Have you ever wondered why organizations keep spending thousands of dollars on leadership programs and the evidence actually indicates that our workplaces are filled with distrustful, disengaged and dissatisfied employees? Have you noticed that the qualities we select most leaders for in an organization are unlikely to produce leaders that are good for employees or long-term performance? Maybe its time to tell the truth about leadership – and the shadow side of organizational life. Jeffrey Pfeffer knows of what he writes. He teaches at the Stanford School of Business and has authored or coauthored fourteen books on topics such as power, management people, organizational design and evidenced-based management.
It may sound like a depressing topic but I find it somewhat comforting.To build a science of leadership you need reliable data. I am tired of the ‘feel-good’ stories of incredible companies that never seem to reside in my backyard. I teach a course in how to survive organizational politics for change agents. Every individual so far comes to me battered and bruised from the realities of organization life. At conferences, I am frequently asked to speak on building corporate cultures that support innovation. The topic discussions quickly come to shadow side of leadership and how to survive until trust can be rebuilt. Many people, maybe most people, have soul-crushing jobs. That is the reality in which we live. Pfeffer is blunt, yes. He states that if we don’t have baseline measurements of leader and workplace conditions it is simply impossible to know what to do to make any improvements. So … do you want to be the one to ask for 360 reviews on your leadership team? Me neither.
Research tells us that people who deliver bad news sometimes suffer adverse consequences. If we want to change the world of work, Pfeffer claims that we need to act on what we know rather than what we wish and hope for. Great leaders are rare. So what to do? What is the implication for the average person in an average organization? Pfeffer recommends becoming a skilled and unbiased observer and pay attention to what your leaders do, NOT what they say. The most fundamental principle of learning theory is behaviour is a function of its consequences. What behaviour is rewarded in your organization? Leadership for the people or leadership for profit?
This is not a feel good book about leadership. But, if you are looking for confirmation of workplace reality and some solid suggestions on evidence-based management, this book is for you. It balances the heroic tales of exceptional leadership and organizations on my shelves and gives practical advice on how to survive until you can find one (or build it yourself). Consider this book a practical survival manual if you are not in the enviable position of working with a great leader and/or a great organization. I truly believe we can get there. But, not just yet.
So happy to announce the 2nd edition of my workbook, Finding Your Creative Core, is now available. Its been a really busy Fall! Building a creative environment within any organization starts with values – your own and the values-in-action within the organization. How often have you articulated your own values? Even thought about them? Something that most of us take for granted and yet, values form the foundation of almost everything we do. My workbook provides a starting point of exploration – a personal Heroic Journey to the centre of Self. For it is there that you will find the creative core you have always had. I love working with the Heroes Journey – I admit my bias! Many business books have been written that utilize the idea of the Hero, but most play at a superficial level, failing to address the power of the archetype itself. In November, I published an article in the Integral Leadership Journal that gives a more in-depth look at why the Heroes Journey has such power to transform. Suffice to say that the Journey always begins with each of us, willing or not, ready or not. An old Roman motto says it best – the Fates aid those who will … those who won’t they drag. When you are touch with your creative core, you are better prepared for the Journey. I wish you safe passage!
2015 will be again be a busy year. I’m getting ready for the 2015 Human Resources Professionals Association national conference in Toronto. I’ll be speaking on corporate culture and the ‘secret sauce’ of design-driven innovation. I hope to see you there! Best wishes for you and yours for the holiday season and 2015. Our journey continues.
It has been a really hectic couple of months. Finishing off the school term, a couple of academic papers and a major conference presentation in Doha, Qatar has kept me running. Doha is an amazing city and I loved being there. Keep your eyes on Qatar – economy moving at light speed and dedication to education and health care. An idea that a few other countries (like Canada) should keep in mind!
One last conference keynote was on the agenda before the next adventure of teaching in Copenhagen at the Business School this summer. The Journey 2 Success Women Entrepreneurs Conference in Oakville, ON was a couple of days ago and what a delightful treat it turned out to be! Not only a great conference, but found a treasured gem that now has an honored place on my bookshelf.
The luncheon speaker was Barbara Stegemann of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her book, The 7 Virtues of a Philospher Queen tells her amazing entrepreneurial story. Barb started a perfume company that purchases its perfume oils from war-torn regions of the world and her motto is “Make Perfume Not War”. She believes that we can use our buying power to empower families in those countries that are rebuilding after conflict or any other disaster. The book is dedicated to a close friend who was wounded in Afghanistan – you have to read the book to find out more! Great storytelling, sound enterpreneurial advice and social innovation make a great read for the summer.
