Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Changing Role of the CMO

Marketing is everywhere, but with the ubiquity of slogans and ads, it's easy to forget that there's more to marketing than meets the eye. As a result, it is often one of the first budgets to be cut in economic downturns. However, a successful marketing campaign can be the best way for an organization to reach rapidly disappearing customers, to let people know that the organization is adapting and changing to continue to serve them despite current difficulties, and to stay in people's minds so that when the economy does turn around, the company is fresh in their minds.

Not an expert myself in marketing myself, I recently spoke with my friend Susanne Lyons, former chief marketing officer of Visa and Charles Schwab (SCHW) and decorated veteran marketer. While she is well-known in the marketing community, you may be more familiar with her work than her name: She was the architect behind Visa's most successful campaign, "Life takes Visa." Edited excerpts of our conversation follow:

Susanne, how is marketing changing today?

Marketing is a very dynamic area right now, with the Internet and social networking probably causing the most visible changes. But I believe the most dramatic changes are happening internally, especially in this tougher economy. Right now, every dollar needs to work harder, and marketing ... CMOs in particular ... are under more pressure than ever. Many businesses view marketing as a cost center without recognizing how it contributes to the bottom line. Marketing budgets are often the first to be cut. All of this can lead to a crisis of credibility, with marketing losing political power and voice in the organization.

Is this loss of power and voice deserved?

No! But of course I'm going to say that, because I'm in marketing. The reality is that it is hurting businesses now more than ever. Marketing is responsible for creating the first impression and for driving demand, which has a strong impact on the prospect's view of the business. So, yes, marketers definitely impact revenue in a big way.

You've built a successful career despite this "crisis of credibility." What does it take for a marketer to overcome the challenges you've mentioned?

They need to demonstrate greater accountability and show how they are having a real impact on the bottom line. This is the only way to get support and respect from the other C-level peers, or what I like to call a seat at the revenue table. Accountability is the key to credibility, and in business this means using hard metrics to demonstrate impact.

It sounds like accountability and metrics are important, but aren't marketers the ones with the creative brains?

That's exactly the criticism marketers need to combat. The CMO needs to be a businessperson first, and a marketer second. Many CMOs come from a project management or creative background, but the key is for marketers to understand and speak the quantitative and financial language of business.

What does it mean to speak "financial language of business?"

CMOs need to speak about business in business terms to their peers, using words and metrics like revenue, cash flow, and profitability. Softer metrics like brand awareness don't have much clout outside the marketing department. Many marketers make the mistake of talking about lowering costs instead of talking about increasing revenue. Beyond that, they need to understand not just their own budget, but how that money is driving business. For instance, if the CEO wants to cut the marketing budget by 10%, the CMO should be able to accurately predict the bottom-line business consequences.

What impact does this have on daily life?

Accountability is a fantastic driver of performance, so measuring marketing in terms of results will not only help marketers show their value, it's also likely to help increase that value. Aiming for specific numbers forces marketers to focus their efforts around questions that drive bottom-line impact: How many leads am I bringing in? What is the quality of those leads? How many converted?

As much as possible, marketing needs to build predictive modeling that demonstrates their business case and the ROI that today's actions will have down the road.

It sounds like we're on the tip of a tidal wave of change. What do these changes mean for the future?

I think we're going to see a power shift in business as CMOs step up to level ground with the other C-suite executives. The resentment and disconnect between departments and roles will fade away. When everyone understands the methodologies used to measure progress and results, we can start mapping different goals on top of one another across departments and for the company as a whole. We'll see a power shift, but it's not a zero-sum equation with marketing taking credibility from someone else. Marketing's rise will enable greater teamwork. Even though the weak economy is putting more pressure on marketers, I think they and their companies will emerge stronger because of it.

Thanks, Susanne. Is it O.K. for my readers to contact you?

Absolutely. I can be reached at susanne.lyons@marketo.com.

Life is good.

Marshall

My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Be Flexible, Attract Talent

In this time of economic uncertainty, the pressure to control costs is at a peak. With hiring freezes and layoffs, companies increasingly are asking themselves how to produce the results they need with limited or decreasing human resources.

One innovative firm in the Bay Area, Flexperience, has created a different talent market: experienced professionals who seek flexible work opportunities. I spoke with Lisa Kay Solomon, vice-president of business development for Flexperience, about how organizations can build sustainable talent management strategies through flexible work. Edited excerpts of our conversation follow:

Why is flexibility so important? Don't we have to work more, not less, to stay competitive globally?

Over the next 5 to 10 years, all trends indicate that flexibility will move from a "nice to have" perk to a necessary condition of employment. As aging boomers slowly retire, they are being replaced by upcoming millennials who have a very different attitude about work and the ideal job, placing flexibility and quality of life over steady career advancement and security.

Technology makes it possible to work almost from anywhere, and the increasingly global economy will force mobility and flexibility in dramatic ways. Organizations will have to fundamentally rethink how they hire and sustain the best and brightest.

So what are some of the best practices around flexible work and flextime?

What we've learned from our clients and partners is that flexibility is not a "one size fits all" proposition. It has to work within the established culture, values, and business requirements of the company. Additionally, the company has to provide the right technologies that enable its employees to be productive anytime, anywhere, such as laptops, VPNs, PDAs, video cameras, high-speed access, and teleconferencing tools. These allow team players to focus on the work they need to get done from anywhere, anytime, without being hindered by office-time logistics and excessive travel expenses.

A lot of times, flexible work practices start as an informal process launched as a one-off to keep a key employee engaged. If these informal programs demonstrate anecdotal and measurable results, they often set the stage for a more formal flex program down the road.

How are companies responding?

Some companies get it immediately ... they are grateful to have a partner that helps them find and coach their talents on how to work in a very fluid and flexible way. Others are slower to adapt their systems to handle "nontraditional" work resources into their processes. Many of them know that they need to change, and we're starting to see more companies appointing a person or task force responsible for exploring a flexible work policy.

It has been particularly exciting to see how our initial successes have helped shaped new dialogs within management teams about their future human capital strategies. For example, one of our Fortune 500 clients has hired its first part-time direct hire because of the very evident efficiency and commensurate high ROI it experienced with one of our part-time placements. Another, Timbuk2, hired its first part-time HR director because it saw the incredible value she could provide during her three days in the office. Method Home Products used one of our professionals to cover a maternity backfill and saw firsthand the benefits of avoiding extra stress on the other members of the department by asking them to cover her work while she was out. This creates goodwill among everyone, leading to a more sustainable and loyal workforce.

What about people who want to work flexibly? What advice would you give them on how to go about advocating to their employer that they should be allowed to work in nontraditional ways?

There is an increasing amount of useful data and advice on the business benefits and cost savings around flexible work. Every employee looking to change their work arrangement should go armed with a business case on how the new arrangement delivers a measurable ROI to the company.

Additionally, the employee should have a clear communication plan that details when and how s/he will be available to the rest of the team and what they can expect from her. Credibility and trust are absolutely essential when starting out these arrangements. Every missed call or deadline could be a deadly strike against their reputational asset, leading to general cynicism about the program. There are some great resources out there, like the When Work Works program, that provide extensive guides for both the manager and the employee on how to engage in productive conversation about flexible work.

