commitment

The Advantage

A few years ago, I read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and it remains to be, for me, one of the most practical and applicable management books. Patrick Lencioni, the author of that book, has published a number of other books which have received high reviews as well, and I decided to read one of his more recent ones The Advantage – Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business.

The main premise of this book is that:

The single greatest advantage any company can achieve is organizational health. Yet it is ignored by most leaders even though it is simply free, and available to anyone who wants it.

Sounds simple, so why is it that difficult?

But before leaders can tap into the power of organizational health, they must humble themselves enough to overcome the three biases that prevent them from embracing it. The Sophistication Bias: Organizational health is so simple and accessible that many leaders have a hard time seeing it as a real opportunity for meaningful advantage…The Adrenaline Bias: Becoming a healthy organization takes a little time. Unfortunately, many of the leaders I’ve worked with suffer from a chronic case of adrenaline addiction, seemingly hooked on the daily rush of activity and firefighting within their organizations…The Quantification Bias: The benefits of becoming a healthy organization, as powerful as they are, are difficult to accurately quantify.

What exactly is organizational health and how do I recognize it?

A good way to recognize health is to look for the signs that indicate an organization has it. These include minimal politics and confusion, high degrees of morale and productivity, and very low turnover among good employees…And so a good way to look at organizational health -and one that executives seem to respond to readily— is to see it as the multiplier of intelligence. The healthier an organization is, the more of its intelligence it is able to tap into and use. Most organizations exploit only a fraction of the knowledge. experience, and intellectual capital that is available to them. But the healthy ones tap into almost all of it. That, as much as anything else, is why they have such an advantage over their unhealthy competitors.

How do we create it, or get there?

An organization doesn’t become healthy in a linear, tidy fashion. Like building a strong marriage or family, it’s a messy process that involves doing a few things at once, and it must be maintained on an ongoing basis in order to be preserved. Still, that messy process can be broken down into four simple disciplines: Discipline 1: Build a cohesive leadership team…Discipline 2: Create Clarity…Discipline 3…Overcommunicate Clarity…Discipline 4: Reinforce Clarity.

On the first discipline – building a leadership team, let us start with the fundamentals, with the definition:

A leadership team is a small group of people who are collectively responsible for achieving a common objective for their organization…This is perhaps the most important distinction between a working group and a real leadership team. Collective responsibility implies, more than anything else, selflessness and shared sacrifices from team members.

What are the key behaviors of a leadership team:

On building trust:

Members of a truly cohesive team must trust one another. I realize that sounds like the most patently obvious statement ever made, something that every organization understands and values. As a result, you’d think that most leadership teams would be pretty good at building trust. As it turns out, they aren’t, and I think a big part of it is that they have the wrong idea about what trust is…The kind of trust that is necessary to build a great team is what I call vulnerability-based trust. This is what happens when members get to a point where they are completely comfortable being transparent. honest, and naked with one another, where they say and genuinely mean things like “I screwed up,” “I need help,” “Your idea is better than mine,” ‘T wish I could learn to do that as well as you do,” and even, “I’m sorry”…Trust is just one of five behaviors that cohesive teams must establish to build a healthy organization. However, it is by far the most important of the five because it is the foundation for the others. Simply stated, it makes teamwork possible. Only when teams build vulnerability-based trust do they put themselves in a position to embrace the other four behaviors, the next of which is the mastery of conflict.

On mastering conflict:

Contrary to popular wisdom and behavior, conflict is not a bad thing for a team. In fact, the fear of conflict is almost always a sign of problems. Of course, the kind of conflict I’m referring to here is not the nasty kind that centers around people or personalities. Rather, it is what I call productive ideological conflict, the willingness to disagree, even passionately when necessary, around important issues and decisions that must be made. But this can only happen when there is trust…When leadership team members fail to disagree around issues, not only are they increasing the likelihood of losing respect for one another and encountering destructive conflict later when people start griping in the hallways, they’re also making bad decisions and letting down the people they’re supposed to be serving. And they do this all in the name of being “nice.”

On achieving commitment:

The reason that conflict is so important is that a team cannot achieve commitment without it. People will not actively commit to a decision if they have not had the opportunity to provide input, ask questions, and understand the rationale behind it. Another way to say this is, “If people don’t weigh in, they can’t buy in.”

On embracing accountability:

Even well-intentioned members of a team need to be held accountable if a team is going to stick to its decisions and accomplish its goals. In some cases, people will deviate from a plan or a decision knowingly, tempted to do something that is in their individual best interest but not that of the team. In other cases, people will stray without realizing it, getting distracted or caught up in the pushes and pulls of daily work. In either case, it’s the job of the team to call those people out and keep them in line…At its core, accountability is about having the courage to confront someone about their deficiencies and then to stand in the moment and deal with their reaction, which may not be pleasant. It is a selfless act, one rooted in a word that I don’t use lightly in a business book: love. To hold someone accountable is to care about them enough to risk having them blame you for pointing out their deficiencies.

On focusing on results:

The ultimate point of building greater trust, conflict, commitment, and accountability is one thing: the achievement of results. That certainly seems obvious, but as it turns out, one of the greatest challenges to team success is the inattention to results. What would members of an executive team be focused on if not the results of their organization? Well, for one, the results of their department. Too many leaders seem to have a greater affinity for and loyalty to the department they lead rather than the team they’re a member of and the organization they are supposed to be collectively serving. Other distractions include a concern for individual career development, budget allocations, status, and ego, all of them common distractions that prevent teams from being obsessed with achieving results…The only way for a team to really be a team and to maximize its output is to ensure that everyone is focused on the same priorities— rowing in the same direction, if you will.

