Monday, March 5, 2012

How NOT to lead a boardroom...

Donald Trump has had a great deal of success with his various iterations of "The Apprentice." For me, the novelty wore off after a season--although I did come back for the first "Celebrity Apprentice." But last night, I came back and I was struck by something: I really hope there are not impressionable minds out there that think that Trump's actions in the boardroom are anything close to how to actually lead and evaluate people.

It seems that one of Trumps favorite moves in the boardroom is the "gotcha" move. Last night, he asked Clay Aiken what he thought of George Takei as a leader. Clay, being the polite guy he was, answered that he thought George did a great job. But see, Trump already knew that his son had talked to Clay during the project and asked that same question of Clay. At that time, Clay chuckled a little bit (it wasn't nearly the laugh that Trumps son implied). This was, of course, thrown back into Clay's face in front of both teams in the board room and Clay was left to explain it away--in front of both teams.

What was worse was Trumps insistence on asking the Project Manager's who they would bring back to the boardroom if their team lost. George Takei answered the question and ticked off Lou Ferrigno (although, it apparently doesn't take much to insult Lou). The ladies team Project Manager managed to avoid the question even after The Donald insisted that "you know you have to answer the question." I kept saying out loud. "just say 'I'll deal with that if my team is the one that lost.'"

Back to my point, though. I've been deeply involved in performance improvement research lately and this act by The Donald just sticks in my craw. Yes, I am aware it is done for TV. However, I am also aware that many people take what they see on TV as being "reality." After all, that's what it is, right? "Reality TV?"

There is something to be said about the very simple management rule that Captain Walter Kelly, USAF taught me back in ROTC at the University of Akron: "Praise in public, criticize in private." I know Capt. Kelly didn't invent that saying but he was the first person I remember hearing that from...and it left an impression.

I wonder how The Donald would feel if Ivanka was in MY boardroom and facing the same kind of questions? Wait a minute...I've got an idea for a new show! "Celebrity Apprentice: Trump Edition!" I'll let you know as soon as I hear from the network...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lintastic Lesson!

Plenty has already been written about how in the world Jeremy Lin could have gone unnoticed for so long. Certainly a lot of factors have been discussed: his race, his size, his overall "look" (meaning he didn't look overtly athletic), and his self-admitted lack of flashy play. But one reason strikes me as being a poignant lesson for leaders and coaches of leaders: he wasn't really given a chance.

In his stints in Houston and Golden State, Lin didn't get much playing time. Even when he arrived at the Knicks, he had more bench time than playing time--by a large margin. Now, not everyone gets to play as much as they want--even in the NBA. The disparity of talent from starting 5 to bench can often be dramatic. So, this is not an argument that "everyone should play." This is the big leagues. This is the real world. This isn't community-center kids basketball where everyone gets a trophy.

But, what seems to be clear is that this is a situation where scouts, coaches, and GM's didn't really look hard enough at their talent. Instead, they seemed to be content to buy-in to the "conventional wisdom" about Lin. When they got him on their team, they put him into the role that fit that conventional wisdom--without giving it a second thought.

Then disaster pretty much struck the Knicks. Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, THE big stars of the team, both were gone--at least temporarily. That gave Lin an opportunity. Make no mistake, I don't think this story has anything whatsoever to do with great coaching or insight by Knicks Coach, Mike D'Antoni. He was forced to play Lin because of a shortage. He should feel embarrassed just like a lot of Lin's former coaches do. To Lin's credit, he made--and is making--the most of this opportunity. NOW, D'Antoni has to do some coaching because he has to figure out how to keep Lin in the mix when Stoudemire (now back) and Melo are both on the floor. That will also be a challenge for Lin but at least now he has a chance to deal with it--rather than sleep on a couch and dream about it.

The lesson for us in the business world is this: who is the Jeremy Lin on our team? Have we put enough effort in evaluating--and re-evaluating our talent? Have we given our teams a chance to fail? Yes, I said "fail." You can't really give people the chance to succeed if you, as the leader, are also willing and prepared to allow them to fail.

Leaders: avoid buying into the conventional wisdom regarding your team. Make your own judgments and put forth significant effort in giving your team the opportunity to fail. The results just may be Lincredible!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Influence People!