What advice do you have for companies that want to start a flexible work program?

Creating a flexible work program is a process. We encourage our clients to find a cross section of respected performers throughout the company to support the program. It's especially helpful to have a senior-level champion to shepherd the effort. The other critical element is to start slow, with low expectations ... kick it off with a "pilot" and communicate to the different stakeholders what you hope this "experiment" can teach you. Communicate early successes widely while managing expectations appropriately along the way. You rarely get docked when a pilot program doesn't turn out 100% as expected, but you will certainly hear it if you launch a companywide program that falls flat!

For more about Flexperience, got to www.flexperienceconsulting.com.

Life is good.

Marshall

My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Self-Confidence for Leaders

I was recently teaching in a seminar for MBA students at the University of California at Berkeley's Haas School of Business. A young second-year student seemed anxious to talk with me. He finally asked: "I have read your book, What Got You Here Won't Get You There. In the book you talk about classic challenges faced by your clients. I noticed that you never discuss self-confidence problems. How do you deal with your client's self-confidence problems?"

This was a great question. It made me realize that I rarely encounter self-confidence problems in my work with CEOs and potential CEOs. It is almost impossible to make it to the top level in a multibillion-dollar corporation if you do not believe in yourself. On the other hand, I am frequently asked to speak at business schools (in fact five this month), and I have noticed that students in my seminars often want to talk about it.

I will share a few suggestions about how you can build your self-confidence, as it is a key quality that leaders must possess. I also hope you, my readers, will offer your own suggestions.

- Don't worry about being perfect. There are never right or wrong answers to complex business decisions. The best that you can do as a leader is to gather all of the information that you can (in a timely manner), do a cost-benefit analysis of potential options, use your best judgment ... and then go for it.

- Learn to live with failure. Great salespeople are the ones who get rejected the most often. They just "ask for the order" more than the other salespeople. You are going to make mistakes. You are human. Learn from these mistakes and move on.

- After you make the final decision ... commit! Don't continually second-guess yourself. Great leaders communicate with a sense of belief in what they are doing and with positive expectations toward the achievement of their vision.

- Show courage on the outside ... even if you don't always feel it on the inside. Everyone is afraid sometime. If you are a leader, you direct reports will be reading your every expression. If you show a lack of courage, you will begin to damage your direct reports' self-confidence.

- Find happiness and contentment is your work. Life is short. My extensive research indicates that we are all going to die anyway. Do your best. Follow your heart. When you win, celebrate. When you lose, just start over the next day.

Life is good.

Marshall

My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

How to Spot the Uncoachables

Even if you are the best coach in the world, if the person you are coaching shouldn't be coached, the coaching isn't going to work. The good news is that the "uncoachables" are easier than you think to spot. How do you know when someone is uncoachable? How do you detect a lost cause? Following are four indicators that you are dealing with one of these people:

1. She doesn't think she has a problem.

This successful adult has no interest in changing. Her behavior is working fine for her. If she doesn't care to change, you are wasting your time! Let me give you an example of a nice woman who didn't think she had a problem. My mother, a lovely woman and much-admired first-grade teacher, was so dedicated to her craft that she didn't draw the line between inside and outside the classroom. She talked to all of us, including my father, in the same slow, patient manner, using the same simple vocabulary that she used with her six-year-olds every day. One day as she graciously and methodically corrected his grammar for the millionth time, he looked at her, sighed, and said, "Honey, I'm 70 years old. Let it go." My father had absolutely no interest in changing. He didn't perceive a problem. So no matter how much, how hard, or how diligently she coached, he wasn't going to change.

2. He is pursuing the wrong strategy for the organization.

If this guy is already going in the wrong direction, all you're going to do with your coaching is help him get there faster.

3. They're in the wrong job.

Sometimes people feel that they're in the wrong job with the wrong company. They may believe they're meant to be doing something else or that their skills are being misused. Here's a good way to determine if you're working with one of these people. Ask them, "If we shut down the company today, would you be relieved, surprised, or sad?" If you hear 'relieved,' you've got yourself a live one. Send them packing. You can't change the behavior of unhappy people so that they become happy: You can only fix behavior that's making people around them unhappy.

4. They think everyone else is the problem.

A long time ago I had a client who, after a few high-profile employee departures, was concerned about employee morale. He had a fun, successful company and people liked the work, but feedback said that the boss played favorites in the way he compensated people. When I reported this feedback to my client, he completely surprised me. He said he agreed with the charge and thought he was right to do so. First off, I'm not a compensation strategist and so I wasn't equipped to deal with this problem, but then he surprised me again. He hadn't called me to help him change; he wanted me to fix his employees. It's times like these that I find the nearest exit. It's hard to help people who don't think they have a problem. It's impossible to fix people who think someone else is the problem.

My suggestion in cases like these? Save time, skip the heroic measures, and move on. These are arguments you can't ever win.

Life is good.

Marshall

My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Keeping Your People Engaged in Tough Times

Marshall: I hear this concern every where I travel these days. Who doesn't? My friend Joe Wheeler, Executive Director of The Service Profit Chain Institute, recently co-authored a book with Harvard Business School Professors James L. Heskett and W. Earl Sasser, Jr. entitled The Ownership Quotient, Putting The Service Profit Chain to Work for Unbeatable Competitive Advantage. I asked him for his perspective on this question. Here's his take:

Joe: Managers across the country are facing tough decisions as they try to manage their cost base against diminishing demand. In many cases, this affects labor costs and the potential for layoffs, furloughs, or other cutbacks. These disruptions can have a nasty impact on employee morale and commitment.

In our book, we studied the practices of organizations like Wegmans Food Markets, ING Direct, and Harrah's Entertainment ... organizations we characterize as "service profit chain leaders." They achieve a large percentage of 'owners' in their employee base ... employees that are highly engaged and demonstrate an 'ownership' mentality. These employees recommend new employees to the organization, and participate in efforts to improve current products, services, and processes. This engagement inevitably leads to greater success for the company, and is of significant benefit especially during tough times.

Here are three things you can do to maintain and foster an ownership culture:

1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Of course you're busy searching for business to keep the organization afloat. But employees with an ownership mentality want to know what is happening in their company. Set aside time regularly to provide your employee-owners with information that will help them understand their short-term job prospects. Just as important, provide them with specific plans for using the next 18 to 24 months to reposition the organization for the next decade.

There is a lot of anxiety and uncertainty in many organizations today. In some cases, it interferes with quality and productivity. Merely recognizing employee concerns can help alleviate them. Relatively inexpensive employee counseling can become memorable at times like these. These actions, coupled with incentives that elicit new ideas for improving operations can send important positive messages at a time of stress. They can foster "ownership" behaviors ... loyalty, high productivity, and referrals of others as potential employees ... that enhance the lifetime value of members of the organization.

2. Appeal to the Better Nature of Your Employee-Owners

The current economic crisis provides the national government with the basis for establishing a citizenry characterized by volunteerism. It provides you with the "burning platform" necessary to enlist everyone in transforming your organization to win the competitive battles of the future. It's a great time to engage employee-owners in coming up with ideas to deal with the downturn. This doesn't have to involve an elaborate "program," just an organized appeal.

