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Your Stance on Innovation Depends on Where You Sit

September 15, 2014 By: azjogger Category: Management, Operations

By Jonathan Vehar. Center for Creative Leadership

Do leaders in different levels of the organization have to lead differently? Of course they do.  A line supervisor has very different leadership challenges than the CEO.  That’s where CCL’s leadership roadmap is useful in helping leaders figure out how they can grow and develop as their careers advance.

Similarly, leaders who are looking to drive innovation have different challenges.  Innovation leadership is not a one-size-fits-all solution.  Our colleague Dan Buchner, Director of CCL’s Innovation Labs, led some important work to help distinguish the differences among the leader levels.  Knowing this is useful in helping leaders focus.  Given that schedules are too full already, it’s useful to know what to do, and this helps shape what not to do as well.

Here then is a run-down of the roles and responsibilities by leader level specific to innovation:

Leading self — CREATING: At the level where one doesn’t have direct reports, but serves as a role-model or perhaps leader of project teams, the responsibilities around innovation fall mainly into the realm of knowing how to generate creative solutions and a keen ability to participate on an innovation team made up of diverse participants.  Core to this is the ability to find sources of inspiration for new approaches, whether that means looking at other industries, engaging customers and stakeholders, or exploring patent databases for similar challenges that have been solved by others.

Leading others – FACILITATING: Team leaders or line supervisors need to have other skills as well.  They must know how to lead the group innovation process (i.e. Design Thinking, Creative Problem Solving, TRIZ, etc.), which requires special facilitation skills in addition to those necessary for being an effective team leader/project manager.  And for innovation to take root and spread through the organization, it requires an ability to obtain resources from outside their unit.

Leading managers – ADVOCATING/BRIDGING: When one leads people who are leading others, one key value they bring to the challenge of innovation is supporting and protecting the innovation team from superiors/other parts of the organization.  Great leaders create a protective umbrella over their people to ensure that the discomfort, risk, and potential disruption of the business don’t cause others to try to shut down the innovation efforts.  Also required is to ensure that there is due diligence in building a case for grass-roots innovations and bridging groups that are working on similar challenges to ensure constructive cooperation.

Leading functions – DIRECTING/PROTECTING: Leaders of a function or significant silo (or what one participant recently called a “cylinder of excellence”) need to provide clear direction for the scope of the innovation efforts and also need to manage conflicting demands for resources.  They also need to initiate strategic and structural changes to accommodate promising innovations and establish an innovation strategy that bridges the silos.  As if that’s not enough, they are critical to modeling behavior and driving communication that sets the tone in the organization that determines the support of innovation.  They’re also critical in the management of innovation pipeline and balancing the portfolio “bets” that help determine the future direction of the organization’s innovation.

Leading the organization – MANDATING/FOSTERING: Finally, we have the top of the organization.  These are the people who have the critical job of setting an innovation strategy for the organization to ensure that the organization has clear direction on where the organization is to go.  More than that, they are the keystone for fostering a culture of innovation, a big part of which is modeling behaviors to ensure that the walk matches the talk, which sometimes means showing support for different/new/disruptive ideas.  Like other top leadership responsibilities, it’s imperative that they communicate the vision of innovation over and over and over and over and over and over again.  Perhaps the hardest job is finding ways to hear/see “unfiltered” concepts since the further one goes up the hierarchy, the less connected to “what’s really true” the leader becomes.

So, where are you in the leadership pipeline? And what do you need to do to keep the innovation pipeline full?  We’re also interested in what other key tasks you see in the levels of leadership.  Let us know!

Leading a Multicultural Team

September 15, 2014 By: azjogger Category: Management, Marketing & Sales

CBR003314By Marwa Hijazi

Managing a multicultural team can be a rewarding experience, giving leaders the opportunity to work closely with employees from diverse backgrounds and offering the chance for personal and professional growth. However, operating a team with genuinely different people also comes with a number of challenges that must be overcome to create a productive work environment.

Leaders must be knowledgeable and open minded of different cultures to gain a better understanding of employees and find a way to help them work together as a team.

Breaking Down Cultural Barriers

It’s easy for misunderstandings to occur on a diverse team simply due to cultural differences. When people have different values and are accustomed to certain behaviors, it can take some work to get everyone on the same page.