I had the pleasure of listening to Brian Ahearn this evening at the Central Ohio Coaches meeting at THE Ohio State University. Brian is one of only 27 people--in the world--who is certified by to present the principles of Dr. Robert Cialdini
He shared some great insights into simple--really simple--things that people can do to influence people! And "people" has significant meaning to Brian's message...but you have to go to his blog to find out what it means! I couldn't help but frantically scribble notes as ideas popped into my head inspired by Brian's talk tonight!

Do yourself a favor and check out Brian's blog: Influence People.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Penn State: A Failure of Leadership

There is a reason that both Joe Paterno,  former head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lion football team, and Graham Spanier, former President of Penn State University, were fired in the wake of the current scandal: they failed in their roles as leaders.

Whatever the details end up being, the events took place on their watch and ultimately, they are responsible. I think the Board took the necessary decisive action with regard to Spanier and Paterno--but it remains to be seen who else should be held accountable.

This is a poignant lesson for leaders at all levels of organizations. Organizational culture is most often a reflection of leadership. If leaders overlook minor things, soon there will be more "minor" things happening within the organization. In time, minor things will develop into less-than-minor things. Before long, there is a grown man showering naked "horsing around" with young boys at the University YOU are responsible for.

Jerry Sandusky didn't develop overnight. I am of the opinion that the only way this could happen at PSU is because there was a culture that allowed for leaders to "overlook" things that should have been major warning signs within a healthy organization.

PSU had a cancer and only now has the tumor become visible to the world. Perhaps with new leadership, PSU can start the long road to recovery.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Eisenhower on Leadership

Leadership is the art of getting someone to do what you want done--because they want to do it! 
Dwight D. Eisenhower 

 One of the risks of reading this quote is that one could get the impression that leadership is about manipulating people. If we don't go deep enough into the last part of the quote--"because they want to do it"--we will not really understand the power of leadership. To be blunt--as Eisenhower oft was--this is not about people wanting to do things because they want to keep their job, get a promotion, stay out of the doghouse, or just get through the day. This quote is about connecting with those you are leading in such a deep way that the motivation to perform comes from within them--inspired by you. This is what leadership coaching is all about.

Coaching is a technique used by more and more leaders who desire to see their people fulfill their highest potential. It is a not a process by which leaders tell their people "here's what you need to do." Rather, it is a process that inspires people to say to the leader "here's what I can do!" Because the action steps come from within the person being lead, the rate of success is much higher. Because the ideas come from within the lead, the action steps are things that they want to do.

I like to think this is what Eisenhower was referring to...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Time to demand ethics from our leaders!

If we don't demand ethical behavior,
we deserve what we get!
Tonight is election night. It should be one of the most exciting nights of the year. It is the night that each of us has a say in the future of our town, our state, and our country. Unfortunately, many many people choose to stay home. They feel that their vote doesn't count and they are completely uninspired by the crop of candidates that exist. I feel their pain.

I voted tonight. I wasn't happy about my choices but I voted. Here in my small town, I found an example of why people just don't care about the political process anymore--and why politicians continue to have some of the lowest ratings in terms of respect and ethical standards of any profession out there. I blame political "advisors" as much as I blame the politicians. Actually, the politicians bear more blame because they don't HAVE to listen to political advisors.

One of the young men running for office tried to bolster his credentials. I am certain this was on the advise of a political advisor...but I cannot prove it. I just like to think that the young man was naive and trusted an experienced advisor. It's understandable to try to make yourself look as appealing as possible, but this young man held himself out to be a "corporate executive." In letters he wrote in the local paper, in mailings from "the party," and in a debate, this young man continued to boast that he was an "executive with the (blank) corporation." What image does that convey? What would you think his stature in that company would be? What does that imply about his level of experience? That's exactly what it was meant to convey...and it would be inaccurate. Unfortunately, few in the electorate choose to dig any deeper.

The thing is, this young man will likely win tonight. However, I think he would have won even if he hadn't lied (ahem...gave a false impression) about the nature of the position in his company. I would have liked to like him but...

In the end, I didn't vote for him. I voted for someone who probably is less qualified for the job--but who was completely honest about himself throughout the campaign. I am comfortable with that choice. I wish more would make choices like that...

Monday, November 7, 2011

A great quote on Winning--and it didn't come from Charlie Sheen!

Those who have to win, win a lot. Those who fear losing, lose a lot!
--John Whitmore