It may involve juicing up an already existent effort. For example, at Baptist Health Care, an organization regularly cited as one of the best places to work, managers lead discussions on subjects such as survey results and solicit ideas for ways to improve customer service as part of an ongoing Listening and Learning program. The resulting "customer snapshot reports" compile all employee observations and ideas for general distribution.

3. Upgrade Talent: Avoid the Freeze

Winners like to work with winners; losers like to work with winners; but winners don't like to work with losers. Who are the losers? Ironically, many times it's not those who are performing at a sub-par level; they often can be coached and supported in ways that help them improve their productivity. More frequently, it's those who violate the norms of the organization and can't manage by the values shared by others. In the context of the organization and its culture, they are regarded as "jerks" by their colleagues ... jerks who are tolerated because of the ability to "make the numbers." But most often, the "losers" are simply those who are not inspired and excited about the business, who go about performing the necessary but not the extra.

Now is the time to let go of the losers, thereby raising the average level of talent in the organization. That doesn't mean a freeze on hiring, however. Instead, it may be a great time to take advantage of a depressed talent market by making a few strategic hires of long-sought candidates from competitors or other organizations.

Marshall: Thank you Joe! This is great advice. To learn more about The Ownership Quotient visit www.ownershipquotient.com or email Joe here.

Life is good.

Marshall

My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Are You Living for the Short Term or the Long Term?

In analyzing how we spend our time, whether personally or professionally, it can be helpful to consider two dimensions: short-term satisfaction and long-term benefit. Both have value. It can be disappointing to live our lives with no meaning or pleasure in the here and now, just as it can be unfulfilling to live only for today.

Questions like, "Does this activity make me happy?" or "Do I find meaning in the activity itself?" can help us gauge the degree of short-term satisfaction that we get from any activity. Questions like, "Are the results achieved from this activity worth my effort?" or "Is the successful completion of this activity going to have a long-term positive impact on my life?" can help us gauge our expectations for potential long-term benefit from any activity.

The accompanying graph shows five different modes of behavior and how they can characterize our relationship to any activity—either at work or at home. (See above)

Stimulating is for activities that score high in short-term satisfaction but low in long-term benefit. An example of a "stimulating" activity may be the use of drugs or alcohol. While the activity may provide short-term satisfaction, it may be dysfunctional for long-term benefit. At work, gossiping with co-workers may be fun for a while, but it is probably not career- or business-enhancing. A life spent solely on stimulating activities could provide a lot of short-term pleasure but still be headed nowhere.

Sacrificing is for activities that score low in short-term satisfaction but high in long-term benefit. An extreme example of sacrificing could involve dedicating your life to work that you hate because you feel like you "have to" to achieve a larger goal. A more common example might be working out (when you don't feel like it) to improve your long-term health. At work, sacrificing might be spending extra hours on a project to help enhance your career prospects. A life spent solely on sacrificing activities would be the life of a martyr—lots of achievement, but not much joy.

Surviving is for activities that score low on short-term satisfaction and low on long-term benefit. These are activities that don't cause much joy or satisfaction and do not contribute to long-term benefit in your life. These are typically activities that we are doing because we feel that we have to do them in order just to get by. Charles Dickens frequently described the lives of people who were almost constantly in the surviving box. These poor people had countless hours of hard work, not much joy, and not much to show for all of their efforts. A life spent solely on surviving activities would be a hard one indeed.

Sustaining is for activities that produce moderate amounts of short-term satisfaction and lead to moderate long-term benefits. For many professionals, the daily answering of e-mails is a sustaining activity. It is moderately interesting (not thrilling) and usually produces moderate long-term but hardly life-changing benefit. At home, the day-to-day routine of shopping, cooking, and cleaning may be viewed as sustaining. A life spent solely on sustaining activities would be an O.K. one—not great, yet not too bad.

Succeeding is a term for activities that score high on short-term satisfaction and high on long-term benefit. These activities are the ones that we love to do and get great benefit from doing. At work, people who spend a lot of time in the succeeding box love what they are doing and believe that it is producing long-term benefit at the same time. At home, a parent may be spending hours with a child time that the parent greatly enjoys while valuing the long-term benefit that will come to the child. A life spent in succeeding is a life that is filled with both joy and accomplishment.

The perception of both short-term satisfaction and long-term benefit is dependent upon the individual engaged in the activity. Consider an immigrant who leaves a poor country and come to the U.S., where she works 18 hours a day at two minimum-wage jobs. She may have a great attitude toward her work and be saving every possible cent for her children's education. She may define her life as being largely spent in the succeeding category—filled with short-term happiness and long-term benefit.

At the other end of the professional scale, one CEO could feel resentful and grumpy about her work (and feel trapped) because a drop in stock value means that she will have to work another couple of years to have the $10 million she told herself she needed in order to retire. She might see herself in the surviving category. Another CEO in a similar situation could feel happy and fulfilled at the prospect of leading a major organization through challenging times and see herself in the succeeding category.

The point is two people could be engaged in the same activity but have completely different perceptions of what this activity means to them. It's because no one can define what short-term satisfaction or long-term benefit means for you but you. My suggestion for you is simple. Spend a week tracking how you spend your time. At the end of the week calculate how many hours you spent on stimulating, sacrificing, surviving, sustaining, or succeeding. Then ask yourself what changes you can make to help you create a life that is both more satisfying in the short-term and more rewarding in the long-term.

While the activities that take up our time can be one factor in determining our happiness and achievement, our attitude toward these activities can be an equally important factor in determining the ultimate quality of our lives. If we cannot change our activities, we can at least try to change our attitude toward them.

Life is good.

Marshall

My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

4 Tips for Efficient Succession Planning

One of the most common leadership development questions that I hear from executives is, "Why does succession planning feel like such a waste of time?"

I do a lot of work on executive coaching and succession with my good friend, Jim Moore. Jim is the former CLO of three major companies. Here are some of our thoughts on how to make leadership succession a more relevant process in your company.

Many of the CEOs we talk with these days express concern about the lack of bench strength in their companies. They are very worried that they lack sufficient "ready now" candidates to replace planned & unplanned losses of key leaders. As a result, the future continuity and performance of the business is at risk. These same executives also tell us that their companies have been doing succession planning for years. On average, the executives we meet give their succession planning process a grade of C+ and they give their execution of succession plans a grade of D. If you are among the companies who are not happy with the impact of your succession planning process, you have plenty of company. Here are four practical ideas on how you can get more impact from your organization's succession planning efforts.

1. Change the name of the process to from Succession Planning to Succession Development.

Plans do not develop anyone ... only development experiences develop people. We see many companies put more effort and attention into the planning process than they do into the development process. Succession planning processes have lots of to-do's ... forms, charts, meetings, due dates and checklists. They sometimes create a false sense that the planning process is an end in itself rather than a precursor to real development. Many humans fall into the same trap regarding physical fitness. We have may have fantastic plans in place to lose weight. We may be very proud of our plans , which include detailed daily goals for diet, alcohol consumption, and exercise. And if our execution were half as impressive as our planning, we would be very svelte. Our focus should be on weight loss, not planning for weight loss.

