Tag Archives: win-win

Lessons Learned from Bad Bossess and Misguided Leaders, # 2

Today I want to discuss leadership pet peeves number 2 from my post: http://www.upwardedge.com/2011/05/lessons-learned-bad-bosses-leaders.html and that is: A leader or boss who takes credit for the ideas or works of his or her subordinates. I worked for a boss who not only criticized my management style, but often would ignore or criticize my ideas.

 He would say, “it won’t work; it’s too expensive, the timing is not right, I can’t buy into that or I don’t like the idea.” However, within a few months or sometimes within weeks, he would present to the board of directors and/or to other leadership team members one of my ideas as his own. Other times, I have also seen one of my earlier ideas implemented by a sister organization, to the excitement of my superiors. I would hear occasionally, “Tony wasn’t that your idea?”

 You may be thinking why a leader or boss would reject an idea that could benefit the company and the people its serves. Some guesses are as follows:

  • The leader or boss sees his or her subordinate as a competitor; therefore, the leader’s insecurity is heightened.
  • The leader or boss has no confidence in his subordinate, does not see him or her as a credible performer and thus, the boss filtered what he or she hears coming from the subordinate.

The second bullet does not apply in this case because one of my former bosses took credit for many of my ideas.

Robert Verganti said there are many reasons why a boss may not accept ideas from a subordinate and one way to offset those reasons Verganti argued is to involve the chief executive at the incubator stage of your idea (http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2010/08/how_to_sell_an_idea_to_your_bo.html).

Another writer, John Baldoni, author of the book: Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up reported that he was conducting a workshop about leading from the middle when a participant mentioned he was “put in his place” when he presented new ideas to his boss.

Baldoni stated that when bosses reject the ideas of their subordinates the bosses are “very insecure in their positions and feel that creativity from below is a threat to their power http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2010/12/how_to_sell_an_idea_to_your_bo_1.html. Baldoni also believes that those bosses don’t deserve to be in positions of authority, but nevertheless they are and because of that many innovative ideas are lost.

Of course, I was reminded of this when one of my subordinates shared an innovative idea with me. Thinking that it was a great idea, I shared it with my superiors. The creator of the idea was in the room as I shared it and gave her full credit. Others quickly turn to H…to compliment her for the great idea. Her smile and glowing face was priceless. This reminded me of how I felt when I was not given due credit for my ideas.

The bottom line– it matters to the person who has the idea to receive due credit and recognition. In this ways everyone wins–the company, the customer and yes, even the boss wins because he or she will be recognized as the person who created an environment where ideas are possible. It is the bosses’ job to create an organizational climate where ideas can flourish and be shared.


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Executive Supervision, Part V: Coalition Building & Effective Communication

Financial and human resources will continue to be at a premium in the foreseeable future. Therefore the executive leader needs to use all available resources to meet the organization’s mission. Building coalitions with other organizations and utilizing effective communications are necessary competencies during these economically lean times.

The Federal SES (Senior Executive Services) guidelines define coalition building as the ability to influence and negotiate. Influence and negotiation requires a person who has the ability to persuade others and to build consensus; to establish cooperation from others to accomplish desired goals and to facilitate “win-win” situations (January, 1998). This definition embraces several of Covey’s principles, such as, “begin with the end in mind,” “think win-win” and “seek first to understand then be understood.” Simply put, the leader must envision what he or she wants out of a mutual agreement and that the desired outcome will result a win-win resolution. A successful outcome can only happen if the executives “seek first to understand.” This will require the executive leaders to genuinely listen to each other and to instinctually know that if genuinely listened to they will have the opportunity “to be understood.” If these competencies are genuinely practiced, more often than not, the negotiating executives will facilitate collaborations and form partnerships that align with each executive organization’s mission and bottom line.

Another competency necessary for building coalitions and moving an agenda forward is “political savvy.” This will require executive awareness of “politics” both in the executive’s organization and in the community at large. In other words, the executive must approach each problem situation with a keen understanding of the politics in his or her organization as well as the political reality of the community at large. Political savvy requires sensitivity to timing. No matter that something is the right thing to do, it must not be hurried; there is a right moment for implementation. It is my impression that President Obama is doing this with “the don’t ask, don’t tell” policy as it relates to gays serving in the military. Although the president intends to change the current policy; he has not yet acted. I believe the president will fulfill his promise, but he is waiting for the right time. Just like the president, all executives must be able “to identify the internal and external politics that impact the work of the organization….approach each problem situation with a clear perception of organizational and political reality…and recognize the impact of alternative courses of action” (Guide to SES Qualifications, p. 36, January, 1998).

