The 7 Characteristics That Set Great Leaders Apart…. from TLNT

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The 7 Characteristics That Set Great Leaders Apart

by   on Sep 11, 2013, 8:08 AM  |  3 Comments
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No one is perfect, and that goes for our leaders too — even though we may wish differently for them.

We want them to be near perfect in their ability to inspire us to do great work, accomplish important things for the organization, and lead us with humanity and unquestionable character.

Great leaders spend a lot of time thinking about how to improve their organizations and the people within them. Deb Cheslow, author of Remarkable Courage, has spent a lot of time thinking about what makes a great leader, and the characteristics below are adapted from her writings.

  1. Do the right things, even when no one is watching. Have integrity and character to complement your ability to get things done. It’s easy to do the right thing when you have an audience, but it takes courage and strength of character to do the right thing when you’re alone. Stay true to your values even when everyone around you is floundering, or when popular opinion goes against what you know in your heart to be right.
  2. Take personal responsibility. Follow rules, report facts accurately, treat people fairly, and don’t lie, cheat, or steal to advance your agenda. Hold yourself accountable for your actions and decisions and for the actions of the people under your authority. Don’t make excuses; take the blame when things go wrong and make sure those who do the work get the credit when things go right. Attack root causes of problems and never blame others.
  3. Do whatever it takes, but minimize collateral damage. Achieve outcomes without leaving your followers exhausted, damaged, or demoralized. Achieve your goals within moral and ethical boundaries. Don’t be a leader who falls prey to poor decision making or compromises their character and integrity for what might feel good in the moment.
  4. Develop followers. Build the skills and talents of others and make employees partners in the process of accomplishing goals. Empower your staff to continually improve, share your knowledge and experience generously, and press your team to achieve more, realizing that everyone will be better off the more frequently employees do great work and achieve great success.
  5. Never go it alone. Absorb the input and counsel of numerous advisors, both from similar and opposing perspectives, then devise solutions based upon a well-rounded view of the problem. Understand that it is naïve to believe you’ve considered every possible angle of an issue without seeking outside counsel from a varied and extended network.
  6. Leave people and things better than you found them. Always make a positive difference that benefits everyone. Even when you inherit a situation that’s less than ideal, provide inspiration for rebuilding bigger and better than before.
  7. Be courageous. Defy logic and conventional wisdom and blaze new trails. Don’t dwell on why something can’t be done, but only consider how it might be accomplished. Make a decision, announce it, and then you and your team should set about making it a reality.

What are the leadership traits you value most and believe are essential in a great leader?

This was originally published on the OC Tanner blog.

Michelle M. Smith is the Vice President of Business Development at Salt Lake City-based OC Tanner, an international appreciation company that helps more than 6,000 clients worldwide appreciate people who do great work through consulting, training, and creating customized award and recognition programs. Michelle is a renowned speaker, writer, consultant and trusted advisor to Fortune 500 companies and governments, and President Emeritus of the Incentive Marketing Association.
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The Heart of Innovation: The Value of Confusion

 

I feel so much better, now – I thought CONFUSION was a BAD thing….not so, maybe?

 

 
Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at December 20, 2012 01:44 AM
 

December 20, 2012


The Value of Confusioniphone-confused.jpg

Are you confused about how to proceed with your hottest new idea or project? If so, take heart! Confusion is not always a bad thing. In fact, it’s often a necessary part of the creative process.

The weirdness enters when you start judging yourself for being confused. Then, instead of benefiting from this normal stage of “not knowing” you end up in endless rounds of self-talk, procrastination, and worry.

What IS confusion, really?

Technically speaking, it’s a state of mind in which the elements you are dealing with appear to be indiscriminately mixed, out of whack, or unable to be interpreted to your satisfaction.

Everyone from Einstein to Mickey Mouse has had this experience. It comes with the territory of trying to innovate.

Most of us, unfortunately, have a hard time acknowledging it.

“Not knowing” has become a euphemism for “ignorance”. And so begins our curious routine of appearing to know and giving bogus answers — to ourselves and others — in a pitiful attempt to mask our confusion and maintain a sense of control, brilliance, and selfhood.

Confused.jpg

Our discomfort with not knowing prevents us from mining the value of this potentially fertile time of dislocation.

Picasso understood. “The act of creation,” he said, “is first of all an act of destruction.”

Great breakthroughs often emerge after times of dissolution, chaos, and confusion.