Some cultures have a more direct style of addressing problems, while others prefer to focus on the relationship and take a more subtle approach. For example, the Dutch have a reputation for being very straightforward, while the Japanese are typically more reserved and formal.  Team members from these cultures may have to make an effort to adapt to each other’s style and expectations.

Time is another major issue that often causes rifts in multicultural teams. While Americans plan their day according to the clock, other cultures are often much more relaxed. Employees from such backgrounds may believe it’s perfectly acceptable to let a meeting run over the scheduled time period or show up late if they were in the middle of an important conversation ─ which is bound to upset those who prefer to stick to a strict timetable.

The phrase “time is money” translates well for most cultures, since money is a universal priority in the business world. If everyone on the team respects each other’s time as they would respect each other’s money, that can go a long way.

Forming a United Workplace Culture

Multicultural teams are often composed of employees who would rarely interact with one another otherwise. While their individual cultures should be celebrated, it’s important to shape a cohesive and constructive atmosphere for everyone involved.

Management should talk to employees ─ creating focus groups if necessary ─ to learn more about similar problems faced by workers. If there isn’t one obvious solution to these issues, it’s a great idea to ask for input on the best way to manage them, so everyone feels like they’re being heard.

Understanding Cultural Differences

Business practices, customs, and acceptable topics of conversation vary greatly from one country to the next. So while the behavior of an employee may appear inappropriate in America, it could very well be the conventional way of doing business in their native country.

Gaining a solid understanding of the key issues associated with a multicultural team will allow management to be much more effective. While certain employees may initially be viewed as difficult, lazy, or rude, digging deeper to explore their cultural norms can offer valuable insights that help all members of the team understand each other better.

Have you had an experience as an employee or employer – or even as a customer – where cultural differences affected a situation negatively?  Consider how making a careful and informed effort to overcome them might have mitigated the problem.


Magnify Your Employees Strengths to Drive Leadership Success

April 11, 2014 By: azjogger Category: Marketing & Sales

By Dr. Neil Burgisbusiness team

Magnifying your excellence is just one of those expressions that sticks

Being exceptional as a leader and leveraging your strengths helps you drive success not just for yourself but for your entire organization as well. Does your organization have exceptional leaders? Maybe you are one.

Working on your strengths is where you need to focus your efforts. Trying to fix your weaknesses, may be a lifelong career in itself.

Assess Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Look carefully at both your strengths and weaknesses. Remember, some of your weaknesses just might really be a strength you do not use much of. Take notice of what may be holding you back from reaching your goals. Sometimes these same holds may be a habit you need to break and replace with a more positive way of doing things. This also takes place with your attitude as well. Attitudes can have a powerful impact on other people you do business with- internally and externally.

Fix Your Existing People and Processes Be aware of what may be stopping you from moving forward to reach your goals, such as higher productivity/performance. Look at how your people are working. Do they need training in developing a new skill or in learning new techniques to meet up-to-date goals in order to be aligned with where your leadership wants to take the organization?

Evaluate your current processes. Are they aligned with your people and the goals you want to complete? Do your processes need to be over-hauled, in order to be up-to-date to go beyond where you are right now? What can you keep and what needs to be replaced?

Even though leadership has changed over the years, many organizations have kept the “old” policies and ways of doing things. It just might be time to change whether from one traditional way over another, or to become non-traditional. In changing to become non-traditional, be willing to let go of the “old” and look at alternatives to go beyond survival mode into thrive mode.

Being Open-Minded Be able to listen to others and do not react immediately to what they say. Think first before speaking helps you think of a solution or of how you want to handle what was said to you. You may even find yourself implementing a suggestion an employee talks with you about. If so, give recognition to the employee.

Proactive versus Reactive The exceptional leader is always thinking three steps ahead. When a situation occurs, do you react to the situation immediately? Some people panic because they really do not know how to handle situations. During a crisis, many people either freeze or act positively in reducing the problem, difficulty or challenge.

Empower Your Employees Give some responsibilities to your employees. Allows employees to make some decisions where they also need to solve an issue with other co-workers. Your employees will be satisfied in their job as you allow them to use more of their creative and innovative skills while using their critical thinking skills at the same time.

