A Dashboard for Managing Complexity

Businesses are becoming more complex. It’s harder to predict outcomes because intricate systems interact in unexpected ways. As we’ve stated before, A leadership coaching program is no longer reserved for problem leaders.
Staying on track is much easier with a guide or checklist. Michael Useem, a professor at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and bestselling author of The Leadership Moment, has published The Leader’s Checklist to create a clear roadmap for navigating any situation. It is presented here in condensed form, with sample questions accompanying each principle:

  1. Articulate a Vision: Formulate a clear and persuasive vision, and communicate why it’s important to all members of the enterprise.
    • Do my direct reports see the forest, as well as the trees?
    • Does everyone in the firm know not only where we are going, but, most importantly, why?
    • Is the destination compelling and appealing?
  2. Think and Act Strategically: Make a practical plan for achieving this vision, including both short- and long-term strategies. Anticipate reactions and resistance before they happen by considering all stakeholders’ perspectives.
    • Do we have a realistic plan for creating short-term results, as well as mapping out the future?
    • Have we considered all stakeholders and anticipated objections?
    • Has everyone bought into, and does everyone understand, the firm’s competitive strategy and value drivers? Can they explain it to others?
  3. Express Confidence: Provide frequent feedback to express appreciation for the support of those who work with and for you.
    • Do the people you work with know you respect and value their talents and efforts?
    • Have you made it clear that their upward guidance is welcomed and sought?
    • Is there a sense of engagement on the frontlines, with a minimum of “us” vs. “them” mentality?
  4. Take Charge and Act Decisively: Embrace a bias for action by taking responsibility, even if it isn’t formally delegated. Make good and timely decisions, and ensure they are executed.
    • Are you prepared to take charge, even when you are not in charge?
    • If so, do you have the capacity and position to embrace responsibility?
    • For technical decisions, are you ready to delegate, but not abdicate?
    • Are most of your decisions both good and timely?
    • Do you convey your strategic intent and then let others reach their own decisions?
  5. Communicate Persuasively: Communicate in ways that people will not forget, through use of personal stories and examples that back up ideas. Simplicity and clarity are critical.
    • Are messages about vision, strategy and character crystal-clear and indelible?
    • Have you mobilized all communication channels, from purely personal to social media?
    • Can you deliver a compelling speech before the elevator passes the 10th floor?
  6. Motivate the Troops, and Honor the Front Lines: Appreciate the distinctive intentions that people bring to their work; build on diversity to bring out the best in people. Delegate authority except for strategic decisions. Stay close to those who are most directly engaged with the enterprise’s work.
    • Have you identified each person’s “hot button” and focused on it?
    • Do you work personal pride and shared purpose into most communications?
    • Are you keeping some ammunition dry for those urgent moments when you need it?
    • Have you made your intent clear and empowered those around you to act?
    • Do you regularly meet with those in direct contact with customers?
    • Can your people communicate their ideas and concerns to you?
  7. Build Leadership in Others, and Plan for Succession: Develop leadership throughout the organization, giving people opportunities to make decisions, manage others and obtain coaching.
    • Are all managers expected to build leadership among their subordinates? (read more about leadership coaching)
    • Does the company culture foster the effective exercise of leadership?
    • Are leadership development opportunities available to most, if not all, managers?
  8. Manage Relations, and Identify Personal Implications: Build enduring personal ties with those who work with you, and engage the feelings and passions of the workplace. Help people appreciate the impact that the vision and strategy are likely to have on their own work and the firm’s future.
    • Is the hierarchy reduced to a minimum, and does bad news travel up?
    • Are managers self-aware and empathetic?
    • Are autocratic, egocentric and irritable behaviors censured?
    • Do employees appreciate how the firm’s vision and strategy affect them individually?
    • What private sacrifices will be necessary for achieving the common cause?
      How will the plan affect people’s personal livelihood and the quality of their work lives?

  9. Convey Your Character: Through storytelling, gestures and genuine sharing, ensure that others appreciate that you are a person of integrity.
    • Have you communicated your commitment to performance with integrity?
    • Do others know you as a person? Do they know your aspirations and hopes?
  10. Dampen Over-Optimism: To balance the hubris of success, focus attention on latent threats and unresolved problems. Protect against managers’ tendency to engage in unwarranted risk.
    • Have you prepared the organization for unlikely, but extremely consequential, events?
    • Do you celebrate success, but also guard against the byproduct of excess confidence?
    • Have you paved the way not only for quarterly results, but for long-term performance?
  11. Build a Diverse Top Team: Although leaders take final responsibility, leadership is most effective when there is a team of capable people who can collectively work together to resolve key challenges. Diversity of thinking ensures better decisions.
    • Have you drawn quality performers into your inner circle?
    • Are they diverse in expertise, but united in purpose?
    • Are they as engaged and energized as you?
  12. Place Common Interest First: In setting strategy, communicating vision and reaching decisions, common purpose comes first and personal self-interest last.
    • In all decisions, have you placed shared purpose ahead of private gain?
    • Do the firm’s vision and strategy embody the organization’s mission?
    • Are you thinking like a president or chief executive, even if you are not one?
    • Not all of these questions are applicable to every situation, but it is the questioning that counts.
    • Whether you are facing a typical day at the office or walking into a crisis, ask yourself and others these questions to inspire correct actions. Only then can you make sense of the complexities you encounter.