2. Measure outcomes, not process

This change of emphasis is important for several reasons. First, executives pay attention to what gets measured and what gets rewarded. If leadership development is not enough of a priority for the company to establish goals and track progress against those goals, it will be difficult to make any succession planning process work. Second, the act of engaging with senior executives to establish these goals will build support for succession planning and ownership for leadership development. Third, these results will help guide future efforts and mid-course corrections.

The metrics a company could establish for Succession Development might include goals like the percent of executive level vacancies that are actually filled with an internal promotion vs. an external hire, or the percent of promotions that actually come from the high-potential pool. Too often, we find companies measure only the percent of managers that had completed succession plans in place.

3. Keep it simple.

We sometimes find companies adding excessively complex assessment criteria to the succession planning process in an effort to improve the quality of the assessment. Some of these criteria are challenging even for behavioral scientists to assess, much less the average line manager. Since the planning process is only a precursor to focus the development, it doesn't need to be perfect. More sophisticated assessments can be built into the development process and administered by a competent coach.

4. Stay realistic.

Following are two classic examples how succession plans may lack realism:



The head of engineering is a high performing leader who has the potential to be COO. She has always been in an engineering role. If she had sales experience, she would be even more ready to be the COO so her development plan is written to include a job move to be head of sales. However, this company would never take the risk of putting someone without sales experience in the top sales job ... so her development plan perpetually says, "move to a sales job" even though that will never happen.

The CFO is a high performing leader who has passed all the assessment criteria to be a high potential, ready-now candidate for the CEO job. He is told he is the top candidate. However, the CEO can't stand the guy, and as a result, he will never get the job as long as that CEO has a say in the matter.


While development plans and succession charts aren't promises, they are often communicated as such and can lead to frustration if they aren't realistic. Bottom line, don't jerk around high performing leaders with unrealistic development expectations. Only give the promise of succession if there is a realistic chance of its happening!

We believe the four suggestions above can help shift your organization's focus from planning to development ... and achieve increased depth in your bench strength.

Life is good.

Marshall

My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Evaluate How You Fit Your Company Culture

While moving up the organization, I've noticed a high turnover in the senior ranks. It seems like a lot of talented people who were once successful fail to make the grade. How can I increase the likelihood that I will not end up like these casualties?

MG: This is a significant challenge for executives today. How can you avoid being another turnover casualty? Nat Stoddard and Claire Wyckoff recently wrote about this in their new book The Right Leader: Selecting Executives that Fit. I asked them to give us their take on this question.

Nat and Claire: Thank you Marshall! Your reader's observation is absolutely correct. Over 64 percent of new CEOs (whose data is most readily available) fail to make it through their fourth year in the job, while 40 percent are gone in 18 months. Turnover rates for all senior executives have increased significantly during the past decade ... in excess of 50 percent. In fact, they're up over three times the rate that they were throughout most of the 1990s.

The problem is not that executives can't do their jobs. The problem often lies in the fact that they may not fit the situation well enough to deliver the changes expected of them. By "fit" we mean how well an executives' character (especially their values and beliefs) aligns with the culture of the company ? where the necessary and expected changes must be delivered. If the character of the leader is not closely aligned with that of the organization, then, as Peter Drucker originally pointed out, followership will not occur ... people won't trust a leader who doesn't share their values, and, without trust, they will not follow him or her. It is this lack of proper "fit" that causes so many senior executives to fail.

When you're considering a promotion or a move, the key is to ensure not only that your skills and abilities match up with the needs of the organization, but that you fit well with the organization's culture. There are three things to consider: the culture of the organization at large, that of the team of which you will be a member, and that of the team you'll be expected to lead.

The following are a few suggestions for reducing the risks of becoming a casualty of cultural conflict:

1. Know thyself. We encourage candidates to take a number of psychological and behavioral assessments. It is vital to understand yourself as fully as possible ... especially your business-related beliefs and decision-making processes. It's also helpful to identify those aspects of different cultures that you relate to and those you don't. Write them down and refer to them as you gather data about the opportunities under consideration.

2. Inquire about the cultures at hand. Do the people you are interviewing treat culture as "that soft 'people' stuff?" That in itself tells you a great deal about the relative importance of culture in this organization, and its members' understanding of the challenges facing newly appointed leaders like yourself.

3. Use your network to verify what you have observed about the company's cultures. Former employees, suppliers, or consultants can shed light on what you will actually encounter. You can also ask to obtain permission to talk to a few potential peers, direct reports, your boss's boss, and members of the board. Think through the questions you want to ask about "how things get done around here" to get a sense of how much agreement there is about the makeup of the organization's culture.

Remember, while a new situation may seem like the perfect match, failing to fit adequately with the company cultures you encounter will increase your chances of becoming a turnover statistic. What's more, the higher up you go in any organization, the more important fit becomes ... and the more difficult it is to recover from a situation that "just didn't work out."

Life is good.

Marshall

My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Spotting the Uncoachables

Even if you are the best coach in the world, if the person you are coaching shouldn't be coached, the coaching isn't going to work. The good news is that the "uncoachables" are easier than you think to spot. How do you know when someone is uncoachable? How do you detect a lost cause? Following are four indicators that you are dealing with one of these people:

1. She doesn't think she has a problem.

This successful adult has no interest in changing. Her behavior is working fine for her. If she doesn't care to change, you are wasting your time!

Let me give you an example of a nice woman who didn't think she had a problem. My mother, a lovely woman and much-admired first-grade teacher, was so dedicated to her craft that she didn't draw the line between inside and outside the classroom. She talked to all of us, including my father, in the same slow, patient manner, using the same simple vocabulary that she used with her six-year-olds every day.

One day as she graciously and methodically corrected his grammar for the millionth time, he looked at her, sighed, and said, "Honey, I'm 70 years old. Let it go." My father had absolutely no interest in changing. He didn't perceive a problem. So no matter how much, how hard, or how diligently she coached, he wasn't going to change.

2. He is pursuing the wrong strategy for the organization.

If this guy is already going in the wrong direction, all you're going to do with your coaching is help him get there faster.

3. They're in the wrong job.

Sometimes people feel that they're in the wrong job with the wrong company. They may believe they're meant to be doing something else or that their skills are being misused. Here's a good way to determine if you're working with one of these people. Ask them, "If we shut down the company today, would you be relieved, surprised, or sad?" If you hear 'relieved,' you've got yourself a live one. Send them packing. You can't change the behavior of unhappy people so that they become happy: You can only fix behavior that's making people around them unhappy.

4. They think everyone else is the problem.

A long time ago I had a client who, after a few high-profile employee departures, was concerned about employee morale. He had a fun, successful company and people liked the work, but feedback said that the boss played favorites in the way he compensated people. When I reported this feedback to my client, he completely surprised me. He said he agreed with the charge and thought he was right to do so.

First off, I'm not a compensation strategist and so I wasn't equipped to deal with this problem, but then he surprised me again. He hadn't called me to help him change; he wanted me to fix his employees. It's times like these that I find the nearest exit. It's hard to help people who don't think they have a problem. It's impossible to fix people who think someone else is the problem.

My suggestion in cases like these? Save time, skip the heroic measures, and move on. These are arguments you can't ever win.

Life is good.