The second discipline is about Creating Clarity:

The second requirement for building a healthy organization—creating clarity—is all about achieving alignment. This is a word that is used incessantly by leaders, consultants, and organizational theorists, and yet for all the attention it gets, real alignment remains frustratingly rare. Most executives who run organizations—and certainly the employees who work for them—will readily this.

This is done by answering six fundamental questions:

1. Why do we exist? 2. How do we behave? 3. What do we do? 4. How will we succeed? 5. What is most important, right now? 6. Who must do what?

On what do we do:

If an organization’s reason for existence answers the Question, Why?, then its business definition answers the question. What? It’s critical that it be clear and straightforward. It should not be crafted so that it also be used in marketing material. The point is just to make sure that the leadership team is crystal clear about, and can accurately describe, the nature of the organization’s business so that they don’t create confusion within the rest of the company or, for that matter, in the market. It’s as simple as that.

On how we will succeed:

We came to realize that the best way for an organization to make strategy practical is to boil it down to three strategic anchors that will be used to inform every decision the organization makes and provide the filter or lens through which decisions must be evaluated to ensure consistency. Strategic anchors provide the context for all decision making and help companies avoid the temptation to make purely pragmatic and opportunistic decisions that so often end up diminishing a company’s plan for success.

On who must do that:

There is not a great deal to be said about this particular question, aside from warning leadership teams not to take it for granted. Although there is often clarity among executives in most organizations about who does what on the team, making assumptions about that clarity can lead to surprising and unnecessary problems.

The third discipline is Overcommunicating Clarity:

What those leaders fail to realize is that employees understand the need for repetition. They know that messaging is not so much an Intellectual process as an emotional one. Employees are not analyzing what leaders are saying based solely on whether it is intellectually novel or compelling, but more than anything else on whether they believe the leaders are serious, authentic, and committed to what they are saying. Again, that means repetition is a must.

The fourth and last discipline is Reinforcing Clarity:

As important as overcommunication is, leaders of a healthy organization cannot always be around to remind employees about the company’s reason for existing, its values, and so on. In order to ensure that the answers to the six critical questions become embedded in the fabric of the organization, leaders must do everything they can to reinforce them structurally as well. The way to do that is to make sure that every human system every process that involves people—from hiring and people management to training and compensation, is designed to reinforce the answers to those questions. The challenge is to do this without adding too much structure.

A concluding reminder that success in creating healthy organization rests on the leaders of the organization:

There is just no escaping the fact that the single biggest factor determining whether an organization is going to get healthier—or not—is the genuine commitment and active involvement of the person in charge. For a company, that’s the CEO. For a small business, it’s the owner. For a school, it’s the principal. For a church, it’s the pastor. For a department within a company, it’s the department head. At every step in the process, the leader must be out front, not as a cheerleader or a figurehead, but as an active, tenacious driver.

While there is a considerable effort involved, there is also a substantial reward:

At the end of the day, at the end of our careers, when we look back at the many initiatives that we poured ourselves into, few other activities will seem more worthy of our effort and more impactful on the lives of others, than making our organizations healthy.

A recommended read in the area of organizational leadership and management. If you have not read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, I highly recommend you read that one first.

 

On The Leadership Challenge

I recently finished reading The Leadership Challenge by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner.

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “Whether in their early twenties, late seventies, or anywhere between, leaders told us that the fundamentals of leadership are the same today as they were in the 1980s, and they’ve probably have been the same for centuries. Yet the leaders were quick to add that while the content of leadership has not changed, the context—and, in some cases, it has changed dramatically. What is this new context, and what are the implications for the practice of leadership? From heightening uncertainty across the world to an intense search for meaning, our connections as people and as leaders are part of this context. Heightened uncertainty…People first…We’re even more connected…Social capital…Speed…A changing workforce…Even more intense search for meaning.”

2- “Leaders do exhibit certain distinct practices when they are doing their best. This process varies little from industry to industry, profession to profession, community to community, country to country. Good leadership is individual, there are patterns to the practice of leadership that are shared. And that can be learned.”

3- “As we looked deeper into the dynamic process of leadership, through case analyses and survey questionnaires, we uncovered five practices common to personal-best leadership experiences. When getting extraordinary things done in organizations, leaders engage in these Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership: Model the Way. Inspire a Shared Vision. Challenge the Process. Enable Others to Act. Encourage the Heart.”

4- “Modeling the way is essentially about earning the right and the respect to lead through direct individual involvement and action. People first follow the person, then the plan.”

5- ” Leaders know well that innovation and change all involve experimentation, risk, and failure. They proceed anyway. One way of dealing with the potential risks and failures of experimentation is to approach change through incremental steps and small wins. Little victories, when piled on top of each other, build confidence that even the biggest challenges can be met. In so doing, they strengthen commitment to the long-term future. Yet not everyone is equally comfortable with risk and uncertainty. Leaders also pay attention to the capacity of their constituents to take control of challenging situations and become fully committed to change. You can’t exhort people to take risks if they don’t also feel safe.”

6- “Constituents neither perform at their best nor stick around for very long if their leader makes them feel weak, dependent, or alienated. But when a leader makes people feel strong and capable— as if they can do more than they ever thought possible—they’ll give it their all and exceed their own expectations. When leadership is a relationship founded on trust and confidence, people take risks, make changes, keep organizations and movements alive. Through that relationship, leaders turn their constituents into leaders themselves.”

7- “Success in leadership, success in business, and success in life has been, is now, and will continue to be a function of how well people work and play together. We’re even more convinced of this today than we were twenty years ago. Success in leading will be wholly dependent upon the capacity to build and sustain those human relationships that enable people to get extraordinary things done on a regular basis.”