Although rarely mentioned as a tool for effective coalition building, marketing and promoting of the organization’s services is invaluable. Many governmental and nonprofit organizations often see this as an unnecessary waste of limited resources because the people they serve will come anyway. However, I have learned that marketing and promoting are keys to building coalitions. When other organizational leaders are aware of your organization’s accomplishments they will want to be part of the success. In my experience, marketing and promoting your organizational services builds influence, collaboration and resources. Often, the resource gained comes in the form cash money because the community is excited to contribute to your organization’s mission, but more importantly to your organization’s success.

The second competency to discuss is effective communication. Without good communication skills, both oral and written an executive will have a difficult time articulating the needs of the organization and the wonderful things it does for its customer and the community. The executive must be aware of his or her communication strengths:

  • are you better and more persuasive as a public speaker, or
  • are you more persuasive with the pen?

Regardless of the communication format, the executive must be comfortable and use personal style to his or her advantage. Communication, especially written communication, must be convincing, well organized and expressed in a clear concise manner. Effective oral communication will require the speaker to facilitate dialogue, to be an effective listener, to come across as genuine and to clearly articulate and to clarify information.

To be effective and successful the executive must be an effective communicator and have the willingness and the competency to build coalitions. The executive cannot do this alone. It is imperative that the leaders’ lieutenants are also skilled communicators and competent at collaborating and coalition building. As I said at the beginning of this post; collaboration with others in this economy may be the only way an organization can survive and thus, the organization leadership team must do their part.

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Executive Supervision, Part II: Leadership

This article is an expansion to a presentation that I gave to doctoral students at Old Dominion University on October 16, 2008. The presentation related to administrative supervision in a community mental health center. However, the principles outlined in this paper are useful in any organization.

In Executive Supervision, Part I, I pointed out that Executives plan, organize, integrate, motivate, measure, lead, teach and support. For an Executive to do those functions successfully, the Executive must have several administrative competencies. These administrative competencies that I will discuss over several weeks strongly correlate with the functions discussed in the first article. In fact, the competencies outlined throughout this series are required qualifications for anyone applying for a SES (Senior Executive Service) position with the federal government. The competencies are as follows:

Execution/Results Driven
Business Acumen
Coalition Building/Communications

In addition to those competencies listed above, I will share with you other management tools an Executive will need to be successful. These additional tools will look at management do’s and don’ts as well as offer tips on providing self care (managing oneself) as you try to effectively lead and mange people. But today’s topic will be about leadership.

Leadership requires the Executive to be pro-active. As a leader, the Executive must mentor, coach, teach and direct. As mentioned in an earlier blog, I believe we all have the potential to be leaders. It’s a matter of getting people to believe in you and follow through on your ideas. People will follow through on your ideas if you are a strategic thinker and can provide a vision for your team’s future.

To be strategic and visionary, the Executive must stay abreast, and in many instances, ahead of the learning curve within his or her given industry. This continuous learning requires the Executive to read the industry’s various trade magazines, a variety of books, fiction and nonfiction, attend workshops, conferences and yes even to listen to all the debates and discussion in business meetings. It is also a good idea to read articles and books outside your given industry; this helps with “out of the box” thinking.

Strategic thinking and visioning requires “planned quiet time”. My recommendation is that you have “planned quiet times” for yourself, but also plan quiet times or quadrant II times for your team. My scheduled quiet time is based on Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In his book Covey’s discuss his time matrix. The time matrix has 4 quadrants. Quadrant II is the quadrant of productivity and balance. Activities often associated with this quadrant are considered important, but not urgent. These important activities include preparation, prevention, planning, relationship building, re-creation and value clarification. To learn more about these activities, Covey’s time matrix and the other 3 quadrants, I recommend that you read Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, or attend one of his many workshops.