Marshall

My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

7 Steps to Leadership Self-Confidence

One key factor in leadership success is self-confidence. How can future leaders learn to demonstrate more of this? Here are a few suggestions that I give leaders who have self-confidence issues.

1. Decide if you really want to be a leader. Many of the MBAs who report self-confidence issues are brilliant technicians. They often find the uncertainty and ambiguity of leading people very unsettling. They are looking for the "right answers" - similar to the ones in engineering school. In some cases, brilliant technical experts should continue to be brilliant technical experts - and not feel obligated to become managers.

2. Make peace with ambiguity in decision making. There are usually no clear right answers when making complex business decisions. Even CEOs are guessing.

3. Gather a reasonable amount of data, involve people, then follow your gut and do what you think is right.

4. Accept the fact that you are going to fail on occasion. All humans do.

5. Have fun! Life is short. Why should you expect your direct reports to demonstrate positive enthusiasm, if they don't see it in you?

6. Once you make a decision, commit and go for it. Don't continually second guess yourself. If you have to change course, you have to change course. If you never commit, all you will ever do is change course.

7. Demonstrate courage on the outside, even when you don't feel it on the inside. We are all afraid on occasion -- that is just part of being human. If you are going to lead people in tough times, you will need to show more courage than fear. When direct reports read worry and concern on the face of a leader, they begin to lose confidence in the leader's ability to lead.

Life is good.

Marshall

My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

4 Ways to Bounce Back From Setbacks or a Layoff

Today's business world is increasingly challenging--with economic unrest and rapid changes in infrastructure. Many good people have recently found themselves facing job insecurity and layoffs. I contacted my good friend and best-selling author Karen Salmansohn for some tips on bouncing back and even thriving in the face of adversity. Here's what she said:

1. To those of you who have just endured a career adversity, join the crowd--and by the way, it's a very distinguished successful crowd.

Many members of the Fortune 500 Club could easily earn membership in the Misfortune 500 Club. Successful people are not people who never fail; they are people who know how to fail well. They have learned to use the leverage of a failure to push themselves up higher.

Bill Gates relishes the lessons of failure so much that he purposely hires people who have made mistakes. Roberto Goizueta, Coca-Cola's CEO, says the risk-taker mentality is the very reason he hired back the guy who launched New Coke--a huge marketing failure. Goizueta recognized that you can become uncompetitive and dangerously inactive if you let "avoiding failure" become your motivator. "You can stumble only if you're moving," he says.

If you've recently stumbled and fallen in your career, re-focus on how your risky thinking makes you more knowledgeable. See work failure as "fullure"--full of many lessons.

2. Think like a lion about your firing. Graham Thomas Chipperfield, a lion tamer with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, was bitten by Sheba, one of his 500-pound lionesses.

Before he got back in the cage with her, he analyzed the event from her point of view. First, he recognized that lions tend to think of the trainer as another lion. So, when he attempted to break up a fight between her and another lion--Sheba figured that he wanted to join fight!

Did Chipperfield blame Sheba for her inaccurate thinking? No. He took time to see the biting from her perspective. This is the same technique as that used by many therapists--beginning with Freud--called "mimesis." Through such role-play from offending party's perspective, patients can better understand why someone has "bitten" them and hopefully avoid being bitten again. If you've been fired, rejected, yelled at, take time today to see things from "Sheba's Point of View," so that perhaps you can avoid this happening again.

3. If you ask depressing questions, you will get 100% depressing answers. For example it does no good to ask yourself: Why didn't I...? What if...? Why me...? Would you accept some of the mean questions you ask yourself if they came from an outside source? Doubtful! So you have to "stop 'em and swap 'em" immediately for these questions that bounce you upward: What can I do to move forward? How can I grow from this challenge? What's within my control to change?

4. Shrink negativity into "nuggetivity." Limit the amount of time you allow yourself to think negative thoughts to three-minute nuggets, three times a day. Set aside a specific time of day when you will allow yourself to think negative thoughts. Whenever a negative thought enters your head, tell yourself it will have to wait until your preset Negativity Appointment. Who knows, maybe you won't even want to think negatively once this time swings around?

Marshall: Thanks Karen! What an uplifting interview. For more career and happiness info pick up Karen's new book The Bounce Back Book: How to Thrive in the Face of Uncertainty, Setbacks and Losses, or go to notsalmon.com.

Life is good.

Marshall

My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Building Partnerships Across the Organization

I've had questions from leaders who find themselves in a company that was formed through several mergers. While they hear talk about "synergy" and "cross-organizational teamwork," they don't always see this in practice.

The number one reason for mergers is synergy - which will, hopefully, lead to more profitability. If there is no "1+1=3" effect in joining with another organization, why bother to do it?

In spite of seemingly great synergy, many mergers fail. The main cause of failure is not bad strategic fit. It is the lack of integration of people and culture. The question is critical - not only to the success of companies formed through mergers - but to almost all huge, global corporations.

Here are a few basic suggestions for managers that may help building synergistic partnerships across your organization:

1. Review the larger company goals, then focus on how your unit's objectives relate to overall corporate success.

2. Identify other parts of the business that may be impacted by the work of your group and let them participate in the development of your goals and plans.

3. Have each person in your group identify cross-organizational colleagues with the potential for synergies and partnerships.

4. Develop a disciplined procedure through which each person regularly reaches out to their cross-organizational partners and asks "How can we better help each other?"

5. Establish monthly team meetings for sharing what has been learned and ensuring accountability.

6. Rather than defending your viewpoints, or protecting your organization try to methodically balance your views with those of your colleagues to build a sense of shared commitment to larger objectives.

7. Establish a regular best practices forum (this can be done online) in which participants from all areas of the organization discuss what is working. (GE has done a fantastic job of making this happen.)

8. Be willing to transfer some of your best talent to other parts of the business. This will both facilitate cross-organizational synergy and help develop potential corporate-wide leadership. (Admittedly, this one is much easier in theory than in practice!)

9. Finally, go first. If we wait for the other people across the organization to reach out to us - and they wait for us to reach out to them - both parties will only succeed in waiting, not in building partnerships.

Life is good.

Marshall

My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

What to Do When You're Suddenly in Charge

When times are tough, becoming a new leader or CEO from outside the organization is both a blessing and a curse.

The good news is that the world's not going to immediately blame you for the company's problems. The recession has lowered performance expectations. And the board has confidence in you.

The bad news is that the company does have serious problems you need to fix. And the economy may get worse before it gets better, inhibiting your chances for an effective turnaround.

So what are some of my suggestions for a new CEO entering into a difficult situation?

My first: Don't trash your predecessor. Whatever happened in the past happened. You cannot change that. Your predecessor probably had good relationships with many of the executives who are still in the company and are running key divisions and key functions. Do whatever you can to learn from your predecessor. Although a few CEOs are asked to leave because they engage in immoral or illegal activities, most are asked to leave because they just make mistakes. Your predecessor probably did many things right. Your predecessor knows ... perhaps more than anyone ... the key relationships that you will need to develop in order to be a success. Go out of your way to build a positive transition.

For instance, I have a colleague who has been working with the Obama team on the transition from President Bush to President Obama. He has been pleasantly surprised at the level of help and cooperation offered by leaders in the outgoing administration. He has found them incredibly helpful in sharing the 'nuts and bolts' of running the government and found them to be grateful that they are being listened to and treated with respect.