8- “THE TEN COMMITMENTS OF LEADERSHIP: 1. Find your voice by clarifying your personal values. 2. Set the example by aligning actions with shared values. 3. Envision the future by imagining exciting and ennobling possibilities. 4. Enlist others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations. 5. Search for opportunities by seeking innovative ways to change, grow, and improve. 6. Experiment and take risks by constantly generating small wins and learning from mistakes. 7. Foster collaboration by promoting cooperative goals and building trust. 8. Strengthen others by sharing power and discretion. 9. Recognize contributions by showing appreciation for individual excellence. 10. Celebrate the values and victories by creating a spirit of community.”

9- “As the data clearly show, for people to follow someone willingly, the majority of constituents must believe the leader is: Honest, Competent, Forward-looking and Inspiring.”

10- “To gain and sustain the moral authority to lead, it’s essential to Model the Way. Because of this important connection between words and actions, we’ve chosen to start our discussion of the Five Practices with a thorough examination of the principles and behaviors that bring Model the Way to life. First, in Chapter Three, we introduce you to why it’s essential to Find Your Voice—that unique expression of yourself that gives you the inner strength as a leader to «j«v what you will do. Then, in Chapter Four, we’ll take a look at how leaders Set the Example, the second half of the formula for establishing credibility. You’ll see how leaders must focus on their own personal values and how they must build and affirm shared values. Throughout the chapters and the action steps, you’ll also learn methods to align actions with values—the step in the process that communicates with deeds. not just words.”

11- ” Voice in this context is both a noun and a verb. It encompasses words and speech. There’s the message we want to deliver, and then there’s the expression of that message. It’s about having a voice and about giving voice. To Find Your Voice you must engage in two essentials: Clarify your values, Express your self. To become a credible leader, first you have to comprehend fully the values, beliefs, and assumptions that drive you. You have to freely and honestly choose the principles you will use to guide your actions. Before you can clearly communicate your message, you must be clear about the message you want to deliver. And before you can do what you say, you must be sure that you mean what you say. Second, you have to genuinely express your self. The words themselves aren’t enough, no matter how noble. You must authentically communicate your beliefs in ways that uniquely represent who you are. You must interpret the lyrics and shape them into your own singular presentation so that Others recognize that you’re the one who’s speaking and not someone else.”

12- “Values influence every aspect of our lives: our moral judgments, our responses to others, our commitments to personal and organizational goals…Values also serve as guides to action. They inform our decisions as to what to do and what not to do; when to say yes, or no, and really understand why we mean it…Values are empowering. We are much more in control of our own lives when we’re clear about our personal values. When values are clear we don’t have to rely upon direction from someone in authority…Values also motivate. They keen us focused on why we’re doing what we’re doing and the ends toward which we’re striving. Values are the banners that fly as we persist, as we struggle, as we toil.”

13- “People want to be part of something larger than themselves. What we’re savings is this: people cannot fully commit to an organization or a movement that does not fit with their own beliefs. Leaders must pay as much attention to personal values as they do to organizational values if they want dedicated constituents.”

14- “The Three Stages of Self-Expression: Finding one’s voice and finding one’s unique way of expressing the self is something that every artist understands, and every artist knows that finding a voice is most definitely not a matter of technique. It’s a matter of time and a matter of searching—soul-searching…When first learning to lead, we paint what we see outside ourselves—the exterior landscape. We read biographies and autobiographies about famous leaders. We observe master models and ask the advice of mentors. We read books and listen to audiotapes by experienced executives. We participate in training programs. We take on job assignments so that we can work alongside someone who can coach us. We want to learn everything we can from Others, and we often try to copy their style…Somewhere along the way, you’ll notice that your speech sounds mechanically wrote, that your meetings are a boring routine, and that your interactions feel terribly sad and empty. You’ll awaken to the frightening thought that the words aren’t yours, that the vocabulary is someone else’s, that the technique is right out of the text but not straight from the heart. While you’ve invested so much time and energy in learning to do all the right things, you suddenly see that they’re no longer serving you well. The methods seem hollow. You may even feel like a phony…If, as David did, you’re fortunate enough to experience an integrative turning point in your development—a point where you’re able to merge the lessons from your outer and inner journeys—you move on to becoming an authentic leader, in whatever field you’ve chosen for yourself. You’re able to recognize your own voice from the multitude of other voices ringing in your ears, and you find ways to express yourself in a singular style. You become the author of your own experience.”

15- “There are five essential aspects to their behavior and actions that leaders need to be conscious about in their efforts to align shared values through the example of the actions they take: 1) Calendars, 2) Critical incidents, 3) Stories, analogies, and metaphors 4) Language 5) Measurements.”

16- “Create alignment around key values. Researchers have demonstrated that there are three central themes in the values of highly successful, strong-culture organizations: High performance standards. A caring attitude toward people. A sense of uniqueness and pride.”

17- “When we feel passionately about the legacy we want to leave, about the kind of future world we want for ourselves and for others, then we are much more likely to voluntarily step forward. If we don’t have the slightest clue about our hopes, dreams, and aspirations, then the chance that we’ll take the lead is significantly less. In fact, we may not even see the opportunity that’s right in front of us.”

18- “At the beginning what leaders have is a theme. They have concerns, desires. questions, propositions, arguments, hopes, dreams, and aspirations—core concepts around which they organize their aspirations and actions. Leaders begin the process of Envisioning the Future by discovering their own themes. Everything else leaders say about their vision is an elaboration, interpretation. and variation on that theme. Fortunately, there are ways to improve your ability to articulate your own themes and ultimately your visions of the future. Express Your Passion…Explore Your Past…Pay Attention to Your Experiences…Immerse Yourself.”

19- “Leaders are possibility thinkers, not probability thinkers. Probabilities must be based upon evidence strong enough to establish presumption. Possibilities are not. All new ventures begin with possibility thinking, not probability thinking. After all, the probability is that most new businesses will fail and most social reforms will never get off the ground. If entrepreneurs or activists accepted this view, however, they’d never start a new business or organize a community. Instead, they begin with the assumption that anything is possible. Like entrepreneurs and other activists, leaders assume that anything is possible. It’s this belief that sustains them through the difficult times.”