The question of this post is: How exceptional are you and how are you leveraging your skills and talents and those of your employees to create and produce extraordinary results? (When you magnify your leadership competencies to the level of exceptional, employee engagement increases, productivity rises, and profitability soars.)

Neal Burgis, Ph.D., is an executive coach and Founder of Burgis Successful Solutions, an executive-leadership coaching firm specializing in providing executive-leadership consulting and coaching services to C-suite executives of small and mid-size organizations on a one-to-one basis in areas they identify as vital to their effectiveness. I can be reached at:[email protected] or by calling me at 602-405-2540 http://www.successful-solutions.com

Implementing Strategy: The Leadership Strategy

April 11, 2014 By: azjogger Category: Marketing & Sales

From Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), Leading Effectively

What’s your strategic leadership challenge?

Are you responsible for leading product development? Growing market share? Replacing legacy systems?

Do you find yourself competing with other senior leaders and priorities, wondering how to forward the long-term health of the organization?

If so, take some guidance from CCL’s Leading Strategically program.


Leading Strategically isn’t about the process of setting strategy. It’s about what comes next: What do I need to pay attention to? How do I implement? How do I orchestrate the various efforts and tactics into a strategic whole? How do I contribute to organizational leadership?

A New Approach

The Leading Strategically program is about the strategic leadership mindset. It brings together solid thinking and cutting-edge practices — and participants apply the knowledge to their personal strategic leadership challenge.

Participants examine the core skills of strategic thinking, strategic acting and strategic influencing. They look at issues that typically challenge senior leaders — leading change, shaping culture, leveraging polarities and spanning boundaries — and ways to manage them.

The program includes a self-assessment, an intensive business simulation and time to practice new skills and work through participants’ specific challenges. Participants also work with a CCL executive coach during and after the program week and have access to a cloud-based toolkit for follow-up learning.

The simulation is especially powerful and practical, according to Rich Tallman, portfolio manager of the CCL program.

“In the simulation, managers have the opportunity to set the priorities for the organization and see the results of their decision. In the next round, they can try out new information or a different approach,” Tallman says. “At each stage, they learn a new element of the strategic mindset and then work though how it applies to their personal strategic challenge.”

The program also bridges individual and organizational leadership, notes CCL’s David Dinwoodie, a Leading Strategically trainer and a co-author of the new book Becoming a Strategic Leader: Your Role in Your Organization’s Enduring Success.

“Two things happen in parallel. On the individual level, the experience is focused on you, your competencies and working on that personal leadership challenge,” Dinwoodie explains. “But we also work on how to build strategic thinking, acting and influencing as a leadership team. As participants work with 23 other people in the program, they address the collective skills and organizational culture needed to lead strategically and create high-performing organizations.”

Results That Matter

Recent Leading Strategically participants made their shift to the strategic mindset in various ways.

Tim Cannon, marketing director — Barefoot Wine and Bubbly, EJ Gallo Winery, gained a new perspective for leading change in his organization: “The program helped me better understand myself as a leader and how to utilize practical tools such as leveraging polarities and spanning organizational boundaries to drive true change.”

“Coming into the class, I was very narrow in my thinking around my strategic challenge, but by the end of the week it became much broader in scope,” said Ed Miller, divisional vice president for a major financial services company. “Although there were many takeaways, I will be focusing on developing and using strategic influence in helping others to become more strategic throughout our organization.”

“For me, the biggest “a-ha” was realizing the even though we, as a senior leadership team for Kao, are very good at communicating our corporate message throughout the organization, we can use some simple strategies to make sure that everyone not only knows our strategies but lives them,” said Pamela McNamara, vice president, Sales — Salon US, Kao Group. “By having the entire team fully embrace their part of the puzzle, we will have more motivated team members.”

“In the program and in every organization, each person has something they are trying to advance and move forward,” says CCL’s Tallman. “Learning to view a project or initiative strategically increases their ability to succeed. CCL’s framework offers a concrete approach and specific tools to make it happen.”

Find out more about the strategic leadership mindset in a related article in this issue: Strategy Know-how vs. Strategic Leadership.