My second suggestion is to respect the history and tradition of your organization. Consider my friend Frances Hesselbein, who won admiration from management gurus for her incredible turnaround at the Girl Scouts of the USA in the 1980s. In her thirteen years at the helm, she dramatically increased membership and raised significantly more money. She also focused on the importance of diversity and made an organization that was becoming irrelevant - relevant again. While she worked very hard at creating a vibrant organization that met the needs of changing times, she always respected the history and traditions that had made the Girl Scouts a great organization in the past. (Ms. Hesselbein and I are on the Leader to Leader Institute board of governors, of which Ms. Hesselbein is the chairman.)

My third suggestion is write off whatever you can - now! As an incoming CEO in a tough situation, you need a brutally honest assessment of the problems faced by your company. Turn over every rock! Let your executives know that they will not be punished for disclosing concerns now - but that they will be fired if you find out later that they did not tell you the truth about what is really happening.

One of my favorite clients, who eventually succeeded in turning around a disaster, tried valiantly to implement this strategy. He thought that he was being clear with all division presidents. By year's end the company had written off over $1 billion, which was by far the largest write-off in the history of the firm. As it turned out, one key division president, who was near retirement, had "fudged the numbers" in an effort to look good in his last year. When this mistake came to light, the company had to write off another $200 million the next year. The CEO told me that the $200 million write-off that occurred the second year did more damage to the reputation and stock price of the company than the billion-plus write-off that had occurred the first year.

My final suggestion: Be a role model for humility and continuous learning. Kent Kresa, who in the 1990s led an amazing turnaround at defense-contractor Northrop (now Northrop Grumman), developed a profile for the desired behaviors of the leaders in the company. He personally received feedback on his own leadership behavior. Kent worked hard at improving himself and set the example for all of his executives ... who also did the same thing. If you want others to develop ... start with yourself! The positive role modeling by Kent and his executive team did more to encourage other leaders to focus on their own improvement than any amount of 'preaching' or courses on leadership.

Ultimately for a company to change, individual leaders need to change. By being a positive example of learning, agility and personal development, you can inspire your leadership team to do the same. (I worked with Northrop and Mr. Kresa as consultant in the early 1990s, helping them with a large executive education effort.)

If you are a new leader in a tough situation, I cannot guarantee that following these suggestions will ensure your success. But I do believe that following these suggestions will improve your odds in turning around a tough situation.

Life is good.

Marshall

My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

7 Ways to Make Sure You Hire the Right Person

Hiring the right people is not as simple as it sounds! Millions of managers ask themselves this same question every day. I asked my friends Geoff Smart and Randy Street (HBS '97), co-authors of the instant New York Times bestseller Who: The A Method for Hiring, if they would answer this question. Following is their answer.

GS & RS: It's hard to hire the right person because managers use "voodoo hiring" methods that don't work. Unsuccessful hiring is every manager's #1 problem. They don't teach you how to hire in high school, college, or even at Harvard Business School!

Hiring managers who invent their own approaches, most of which are horrible, not only waste time, but also produce a 50% failure rate on average. And, in tough economic times like these, getting your business's house in order from a talent perspective is of paramount importance if you are going to weather the storm.

We conducted the largest research ever done to solve this problem of unsuccessful hiring. We distilled 13 years of consulting insights across hundreds of companies, performed exclusive interviews with over 20 billionaires and 60 other CEOs and investors to collect their best advice and stories on this topic, and completed a university-sponsored scientific study of 313 CEO careers.

What did we learn? We learned 7 things that managers can do today to improve their hiring success rate from 50% to 90%. We call this the "A Method For Hiring."

Write a written "scorecard" with quantifiable outcomes you expect a person to deliver. It's time to be precise -- not fuzzy.
Identify what elements of your culture you must have in candidates.
Source the best candidates using your network and think twice before over-relying on ads, job boards, and recruiters.
Consider paying a much bigger referral bounty to your employees who source A Players who are hired. One high performing company, for example, pays its employees a $100,000 hiring bounty for people who are hired (paid out $10k per year for 10 years of start date if both the referring party and the referred party are still employed).
Select the right person by conducting at least one extremely thorough, 3-hour, chronological interview. Really dig in. Find out for each job the person has had:
What was the person hired to do?
What were his or her biggest accomplishments?
What were his or her mistakes?
What would his or her bosses say about them (which can be verified with reference checks).
Why did he or she leave?
Watch out for red flags like: candidates who don't take responsibility for past mistakes, or who speak poorly of most of their bosses. Watch out for the 20 behavioral derailers that Marshall Goldsmith writes about in What Got You Here Won't Get You There.
Sell candidates by remembering the 5 Fs of what candidates care about:
Fit (with your company)
Family (support for joining your company)
Freedom (to make decisions)
Fortune (and glory)
Fun

You can do it. Master the A Method for Hiring. Enjoy more career success. Make more money. Have more time.

MG: Thanks Geoff and Randy! This is great advice. To learn more about the A Method for Hiring, go to www.whothebook.com or email Randy Street.

Life is good.

Marshall

My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Those 20 Key Habits that Hold You Back

People who have read my book "What Got You Here Won't Get You There" often tell me they found themselves several times in the book!

What habits could you stop that are holding you back from getting to the top?

Look at the list below to find the 20 habits I often find in successful people. I help successful leaders become even more successful by helping them stop these habits:

1. Winning too much: the need to win at all costs and in all situations - when it matters, when it doesn't, and when it's totally beside the point.

2. Adding value: the overwhelming desire to add our two cents to every discussion.

3. Passing judgment: the need to rate others and impose our standards on them.

4. Making destructive comments: the needless sarcasms and cutting remarks that we think make us sound sharp and witty.

5. Starting with "No," "But," or "However": the overuse of these negative qualifiers which secretly say to everyone, "I'm right. You're wrong."

6. Telling the world how smart you are: the need to show people we're smarter than they think we are.

7. Speaking when angry: using emotional volatility as a management tool.

8. Negativity, or "Let me explain why that won't work": the need to share our negative thoughts even when we weren't asked.

9. Withholding information: the refusal to share information in order to maintain an advantage over others.

10. Failing to give proper recognition: the inability to praise and reward.

11. Claiming credit that we don't deserve: the most annoying way to overestimate our contribution to any success.

12. Making excuses: the need to reposition our annoying behavior as a permanent fixture so people excuse us for it.

13. Clinging to the past: the need to deflect blame away from ourselves and onto events and people from our past; a subset of blaming everyone else.

14. Playing favorites: failing to see that we are treating someone unfairly.

15. Refusing to express regret: the inability to take responsibility for our actions, admit we're wrong, or recognize how our actions affect others.

16. Not listening: the most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues.

17. Failing to express gratitude: the most basic form of bad manners.

18. Punishing the messenger: the misguided need to attack the innocent who are usually only trying to help us.

19. Passing the buck: the need to blame everyone but ourselves.

20. An excessive need to be "me": exalting our faults as virtues simply because they"re who we are.

Source: by Marshall Goldsmith, with Mark Reiter, "What Got You Here Won't Get You There", pp. 40-41 Hyperion Books. Available from Amazon.com.