20- “Whether they’re trying to mobilize a crowd in the grandstand or one person in the office, leaders must practice these three essentials to Enlist Others: Listen deeply to others. Discover and appeal to a common purpose. Give life to a vision by communicating expressively, so that people can see themselves in it.”

21- “If you want to create a climate that sustains personal-best leadership experiences, what situations would you look for? What context would most likely offer the right conditions? What leadership actions are required to establish a culture that is characterized by challenge, energy, excitement. determination, inspiration, and innovation? It’s already clear that you need shared values and a shared vision. What else? To Search for Opportunities to get extraordinary things done, leaders make use of four essentials: Seize the initiative. Make challenge meaningful. Innovate and create. Look outward for fresh ideas. Leaders take charge of change. They instill a sense of adventure in others, they look for ways to radically alter the status quo, and they continuously scan the outside environment for new and fresh ideas. Leaders always search for opportunities for ways to do what has never been done.”

22- “Leaders raise the bar gradually and offer coaching and training to build skills that help people get over each new level…They challenge people, sometimes to their very cores—and participants come out changed and ready to take on new risks and experiments…In this endeavor, Reno and Randi demonstrate, as do all exemplary leaders, the need to: Initiate incremental steps and small wins. Learn from mistakes. Promote psychological hardiness.”

23- “High-stress/low-illness executives made these assumptions about themselves in interaction with the world: 1- They felt a strong sense of control believing that they could beneficially influence the direction and outcome of what was going on around them through their own efforts. Lapsing into powerlessness, feeling like a victim of circumstances, and passivity seemed like a waste of time to them. 2- They were strong in commitment, believing that they could find something important, or worthwhile. They were curious about what was going on around them, and this led them to find interactions with people and situations stimulating and meaningful. They were unlikely to engage in denial or feel disengaged, bored, and empty. 3- They felt strong in challenge, believing that personal improvement and fulfillment came through the continual process of learning from both negative and positive experiences. They felt that it was not only unrealistic but also stultifying to simply expect, or even wish for, easy comfort and security.”

24- “Turbulence in the marketplace, it turns out, requires more collaboration, not less. Collaboration is the critical competency for achieving and sustaining high performance—especially in the Internet Age!..Indeed, world-class performances aren’t possible unless there’s a strong sense of shared creation and shared responsibility. To Foster Collaboration, leaders are essential who can skillfully: Create a climate of trust. Facilitate positive interdependence. Support face-to-face interactions.”

25- “To put it quite simply, trust is the most significant predictor of Individuals’ satisfaction with their organizations. When leaders create a climate of trust, they take away the controls and allow people to be free to innovate and contribute. Trusting leaders nurture openness, involvement, personal satisfaction, and high levels of commitment to excellence. Be Open to Influence…Make Yourself Vulnerable…Listen, Listen, Listen.”

26- “Creating a climate where people are involved and important is at the heart of strengthening others. People must have the latitude to make decisions based on what they believe should be done. They must work in an environment that both builds their ability to perform a task or complete an assignment and promotes a sense of self-confidence in their judgment. People must experience a sense of personal accountability so that they can feel ownership for their achievements. We’ve identified four leadership essentials to Strengthen Others: Ensure self-leadership. Provide choice. Develop competence and confidence. Foster accountability.”

27- “Exemplary leaders understand this need to Recognize Contributions and are constantly engaged in these essentials: Focus on clear standards. Expect the best. Pay attention. Personalize recognition.”

28- “Leaders are out there for a reason. One of the reasons, we would maintain, is to show that you care. One way of showing you care is to pay attention to people, to what they are doing, and to how they are feeling. And if you are clear about the standards you’re looking for and you believe and expect that people will perform like winners, then you’re going to notice lots of examples of people doing things right and doing the right things. In contrast, what happens in organizations where managers are constantly on the lookout for problems? Three things: managers get a distorted view of reality; over time, production declines; and the managers’ personal liability hits bottom. Wandering around with an eye for trouble is likely to get you just that. More trouble.”

29- “When we’re open we make ourselves vulnerable—and this vulnerability makes us more human and more trusted. If neither person in a relationship takes the risk of trusting, at least a little, the relationship remains stalled at a low-level of caution and suspicion. If leaders want the higher levels of performance that come with trust and collaboration, then they must demonstrate their trust in others before asking for trust from others. As discussed in Chapter Nine, when it comes to trust, leaders ante up first.”

30- “If leaders are to effectively Celebrate the Values and Victories, they must master these three essentials: Create a spirit of community. Tell the story. Set the example. By bringing people together, sharing the lessons from success, and getting personally involved, leaders reinforce in others the courage required to get extraordinary things done in organizations.”

31- “Stories put a human face on success. They tell us that someone just like us can make it happen. They create organizational role models that everyone can relate to. They put the behavior in a real context. They make standards more than statistics; they make standards come alive. By telling a story in detail, leaders illustrate what everyone needs to do to live by the organizational standards.”

32- “The process of development should never be intrusive. It should never be about just filling someone full of facts or skills. It won’t work. Education should always be liberating. It should be about releasing what is already inside. The quest for leadership is first an inner quest to discover who you are. Through self-development comes the confidence needed to lead. Self-confidence is really awareness of and faith in your own powers. These powers become clear and strong only as you work to identify and develop them. Learning to lead is about discovering what you care about and value. About what inspires you. About what challenges you. About what gives you power and competence. About what encourages you. When you discover these things about yourself, you’ll know what it takes to lead those qualities out of others. Sure, we’ve said already that every leader has to learn the fundamentals and the discipline, and to a certain extent there’s some period during which you’re trying out a lot of new things. It’s a necessary stage in your development as a leader. The point is you have to take what’s been acquired and reshape into your own expression of yourself.Sometimes liberation is as uncomfortable as intrusion, but in the end when you discover it for yourself you know that what’s inside is what you put there and what belongs there. It’s not something put inside you by someone else; it’s what you discover for yourself.”

