a global leader will develop into one whose specialty is the reinterpretation of techniques so that they may cross cultural barriers and borders. Herein lays the value of the truly global leader: that she can adapt the strategies and policies of her global corporation to the culture in which business is conducted without diluting the strategy or denigrating the culture.
Unending learning will be the global executive’s lifelong associate, servant and guide. It is impossible to place a value on the outcomes that will arise out of this commitment to learning. Developing this habit of continual learning; learning to be found in every circumstance and not halls of education alone, will lead to success in every aspect of life: business, family, and faith. The path toward global leadership must begin at the restructuring of assumptions. One does not reach this level of executive success by virtue of technique, but by a propensity to know what one knows and what one does not know. This follows along the lines of Kolb’s research (1984) concerning experiential learning theory (ELT). “[One] reason to enlist ELT to understand cross-cultural learning lies in its focus on the interactive nature of person and environment in the learning process.” It seems simplistic but often global executive development is of the nature of “diving in and finding out.”
To summarize, the global executive faces one of the most exciting and enduring experiences available to business leaders: that of experiencing a culture different from one’s own and learning to develop one’s technique and style of management within the context of a culture composed of people, laws, governments, and structures that are different by far from what one knows. With this exciting opportunity come challenges and barriers to try the hearts of the strongest individual. By combining the traits of effective listening, experiential learning, inquisitiveness, relational development and pre-developed business and management skills; the global executive will be one of those fortunate few who truly can leave an impression in the global landscape by virtue of their presence. The first step is to close mouth and open ears allowing one to be influenced by her new culture prior to her influencing said culture. There are very few more rewarding experiences than to transform oneself from the selfish and prototypical American business executive into a global executive success.
About the author:
Ralph Johnson is a student at Regent University
This material is copyright protected. No part of this document may be reproduced, in any form or by any means without permission from weLEAD Incorporated. Copyright waiver may be acquired from the weLEAD website.
 Firoz, Nadeem, Ahmad S. Maghrabi, and Ki Hee Kim. “Think Globally, Manage Culturally” International Journal of Commerce and Management, 2002, Vol.12 No. 3 & 4.
 Black, J. Stewart, Allen J. Morrison, and Hal B. Gregersen, Global Explorers: The Next Generation of Leaders, New York: Routledge, 1999. Page 56
 Gahfoor, Shahzad, Fukhaia Kaka Khail, Uzair Farooq Khan, and Faiza Hassan, “An Exploratory Analysis of Experiential Narratives and Implications for Management, Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business, June 2011, Vol 3 No 2
 Yamazaki, Yoshitaka and D. Christopher Kayes, “An Experiential Approach to Cross-Cultural Learning: A Review and Integration of Competencies for Successful Expatriate Adaptation,: Academy of Management Learning and Education, 2004, Vol 3 No 4.
An Experiential Guide to Global Transition
Leaders are transitioning into the global arena at a greater frequency than ever before. This is the ideal time to address how to approach this transitioning. This article will briefly describe the utilization of cross-cultural transitioning as opposed to mere cross-border transitioning. Read More >Ralph E. Johnson Articles
Strategic thinking is a knowledge acquisition process that connects and involves every component and department of an organization by defining the direction of the organization, how it construes its strategy into execution, how it reassesses the organization’s direction, and then fine tuning its path.[i] Organizational leaders who seek to develop successful organizations and ultimately work towards long-term success and sustainability would benefit from adopting strategic thinking and planning skills.
Traditionally, strategic thinking and planning is allied with high level and top leadership teams with an organization.[ii] When a leader applies new thoughts, procedures, and processes to guide the persuasion of organizational members and its components towards the advancement of the organization, the leader is said to be practicing strategic thinking.[iii] Strategic thinking therefore considers the ‘now’ to be able to obtain imminent insight into the future.[iv] When a leader(s) employs activities that direct the organization towards an innovative and competitive arena in today’s internationally aggressive marketplace this includes strategic thinking. Thus, leaders who work towards finding unconventional ways to compete and provide client value are said to be practicing strategic thinking. Such leaders are able to indentify exceptional approaches to provide value to their clients. Strategic thinking is more of an indefinable, methodical, and future oriented activity for leaders.[v] Leaders who are looking for ways to formulate winning strategies for their organizations must consider using strategic thinking as a vehicle.[vi]
Traditional strategic planning relies on systematic processes to ascertain who the organization is in terms of its mission, what the organization does in terms of its believes, where the organization is headed in terms of its vision, and how the organization intends to get there in terms of planning[vii] while strategic thinking centers on mental processes essential for use of information and ideas which form an organization’s prospective direction.[viii] Strategic thinking makes available input for the strategic planning process through ground-breaking opportunities[ix] to enhance the organization’s performance and accomplishments. Strategic planning searches for means to create a new outline of the organization’s direction by adopting a novel and enhanced prospect.[x]
Questions Arose From the Strategic Thinking and Planning Literature
The following questions arose from the literature review based on strategic thinking and planning:
*What do you consider to be your strongest leadership qualities?
*Would you say you possess strategic leadership qualities? If so, mention a few?
*What is the vision of your organization?
*Are your staff/followers familiar with this vision?
*In what ways would you say your staff/followers are supportive of the vision?
*Have you taken part in a strategic planning process as a leader?
*If so, what time frame is adopted for the strategic planning and implementation process of your organization (monthly, quarterly, annually)?
*In your opinion, what is strategic thinking?
*Which strategic thinking and planning skills are necessary for a successful process?
*Which strategic thinking and planning tools do you use for your planning and implementation process?
*What obstacles do you consider as a hindrance to the practice and implementation of strategic thinking and planning within your organization?
*What systems do you have in place to assist you as a leader in identifying strategic thinkers within your organization?
*As a leader, do you use a strategic team? If so, how do you choose your team members?
*What would you consider as your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
*What strategies do you rely on to combat perceived weaknesses and threats to/within your organization?
*What specific tools do you rely on to determine the progress and growth of your organization?
*Please mention and explain 5 trends you perceive as having the potential to impact the long-term performance and success of your organization?
The first leader I chose to meet with was Matthew S. Essieh. Matthew is the president and chief executive officer of an information technology firm called EAI Information Systems located in Beaverton, Oregon. As a visionary leader,[xi] Matthew began his company from scratch 20 years ago. The company develops and modifies software solutions to assist financial service firms in controlling their retail investment programs for superior effectiveness and productivity.
Karen Howells was the second leader I chose to interview. Karen is the president and founder of the Howell’s Group, Inc.; a consulting firm in Portland, Oregon. Karen and her business focus on bringing ‘business to life’ through an exclusive and extremely tailored approach. Karen is a great communicator, a coach and a visionary.[xii]
The third leader interviewed was John T. Goldrick, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Life at the University of Portland. John oversees all student services including admissions, financial aid, student activities, judicial affairs, international student issues, career services, the Moreau Center for Service and Leadership, residential life, campus, ministry, health services, and public safety. John is a great strategist, a visionary and a great communicator.[xiii]
Responses from Leaders
What do you consider to be your strongest leadership qualities?
According to Matthew Essieh, his strongest leadership qualities include initiative and drive. Matthew reported he is driven internally; action oriented, allows other to follow, develops creative solutions to solve problems, and does not allow perceived problems to stand in his way. Karen Howells mentioned she connects quickly and authentically with clients, has the ability to motivate and influence others to get things done, is able to articulate a vision and inspires others to perform. John Goldrick loves to lead change, manages his employees well, has good intuition when hiring, has experience, works to keep his followers in the spotlight, and considers himself to be allocentric; more follower-centered than leader-centered. John stated he does not look for conflict, but at the same time, does not shy away from it.