Wasn’t the universe itself created out of chaos?

llya Prigogine, a leading brain researcher, describes this phenomenon as the “Theory of Dissipative Structures”. Simply put, when things fall apart, they eventually reorganize themselves on a higher level (if they don’t first become extinct).

And while this transition stage certainly looks and feels like confusion, what’s really happening is that the old structures are giving way to the new.

Lao Tzu, one of China’s most revered sages, knew all about this:

lao-tzu.jpg

“I am a fool, oh yes, I am confused.
Other men are clear and bright.
But I alone am dim and weak.
Other men are sharp and clever,
But I alone am dull and stupid.
Oh, I drift like the waves of the sea,
Without direction, like the restless wind.”

Somehow, he knew that things needed to be a little mixed up for there to be space for something new to enter his life. He knew that sometimes it was wisest just to let life unfold — and that any knee-jerk attempt to clear up what he perceived to be confusion would only leave him with his old habits, patterns, and routines.

There is no need to fight confusion. Let it be.

It’s a stage we must pass through on the road to creation. Fighting confusion only makes it worse — like trying to clean a dirty pond by poking at it with a stick.

And, besides, even while our conscious mind is telling us we’re confused, our subconscious mind is processing a mile a minute to come up with some amazing solutions. In the shower. While we’re exercising. Even in our dreams.

Look at it this way…

First, we refuse (to have our status quo threatened). Then, we getconfused (trying to sort out all the new input). Then, we try todiffuse the process (by regressing or denying.) Eventually, we getinfused (inundated by new insights). And, finally, we get fused(connecting with previously unrelated elements to form a new and unified whole).

Your next step?

Allow confusion to be what it is — the catalyst for new and more elegant outcomes.

And if you really can’t stand the confusion, here are seven simple things you can do to go beyond it:

1. Take a break from the problem at hand
2. Identify what’s confusing you. Name it.
3. Talk about your confusion with friends
4. Seek out missing information
5. Redefine your problem, starting with the words “How can I?”
6. Pay attention to your dreams and other clues bubbling up from your subconscious
7. Maintain a longer term perspective (“this too shall pass”)

Idea Champions

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5 Biggest Leadership Lessons From 2012

Business & Money


This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources, and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

It’s been quite a year for leadership lessons. Any one of a multitude of events in 2012 (Hurricane Sandy, The London Olympics, Benghazi and its fallout) would provide a case study in how to lead–and sometimes, sadly, how not to.

Here are my personal top five leadership lessons from 2012:

1. Institutionalize your Vision (with a capital V).

It’s over a year since he died, but Steve Jobs was still handing out leadership lessons in 2012.

The question everyone began asking almost immediately his sad, early death was announced was: “Will Apple survive the loss of its Visionary founder?”

This year showed that, while the jury is still out as to whether it will be exactly the same company or not, Apple…

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WAYS TO BE HAPPY AND PRODUCTIVE AT WORK

  • November 25, 2012, 12:10 PM GMT

Ways to Be Happy and Productive at Work

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The Source has teamed up with the iOpener Institute for People and Performance to find out how happy and fulfilled readers of the Wall Street Journal are at work. The institute has designed a survey to help you establish how happy you are at work, and along with the article below, you can figure out how you can increase your happiness and be more productive. Complete the questionnaire now.

What in the world is happening in the workplace? Economic data over the last couple of years shows a confusing picture of productivity. The U.S. reported a modest increase due to downwards wage pressure, while the U.K., outperformed by France and Germany, has reported more employment but less output.

South African productivity has hit a 46-year low, while even China and India which have been fueling their economies with cheap labor are seeing costs rise as investors eye up cheaper countries or territories in which it’s easier to do business.

Productivity is a combination of many things: traditionally it includes investment, innovation, skills, enterprise and competition. But there’s one key ingredient missing here.

The happiness of employees.

Employees who are the most productive are also the happiest at work.

We know this because the institute has gathered data since 2005, tells us that when you are unhappy or insecure at work you withhold your best effort. You are simply less productive when you’re looking to balance the psychological contract between you and your employer. Which is the reason it matters for both bosses and employees.

So where are you? If you want to assess what’s affecting your performance,complete our questionnaire to get a personalized mini report.

And what do we know about employees who are happiest at work? Our research tells us that they are:

  • Twice as productive
  • Stay five times longer in their jobs
  • Six times more energized
  • Take 10 times less sick leave

And we’ve found other benefits.

Happier workers help their colleagues 33% more than their least happy colleagues; raise issues that affect performance 46% more; achieve their goals 31% more and are 36% more motivated.