Two More Mindsets of Good Bosses

Mindset #2: True Grit
Are you a boss with true grit? What does that mean? And how do you get it right?
“Gritty bosses are driven by the nagging conviction that everything they and their people do could be better if they tried just a little harder or were just a bit more creative,” writes Robert Sutton in Good Boss, Bad Boss
Such bosses instill grit in subordinates. Without creating the impression that everything is an emergency, great bosses have a sense of urgency. They are dogged and patient, sensing when to press forward and when to be flexible.
As Albert Einstein once stated: “It’s not that I am so smart; it is just that I stay with my problems longer.”
University of Pennsylvania Assistant Professor of Psychology Angela Duckworth, PhD, and her colleagues define grit as perseverance and passion toward long-term goals.
“Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest despite failure, adversity and plateaus in progress,” they wrote in a 2007 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology paper.
Without becoming discouraging, bosses with grit believe that progress isn’t always good enough – that you can never stop learning or rest on your laurels.
Mindset #3: Small Wins Count
If you set big goals to energize and direct people, you can fall into the trap of overwhelming and discouraging them. In the work I do coaching executives, I see this happen all the time.
The path to success is lined with small wins. When you frame goals as a series of small steps, it helps people see the importance of their participation.
Smaller goals also help people make better decisions, sustain motivation and manage stress. When subordinates experience a challenge as too big or complex, they can freeze up. When problems are broken down into bite-sized pieces, a boss inspires clarity, calmness and confidence.
The Questions to Ask Yourself
Mindset #2: True Grit
a. Do you treat work as a marathon or a sprint?
b. Do you look for quick fixes?
c. Do you instill a sense of urgency without treating everything as a crisis?
d. In the face of failures, do you persist or give up?
Mindset #3: Small Wins
a. Do you frame what your people need to do as a series of small, realistic and clear steps?
b. Do you propose grand goals?
c. Do you break things down into bite-sized steps?
What do you think about these two mindsets? What’s been your experience? I’d love to hear from you.

The Mindset of a Great Boss

How can you become a better boss? That’s a good question and an important one. In the work I do coaching, I find that some bosses don’t realize how important their work is to the people they’re in charge of.
Bosses shape how people experience work: joy versus despair, enthusiasm versus complaints, good health versus stress. Most bosses want to be good at what they do, yet many lack the essential mindsets that precede positive actions and behaviors.
If you’re a boss who strives to do great work, I believe the most important task you can do is to adjust your thinking. The beliefs and assumptions you hold about yourself, your work and your people will determine your actions, according to Stanford’s Robert Sutton, author of Good Boss, Bad Boss.
“The best bosses embrace five beliefs that are stepping stones to effective action,” he writes.
Mindset #1: Goldilocks Management
Managers who are too assertive will damage relationships with their superiors, peers and subordinates. Conversely, those who aren’t assertive enough will fail to inspire their teams to strive for stretch goals, according to a study conducted by business professors Daniel Ames, PhD, and Francis Flynn, PhD. (of Columbia and Stanford Universities, respectively).
Ames and Flynn speculate that the best bosses would receive an “average” rating from subordinates if measured in competitiveness, aggressiveness, passivity and submission. Stanford experiments confirm that micromanaging employees with relentless attention and advice usually undermines their efforts.
There are times when bosses need to coach people, discipline, communicate direction and intervene. The savviest bosses look for the right moments to apply pressure or encouragement to get the best out of their people. In choosing their moments, they command respect instead of contempt.
The Questions to Ask Yourself
1. Goldilocks Management
        a. Are you managing with just the right degree of assertiveness?
        b. Are you creating ways to walk the line between enough intervention and micromanaging?
        c. Are you neglecting to give your people guidance, wisdom and the feedback they need to succeed?
        d. Are you obsessively monitoring every move and metric?
The best thing you can do right now to start to become a better boss is to explore your mindset. I don’t know of a better way to do that than working with an executive coach who understands the perils of managing with just the right amount of assertiveness.