Life is good.

Marshall

My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.

http://www.MarshallGoldsmithLibrary.com

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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Acting Like A Professional or Acting Like a Phony?

"It's the avenue, I'm taking you to, 42nd Street!" The singers sing, the dancer's dance and the actors act. On Broadway there is always something wonderful on stage. In many ways, Broadway is the definition of "performance."

I am inspired by great theater. Every night, great performers pour their hearts into each production. Some have headaches, some have family problems, but it doesn't really matter. When it's show time, they give it all they have. Although it might be the thousandth time an actor has performed the part, it might be the first time the customer sitting in the fourth row has seen the production. To the true performer, every night is opening night.

Like great actors, inspirational leaders sometimes need to be consummate performers. When they need to motivate and inspire people, they do it. It doesn't matter if they have a headache. They do whatever it takes to help their organization succeed. When they need to be "on," like the Broadway stars, it's show time.

One of the greatest leaders I know is Frances Hesselbein, the former executive director of the Girl Scouts of America and now chairman of the Leader to Leader Institute. I am not alone in my assessment of her talents. Peter Drucker once noted that she was perhaps the most effective executive he had ever met. As a tribute to her leadership skills, President Clinton awarded Frances with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award that can be given to a U.S. civilian.

Frances is also one of my best friends. Like all humans, Frances faces the same problems we all face. Just like you and I, she has lived through health problems, tragedies with friends and family issues. Like all great professionals, when it is time for Frances to work, she is always there. I have seen her turn down an invitation from the U.S. president to give a talk (at no fee) for a non-profit organization in a small town. When she makes a commitment, if it is humanly possible to be there, she delivers. It doesn't matter that a "better deal" came along later. She not only makes an appearance, she is up, she is positive, she is inspirational and she gets the job done.

Until recently, I always had a dilemma. As an executive educator, who helps successful leaders achieve a positive change in behavior, I, in a way, teach people how to act. When is acting part of being a professional? When is acting part of being a phony? I want to help leaders learn how to be great performers, but I never believe that they should be phonies or unreal. How can I, as a coach, understand the difference?

My client Ted helped me answer this question. I worked with him for a year, trying to help him fit in a corporate culture where he really didn't belong. At the end of the year, I finally said, "Why don't you leave? You are so miserable that you are starting to depress me!"

He finally saw the light, left the company and is now doing something he loves. There was nothing wrong with the company. There was nothing wrong with Ted. He just didn't belong there. It wasn't him.

If you are in the right job in the right company, and you are learning how to perform to the best of your ability, you are being a true professional. If you are in the wrong job in the wrong company and you learn to act so that you can better fit in, you are just being a better phony. It still isn't you out there.

Today Ted is a lot happier. He spends his time thinking up creative ideas in his new company, and he's having a ball. He is not only adding value for the company, he is also adding value for the world.

Think about your job. As a professional, is your job consistent with the person that you really want to be?

If the answer is "yes," be like the great actor. Be like Frances Hesselbein. Put on a great show. Be the consummate professional. Learn to keep developing your ability to perform, so you can get even better than you are today. If you love what you do, a great coach might even help you get better.

If the answer is "no," change jobs as soon as you can. Why bother to become a better phony? Even if you do get a coach and learn to modify your behavior, it won't count for much. Why? It won't really be you.

Life is good.

Marshall

My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.

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Monday, November 08, 2010

Fallacy of Leaders

There is a huge fallacy about the process of helping people change for the better. Sometimes the best leaders may be the ones least noticed.

We focus too much on the salesperson rather than the customer. We focus on the speaker rather than the learner. We focus on the coach rather than the person being coached. We focus too much on the leader rather than the people doing the work.

It's certainly true in my coaching. Of the great clients I have had the privilege to work with, Mike may be my star pupil. His coworkers judged him to have improved more than anyone I've worked with.

Mike managed a division of about 40,000 people in one of the world's largest organizations. His CEO recognized that Mike was a great leader and wanted him to expand his role by providing more leadership in building synergy across divisions. The CEO asked me to work with him.

Mike eagerly accepted this challenge and involved his team. Together, they established the most rigorous project-management process I've ever seen. Each person took responsibility for creating positive synergy. They regularly reported on their efforts in reaching out to colleagues across the company to build teamwork. They kept learning from all of their colleagues. They thanked people for ideas and suggestions and followed up to ensure effective implementation.

And yet, as I told Mike, "I probably spent less time with you than any client I have ever coached. What should I learn from my experience with you and your team?"

Mike quietly pondered my question. "As a coach," he said, "you should realize that success with your clients isn't about you. It's about the people who choose to work with you." He modestly chuckled, then continued. "In a way, I am the same. The success of my organization isn't about me. It's all about the great people who are working with me."

This flies in the face of conventional wisdom about leadership. If you read the literature, you'll see that much of it exaggerates -- if not glamorizes -- the leader's contribution. The implication is that everything grows out of the leader. She's responsible for improving you. She's the one who guides you to the promised land. Take the leader out of the equation, and people will behave like lost children.

Not so. As the ancient proverb says, "The best leader, the people do not notice. When the best leader's work is done, the people say, 'We did it ourselves.' "

That's why I don't hold myself up as "coach as expert." I'm much more a "coach as facilitator." Most of what my clients learn about themselves comes not from me but from their friends, their colleagues, and their family members. I just try to provide help when needed and assist them in not wandering too far off the course that they have chosen.

For example, let's say you want to do a better job of listening. It's possible that a coach can explain to you how to be a better listener. The advice will probably be reasonably logical, supportable, and hard to dispute. But it will be generic. It's much better to ask the most important people in your life, "Please give me some ideas on how I can do a better job of listening to you."

They can give you specific, concrete suggestions that relate to them -- how they perceive you as a listener -- not vague ideas that you can read in a book. They may not be experts on listening, but they actually know more about how to listen to them than anyone in the world.

I cannot make the successful people I work with change. I don't try. Too many people think that a coach -- especially an accomplished one -- will solve their problems. That's like thinking that you'll get in shape by hiring the world's best trainer and not by working out yourself.

Truly great leaders, like Mike, recognize how silly it is to think it's about the coach. Long-term success is created by the 40,000 people doing the work -- not just the one person who has the privilege of being at the top.

Life is good.

Marshall

My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.

http://www.MarshallGoldsmithLibrary.com

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Friday, November 05, 2010

Invest in People, Not Words

Ultimately, our actions will say much more to employees about our values and our leadership skills than our mission statements ever can. If our actions are wise, no one will care if the words on the wall are not perfect. If our actions are foolish, the wonderful words on the wall will only make us look more ridiculous.

Companies have wasted millions of dollars and countless hours of employees' time agonizing over the wording of statements that are put on plaques and hung on walls. There is a clear assumption that people's behavior will change because the pronouncements on plaques are 'inspirational' or because certain words 'integrate our strategy and values.' There is an implicit hope that when people ... especially managers ... hear great words, they will start to exhibit great behavior .

Sometimes these words morph to keep up with the latest trends in corporate-speak. A company may begin by striving for 'customer satisfaction', then advance to 'total customer satisfaction', and finally reach the pinnacle of 'customer delight'.