Would you say you possess strategic leadership qualities? If so, mention a few?
Each leader I interviewed believes they possess strategic leadership qualities. According to Matthew Essieh, the fact that he founded his company 20 years ago is a sign of possessing strategic leadership qualities. He stated he focuses on broader decision-making without being ‘bogged’ down by details or initiatives. Therefore, he focuses on the broader positive implications of what has to be done. According Matthew, he has always had the vision to own businesses in the United States and he has achieved that vision. Karen Howells’ feels she is able to scan the social and economic environment in order to be in touch with her clients, is pragmatic in her operations, intentionally keeps her business small, and has the ability to listen to client’s and team members’ needs and concerns. John approached the issue of possessing strategic leadership qualities quite differently. According to John, he considers the ‘what, why and when’ with regards to a planning point of view. John also mentioned he relies on assessment tools prior to the implementation of any plan. Therefore, the assessment process assists him in determining whether the move is strategic or not.
What is the vision of your organization?
Regarding the vision of the organization, Matthew Essieh stated his vision is, “To be the leader in providing financial services technology and responsive services to clients.” Karen Howells envisions her organization to be one of the strongest regional players. She also believes it takes leaders and organizations to the next level of success, does not work with failing organizations, and remains a ‘boutique firm’ that customizes its services to meet the needs of clients. According to John Goldrick, University of Portland’s vision is to be the best Catholic teaching university in the western United States focusing on faculty who are abreast in research and publication.
Are your staff/followers familiar with this vision?
Each of the leaders I interviewed stated their followers were familiar with the vision of the organization. According to Matthew, his staff believes in the vision because they live by it every day. “My followers understand that everything is client centered and has to be approached as a strategic partnership with clients,” said Karen Howells. Karen stated she knows her followers have bought into the vision because they often refer her to other clients. John Goldrick strongly believes his followers are familiar with the vision because he seldom discusses issues without relating it to the vision of the university. He also added it is an expectation he has of his followers and is incorporated into how they execute their work on a daily basis.
In what ways would you say your staff/followers are supportive of the vision?
According to Matthew, he reported his follower’s exhibit support for the vision of the organization through the work they do each day by providing innovative technology and responsive services to their customers. He mentioned the vision drives his employees to develop quality products for their clients. Karen Howells stated an emphatic “yes” as evidence of the fact her staff are supportive of the vision of the organization. John Goldrick stated his follower’s support of the vision of the organization and this is reinforced through annual retreats and full day discussions. According to him, his followers also provide regular feedback on the administration by highlighting the positives and negatives.
Have you taken part in a strategic planning process as a leader?
Matthew stated he and the organization has taken part in a strategic planning process and will participate in the process again this year. “Absolutely”, Karen Howells stated when asked whether she has ever taken part in a strategic planning process. According to Karen, she leads a lot of strategic planning session with her clients, as well as, with the staff in her business. John Goldrick stated he has taken part of numerous strategic planning sessions for the university during of fourteen years that he has been there. However, John stated the university does not typically put it into practice and this often results in frustration on the part of the followers. He mentioned the university put together a strategic plan, but it was not used because the goals and objectives were too many. John feels there are many problems associated with strategic plans. First, he thinks strategic plans are not fluent with the total needs of an existing organization. Second, strategic plans are usually not structured to operate as a living document and third, he believes the tasks provided in the strategic plan are usually in conflict with strategic thinking. Thus, he recommends fewer goals, objectives, and tasks should be incorporated into a strategic plan in order to make it more applicable to the specific departments at the university.
If so, what time frame is adopted for the strategic planning and implementation process of your organization (monthly, quarterly, annually)?
According to Matthew, his organization adopts the annual approach to the strategic planning process. He stated his organization revisits the plan annually. Karen Howells reported her firm adopts the semi-annual approach for the strategic planning process. According to Karen, she holds annual meetings with her followers to review the past year as part of their strategic planning process. According to John Goldrick, the University of Portland used to develop a strategic plan every 10 years, but now the school utilizes a five-year approach. He stated this is driven by the academic accreditation board regulations.
In your opinion, what is strategic thinking?
When asked to give his opinion on what he considered as strategic thinking, Matthew stated that he considers “strategic thinking to be the day-to-day operational type of thinking.” He also mentioned it is the process of stepping back and looking at the broader purpose and direction of the organization. Furthermore, he stated strategic thinking includes deliverables and the implementation of a strategic plan to achieve goals, objectives and the purpose of the organization. Matthew gave an example of opening up a new office in Accra, Ghana with a vision to reach out to the West African Sub-region as a form of strategic thinking. According to Karen Howells, a leader’s ability to walk onto a balcony to gain a better view of things in terms of social, economic and political issues determines whether he or she is a strategic thinker. Karen gave an example of a client who is using the current health bill to his advantage, and at the same time, helping others. Karen stated a strategic thinker considers how things fit both inside and outside of the organization to determine what actions need to be taken. “Such leaders strive to be ahead of the game,” Karen remarked. For John Goldrick strategic thinking comes into perspective when a leader considers the ‘why’ and not the ‘what’. Thus, the leader considers why the organization is doing what it has set out to do and asks if it is taking the appropriate path.
Which strategic thinking and planning skills are necessary for a successful process?
With regards to strategic thinking and planning skills necessary for a successful process, Matthew stated as the CEO of the organization, he considers the direction of a proposed product, what competitors are offering and whether the product will be successful within the next three years. He also mentioned he works in collaboration with his project manager who skills assist in product development. The project manager assists in determining the sustainability and success of the product and the costs involved. Karen Howells mentioned the following skills as necessary for a successful strategic thinking and planning process. For strategic thinking, the leader must be able to look ahead and envision the organization by utilizing different approaches. She also mentioned a strategic leader must know the market in which he or she operates in. For strategic planning to take place, Karen mentioned the leaders must seek to engage the entire organization in the process. According to Karen, she believes funneling, environmental scan, and annual planning sessions can facilitate a successful process. John Goldrick stated no planning process works if it originates from the top. Therefore, he listens to his followers and adopts an all inclusive process of planning. Trust, honesty, and openness are key to a strategic thinking and planning process. He stated leaders who are not open and do not listen develop ineffective plans.
Which strategic thinking and planning tools do you use for your planning and implementation process?
Matthew stated he uses individual people as tools for the planning and implementation process. He reported he relies on key players and stakeholders within his organization such as board members, staff members, and clients. He also reported he creates a culture of strategic thinking and planning to be used as a tool for the implementation process. According to Karen, she uses the ‘sticky wall’ idea as a tool during the strategic thinking and planning process. During this process, participants are encouraged to write their personal vision, mission, goals, objectives, and ideas, as well as, that of the organization. Karen then uses the data collected for the planning and implementation process. Karen also mentioned brainstorming and funneling as effective tools for the strategic thinking and planning process. John Goldrick stressed the use of communication as a dynamic tool for the strategic thinking and planning process. He suggested leaders adopt a discussion and explanation strategy when thinking and planning with their followers. Promulgation of information is key for a successful planning and thinking process, John Goldrick said.
What obstacles do you consider as a hindrance to the practice and implementation of strategic thinking and planning within your organization?