Personally, I schedule several private quiet times. I have scheduled quiet times for meditation with my Creator, which varies from 30 minutes to an hour. I then schedule additional quiet time when I arrive at work. The time varies accordingly; if I am planning for the entire week, my planning time is about 20 minutes. If daily planning, the time varies from 5 to10 minutes. I also try to find time during the weekend to have quiet time, which I spend reading a book. Unfortunately, I do little reading on weekend during football season (September-February). In his book, It’s About Time: A Time Management Tool Chest for Retailers, Harold C. Lloyd shares that to assure a productive day at the office, the Executive needs to disappear for the first 20 minutes of his or her workday. He states that the first 20 minutes will allow the Executive to get organized so that the Executive can provide direction to the team that depends on the Executive for leadership. He writes “the key to a successful “20-Minute Disappearing Act” is to use that time to get your thoughts in order, decide what your priorities are, review important appointments, and figure out what you want to accomplish today” (p.11).

For the team that I lead, the quadrant II time is scheduled quarterly. We primarily use this time to re-educate or educate ourselves. It may be reviewing and discussing an article in a trade magazine. There may be discussion about a workshop that someone had attended, discussion and overview of new service that one of the program managers have started or plan to start. It may be a topic about leadership. This quiet time may also be used for strategic planning. Regardless of what is discussed, this time builds team spirit and energizes the team to strive for excellence.

This quiet time, both individually and collectively as a team, allows the Executive and the team to be creative and innovative. For an Executive to be successful he or she must also be creative and innovative. Creativity and innovation come about when the work environment is ripe for it and it is the Executive’s responsibility to create an environment that encourages creativity and innovation.

One method for creating an innovative environment is to allow your team to be the experts. Your team members are on the front line and have more direct contacts with the customers. Often they know how to improve service for the customers but need permission to offer new ideas or new processes for delivering services. Your job as the Executive is to listen to the experts, ask clarifying questions, guide the experts, encourage the experts, suggests measurable outcomes for evaluation purposes and to provide the resources needed by the experts to do their jobs and/or to try new things. Once you are satisfied with the team’s reasoning for trying something different, support them in putting the processes or service into action. It has been my experience that many of the ideas put forth by the team experts will increase efficiencies and benefit the customers. Of course this requires the Executive/Leader to be flexible and open to change. Yes, be open to trying something different even when it appears to be a little risky. As the leader you must trust the process and as the Executive you are the one who create the environment where trust is possible. Again this will lead to creativity and innovation in your team unit.

A part of leadership is motivating and team building. Motivation comes when team members understand and believe that they are providing a meaningful benefit to their customer and often the Executive must remind the team about the organization’s purpose and the efforts of the team in fulfilling the purpose. Keeping the vision in from your team along with genuine praise, recognition and yes, compensation when it is merited will go a long in providing motivation to staff and building team spirit.

Team building is important. It inspires, motivates and guides your staff members toward a common goal. It also fosters commitment, pride, trust and a spirit of camaraderie. Needless to say a united team fosters a pleasant work environment. An Executive can build his or her team by emphasizing team work. I often tell my team, that the team solves problems; not me or any one individual. This is important because in today’s work environment interdependency is often the norm and should be encouraged.

Since interdependency is the norm in most industry, conflicts are guaranteed to occur. Therefore, the Executive must be skilled at conflict management. It would behoove the Executive to try to resolve conflicts quickly and to seek a wi
n-win approach for all involved. If a win-win approach is not an option then a resolution must be reached that will have minimal impact on the organization and its customers.

Open communication is a key to minimizing conflicts, but also building and motivating the team. Therefore, the Executive must have excellent communication and listening skills. This means being clear about your message; being repetitive with your message and having an open door policy that team members feel comfortable coming to you with critical issues and problems. If you offer a trusting environment, team members will often come to you prior to an issue or a problem becoming a crisis. It is advisable not to solve the problem or issue brought to you by a team member since part of your goal is to build internal leaders. It is recommended that you put on your mentoring and coaching cap to help guide your team or staff to a resolution on an issue or problem. It has been my experience that team members know how to resolve a problem, but need confirmation from you as the leader before they are ready to move forward.

This concludes the section on Leadership. In the next series, we will focus on Execution.

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