But this obsession with words belies one very large problem: There is almost no correlation between the words on the wall and the behavior of leaders. Every company wants 'integrity', 'respect for people', 'quality', 'customer satisfaction', 'innovation' and 'return for shareholders'. Sometimes companies get creative and toss in something about 'community' or 'suppliers'. But since the big messages are all basically the same, the words quickly lose their real meaning to employees ... if they ever had any in the first place.

Enron is a great example. Before the energy conglomerate's collapse in 2001, I had the opportunity to review Enron's values and even saw a wonderful video on Enron's ethics and integrity. I was greatly impressed by the company's espoused high-minded beliefs and the care put into the video. Examples of Enron's good deeds in the community and the professed character of Enron's executives were particularly noteworthy. It was one of the most smoothly professional presentations on ethics and values that I have ever seen. Clearly, Enron spent a fortune 'packaging' these wonderful messages.

It didn't really matter. Despite the lofty words, many of Enron's top executives either have been indicted or are in jail.

The situation couldn't be more different at Johnson & Johnson. The pharmaceutical company is famous for its 'Credo', which was written many years ago and reflected the sincere values of the leaders of the company at that time. The J&J Credo could be considered rather quaint by today's standards. It contains several old-fashioned phrases, such as 'must be good citizens' support good works and charities ... and bear our fair share of taxes ... and 'maintain in good order the property that we are privileged to use'. It lacks the slick PR packaging that I observed at Enron.

Yet, even with its less-powerful language and seemingly dated presentation, the J&J Credo works ... primarily because over many years, the company's management has taken the values that it offers seriously. J&J executives have consistently challenged themselves and employees not just to understand the values, but to live them in day-to-day behavior. When I conducted leadership training for J&J, one of its very top executives would spend many hours with every class. The executives' task was not to talk about compensation or other perks of J&J management; they were there to discuss living the company's values.

My partner, Howard Morgan, and I completed a study of more than 11,000 managers in eight major corporations. (See 'Leadership Is a Contact Sport', s+b, Fall 2004.) We looked at the impact of leadership development programs in actually changing executive behavior . As it turns out, each of the eight companies had different values and different words to describe ideal leadership behavior. But these differences in words made absolutely no difference in determining the way leaders behaved. Ironically, one company spent thousands of hours composing just the right words to express its view of how leaders should act ... in vain. I am sure that the first draft would have been just as useful.

At many companies, performance appraisal forms seem to undergo the same careful scrutiny as credos. In fact, more effort seems to be given to producing the perfect words on an appraisal form than to managing employee performance itself. I worked with one company that had used at least 15 different performance appraisal forms and was contemplating yet another change because the present sheet 'wasn't working'! If changing the words on the page could improve the performance management process, then every company's appraisal system would be perfect by now.

Companies that are doing the best job of living up to their values and developing ethical employees, including managers, recognize that the real cause of success ... or failure ... is always the people, not the words.

Rather than wasting time on reinventing words about desired leadership behavior, companies should ensure that leaders get (and act upon) feedback from employees ... the people who actually observe this behavior. Rather than wasting time on changing the words on performance appraisal forms, leaders need to learn from employees to ensure that they are providing the right coaching.

Ultimately, our actions will say much more to employees about our values and our leadership skills than our words ever can. If our actions are wise, no one will care if the words on the wall are not perfect. If our actions are foolish, the wonderful words on the wall will only make us look more ridiculous.

Life is good.

Marshall

My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.

http://www.MarshallGoldsmithLibrary.com

#MOJOtweet

http://www.LeadingNews.org

http://www.MarshallGoldsmithFeedForward.com

Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Feedback, Honesty and Change

If you really want to know how your behavior comes across to your colleagues and clients, stop looking in the mirror and admiring yourself.

Remember the character Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street? Michael Douglas won an Oscar for his portrayal of this rude, larcenous wheeler-dealer. Well, I worked with a real-life investment banker who in some ways could have inspired the Gekko character.

A significant part of my practice as an executive coach is working with supremely successful people who may need to change some behaviors to achieve the next level of success. The man I coached -- let's call him Jim -- wasn't amoral and unethical like Gekko, but he had the same competitive fires. He sometimes treated people like gravel in a driveway. They were the pebbles; he was the SUV. Jim's score for treating direct reports and colleagues with respect was an astounding 0.1%. That is, out of 1,000 managers rated, he was dead last!

But Jim put up equally astounding numbers with his trades. His profit contribution was so vast that the CEO promoted him to the company's management committee. This should have been the apex of Jim's young career. Instead, it exposed his bad side as well. The firm's leaders, who had been insulated from Jim's behavior, were suddenly in a position to get a firsthand dose of his "lead, follow, or get out of my way" style. In meetings, they saw that there was often no checkpoint between Jim's brain and mouth. He was surly and offensive to everyone, even mouthing off to the CEO (his biggest supporter), who finally called me in to "help Jim change now."

When I met Jim, he was clearly delighted with his success. He was making over $4 million a year, so professional validation was coursing through his veins like jet fuel. I knew that breaking through to Jim by challenging his performance would be tough. He was clearly delivering financial results. So I sat down with him and said, "I can't help you make more money. You're already making a lot. But let's talk about your ego . How do you treat people at home?"

Jim insisted that he was totally different outside the office, that he was a great husband and father. "I don't bring my work home," he assured me. "I'm a warrior on Wall Street but a pussycat at home."

"That's interesting," I said. "Is your wife home right now?"

"Yes," he said.

"Why don't you give her a call and see how different she thinks you are at home than at the office?"

He called his wife. When she finally stopped laughing at her husband's statement, she concurred that Jim often acted like a jerk at home, too. The kids agreed as well!

"I'm beginning to see a pattern here," I said. "As I told you, I can't help you make more money. But I can get you to confront this question: Do you really want to have a funeral that no one attends other than for business reasons?"

For once, Jim looked stricken. "They're going to fire me if I don't make my numbers, aren't they?" he asked.

"Not only are they going to fire you," I said, "but several people will be dancing in the halls when you go."

Jim thought about that for a minute and then said, "I'm going to change, and the reason I'm going to change has nothing to do with money and it has nothing to do with this firm. I'm going to change because I have two sons, and if they were receiving this same feedback from a person like you in 30 years, I'd be ashamed to be their father."

Within a year, Jim's scores on his treatment of people shot up past the 50th percentile, above an already high company norm. He probably deserved even better, since he started so far down in the ditch. He also doubled his income.

The lesson: Our flaws at work usually don't vanish when we go home.

The moral: Anybody can change, but they have to want to change.

Sometimes you can deliver that message by reaching people where they live, not where they work.

The action plan for leaders (and followers):

If you really want to know how your behavior comes across to your colleagues and clients, stop looking in the mirror and admiring yourself.

Let your colleagues hold the mirror and tell you what they see. If you don't believe them, do the same with your loved ones and friends -- the people in your life who are most likely to be agenda-free and who truly want you to succeed. We all claim to want the truth. This is a guaranteed delivery system.

Life is good.

Marshall

My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.

http://www.MarshallGoldsmithLibrary.com

#MOJOtweet

http://www.LeadingNews.org

http://www.MarshallGoldsmithFeedForward.com

Marshall's Upcoming Schedule