When the organizational culture is not open and receptive to strategic thinking and planning processes, its practice and implementation becomes an issue for leadership and followers, Matthew remarked. According to him, when followers are not invested in the overall success of the organization it becomes difficult for leadership to implement strategic thinking within the organization. Followers not just interest in their paycheck can be a huge success for this process. Karen stated the size of her organization is often a hindrance to strategic thinking and planning. She also mentioned a lack of energy because of other life circumstances have been a barrier to strategically thinking and planning for the organization’s progress and growth. John Goldrick mentioned a lack of creativity, a fear of change, apprehension towards taking risks, a fear of making mistakes, the inability to lack failure and a refusal to undertake true assessment of the situation can be huge hindrances to the strategic thinking and planning process.
What systems do you have in place to assist you as a leader in identifying strategic thinkers within your organization?
According to Matthew, he identifies strategic thinkers by providing followers with the opportunity to lead a software development project. He also creates small and ad hoc teams for individual followers to be given the opportunity to solve problems and develop new ideas. Karen relies on team members to assist in the strategic thinking process and therefore identifies who excels in such an area. She also works towards identifying potential employees and places them on short-term projects to allow her to observe and confirm they possess strategic thinking skills. John Goldrick, on the other hand, does not consider this process as a system. According to him, it is more of an appraisal process which he undertakes once a year with his followers to identify strengths and weaknesses. After this process, “I am able to identify strategic thinkers,” John said. However, he stated it is a difficult process to undertake with university administrators.
As a leader, do you use a strategic team? If so, how do you choose your team members?
Matthew reported he uses strategic leadership teams within specific departments. Karen Howells uses a team of consultants as her strategic leadership team. According to Karen, when the need arises she utilizes other individuals from other organizations who possess the skills needed. According to John Goldrick, his strategic leadership team comprises of his staff which is made up of fourteen departmental heads. He reported the team meets for two hours every two weeks to deliberate on issues concerning the university. He stated, “I could not function without the team,” John said. He reported such collaboration allows us to work towards a common goal he concluded.
What would you consider as your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
Matthew mentioned his organization possesses the following strengths. It is responsive to clients’ needs, flexible to solve client needs, relies on client needs to define its problems and adapts to client needs. He felt the organization had the following weaknesses: unrealistic client expectations and the lack of stability of a product. Matthew stated his organization is flexible and responsive and therefore this can be seen as an opportunity. The inability to meet customer expectations, a threat to credibility and the potential to lose customers are seen as threats, according the Matthew.
According to Karen, the individual clients the organization works with and the reputation of her team members are seen as strengths. As a leader, Karen stated her inability to clearly see the future is a weakness. Karen reported she has not been in good health over the past year and therefore does not have a committed direction for the organization and as a result has not marketed her services as readily as in recent years.
John Goldrick stated the strengths of the University of Portland is that it is a Catholic University and University of Portland is aware of what it wants. The University of Portland lacks self-confidence and therefore this is seen as a weakness. However, he sees opportunities in the horizon as individuals are beginning to recognize the identity of the institution. He foresees secularization and narcissism of the American society, the growing need for instant gratification, and the delayed enjoyment in higher education as threats to the welfare of the institution.
What strategies do you rely on to combat perceived weaknesses and threats to/within your organization?
Clear communication of customers’ expectations; internally enforcing flexibility, responsiveness to customer needs, and communication among leaders and followers; and ongoing training and accountability are strategies that Matthew utilizes to combat perceived weaknesses and threats to his organization. Karen uses change initiatives and time-lines to combat weaknesses and threats within her organization. John employs open communication; a collective approach to leadership; and endless conversation around the vision, mission, goals and objectives of the institution to combat weaknesses and threats.
What specific tools do you rely on to determine the progress and growth of your organization?
In determining the progress and growth of the his organization, Matthew keeps close accounts of sales figures, the measurement of profitability, client retention, cost management and the measurement of growth and retention of staff. According to Karen, she considers ‘how full the pipeline is,’ how may referrals the firm receives, and the level revenue for the firm. John presented a different approach to determining the progress and growth of his organization. According to John, he uses assessment tools and performance appraisals and reviews on a regular basis.
Please mention and explain 5 trends you perceive as having the potential to impact the long-term performance and success of your organization?
According to Matthew, the contraction and expansion of the financial services industry, mergers and acquisitions within the industry and the changing pace of technology and staying abreast of such changes are potential trends that may affect his organization. He also mentioned the workforce in the United States over the most recent years has not seen enough individuals being trained within the information technology industry. Therefore there is a limited workforce to tap into. He also stated the cost of labor and current privacy laws and regulations regarding sensitive data may also have an adverse affect on his organization in the near future. Karen believes the following trends will impact her organization’s performance and success over the course of time: clients’ desire for instant gratification, organizational fatigue and overload, and competition from competitors. Karen also mentioned the emergence and growth of small businesses can have a huge impact on her organization. Karen believes the current generation of young people, will have a significant impact on her company. John had similar views with Karen. John perceives secularization, narcissism, instant gratification and federal government regulations will impact the performance and success of the University of Portland.
The leaders in this interview were carefully selected as a result of my interests and practice in consulting and higher education. The questions were carefully crafted to elicit the needed information from the selected leaders regarding what they considered as their strengths as leaders and in the area of strategic thinking and planning. Interestingly the three leaders had similar views though operate in different industries. Their views regarding trends that will impact the future of their organization are proof of their ability to think and plan strategically in order to run successful organizations. All three leaders provided great examples of visionary leadership and they brought strategic thinking and planning to life. It is therefore in the good interest of organizational leaders to research and practice strategic thinking and planning principles. Leaders who lack the ability to think and plan strategically must rely on internal and external consultants[xiv] who will facilitate the process of imparting the needed knowledge, skills and expertise for a successful operation. Such leaders can take steps to build a resource base of materials centered on strategic thinking and planning for their organizations for the use of their followers in order to develop a culture of strategic thinking and planning in their organizations.
[i] Hughes, R. & Beatty, K.C (2005). Becoming a Strategic Leader: Your Role in Your Organization’s Enduring Success. Jossey- Boss, San- Francisco, CA.
[ii] Fairholm, M. & Card, M. (2009). Perspectives of Strategic Thinking: From Controlling Chaos to Embracing it. Journal of Management. 15(1), 17-30.
[iii] Hughes, R. & Beatty,K.C (2005). Becoming a Strategic Leader: Your Role in Your Organization’s Enduring Success. Jossey- Boss, San- Francisco, CA.
[iv] Sanders, I. (1998). Strategic Thinking. Strategy & Leadership. 33(5), 5-12
[v] Goldman, E.F. (2007). Strategic Thinking at the Top. MITSloan Management Review. 48 (4). 75-80
[vi] Abraham, S. (2005). Stretching Strategic Thinking. Strategy & Leadership. 33(5) 5-12.
[vii] Strong, B. (2005) Strategic Planning: What’s So Strategic About It? Educase Quarterly.
[viii] Sanders. (1998).
[ix] Briefing Notes: What is Strategic Thinking? (Philadelphia, PA: Center for Applied Research, 200), 1.
[x] Fairholm & Card. (2009).
[xi]Jones, T. (2010). What is Your Vision? Leadership Excellence. 27(3), 6.
[xii] Robert N. Lussier, R.N. & Achua, C.F. (2007). Leadership: Theory, Application, & Skill Development: Thompson Higher Education. Mason, Ohio.
[xiii]Richardson, D. (2009). The Urgency Factor…Leadership Communication In Chaotic Times. Of Counsel. 28(8), 10-13.