If there’s a positive effect, they demonstrate it. Every organization needs happy employees because they are the ones who effectively tackle the tough stuff and turn ideas into actions.

So what should organizations, bosses and individuals do? Our research show that everyone needs to focus on the five drivers of individual productivity because they propel performance and ensure that employees are happy in their work too.

Driver 1: Effort

This is about what you do. You’ll never be productive without clear goals or precise and well-articulated objectives that lead to those goals and without addressing problems that arise on the way. That means the ability to raise issues and have others help you solve them too. That’s what leaders need to make happen and what employees need to push for.

Constructive feedback helps you contribute even more while personal appreciation goes a long way to boosting productivity. Interestingly, negative feedback which is poorly given doubles sick leave, according to our data, and increased sick leave of course affects productivity levels. So one practical thing organizations can do is teach their managers how to give great feedback.

Driver 2: Short-Term Motivation

This is about staying resilient and motivated enough to maintain productivity levels. Our data shows that resilience hasn’t taken a knock over the past few years, but motivation has. It dropped by 23% during 2010 and climbed back by 17% during 2011 but there has been no improvement in 2012.

Of course reduced motivation means it’s harder to maintain high performance and maximize output.

Good organizations encourage motivation by helping employees own issues and take responsibility. And they do that at a level that fits with an individual’s skills, strengths and expertise levels. Those employees are encouraged to work on what they are good at, to prioritize what they do and to build efficiencies into their work.

Driver 3: How Well You Fit Into a Firm

Performance and happiness at work are both boosted when employees feel they fit within their organizational culture. Believing that you’re in the wrong job, feeling disconnected from the values of your workplace or disliking your colleagues is dispiriting and de-energizing and all of that feels much worse if decisions in your workplace feel unfair.

Our investigation of fairness at work doesn’t tell a good story. It tumbled 19% in 2010, rose 9% during 2011 and has been flat-lining during 2012. According to the U.K.’s Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development, fairness is connected with discretionary effort: if decisions feel fair, work gets done. If they don’t, employees look for other ways of getting what’s missing, which is when equipment gets broken, work gets sabotaged and things go missing.

Good firms can address this by being as transparent as possible about why decisions are made, explaining why resources are allocated in the way they are and making sure that their approach is as equitable as possible.

Driver 4: Long-Term Engagement

This is about commitment and the long-term engagement you have with what you do and your organization. Having to work hard in a job you feel stuck in is energy draining at best and, as we’ve found, associated with higher illness at worst.

Our data reveals that one of the key items that creates commitment is a belief that you’re doing something worthwhile. And this is particularly important to Generation Y — those born in the early 1980s. If your digital natives, those familiar with digital media and technology, don’t feel they are doing something worthwhile, they’ll be eying the exit and intending to leave within two years; and our numbers clearly tell us that money won’t solve this problem.

In fact more than other generation, Generation Y need to believe in the strategic direction that their employer is pursuing. The more Generation Yers believe in the leadership’s corporate strategy, the less likely they are to leave.

This tells employers that they need to regularly and convincingly communicate the corporate strategy, along with tangible proof of how that strategy is being implemented and the contribution it is making not just to the bottom line.

Driver 5: Self-Belief

If you’re not confident you won’t make decisions, take risks, or spend cash. Confidence is the gateway to productivity and our data shows that a primary indicator of confidence is that things get done. We also found that things get done better, faster or cheaper because people are confident of the outcome.

Right now confidence has a significantly lower average than the other four drivers and that’s a problem because you can’t have confident organizations without confident individuals.

And productivity works in the exactly the same way.

When we collect data, we ask employees how much time they spend “on task” or engaged with their work. This ranges from 78% for those who are most on task, to 41% for the least.

Just to be clear, the people who are most on task also have the highest levels of all the five drivers as well as being the happiest employees at work. In real terms, that 78% is equivalent to about four days a week while 41% is just two days a week. This represents a huge productivity cost to any organization.

In effect an organization is losing about 100 days of work a year for every “unhappy” employee.

If leaders, organizations and industries want to manage productivity and move it in the right direction, it’s time to understand these five drivers, investigate the numbers and to recognize the serious outcomes that happiness at work can bring.

For the second year running, The Wall Street Journal (Europe) is running a global happiness at work index in conjunction with the iOpener Institute to see who’s happiest at work. If you want to take part, click here to get a self-assessment in Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, English, French, Hebrew, German, Korean, Malay, Portuguese, Russian or Spanish. The iOpener Institute will be reporting back on the results of readers clicking through in six weeks’ time.