33- “Leadership practices per se are amoral. But leaders—the men and women who use the practices—are moral or immoral. There’s an ethical dimension to leadership that neither leaders nor constituents should take lightly. This is why we began our discussion of leadership practices with a focus on finding your voice—your authentic self grounded in a set of values and ideals. These, you have to find for yourself and test against others. There are. according to the late John Gardner, Stanford professor, secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare in the Johnson administration, and founder of Common Cause, four moral goals of leadership: Releasing human potential. Balancing the needs of the individual and the community. Defending the fundamental values of the community. Instilling in individuals a sense of initiative and responsibility Attending to these goals will always direct your eyes to higher purposes. As you work to become all you can be, you can start to let go of your petty self-interests. As you give back some of what you’ve been given, you can reconstruct your community. As you serve the values of freedom, justice, equality, caring, and dignity, you can constantly renew the foundations of democracy. As each of us takes individual responsibility for creating the world of our dreams, we can all participate in leading.”

34- “Humility is the only way to resolve the conflicts and contradictions of leadership. You can avoid excessive pride only if you recognize that you’re human and need the help of others.”

35- “Of all the things that sustain a leader over time, love is the most lasting. It’s hard to imagine leaders getting up day after day, putting in the long hours and hard work it takes to get extraordinary things done, without having their hearts in it. The best-kept secret of successful leaders is love: staying in love with leading, with the people who do the work, with what their organizations produce, and with those who honor the organization by using its work. Leadership is not an affair of the head. Leadership is an affair of the heart.”

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

The Leadership Challenge

On Peak

I recently finished reading Peak – How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow – by Chip Conley.

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “This book is about the miracle of human potential: employees living up to their full potential in the workplace, customers feeling the potential bliss associated with having their unrecognized needs met, and investors feeling fulfilled by seeing the potential of their capital leveraged.”

2- “Maslow’s message struck a chord with many business leaders. In essence, he said that with humans, there’s a qualitative difference between not being sick and feeling healthy or truly alive. This idea could be applied to companies, most of which fall into the middle ground of not sick but not truly alive. Based on his Hierarchy of Needs, the solution for a company that wants to ascend up the healthy pyramid is not just to diminish the negative or to get too preoccupied with basic needs but instead to focus on aspirational needs. This idea is rather blasphemous for some. The tendency in psychology and in business has always been to focus on the deficits. Psychologists and business consultants look for what’s broken and try to fix it. Yet, “fixing it” doesn’t necessarily offer the opportunity for transformation to a more optimal state of being or productivity.”

3- “1. Every company is organized based on a certain premise of human nature. 2. Most companies aren’t very conscious of this fact and operate based on an outdated or short-term perspective, even though sustainable results might be better served by a different business approach. 3. Companies have a habitual “tendency toward the tangible,” which means that financial results usually get more attention than relationship issues. 4. More and more business scholars and consultants are making the intangible of relationships and the human spirit more tangible, and many successful companies are leading the way with respect to how they reorganize themselves to pursue both profits and happiness.”

4- “The Employee Pyramid: Money (Survival) – Creates base motivation, Recognition (Success) – Creates Loyalty, Meaning (Transformation) – Creates Inspiration.”

5- “The Customer Pyramid: Meets Expectations (Survival) – Creates satisfaction, Meets Desires (Success) – Creates commitment, Meets Unrecognized Needs (Transformation) – Evangelism.”

6- “The Investor Pyramid: Transaction Alignment (Survival) – Creates trust, Relationship Alignment (Success) – Creates Confidence, Legacy (Transformation) – Creates Pride and Ownership.”

7- “Finding meaning in one’s work—both in what you do daily d in the company’s sense of mission—is one of the rarest but most valuable qualities anyone can have in their job.”

8- “In reading Frankl’s book and in studying dozens of meaning-driven companies, I’ve come to realize that workplace meaning can be dissected into meaning at work and meaning in work. Meaning at work relates to how an employee feels about the company, their work environment, and the company’s mission. Meaning in work relates to how an employee feels about their specific job task. Pollard captures the potential synergy of this dichotomy with the following passage from his book, “As a person sees a reason for the task that is personally satisfying and rewarding and has the confidence that the mission of the firm is in alignment with his or her own personal growth and development, a powerful force is unleashed that results in creativity, productivity, service quality, growth, profit, and value.””

9- “Ironically, the two common elements that define companies that deliver on this level of the pyramid seem diametrically opposed to each other: technology (hard) and people (soft). Companies that know how to harness their technology and empower their people have the potential to deliver customized service that will translate into committed customers.”

10- “Buffett represents a growing set of business leaders who believe that “companies obtain the shareholder constituency diat tiiey seek and deserve.” He suggests that if companies “focus their thinking and communications on short-term results or short-term stock market consequences they will, in lar^e part, attract shareholders who focus on the same factors.” In other words, just understanding your business plan isn’t enough for business leaders. You need to also understand the motivations of your investors to ensure they’re aligned with your own.”

11- “If there’s one constant theme in all three pyramids, it’s t conventional wisdom is wrong. Conventional wisdom suggests that (1) money is the primary motivator for employees, (2) customers stay loyal when they’re satisfied, and (3) investors are exclusively focused on the financial return on investment. As we’ve seen, these are simply base needs that ignore higher human needs. At the peak of the Investor Pyramid, it’s ultimately a legacy, not liquidity, that people seek.”