[xiv] Block, P. (2000), Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used. Pfeiffer, San Francisco, CA. 5.
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Strategic Thinking and Planning Perspectives: The Case of Three Leaders from Different Industries
Strategic thinking is a knowledge acquisition process that connects and involves every component and department of an organization by defining the direction of the organization, how it construes its strategy into execution, how it reassesses the organization’s direction, and then fine tuning its path.[i] Organizational leaders who seek to develop successful organizations and ultimately work towards long-term success and sustainability would benefit from adopting strategic thinking and planning skills. Read More >Peter Carlos Okantey Articles
This is a short story about a small high tech company that in spite of some developing employee relations issues has been very successful. In order to protect the guilty, we will call this company Wacko Technology.
On the surface everything at Wacko appears to be rather calm. They are making money so little else seems that important. Oh, there are one or two tell-tale signs of trouble brewing beneath the service such as Wacko’s rising 18% turnover rate. Also Wacko’s break room is filled with “toxic gossip” as well as the not too small matter of constant employee gripes and complaints. To say the least, all was not well at Wacko.
While considering Wacko’s situation, I began to get those same uneasy feelings you get when watching a documentary on volcanoes. In the program’s opening scene you are speeding in a helicopter towards a tropical island paradise, surrounded by clear blue water and white sand beaches, covered in softly swaying palm trees and beautiful tropical flowers. But just before the first commercial break your dream of this island paradise becoming your next vacation destination is totally destroyed by the shattering forces of an exploding volcano. The shock is so great to your senses you grab the remote and quickly begin searching for an escape, but you end up settling on another disaster by watching the Red Sox blow a seven game lead in the AL East.
It has not been that good a day. After having spent your entire day fighting fires at work and now to see you vacation dream being consumed by smoke and ash followed by watching another year of the Curse of the Bambino play out on ESPN has about pushed you over the edge.
If you are experiencing pre-volcano anxiety concerning your organization, this may be a good time to intervene with an employee driven organization development program that is based on the principle that, "the person closest to the problem is the best expert on the problem". Don't worry, this solution is not going to replace you. In fact, it will contribute greatly to strengthening your position of leadership at all levels of the organization. The leadership principle at work here is simple. Give your employees a voice by “asking employees their opinion, listening to what they have to say and acting on it”.
You begin by first asking your employees in confidential one-on-one interviews; “What three things, if done extraordinarily well, will have the greatest impact on the quality of work and the quality of work life for you, your fellow employees, customers and your company?” These interviews are best conducted by your HR department or an outside consultant. Once you have completed interviews with each of your employees (or a representative percentage), organize their suggestions in order of importance and provide your employees access to your listing through feedback meetings or by email. This lets employees know you value their opinion. On the front end, if there are any suggestions you will not be implementing, it is very important to let your employees know what you will not be doing and explain why. Don't be afraid to say no as long as you explain why.
Next go to work on a “quick start plan” by announcing and implementing any suggestions that can be put in place quickly and that you feel are critical to addressing employee dissatisfaction. In order to address the remaining employee suggestions create an Organization Development Committee (7 to 9 member committee) made up of a cross section of employees, which should include two or three well respected front line managers. This committee will be responsible for developing, for management’s approval plans and programs that address employee concerns and suggestions taken from the employee OD interviews. The manager’s involvement in the committee is to act as the “boss interpreter” directing the group’s recommendations towards plans that will be accepted by management. Allow the committee to own the process and the chairperson of the OD committee to be responsible for communicating to employees all aspects of the committee’s activity including announcement of action plans and programs developed as a result of employee input. An OD Plan of this type has a six month shelf life so I strongly suggest someone in senior management take responsibility for championing the OD committee work.
By asking your employee’s for their opinion you begin a participative process that will change the culture of your organization. But what is so remarkable about an employee driven OD program is not only will your employees effectively address issues that threaten employee morale and productivity but the program will also empower employees companywide by giving them a voice. Your employees’ voice will be expressed by:
*Creating a belief that they can make a difference by seeing their ideas are valued and implemented.
*Taking greater initiative and action to make things better.
*Taking responsibility to do the right thing and not always waiting for management direction.
*Taking leadership by being willing to help others move in the right direction.
*Becoming self-correcting by making themselves accountable to the standards they set.
*Becoming more confident and proud of the work they do and the organization they work for.
*Working in a more collaborative way to help assure the best thinking and employee support made part by the critical plans as they are implemented.
*Taking responsibility for developing and maintaining a positive employee culture.
Strengthening relationships that are built on trust.
*Expanding of the social circle within the organization where employees feel like they belong to something bigger them themselves.
Creating peer pressure for the majority who are no longer willing to accept difficult, nonproductive employee behavior. These problem employees then become isolated and their counterproductive attitude and behavior will be minimized. These employees will either slowly change for the better or will become so uncomfortable they will leave the organization. This is how you create positive turnover.
Volcanologists tell us that the study of volcanoes is not a perfect science and that there is much more to learn before they are able predict a volcanic eruption. The same may be true for predicting the eruption of employee relations problems, but there is a way to prevent these nasty employee eruptions …. simply give your employees a voice.
About the authors:
Michael E. Hackett is a retired Human Resource executive and management consultant based in Brentwood Tennessee. www.hacketthrconsultant.comj Michael has distinguished himself in the field of Human Resources Management and Organizational Development, with more than 40 years of human resources consulting, management and executive level experience in business, industry, government and healthcare. Michael has served as an Adjunct University Professor for more than 25 years, where he has taught a variety of management, leadership, customer service and strategic planning courses. Hackett has authored a number of management articles; and as conference leader, he has conducted training programs for business, industry, government, hospitals, universities, and professional associations. Michael’s academic credits include a BS and MS degrees from The University of Memphis. You may reach Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org
P. Daniel Hackett is a Construction Project Engineer with J. E. Dunn Corporation in Brentwood Tennessee. Dan’s academic credits include a BS degree in Building Construction Science from Auburn University and a MS degree in Sustainable Practices from Lipscomb University in Nashville. Dan was also a intern assistant with Hackett and Assistant while attending Auburn University.
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A Volcano in the Break Room- Extinguished by an employee driven organization development plan
This is a short story about a small high tech company that in spite of some developing employee relations issues has been very successful. In order to protect the guilty, we will call this company Wacko Technology. Read More >Michael and Daniel Hackett Articles
Let’s be honest, any kind of change, much less corporate change, is difficult, really difficult. Whether a start-up experiencing growing pains, a company faced with increased competition, a floundering company trying to stay afloat, or a successful business attempting to expand into global markets, the path toward change can often be unclear at best and the barriers can seem insurmountable at worst. Yet change your company must if it is going to become or remain a “player” in its market. The question isn’t whether your business must change; that is a given if you want it to survive and thrive. Rather, the question is: Will our company change?
If you answer in the affirmative, there are two more questions that you must ask. First, what will your company change? In the ever-morphing marketplace, there isn’t always clarity on what needs to be changed for a company to stay competitive. Second, how specifically will your company change? It’s one thing to have grand ideas about what changes your company needs to make. It’s an entirely different thing to take those “50,000 feet” ideas and bring them down to Earth.
Though change is always complex, like all complicated processes, it begins with a basic framework that orients and guides the course of transformation. A useful way of framing this process is by what The Trium Group calls “the Six I’s”: intention, inspiration, information, insight, integration, and implementation.