The iOpener Institute for People and Performance is an international consultancy which conducts research to find practical solutions to workforce issues.

 

 

The Question That Will Change Your Organization – Polly LaBarre – Harvard Business Review

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Some fifteen years ago, in the early days of starting up Fast Company magazine, co-founder Alan Webber shared one of his rules of thumb with me: “A good question beats a good answer.” That pithy wisdom sunk in and took hold immediately.

The first thing you notice when you have your ears pricked for questions is that most people (especially businesspeople) are more interested in presenting solutions, making assertions, and sharing their vision. This isn’t surprising. School programs us to focus on producing the right answer, and the job description of a leader for the last century has basically been “the person with all the answers.”

That’s why it’s so refreshing (and instructive) to spend time with people who lead with questions rather than answers. Why? Why does inquiry beat certainty every time? Here are just three reasons:

1. Questions are a powerful antidote to hubris, which inevitably arises in a culture that celebrates mastery, values decisiveness, and reveres the top guy (or gal). Genuine questions unleash humility, curiosity, even vulnerability. That turns out to be a powerful approach to leadership in a world of expanding complexity, immense challenges and intense change. No single individual can possibly have all of the answers. But an open and curious one can attract more perspectives, surface more possibilities, and enlist more help than one closed off by certitude.

As Vineet Nayar, CEO of the $3.5 billion global IT services firm, HCL Technologies, puts it: “The CEO should be the Chief Question Asker, not the final provider of answers.” He keeps a list of twenty questions and makes time to think about them on a regular (almost daily) basis. He’s asking for trouble when he wonders:

  • Should people who create value be governed by people who control it?
  • What things do I control that I should not control?
  • Could we throw out the entire company rulebook?
  • Would my children (or my employees’ children) want to work in a company like mine?
  • What would happen if there was no CEO at my company (or at any company in the world)?

He professes not to have the answers, but one thing is certain: the more disruptive the questions, the greater the chance his organization will create the future — rather than be conquered by it.

2. The best questions are the bedrock of all change and creativity.
Those classics — Why? Why not? What if? — invite possibility rather than doubt. They are fundamentally subversive, disruptive, and playful — and they switch people into the mode required to invent anything new. Even better, anyone can ask these questions (anyone who has ever spent time in the company of a three-year-old understands this). You don’t have to hold a position of authority to ask a powerful question, and the people with the most powerful questions stand to make the most impact.

That was certainly true for Jane Harper, who spent a nearly 30-year career at IBM asking the kinds of questions most people don’t want to touch. In 1999, she dared to ask: “Why would really great people — the best technical and managerial talent in the world — want to come work at IBM?” In an era when every young, gifted programmer, engineer, or entrepreneur’s first instinct was to write their own business plan or head to a fast-growing startup, life as a foot soldier in Big Blue’s global army was a pretty hard sell. Harper understood that great people want to work on exciting, high-impact projects, with a small team, in a dynamic setting. So she created exactly that in a Cambridge, Massachusetts lab and launched a wholly original and powerfully effective internship program called Extreme Blue, which has since grown into a thriving platform for innovation and talent development.

3. Asking good questions trades control for contribution. A question asked and explored as a group (whether that group is a team, a company, or a community) generates more solidarity, engagement, and progress than a proclamation from on high. Spend any amount of time with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, whose organization is celebrated for exuding a powerful sense of purpose and passion from every corner, and you’ll hear him repeatedly refer to “the questions we ask ourselves.”

Questions create conversations — and those conversations are how thriving groups think up their future together and stay true to their core. One enduring and powerful question at the heart of Zappos is: “How do we sustain this culture as we grow? How do we stay true to the core and inspire ever more creativity and energy to tackle the future?” That question is actively explored across the organization and even results in a book — the annual Culture Book — which features the “true feelings, thoughts, and opinions of the employees,” who view themselves as vital custodians of that culture.

Of course, there is no one right question, but one of the most productive questions when it comes to engendering a deeply-felt sense of purpose and inspiring the kind of passion that fuels organizations to do extraordinary things is: “What ideas are we fighting for? What do we stand for (and what are we against)? Why does what we do matter?”

The inevitable corollary to that question is: “Are you really who you say you are?” Unless you’re willing to hold a brutally honest and transparent conversation (both inside the organization and beyond) about where you’re living up to your ideas and ideals and where you’re falling down, those values will become meaningless words on the wall.

What’s your question? Share it here and join the Beyond Bureaucracy Challenge to share your stories, ideas, and practices about what it takes to make our organizations more inspiring, open and free.