12- “As a guide, I often refer them to the Transformation Pyramid we discussed in Chapter Two. Take a look at whether this activity or priority is a survival need (something that will help provide basic sustenance or comfort), a success need (something that will enhance the performance or experience), or a transformation need (something less predictable, more intangible, and ultimately, most satisfying or memorable). My number one recommendation for those who are using a pyramid to define their peak experience is to make sure you are climbing the right mountain. A midlife crisis is perhaps the natural result of someone realizing they’ve perhaps climbed the wrong peak.”

13- “The base needs are typically “has” needs: what material things we want in our life to give us safety, comfort, pleasure, or status. As humans and societies age, they move beyond the “has” to the “does” needs. As our material needs are met, what one does for a living becomes a more relevant symbol of our identity. At some point, relentless “doing” no longer carries currency, at which point the “is” needs predominate at the peak of the pyramid. You see this in wise men and women and in cultures that have learned that having and doing carry you only so far. When someone or something just “is,” it feels pure, essential, powerful, and magnetic. There is a strong sense of presence that accompanies this state of being.”

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

Peak

On SPIN Selling

I have recently read SPIN Selling, The Best-Validated Sales Method Available Today. Developed From Research Studies of 35,000 Sales Calls. Used by the Top Sales Forces Across The World. by Neil Rackham.

The main premise of this book is best summarized by the author in the first chapter of the book: “The traditional selling models, methods, and techniques that most of us have been trained to use work best in small sales. In this book I’ll be showing you that what works in small sales can hurt your success as the sales grow larger—and I’ll be sharing with you our research findings that have uncovered new and better models for success in large sales…One of the simplest models of a sales call does seem to be applicable to any size of sale; almost every sales call you can think of, from the simplest to the most sophisticated, goes through four distinct stages 1. Preliminaries: These are the warming-up events that occur before the serious selling begins…2. Investigating: Almost every sale involves finding something out by asking questions…3. Demonstrating Capability: In most calls you will need to demonstrate to customers that you’ve something worthwhile to offer…4. Obtaining Commitment: Finally, a successful sales call will end with some sort of commitment from the customer…We decided that the focus of our research would be to develop new and positive questioning models that could replace the old ones, which were proving so unsatisfactory…We found that questions in the successful call tend to fall into a sequence we call SPIN. In summary the SPIN sequence of questions is: 1) Situation Questions: At the start of the call, successful people tend to ask data-gathering questions about facts and background…. 2) Problem Questions: Once sufficient information has been established about the buyer’s situation, successful people tend to move to a second type of question… 3) Implication Questions: In smaller sales, sellers can be very successful if they just know how to ask good Situation and Problem Question…4) Need-payoff Questions:Finally, we found that very successful salespeople ask a fourth type of question during the Investigating stage… is that they get the customer to tell you the benefits that your solution could offer.”

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “The psychological effect of pressure seems to be this. If I’m asking you to make a very small decision, then—if I pressure you—it’s easier for you to say yes than to have an argument. Consequently, with a small decision, the effect of pressure is positive. But this isn’t so with large decisions. The bigger the decision, the more negatively people generally react to pressure.”

2- “By forcing the customer into a decision, closing techniques speed the sales transaction…Closing techniques may increase the chances of making a sale with low-priced products. With expensive products or services, they reduce the chances of making a sale.”

3- “The first step in successful closing is to set the right objectives. The starting point for obtaining a commitment is to know what level of commitment from the customer will be needed to make the call a success.”

4- “So what’s the test of closing success? What’s the result, or outcome, that allows us to say that one call has been successful while another has failed? The method we finally chose involved dividing the possible outcomes of the call into four areas: 1)Orders: Where the customer makes a firm commitment to buy… 2)Advances: Where an event takes place, either in the call or after it, that moves the sale forward toward a decision… 3)Continuations: Where the sale will continue but where no specific action has been agreed upon by the customer to move it forward…4)No-sales: Our final category is where the customer actively refuses a commitment.”

5- “Obtaining Commitment: Four Successful Actions 1. Giving attention to Investigating and Demonstrating Capability…2. Checking that key concerns are covered..3. Summarizing the Benefits… 4.Proposing a commitment”

6- “The purpose of  questions in the larger sale is to uncover Implied Needs and to develop them into Explicit Needs.”

7- “Demonstrating Capability Effectively: 1.Don’t demonstrate capabilities too early in the call…2. Beware Advantages…3. Be careful with new products.”

8- “Making Your Preliminaries Effective: 1. Get down to business quickly…2. Don’t talk about solutions too soon…3. Concentrate on questions.”

9- “The Four Golden Rules for Learning Skills Rule 1: Practice Only One Behavior at a Time Start by picking just one behavior to practice…Don’t move on to the next until you’re confident you’ve got the first behavior right…. Rule 2: Try the New Behavior at Least Three Times…Never judge whether a new behavior is effective until you’ve tried it at least three times…Rule 3: Quantity Before Quality…When you’re practicing, concentrate on quantity: use a lot of the new behavior. Don’t worry about quality issues, such as whether you’re using it smoothly or whether there might be a better way to phrase it. Those things get in the way of effective skills learning. Use the new behavior often enough and the quality will look after itself…Rule 4: Practice in Safe Situations…Always try out new behaviors in safe situations until they feel comfortable. Don’t use important sales to practice new skills.”

10- “The most important lessons come from the way you review the calls you make. After each call, ask yourself such questions as these: Did I achieve my objectives? If I were making the call again, what would I do differently? What have I learned that will influence future calls on this account? What have I learned that I can use elsewhere?”

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

SPIN Selling

On Executive Thinking

I recently finished reading Executive Thinking by Leslie L. Kossoff.

Below are thirteen key lessons, in the form of excerpts form the book, that I found particularly insightful:

1) “The executive must be able to speak to his vision clearly and charismatically in order for others to know where it is that he sees the organization going and why. That clear, exciting picture is the one that must be communicated, translated, and demonstrated to the rest of the organization through the actions and words of the executive and his executive and management staff.”