The foundation of any change is intention that change is needed. Intention provides the objective for an initial course of action that will lead to the desired change. For example, “We intend to modify our sales practices to make it more customer friendly” or “ Our intention is to increase our market share by 25% over the next 12 months.” This intention creates a sense of purpose that provides the preliminary impetus for the change.
As the saying goes, though, the road to you-know-where is paved with good intentions. Simply knowing what your company wants just isn’t enough for change to occur. Instead, there needs to be inspiration that puts the wind in the sails to propel the change forward. Because change is so difficult, the motivation to change must come from a deep place within the leadership of an organization and that strong desire for change must then emanate outward and be embraced through all levels of the organization. This inspiration can be grounded in many forms so that it is more readily accessible to everyone involved in making the change a reality, whether due to a sense of ownership, pride in being part of a productive team, personal ambition, or the determination to take the company to the next level. The key is to infect your organization with this inspiration from the corner office to the “boots on the ground.” Without this powerful emotion, any efforts at change are sure to be dead in the water.
One of scariest things about change when it’s first proposed is lack of clarity and its magnitude.
Everyone knows that a change needs to be made, but there are many questions that are left unanswered and the change can seem overwhelming It can feel like you are told to climb Mt. Everest, but without the necessary equipment, route, or guidance. This feeling of “How can I possibly do this?” is where the idea of change collides with the reality of change. And that collision can stop even the most powerful inspiration in its tracks.
The remedy for this feeling of being overwhelmed is information. When everyone in your organization has the relevant data needed to put the required change in perspective, the scope and process of change seem more manageable. You want to answer the what, why, who, where, when, and how of the change. So, my recommendation to you when it comes time to announce the changes through your organization is to follow it very soon after (if not concurrently) with the information that will allow everyone to gain perspective and understand that the change is not only possible, but doable.
Once everyone in your company understands the ins and outs of the proposed change, insight is necessary to take the intention, inspiration, and information and make the change personal. In other words, every team member must understand their role in the organization-wide change. This insight provides each person with a framework and process that will guide them in their particular responsibilities in making the change happen.
One of the most challenging aspects of company-wide change is that your team is expected to make the changes while also continuing to fulfill their normal roles and responsibilities. The stress-inducing question that everyone asks is: “How am I going to do this when I’m already maxed out in my ‘day job’?” This is where you must ensure effective integration of the change process into everyone’s already-busy schedules. The simple reality is that change will not occur if your people lack the time, energy, or resources to do their part in initiating the change. You must be explicit in identifying the when and how of the change for each member of your team, otherwise they are likely going to feel overwhelmed and demoralized, both of which will undermine the company-wide efforts at the needed change.
All of your company’s efforts to this point are in preparation for rolling out the intended change in your company. Everything to this point will go for naught if it isn’t able to take action in pursuit of the change objectives. The final phase of the change process, implementation, is where the rubber meets the road. If you have successfully fulfilled the mandates of the first five I’s, meaning everyone in your company knows the what, when, where, and how, implementation should be, well, not easy, but a natural extension of the earlier groundwork. These efforts will then, over time, produce the intended change and help your company to achieve its goals and find continued success.
About the author:
Jim Taylor a partner at the Trium Group, a boutique corporate consulting firm based in San Francisco that specializes in strategic, organizational, and human transformation and performance. You can contact Jim at
This material is copyright protected. No part of this document may be reproduced, in any form or by any means without permission from weLEAD Incorporated. Copyright waiver may be acquired from the weLEAD website
Real Corporate Change Takes the Six I’s
Let’s be honest, any kind of change, much less corporate change, is difficult, really difficult. Whether a start-up experiencing growing pains, a company faced with increased competition, a floundering company trying to stay afloat, or a successful business attempting to expand into global markets, the path toward change can often be unclear at best and the barriers can seem insurmountable at worst. Yet change your company must if it is going to become or remain a “player” in its market. The question isn’t whether your business must change; that is a given if you want it to survive and thrive. Rather, the question is: Will our company change? Read More >Jim Taylor, PhD Articles
The Navy – it’s not just a job, it’s an adventure! Get technical training, see the world, earn educational benefits, and be part of the fight against global terrorism! These are just a few of the reasons people are motivated to join the Navy. The Navy experience varies from sailor to sailor causing some to leave the Navy after a few years and others to make it a career. After their duty station, the biggest influence on a sailor’s Navy experience is typically their leader and that person’s leadership style. Leadership styles in the Navy can be compared to a Clint Eastwood movie; The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Generally when a Sailor or Navy veteran is asked who their best leader was, it won’t take them much time to identify the good. Similarly, when ask who their worst Navy leader was, they can identify the bad almost immediately. Then there are those sailors who have experienced the ugly Navy leader. These are sailor’s who have survived bosses whose leadership styles are so toxic, the leader is often relieved from their position.
What leads to these people in authority to act the way they do, whether good, bad, or ugly? It has been suggested that a leaders inner motives, combined with their competencies, drives leadership style. The leader chooses their leadership style to help them best achieve their motives. This article explores what motivates one subsection of the military, naval leaders, and how that motivation influences the specific leadership style or styles they use.
Honor, Courage, and Commitment
All sailors are required to know and expected to live the Navy’s Core Values of “Honor, Courage, and Commitment.” Honor requires truthfulness, honesty, integrity, respect for others, knowing right from wrong, and acting in an ethical manner. Courage is the personal and moral fortitude to do what is right whether facing anything from enemy fire to a temptation. Commitment means staying the course regarding the oath to ‘defend and protect,’ personal behavior, technical skills, and respect for others. The core values give all sailors the fortitude to fulfill their duty to their followers and their country.
These core values were not arbitrarily arrived at. Being honest was rated the top characteristic of admired leaders in repeated studies. Even though the studies were conducted with non-military personnel, courage was also ranked high. These values drive commitment and without commitment, a leader’s credibility diminishes.
Navy Leadership Training
The Navy has long recognized that leadership styles and skill levels have an impact on mission accomplishment, retention, and morale. For years, the Navy has had the Naval Leadership Continuum which provides career-long leadership training from E-4 to the flag officer level. The top three leaders of any Navy command are expected to attend leadership training at the commanding officer, executive officer, or command master chief level as appropriate. Navy leadership training is not only for senior leaders but is also targeted at far more junior personnel. Navy leadership training has such a good reputation Forbes magazine reported that many of the top corporations in the nation have studied it “…to see what they can learn and adapt from the Navy, to weave into their own cultures of leadership learning and development.”
Sounds good, right? Despite the majority of Navy leaders who uphold the highest traditions of our nation, other Navy leaders continue to make headlines for leadership failures. Regrettably, these incidents greatly damage the leader’s career and normally reflect poorly on his or her family, service, and country. What motivates these leaders to stray from the sound leadership principles which they have been taught? And can their leadership style predict hidden motivations?
In reality, it is difficult to know what truly motivates an individual, but with most leaders there are indications of what motivates them. Going back to Clint Eastwood’s outline, let’s look at some well-known naval leaders, their leadership styles, and what may have motivated them.
While stationed on the Joint Staff in the Pentagon in the 1990s, I was fortunate enough to serve with two great naval leaders, General Peter Pace, USMC, and Admiral Vernon Clark, USN. At the time, they were both three-star flag officers and served in key positions on the staff. Both were strategic thinkers with stellar reputations as intelligent, honest, hard working, and selfless leaders who cared strongly not only for the mission but for their people. There was never a question that both men loved their country and were ready to do whatever needed to be done to get the mission accomplished. Their motivation was to serve not only their leaders and followers but their country and fellow countrymen.