Killer Bosses

I’ve read a lot of studies that prove the link between a boss’s effectiveness and team performance. But did you know that a good boss can help you live longer? True.
A Swedish study that followed 3,122 men for 10 years found that those with the best bosses (considerate, clear and proactive change agents) suffered fewer heart attacks than did those with bad bosses. Study participants who stayed with good bosses for 4 years had at least a 39 percent lower heart-attack risk, according to coauthor Anna Nyberg, PhD. [Source: ebib.sub.su.se/saltsa/2005/wlr2005_01.pdf]
I don’t know about you, but since I don’t like stress, this is strong motivation for trying to help your boss be as good a boss as possible!
Personality-assessment specialist Robert Hogan, PhD.,researched studies of diverse workers conducted in 1948, 1958, 1968 and 1998 in cities like Baltimore, London, Seattle and Honolulu. In his meta-analysis of postal workers, milk-truck drivers, schoolteachers and other members of the labor force, 75 percent reported that dealing with their immediate supervisor was the most stressful part of the job.
Over the last 30 years, Gallup surveys of more than 100,000 employees in 2,500 diverse businesses have revealed that one’s immediate boss has far more impact on engagement and performance than any other factor. A 2007 Gallup survey of U.S. employees found that 24 percent would fire their bosses if given the chance.
Indeed, 56 percent of disengaged employees cite bad bosses as a primary reason for their unhappiness. People don’t quit their jobs; they quit bad bosses.
Good bosses create employee satisfaction that leads to retention, performance, productivity and profitability. How you treat your direct reports creates a ripple effect that travels down and across your company’s hierarchy, ultimately shaping its culture and performance.
So the question remains, what can you do to help your boss do his or her job? You might not think you can. And quite frankly, with some bosses, that’s a tough thing to try to do.
But I think the question is worth thinking about and formulating ideas and plans.
What do you think? Can some bosses be helped to be better? If they’re going to affect your quality of work-life – and your health – don’t you think it’s worth a try?

What Makes a Good Boss?

Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
What about your boss? Good guy/gal, or just so-so? I’ll bet you can recognize a great boss when you see one. But like great works of art, however, a good boss is hard to define.
The word “boss” conjures up memories of the good, the bad and the ugly ones we’ve endured throughout our careers.
Stanford University management professor Robert I. Sutton, PhD, author of the New York Times bestseller The No Asshole Rule, knows about bosses. He’s received thousands of emails about the bad ones since the 2007 publication of that title. In his most recent book, Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best…and Learn from the Worst (Business Plus, 2010) Sutton focuses on what it takes to be a better boss.
“Devoting relentless attention to doing one good thing after another – however small – is the only path I know to becoming and remaining a great boss,” he writes. “I wish I could promise you that the path was easier.”
Whether you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, a restaurant owner, athletic coach or store manager, your success depends on how well you deal with the people who surround you. In any position of authority, great or small, you’re expected to personally guide, inspire and discipline.
Anytime you have more power than others, you must interact in productive ways and you’ll face strong emotions and gut reactions. A boss evokes feelings of confidence and comfort, as well as insecurity, fear, anger and confusion.
When I’m coaching, we spend a great deal of time sorting out the emotional components of work relationships.
Feelings get triggered in every communication medium: face-to-face meetings, telephone calls, emails, text messages and video conferences. Emotions intensify when relationships are inherently unequal.
In many situations, the boss-employee relationship requires that you work “up close and personal”, which means you’re exposed to others’ quirks, foibles and habits. How you navigate and tolerate personal differences matters.
To benefit your team and company, you must excel at accepting your differences and finding workarounds. Sometimes a simple understanding of basic personality traits helps and assessments and workshops can help with this.
To be a better boss, there are no magic bullets, and the work may seem relentless. Besides getting things done and meeting performance objectives, you must shepherd your people through every hard turn. Your principal rewards for success are keeping your job and receiving even more responsibilities and challenges.
The best bosses keep chipping away at a huge pile of tasks – some interesting, others dull but necessary. Their leadership prowess is measured by how well they handle the frustrations associated with people and performance.
In the work I do in organizations and with executives, I’ve found that there are some important attitudes that set the stage for becoming a better boss.

Welcome to Kashbox Coaching

If you’re less successful and profitable than you could and should be, the answer is YES! In today’s highly competitive business environment, excellence is not just an option – it’s mission critical. Good is no longer good enough. You know it, and we know it. That’s where Kashbox Coaching, led by Joan Walsh and David Herdlinger, comes in. We’re ready to help you and your organization become more focused, motivated, innovative, and successful than you ever dreamed possible! How Are We Different from Our Competition? We’re Glad You Asked!

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