2) “Executive Thinking is not conventional thinking, nor is it a conventional organizational process. It is one in which, based on the dream of the executive, everyone becomes involved as an active participant in the shared dream. It is both tangible and amorphous. It is both process and result. It is the life and breath of the organization.”

3) “The executive must realize that, because his dream is iterative and evolutionary, there will never be a time when it is finished.”

4) “Knowingly or not, executives form their organization in their own image. The importance for the executive is to realize that the organization adopts what it believes to be that image. This puts a particular onus on the executive to be aware of the image he is projecting and to understand that the members of the organization are looking to him to determine the image and actions they must project.”

5) “It is useful for the executive to think of the dynamics within the organization not as competitive or adversarial activities, but as a dance. In so doing, the previously competitive and adversarial actions become part of a larger choreography wherein each person performs his steps while always knowing that his part is a part of the larger dance. That choreography is designed and determined by the executive.”

6) “As humans we are not limited to seeing things in one particular way. We choose to see things in a way that is most familiar to us. We develop thinking processes that keep us from seeing all that there is to see. We limit ourselves by not looking for or accepting the potential that is presented to us. But, just as thinking is a skill, our thinking paths can be altered and added to.”

7) “There are five trust-building behaviors that must be demonstrated. They are respect, reciprocity, consistency, integrity and involvement. Each is equally important. Unless each behavior is manifest, the model will not work. It may have some success, but ultimately it will falter and possibly fail.”

8) “Executive Thinking makes it worthwhile for individuals to challenge their previously held beliefs. Each individual sees that her participation in the system works not only to the benefit of the organization but to her own benefit as well.”

9) “The dream must be positioned so that its intent is clear and its outcome are of benefit to everyone. In this way, it becomes more than just the dream of the executive. It becomes the dream of each and every associate throughout the organization. The paradox of empowerment is that the stronger the executive and his direction and management of the organization, the more empowered the associates can be.”

10) “One of the problems that might well be encountered is the mistaken impression that a participative organization is a tolerant organization. This is and must be patently untrue. There can be no tolerance for behaviors that are not in keeping with the goals, expectations, and commitments of the organization to its associates and to its stakeholders.”

11) “Executive Thinking is a balance between action and results. Problems occur only when and if the process is wholly biased toward one or the other. Action must occur in the form of thinking and the actions that ensue as a result of that thinking. Results occur based on thinking and actions taken.”

12) “Decisions are made using the dream as the context. Actions taken are assessed both while in progress and after the fact to determine whether all the factors were adequately considered. Analyzing and applying lessons learned becomes an operating norm for the organization, both for those decisions that worked and for those decisions that did not work as expected.”

13) “Executive Thinking, however, is the greatest legacy that the executive can leave the enterprise. Through his commitment and actions he will have taught the organization how to dream…Thinking will have become a norm.”

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

Executive Thinking

On The HP Way

I recently finished reading The HP Way – How Bill Hewlett and I Built Our Company – by David Packard.

As the title indicate this book is about the story of Hewlett Packard as told by one of the founding partners David Packard. This book offers a corporate history of how the company started from the infamous garage into a global enterprise, but more importantly focuses on the guiding principles on which this company was built – the HP Way.

What stands out in the HP Way is the deep commitment and belief in values and principles. These radiate from the founders and affect everyone and everything at HP. The HP Way covers all aspects of operations within the company and with external stakeholders (customers, shareholders etc.) in a way that transcends time and specific technologies (see below excerpts). Almost half a century later most of what is discussed is just as relevant than as it is now.

HP is currently in a desperate need to revive the HP Way and transform itself in order to turn itself around and succeed in the future. A highly recommended read.

Below are excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “…it has been a guiding principle in developing and managing HP. Get the best people, stress the importance of teamwork, and get them fired up to win the game.”

2- “We published a second version of the objectives in 1966 and they are as follows…1) Profit: To recognize that profit is the best measure of our contribution to society and the ultimate source of our corporate strength…2) Customers: To strive for continual improvement in the quality, usefulness, and value of the products and services we offer our customers…3) Field of Interest: To concentrate our efforts, continually seeking new opportunities for growth but limiting our involvement o fields in which we have capability and can make a contribution. 4) Growth: To emphasize growth as a measure of strength and a requirement for survival. 5) Employees : To provide employment opportunities for HP people that include the opportunity to share in the company’s success, which they help make possible. To provide them job security based on performance, and to provide the opportunity for personal satisfaction that comes from a sense of accomplishment in their work. 6) Organization: To maintain an organizational environment that fosters individual motivation, initiative, creativity, and a wide latitude of freedom in working  toward established objectives and goals. 7) Citizenship: To meet the obligations of good citizenship by making contributions to the community and to the institutions in our society which generate the environment in which we operate.”

3- “An important element of the HP Way has to do with the company’s relationship with its shareholders and the investment community. A primary objective in this area is to provide consistency in our corporate performance, including steady growth in earnings and equity.”

4- “At that time our policy at HP was to regard increased market share as a reward for doing things well – for providing customers with superior products and services and keeping our costs down. This has been a basic policy from the very beginning of our company, and we expect it to continue in the future.”

5- “The key to HP’s prospective involvement in any field of interest is contribution. Our objective is to expand and diversify only when we can build on our present strengths, and with the recognition that we have the proven capability to make a contribution. To meet this objective, it is important that we put maximum effort into our product-development programs. This means we must continually seek new ideas for new and better kinds of products.”

6- “The fundamental basis for success in the operation of Hewlett-Packard is the job we do in satisfying the needs of our customers. We encourage every person in our organization to think continually about how his or her activities relate to the central purpose of serving our customers.”