Both of these gentlemen had similar leadership styles – a combination of servant leadership and transformational leadership. Servant leadership has been described as a style where the leader places others at the center instead of themselves and who view their task as serving others. A transformational leadership style is evident when the leader dismisses using their position or rank to get something done and “…instead attempts to motivate and mobilize followers by persuading them to take ownership of their roles in a more grand mission that is shared by all members of the organization.” There are some who would suggest these leadership styles are “touchy-feely” or not goal-oriented enough, but this is not the case. It should be noted that both these men were fiercely dedicated to the mission of national defense and their leadership style prompted others to emulate that dedication to the mission despite danger, family separation, low pay, and difficult living conditions. These two exemplary leaders each had 30+ years of service to their country. Through these years, there were countless examples of actions that personified the type of leader they were. An example from each helps to show their true colors.
Admiral Clark continued to excel after his tour on the Joint Staff and rose to become the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), the Navy’s top position, in July 2000. A quick review of his CNO guidance to his leaders demonstrates his commitment to the mission and to his people.
Winning the Global War on Terrorism is our number one priority… Last year I told you I wanted every leader to be evaluated on two things, their commitment to the growth and development of their people and above all to mission accomplishment…I want each of you to understand that mission accomplishment means both warfighting effectiveness and resourcefulness. It has been said that great leaders do the right thing, and great managers do things right—we need to do both…People remain at the heart of all we do; they are capital assets in our Navy. We have invested heavily to do what is right for our people. As we look to the future, we will build on the impressive progress we have made in recruiting, assigning, and retaining our military and civilian professionals. "Growth and development" is our byline and I expect every leader to be deeply involved in developing their shipmates. Active leadership is making it happen today and will do so in 2003.
Admiral Clark didn’t just talk the leadership talk – he walked the walk. In January 2002, he traveled half way around the world to reenlist sailors onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt. His words following the ceremony demonstrated his commitment to his sailors, “I came out here to look you in the eye, and tell you something that I couldn't tell you if I just sent you a message. I came out here to look at you and tell you that the American people are so proud of what you're doing.”
General Pace also was clear in what he thought was important – the sailors, soldiers, marines, and airmen that he led in the nation’s highest military position. In 2007, while serving as the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS), he was told that he would not be renominated for the CJCS position. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates suggested to Pace that he voluntarily retire to reduce awkwardness with the Bush Administration. He refused. After a speech at the Joint Forces Staff College, he was asked why he did not voluntarily step down.
“I said I could not do it for one very fundamental reason, and that is that ‘Pfc. Pace’ in Baghdad should not think ever that his chairman, whoever that person is, could have stayed in the battle and voluntarily walked off the battlefield,” he said. Out of his sense of leadership, he could not even consider the idea, Pace said. Therefore, he did not submit his retirement papers until after it became publicly known that he was not going to be renominated. “The other piece for me personally was that some 40 years ago I left some guys on the battlefield in Vietnam who lost their lives following Second Lieutenant Pace,” he said. “I promised myself then that I will serve this country until I was no longer needed. I need to be told that I’m done. I’ve been told I’m done.”
Both Clark and Pace were motivated by love for country, their countrymen, and those they led. Their leadership styles clearly reflected and promoted achievement of their motives.
Not all successful military officers are necessarily good leaders. Most career officers have seen leaders “that eat their young” and wondered how it happens when a poor leader gets promoted or put into a position of power. Retired Green Beret Lt. Col. Mark Johnson noted, “Anyone can try to impress and fool the boss and peers and actually be successful doing it…But the true test, the true mark of your respect and character comes from below, not above.” What motivates this negative type of leadership style could range from anything from insecurity to over-confidence. An interesting case is that of Admiral Earnest J. King, who some consider one of the greatest Naval heroes of the 20th century.
Admiral King served as both the Commander in Chief and the Chief of Naval Operations in World War II. He was an extraordinarily intelligent risk-taker who quickly climbed the ranks after graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy. In a biography of King, Thomas Buell noted his primary motivation, “King had but one aim in his life during his first forty years of naval service; to become the Chief of Naval Operations…He made no secret of it. He would tell anyone who would listen…”
As his primary motivation was self-interest, it is not surprising to find that many subordinates found his leadership style abrasive and uncompromising. As the Navy Commander in Chief, King worked his staff to the point where there were illnesses including heart attacks and even a suicide. One officer who worked for King reported he did not tolerate errors and that “Censure was swift, devastating, and before a cloud of witnesses.” Another officer noted that filled rooms would clear out when he entered, “No one seemed to want to be where King was.”
Admiral King was an extraordinarily successful naval officer who contributed to the Navy mission, but his brusque leadership style was clearly not appreciated by his Sailors. It is interesting to ponder if King’s abrasive leadership style would have been tolerated in today’s environment where command climate is a consideration. As King’s motivation to become Chief of Naval Operations was so strong, today he may have very well adapted his leadership style into something more acceptable.
It is disturbing that 39 senior Navy leaders were relieved for professional or personal incidents or indiscretions in 2011. Equally concerning is so far in 2012, 26 senior Navy leaders have been fired. Sexual harassment, hazing, drunk driving, adultery, incompetence, inappropriate relationships, cruelty, and maltreatment are some of the behaviors that these leaders were fired for. It is unlikely that these leaders intentionally wanted to end their careers in disgrace. What was their motivation for this poor leadership behavior? Each of these leaders was required to go through leadership training before they took their positions – training that reinforced that any of these behaviors would most likely lead to dismissal for cause. Training that also highlighted the difficult spot that this type of dismissal put their family, their command, their Navy, and their country in.
Possible motives were personal gain, sexual gratification, and a quest for power. Other contributors included stupidity and poor judgment. These motivations contrast sharply against motivations such as service to country, service to fellow service members, and mission accomplishment. When a leader is committed and motivated to their mission and their people, they intentionally avoid situations that encourage or facilitate poor decision making.
Although less than one percent of commanding officers are relieved each year, it would be wise to remember these are only the ones who were caught and reported. How many sailors are out there trying to hold on and waiting for a transfer date for their boss or themselves? Besides the personal embarrassment to the leader and the Navy, there are significant costs to the taxpayer for these leadership failures. One of the primary symptoms of dysfunctional leadership behavior is lower productivity due to low morale. Gallup estimates it can cost an organization approximately 1/3 of its payroll cost. Additionally, retention can be negatively affected resulting in increased costs for the Navy. Then there is the obvious cost of having to find and train qualified reliefs for those who are dismissed.
One solution may be to go through these cases and analyze what were the motives of the leader that prompted the incident or incidents that ended their careers? When we understand one’s motives, we can better understand their behavior. And could an analysis of leadership styles help to predict poor behavior? If so, who would be best to conduct an analysis of leadership styles?
A study on destructive leadership behavior in the Swedish military was recently completed which could have bearing on this problem. The study provided a survey to subordinates of military leaders and asked them to answer “How well do the following statements fit with regard to your immediate supervisor/commander?” Twenty statements were rated including: uses threats to get their way, has violent tendencies, put’s own needs ahead of the group, gives unclear instructions, etc. The survey could be completed in a short time and the results proved statistically reliable. This instrument also fits nicely into a 360-degree evaluation. Although some officers and senior enlisted would be threatened by a system such as this, those leaders who have the right motives and right leadership styles should welcome one. As Lt. Col. Mark Johnson noted it is easy to trick your leaders and peers into thinking you are a great leader. It is not so easy to trick your subordinates – our service members are smart and know a good leader when they see one.