Polly LaBarre is editorial director of the Management Innovation Exchange

When you just don’t fit in at the office – Money – TODAY.com

What to do when you just don’t fit in at work

Three and a half years ago Forbes merged its dot-com and magazine editorial staffs, and we magazine editors got a dose of culture shock. We were used to coming and going as we pleased. We had few meetings. Especially in the mid- and upper-level ranks, we didn’t socialize together much. Having moved here midway through my career, from a nightly television show where I was by necessity joined at the hip with my colleagues, I loved the independence and freedom of the place.

Now I suddenly had a major adjustment to make. The dot-commers were a much more chummy bunch. Group e-mails whizzed around constantly. Announcements of birthday parties arrived, it seemed, daily. That meant we had to leave our desks at mid-afternoon, crowd into a windowless conference room and sing to some colleague while nibbling on cupcakes and sipping cheap champagne. Call me a curmudgeon, but I detested those forced moments of gaiety and collegiality.

Forbes.com slideshow: When you just don’t fit in at the office

Which leads me to the topic of this column: What do you do when you realize you don’t naturally fit in with your office culture?

My situation was pretty mild. I didn’t want my new colleagues to think I disliked them, so I forced myself to show up at a share of the cupcake fêtes and made a point to offer the birthday boy or girl best wishes, especially if he or she was on my team. I got used to the faster pace of the dot-com schedule, and I attended a lot more meetings. Also, the office culture around here has shifted since then. We’re back to fewer meetings, no birthday parties and more independence.

But for some people the wrong office culture can prove truly onerous or even cost them the job.

Anita Attridge, a career coachicon1.png in New York, had a client who worked as a vice president for a large pharmaceutical company based in Europe. The woman had to travel overseas once a month for three or four exhausting days at a stretch. Tired and jetlagged, she at first routinely turned down dinner and drinks invitations from her European colleagues, preferring to head back to her hotel and crash. Then she got some bad news: She wasn’t perceived as a strong leader and wasn’t doing her part as a member of the team. “She was startled,” Attridge says. “She had no idea she wasn’t doing well.” It turned out she was expected not only to give her all in the office but also to demonstrate her commitment to her company by socializing with her superiors and colleagues after hours.

“It wasn’t in her comfort zone to do that,” Attridge says. But Attridge advised her to come to terms with the need to socialize: “I said to her that going out to dinners was as much a part of the job as going to meetings. It’s a job requirement that isn’t listed.” Attridge also pointed out that a lot of informal but essential information changes hands at office social functions.

Attridge learnedicon1.png about the importance of office culture firsthand at one of her own first jobs 25 years ago. She was working on the sales staff at Xerox in Rochester, N.Y. She labored hard all day, and she eschewed any form of office socializing – until her manager sat her down and asked if she wanted to have a career at the company. “He said, ‘If you don’t start changing what you’re doing, you’re never going to move ahead.’ He was very explicit.” Attridge started going to lunches and attending going-away parties.

Attridge and other career professionals agree that job seekers should realize that office culture can be as important as workloadicon1.png and duties. “It’s very important to look at the culture before you start the job,” says Sarah Stamboulie, a career coach who had to confront two very different cultures at a crossroads in her own career. She’d gotten two job offers, one from Morgan Stanley and the other at a Japanese insurance company where the atmosphere was formal and buttoned down. If she took the insurance job, she says, “I realized that sooner or later I’d say the wrong thing.” She went with Morgan Stanley.

Sometimes an office’s culture can be so dysfunctional you can find it impossible to do your job. Pam Lassiter, a consultant in Boston and author of “The New Job Security: The 5 Best Strategies for Taking Control of Your Career,” had a client who worked in business development at a three-year-old energy technologyicon1.png company. The company’s chief executive, terrified that competitors would steal his ideas, fostered an office culture corroded by fear, distrust and secrecy. Lassiter’s client, who was outgoing and enthusiastic, felt so stymied that he quit after a year to start his own energy financing venture. Says Lassiter, “If the CEO isn’t going to change anytime soon and your values or ways of working are different, then you should be developing an exit plan.”

Culture can also make a difference where you least expect it, Lassiter points out. One of her clients started a mobile phone marketing business from home. She got herself plenty of business and a robust income but also grew lonely. Says Lassiter, “She didn’t realize how much she enjoyed the camaraderie of teams, the comfort of the water cooler and the pleasure of informal chitchat with the same people.” The client set up arrangements with clients that had her spending extended periods in office settings where she realized she was much happier.

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