I love her story and the 7 Virtues Fragrance selection to my nose, is a winner. I am sorry to report I have left my favored Jo Malone perfumes for another woman. My choice was a harmonious blend called “Middle East Peace” – a combination of grapefruit, lime and basil that is just yummy. Available at the Bay stores in Canada and Lord & Taylor in the US. You can get the books online (link above) or purchase at the Bay or Lord & Taylor’s while you are testing out the perfumes. Just think, buying a bottle of perfume as a way to reduce conflict. Teaching people how to fish instead of giving them ‘aid’. Social innovation at its best! Great book. Great perfume. Great woman!!
I have to admit I’m getting a little nervous. In a couple of weeks (or as my niece calls it – 15 more sleeps), I am getting on a plane for Doha, Qatar to speak at the Global Innovators Conference in Education. Certainly one of my passions and pet peeves at the same time. Education needs reform the same as our economy – and if you work in any large organization – you know how difficult it is to change bureaucracy. One of my favourite authors to read when feeling discouraged is Tony Wagner. His previous book, The Global Achievement Gap, outlines some of the changes currently taking place in education (reviewed last year). It might be slow but it is steady and we need all the support we can get. In Creating Innovators, he speaks to both educators and parents as to how to keep that wonderful creative spark alive in all of us. He provides countless examples of school programs that encourage both art and science – both sides of the brain – that spur creative and critical thinking. He also has included video content right in the book – technology working at its best. Download the Microsoft Tag Reader into your phone and you can watch various interviews with both Tony Wagner and many other innovators he has interviewed for the book. Available in both the Kindle edition and hardcover, this is a great read to add to your library of how to make the world a better place. I’ll let you know what happens in Qatar – some incredible work being done in education world-wide. So, patience for a little while longer. We are working as fast as we can to bring about educational reform.
Interested in creating a corporate culture that outperforms your competition? Ann Rhoades has shared her experience with companies such as JetBlue and Southwest Airlines and reveals how leaders can create a winning environment.
Most important in my view, not only does this great little book show you how to implement a corporate culture program using the Values Blueprint, it shows you how to measure your culture in order to optimize performance. When you execute on the Values Workout, specifics are both encouraged and examples made available to aid your progress. An example:
Linking behaviours to your values system means consensus on the chosen values. So, if you say you have integrity as an organization, how do you define the meaning? Examples used in the book are:
1. demonstrating honesty, trust and mutual respect
2. never compromising values for short-term results
3. holding yourself and others accountable to actions and outcomes
4. following through on commitment and keeping promises.
Hmmmm – which one to choose? And, what behaviors demonstrate your understanding? Make sure that they are:
2. start with an action word
Written in easy to understand language, this book is a gem!
If you have ever participated in a merger, you know the difference between heaven and hell. Unfortunately, about 75% of M&A activity in North America fails. How to shift the results to a better outcome? Mark Feldman and Michael Spratt from PriceWaterhouseCoopers have produced an interesting book on how to avoid a negative outcome. Its a fun read, doesn’t pull any punches and delivers a no-nonsense approach to getting the job done. The advice provided can be used to solve current operational issues or speed up new product development. Not written in consultant-speak, but plain ordinary english. A great little tool to have in your library!
Canadians are once again returning to the polls – an interesting question to ponder is why? Same politicians, same issues, same political rhetoric which is deteriorating into childish mud-slinging. Have we now deteriorated into the cheap methods of American politics? Please let it not be so!
Andrew Samuels has written an interesting book entitled the Political Psyche. Samuels explores the connections between inner and outer worlds and sets into motion a two-way dialogue between depth psychology and politics which addresses such key concerns as market economies and our attitudes towards social responsibility and environmentalism. Perhaps our politicians should take heed and update their reading load walking into this next election. For all those who are “Jung at Heart”, this is an interesting read.
Peter Guber has had a very interesting career – studio chief at Columbia Pictures; co-chairman of Casablanca Records and Filmworks; CEO of Polygram Entertainment; chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures – to name a few. His current occupation includes storyteller and that perhaps is his best gig yet. In Tell to Win, Guber draws upon his extensive experience as a thought leader in multiple industries to deliver an easy-to-read and easy-to-follow book on how success is driven by creating a compelling story that moves people to action.
Moving beyond ‘death by powerpoint’, he brings to life the power of story in what he calls the ’emotional transportation business’ and states “if you can’t tell it, you can’t sell it”. Short, sweet and right to the point. If you are looking for a good reference book for the use of storytelling in business to achieve your goals, this is one of the better ones I have found.
Among his techniques:
1. capturing audience attention
2. motivating listeners by demonstrating authenticity
3. building your tell around ‘what’s in it for them’
4. changing passive listeners into active participants; and
5. using state-of-the-art technologies online to make sure audience commitment remains strong.