Personal motivations do impact leadership styles for the simple reason that in order to get what they want people naturally adopt those characteristics that will help them achieve their goal. When motivations fall outside of the Navy’s core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment, leadership styles also fall outside of the acceptable boundaries the Navy has tried to instill not only through its leadership training but culture as well.
About the author:
Captain Jeanne McDonnell (ret.) served in the U.S. Navy for 25 years. Command assignments included Naval Support Activity Norfolk, Naval Administrative Command, and Transient Personnel Unit Norfolk. She also served in the Pentagon on the Joint Staff and Navy Staff. Jeanne has a Masters Degree in Education from Old Dominion University and another in Military Studies from U.S. Marine Corps University. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in Strategic Leadership at Regent University.
This material is copyright protected. No part of this document may be reproduced, in any form or by any means without permission from weLEAD Incorporated. Copyright waiver may be acquired from the weLEAD website.
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 Garamone, Jim. "Pace Pledges His Best Through End of Term." American Forces Press Service [Norfolk, VA] 15 June 2007, n. pag. Web. 25 Aug. 2012.
 Johnson, Mark. Lessons in Leadership: Straight Talk from a Green Beret. Dallas, TX: Brown Books Publishing Company, 2005. 111. Print.
 Buell, Thomas. Master of Sea Power. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1980. xx. Print.
 Ibid., pg 91.
 Ibid., pg 232.
 "Commanding officer, XO and senior enlisted firings." Navy Times [Springfield, VA] 3 July 2012, Web. 22 Aug. 2012. <http://www.navytimes.com/news/2012/07/navy-2012-co-xo-cmc-firings-list/>.
 Tavanti, Marco. "Managing Toxic Leaders: Dysfunctional Patterns." BEPRESS.Com. DePaul University, Jun 2011. Web. 26 Aug 2012.
 Gerry Larsson, Maria Fors Brandebo, Sofia Nilsson, (2012),"Destrudo-L: Development of a short scale designed to measure destructive leadership behaviours in a military context," Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol.33 Iss: 4 pp. 383 - 400
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What Motivates Navy Leaders? The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
The Navy – it’s not just a job, it’s an adventure! Get technical training, see the world, earn educational benefits, and be part of the fight against global terrorism! These are just a few of the reasons people are motivated to join the Navy. The Navy experience varies from sailor to sailor causing some to leave the Navy after a few years and others to make it a career. After their duty station, the biggest influence on a sailor’s Navy experience is typically their leader and that person’s leadership style. Read More >Jeanne M. McDonnell Articles
Leadership styles are based on the balance and overlapping of several core leadership frameworks (Styles, n.d.). According to Beck (2012), leadership effectiveness requires development in order to be aware of self-emotions, have control over these emotions, have empathy, and extend sound judgment. The value set of every leader is the basis from which their leadership styles develop and transition. Christmas (2011) states these values are influenced by intrinsic and extrinsic factors that shape the leaders of the times during a period of celebratory, visionary, and inclusive leadership transformation. It is through the transition and balance of leading and managing that the conscious and collaborative leadership processes are fostered for success.
According to Schwerin (2012), this process is self-awareness or the conscious state and is
an essential quality for successful leadership. Conscious leadership is a state of mind, the
authenticity of being who they are (Wood, n.d.). It helps leaders understand their strengths and
weakness and provides a foundation to reexamine and modify their conscious level leadership
behavior (Schwerin, 2012). The conscious leader trusts in the union of people and systems.
Conscious leaders experience authentic power that is internally based. According to Wood
(n.d.), they have a freedom that enables them to see beyond their own beliefs, opinions,
judgments, and values. The conscious leader listens from an open heart and encourages those
who have a different reality to express their views, fully and frankly (Wood, n.d.). They
continue to learn and understand the vital nature of diversity (Wood, n.d.).
Komives, Mainella, Owen, Osteen, & Longerbeam (2005) discussed the grounded theory
of leadership identity as a six-stage developmental process as depicted in Figure 1. The
transitional stages in leadership identity are awareness, exploration-engagement, leader
identified, leadership differentiated, generativity, and integration-synthesis. The participants in
their study described their leadership identity as moving from a leader-centric view to one that
embraces leadership as a collaborative and relational process and is central to the conscious and
relational leader (Komives, et al., 2005).
Figure 1: Developing a Leadership Identity: Illustrating the Cycle
According to Komives, et al. (2005), participants in the study revealed the dynamic process
of developing a leadership identity based on different experiences, new awareness of themselves
in a leadership context at different ages, and identified various ways their experiences and
context affected them. The essential development influences that fostered the development of a
leadership identity included adult influences, peer influences, meaningful involvement, and
reflective learning (Komives, et al., 2005). Developing oneself included a deepening self-
awareness, building self-confidence, establishing interpersonal efficacy, applying new skills, and
expanding motivation. The developing self category interacted with the category of group
influences where engaging in groups, learning from membership continuity, and changing
perceptions of groups influenced a person's leadership identity.
Leadership identity, according to Komives, et al. (2005), is the cumulative confidence in
one’s ability to engage with others to accomplish group objectives where a relational leadership
identity appears to be a sense of self as one who believes that groups are comprised of
interdependent members who do collaborative, relational leadership. As the group developed
themselves throughout the stages, they changed their perceptions of groups and their roles within
The study noted the engagement in groups and feedback from group members informed the
development of themselves as individuals shaping their individual awareness of who they were
in relation to others. Their changing view of self with others had a direct bearing on their
broadening view of leadership. Komives, et al. (2005) stated that those who viewed their
interdependence with those around them viewed leadership as a relational process and leaders as
anyone in the group who were contributing and collaborating in the process.
Boyatzis & McKee (2005) state that cultivating the capacity for mindfulness requires a
process of intentional change to develop ourselves – deliberate, focused identification of our
personal vision and our current reality, and conscious creation of engaging in a learning agenda.
This leadership role challenge requires leaders to engage in a conscious process of renewal both
on a daily basis and over time. Boyatzis & McKee (2005) state that leaders need to transform
their approach to managing themselves and to learn new behaviors and practices that enable
sustainability of internal resonance and attunement with those they lead. According to Wood
(n.d.), the consciousness shapes the leadership thinking resulting in change because individuals
see a need to grow, learn, and change their behavior (Kezar, 2001).
According to Legault (2012), horizontal and vertical growths are two-dimensional aspects
to development. Horizontal growth occurs through exposure to life and its many learning
processes. Horizontal development is the most common dimension due to the learning, training,
and development practices. The focus is on expanding, deepening, and enriching one’s current
way of making logic of the world. Vertical growth does not occur as often and is more powerful
than horizontal growth because it transforms a person’s way of making sense toward taking a
broader perspective and creates new ways for adults to think, feel, and act (Legault, 2012).
Legault (2012) describes successive stages or levels of learning that integrates prior stages
into a more complex structure forming a tiered system. The first tier stages leaders at a pre-
conventional level guided by their needs resulting in egocentric behavior. Conventional leaders
at the second tier take on socio-centric or ethno-centric view where concern for others is limited
to their immediate circle, workgroup, family, company, or nation. Legault (2012) further
discusses the last tier as leaders in a post-conventional level taking on a world-centric view that
encompasses the entire planet.