7- “…gains in quality come from meticulous attention to detail and every step in the manufacturing process must be done as carefully as possible, not as quickly as possible. This sounds simple, but it is achieved only if everyone in the organization is dedicated to quality.”

8- “It’s imperative that there be a strong spirit of helpfulness and cooperation among all elements of the  company and that this spirit be recognized and respected as a cornerstone of the HP Way.”

9- “Although we minimize corporate direction at HP, we consider ourselves one single company, with the flexibility of a small company and the strengths of a large one – the ability to draw on corporate resources and services; shared standards, values, and culture; common goals and objectives; and a single world identity.”

10- “I should point out that the successful practice of management by objective is a two-way street. Managers at all levels must be sure that their people clearly understand the overall objectives and goals of the company, as well as the specific goals of their particular division or department. Thus, managers have a strong obligation to foster good communication and mutual understanding. Conversely, their people must take sufficient interest in their work to want to plan it, to propose new solutions to old problems, and to jump in when they have something to contribute.”

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

The HP Way

The HP Way

On Tribal Leadership

I recently finished reading the book Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright. To begin the authors define a tribe as “a group between 20 and 150 people. Here’s the test for whether someone is in one of your tribes: if you saw her walking down the street, you’d stop and say “hello””. The continue: “Tribes in company get work done – sometimes a lot of work – but they don’t form because of work. Tribes are the basic building block of any large human effort, including earning a living. As such their influence is greater than that of teams, entire companies, and even superstar CEOs. In companies, tribes decide whether the new leader is going to flourish or get taken out. They determine how much work gets done, and of what quality.” The key question is then what makes the difference between tribes that excel and others that do not? The authors argue it is the presence of Tribal Leaders. The continue by defining what tribal leaders do: “Tribal Leaders focus their efforts on building the tribe – or more precisely, upgrading the tribal culture…Divisions and companies run by Tribal Leaders set the standard of performance in their industries, from productivity and profitability to employee retention. They are talent magnets, with people so eager to work for the leader that they will take a pay cut if necessary…Their efforts seem effortless, leaving may people puzzled by how they do it.  Many Tribal Leaders, if asked can’t articulate what they are doing that’s different, but after reading this book, you will be able to explain and duplicate their success.”

The book’s main focus after having defined the tribe and Tribal Leadership is to “give you perspective and tools of a Tribal Leader: someone who can unstick the conveyor belt – and make it run faster  for whole groups of people, no matter which stage they’re in. The result is more effective workplaces, greater strategic success, less stress, and more fun.” This conveyor belt is an analogy for what the authors define as the tribal stages 1 through 5. Each stage is characterized by certain language and behavior.

Stage 1: “The person at Stage One is alienated from others, expressing the view that “life sucks.”

Stage 2: “Stage Two people are surrounded by people who seem to have some power they lack. As a results, their language expresses “my life sucks.”

Stage 3: “The person at Stage Three is connected to others in a series of dyadic (two-person) relationships. the language of this stage expresses “I’m great,” and in the background – unstated – is “and you’re not.”

Stage 4: “The person forms structures called triads, in which they build values-based relationships between others. At the same time, the words of Stage Four people are centered on “we’re great” and, in the background, “and they’re not.” The “they” is another tribe – in the same company or in another.

Stage 5: “A person at Stage Five expresses “life is great.” Five shares the same characteristics of Four, except that there is no “they.” As a result, these people form ever-growing networks with anyone whose values resonate with their own. The only Stage Five cultures we have observed (in corporate settings) exists as long as a history-making project lasts or as long as the tribe is so far ahead of its competitors that they are irrelevant.”

Simply put the role of Tribal Leaders is “do two things: (1) listen for which cultures exist in their tribes and (2) upgrade those tribes using specific leverage points.”

A very interesting, educative and fun read. It helps one look at companies through a new viewpoint with a specific focus on the culture and relationships/dynamics within it. It is filled with practical real-life examples and applications and backed by substantial empirical research. Highly recommended!

Below are excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “People at Stage Three approach leadership as though it were a set of tasks they could check off their to-do list (e.g., “set the vision,” “get alignment,” and “listen with intention”). The moment leadership becomes cookie-cutter, it isn’t leadership at all – it’s management. By making the person aware that he’s behaving in a Stage Three fashion toward leadership, you might help him see that he isn’t a leader at all. This realization may propel him into the set of epiphanies of the next chapter.”

2- “…The two most important aspects of owning Stage Four: identifying and leveraging core values, and aligning on a noble cause. Everything else the tribe does should be sandwiched between these constructs. Projects, activities, initiatives, processes – unless they are fueled by values and reach toward the tribal vision – should either be rethought until they are consistent with these guiding principles, or pruned. By definition, core values and a noble cause can never be “checked off,” in the same way that companies complete an upgrade to computer technology.”

3- “…Values must be core, and that means universal…Second, the unity resulting from core cause and a noble cause must be alignment, not agreement…Alignment, to us, means bringing pieces into the same line – the same direction.”

4- “The Tribal Leadership Strategy Map: Start with core values and noble cause in the center, then move to outcomes and go counterclockwise around the model (assets and behaviors). Test Questions: Assets sufficient for the Outcomes? Enough assets for behaviors? Will behaviors accomplish outcomes?”

5- “An outcome, by contrast (to a goal), is  a present state of success that morphs into an even bigger victory over time.”

6- “A stage five tribe can work with any group that has a commitment to values that are core and that apply to everyone, even if those values are different from its own.”

7- “While Tribal Leaders do their work for the good of the group, not for themselves, they are rewarded with loyalty, hard work, innovation, and collaboration. The tribe gets work of higher quality done in less time. The person is often seen as a candidate for op organizational jobs or for positions in government.”

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

Tribal Leadership

Tribal Leadership