Turner (n.d.) identified six levels of leadership consciousness that a leader transitions
through in the tiered system: diplomat, expert, achiever, individual, collaborator, and servant.
Turner (n.d.) stated the diplomat acts to fit into work and social groups, meet others’ standards,
behave correctly, and maintain face and status. The expert is interested in what unique skills
they have that enable them to stand out from the group; however, they still define themselves in
terms of the group. Turner (n.d.) shows that the achiever is interested in other viewpoints, in
working effectively, and in achieving results.
The individualist’s key personal transition is in moving the source of authority in their lives
from being external to internal making this shift the start of a new phase of the leadership
journey (Turner, n.d.). As the collaborative transitions through the fifth level, they become
clearer about who they are and what unique qualities and skills they bring in the stage. They
tend to look out into the world to find ways of using their gifts and uniqueness as they step into
the collaborator phase (Turner, n.d.).
The ability of individuals to build relationships is a definitive factor in determining the
success or failure of leaders (Lester, 2011) across all divides. The collaborative leadership style
uses influence, not authority; creates open work environment without fear where people want to
work; keeps the purpose and vision alive; frees the team to question, analyze and investigate; and
operates with integrity and authenticity (Pixton, n.d.). A collaborative leadership approach is a
paradigm shift from a traditional leader to one that shares participative leadership and decision
making at all levels and in multiple decision processes for its members (Lari, 2011). Successful
collaboration often starts with one collaborative leader who identifies and convenes regularly a
collaborative leadership team that focuses overall on the organization’s goals and objectives
(Ohio, n.d.). It allows for the consideration of all viewpoints and enables all members’ ideas and
contributions to matter (Lari, 2011).
Collaboration requires group decisions at all levels, sharing of all information, a process
to stimulate the generation of ideas, team definition of accountability and self-selection, allowing
mistakes – expecting success, and the matching of talent and interests with responsibilities
(Pixton, n.d.). Collaborative leadership is effective for creating an environment conducive to
meeting the social and economic changes confronting organizations and the world (Yukl, 2010).
The facilitation of collaboration requires new types of leadership styles and structures. It
requires new leadership, management, and governance structures involving team approaches
rather than single person approaches. Collaborative leadership offers a new way to solve old
problems and take advantage of untapped opportunities by mobilizing collective expertise,
clarifying problems, resolving conflicts, and building consensus to act (Ohio, n.d.).
A high degree of intention to change the culture to one of caring and collaboration
demonstrates a transformational leadership model where relationship building is essential to the
role of the leader (Lari, 2011). Proven results of collaborative leadership has seen increased
productivity, a shared commitment to departmental goals, and improved quality of programs.
The greatest benefit of a shared leadership approach is a favorable impact on the preparation of
future leaders. According to Raelin (2003), a leader’s work is not to get people to comply but to
engage them, to support them, and keep the field clear so they can do meaningful work (Lari,
2011). Collaborative leadership is most effective when designed systematically to meet the
needs of a changing culture.
The sixth level of the conscious leadership dynamic element is the servant phase. This
stage finds the servant leader becoming increasingly integrated with their interpersonal skills as a
conscious shift takes place and a systems perspective emerges. This is the sustainability phase.
The servant leader acts to promote quality of life internationally by influencing positive change
relative to equality, conflict resolution, creative technology, and ecology (Turner, n.d.)
Servant leaders form mutually beneficial relationships with employees, customers,
suppliers, community, and the larger society. They balance their time and are motivated by
service to create a sustainable future for humanity and the planet (Turner, n.d.). This final level
of leadership consciousness enables a leader to reassess their conscious level and transition to a
corresponding stage while sustaining their leadership journey.
New ventures in conducting business require new ways to lead, manage, and govern that
promotes collaborative leadership. Leadership and management challenges will require the skills
of a conscious and collaborative leader for success (Lash, 2012). Collaborative leaders that
support and promote collaboration environments build the cultural elements of trust, sharing,
goals, innovation, environment, collaborative chaos, constructive confrontation, communication,
community, and value (Mays, 2007). Building collaboration requires setting clear goals and
objectives that are specific, measurable, and achievable. Along with the building process, Mays
(2007) states leadership behaviors must be consciously inclusive, empowering, purposeful,
ethical, and process-oriented. It is imperative to provide leadership in building relationships
among the people and organizations to fulfill one’s core purpose (Mays, 2007).
Leading during times of great changes and challenging realities requires leadership that is
assertive in expected and desired outcomes, examines logical opportunities and potential pitfalls,
and embraces and ensures changes are consistent and supportive of the personal and
organizational beliefs and values of the employees and the business constituencies (McFarlane,
et al., 2011). The conscious and collaborative leader is a vital part of key factors including
context, follower, and outcomes (MindTools, n.d.) that add to the success or failure of a dynamic
and ongoing leadership progression.
Ferdig (2007) states that sustainability leadership reflects an emerging consciousness
among people who are choosing to live their lives and lead their organizations in ways that
account for their impact on the earth, society and the health of local and global economies. The
role of the conscious leader includes capabilities beyond those we currently attribute to leaders,
foremost learning what it means to be a leader with others instead of leadership of or over others
Leaders who strive to develop themselves can have a meaningful effect on developing
others towards a successful leader (Beck, 2012). Gutek (2011) states all leadership begins with
self-leadership through discipline and precision. It is emphasized that leadership authority rests
in the balance of relationships they form with the people they lead. Beck (2012) asserts that
being mindful of your words and actions and being persistent in your efforts, your effectiveness
and impact as a leader will increase.
Lord (2005) states when we grow as people and value more of our true selves, our true
capabilities, and our true potential -- we naturally become greater catalysts for the growth of all
those around us including the organizations and societies that are socially constructed. The
conscious and collaborative leader forms a self-awareness of behaviors, thoughts, actions, and
communication. The need to develop conscious leaders has never been greater for organizations
to deal with the complexity of the global economic environment and create opportunities for a
sustainable future (Legault, 2012). The conscious leader inspires and evolves prominence, trusts
in themself and others, and seeks an infinite opportunity to grow and learn. Accordingly, the
conscious leader is inner-directed, leading with presence and serving those who follow.
Conscious leadership starts with a fundamental shift in how leaders perceive reality calling for
greater self-awareness and a more expansive leadership mind-set and world view (Anderson &
Ackerman, 2011). The conscious and collaborative leadership elements are influencing factors
in the effective and successful balance of the dynamic leadership progression.
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About the author:
Laura Perrymond is a Training Manager for county government. She is also a veteran having served in the U.S. Army. She received her Bachelor's degree from City University and an Associate degree from Pierce College. She will receive her Master's degree (MA-Leadership) from City University this May. You can email Laura at Perl35@hotmail.com
This material is copyright protected. No part of this document may be reproduced, in any form or by any means without permission from weLEAD Incorporated. Copyright waiver may be acquired from the weLEAD website.
Dynamic Elements: Conscious and Collaborative Leadership
Leadership styles are based on the balance and overlapping of several core leadership frameworks (Styles, n.d.). According to Beck (2012), leadership effectiveness requires development in order to be aware of self-emotions, have control over these emotions, have empathy, and extend sound judgment. The value set of every leader is the basis from which their leadership styles develop and transition. Christmas (2011) states these values are influenced by intrinsic and extrinsic factors that shape the leaders of the times during a period of celebratory, visionary, and inclusive leadership transformation. It is through the transition and balance of leading and managing that the conscious and collaborative leadership processes are fostered for success. Read More >Laura Perrymond Articles