Asking for Success

Asking the right questions — and returning to them to re-evaluate the answers and unearth new insights — is one way effective leaders align and execute strategy. Participants in CCL’s Leading Strategically program learn to ask a number of key questions, including:

  • What are the two or three key drivers where we should invest our resources, time and energy?
  • Do we have business strategies that are aligned with our key drivers?
  • Do we have the organizational capabilities that enable us to execute the business strategies?
  • Do we have good processes and dialogue for dealing with conflicting priorities?
  • Are we paying attention to the cognitive and emotional dimensions of leading change?

3 Things Everyone Should Know About Teams

April 11, 2014 By: azjogger Category: Marketing & Sales

From Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), Leading Effectively

Teams come and teams go. You lead some, you join some. A few are formal and structured. Many morph and cross and evolve along with the work.

But one thing is for sure: You don’t work on your own.

Matrixed organizations, cross-functional projects, interdependent departments and interconnected work — all these factors require people to work together, in teams of some sort.


“Work structures have changed, becoming more fluid and intertwined,” says CCL’s Michael Campbell. “The ability to lead teams and groups of all shapes and sizes is a core skill and the key to getting things done.”

So, whatever your formal role (team leader, manager or team member), here are three things you need to know about leading teams.

1. Effectiveness is not based on one metric. Of course, teams are measured by results — did you accomplish what you wanted to accomplish? But two additional outcomes also tell you how effective a team is:

  • Learning. Did the team build capability and get better?
  • Satisfaction. Was the team engaged in the work? Did team members enjoy working together?

2. Needs must be met. Teams have needs and when they are neglected, your outcomes will suffer. Research shows that teams have three types of needs:

  • Planning needs. Do we have a shared understanding of goals, roles, team norms, and a strategy or plan to achieve those goals?
  • Execution needs. Are we clear about how our team communicates, coordinates, collaborates and monitors its effectiveness?
  • Interpersonal. What’s the level of trust on the team? How do we handle conflict constructively? Are we motivated to achieve our goals?

When a team is underperforming, faltering or flat-out failing, look carefully at what’s missing. What behaviors are required (by you and other team members) to meet team needs?

“We find that leaders easily recognize the importance of planning and execution needs, even if they don’t always fulfill those needs,” Campbell notes. “Addressing interpersonal needs is just as critical to team effectiveness, and it is also messier.”

3. Facilitation trumps expertise. Your knowledge is limited. You don’t have all the answers; that’s why you are working with other people. Facilitation skills are needed to access the ideas and knowledge of team members and draw out their collective best thinking. Facilitation requires the ability to mentally pull back from the action or the topic at hand and observe how the team is functioning, and help it improve.

“As a leader you’re not just filling the space the team is working in, you’re creating the space for teams to address their needs,” says Campbell.

Bottom line:

Team leadership skills are critical regardless of your formal structure. When you know the outcomes of team effectiveness and the needs that create those outcomes, you’ll have a better handle on what’s going right on your teams — and what isn’t. With that knowledge, you can build a better team.

Top Leaders Train, Reflect, Boost Performance

February 21, 2014 By: azjogger Category: Management, Training

From Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), Leading Effectively

A year and a half ago, Jean Bustard was at a crossroads. A founder and president of ADA-ES, a growing environmental technologies company, she was part of the senior team looking at acquisitions, creating new structures and leading change.

“I realized I was not as effective as I used to be. It was frustrating to me — and to others,” she says. “Was I capable of growing with the company? Or should we find someone else?”

Bustard turned to CCL, attending the Leadership at the Peak (LAP) program for top-level leaders.

I didn’t want feedback sugar coated

“I wanted to go where I could take a hard look at myself, where the feedback wasn’t sugar coated,” she says. “I needed to see what I was doing and what I could change to be more effective.”

Lorenz Gross also attended LAP at a pivotal point in his career. Gross is an international attorney and in-house EMEA corporate counsel with automotive and high-tech supplier Delphi. Last July, he was considering a career move.

“Increasingly, my interests leaned toward the business side, more than a pure legal track,” he says. “Corporate attorneys are, although part of the business, always somewhat on the periphery. I was looking at a possible job change that would put me closer to the heart of the business.”

“Leaders at the top of organizations, like Jean and Lorenz, have such a huge capacity to influence and impact the rest of the organization,” says CCL’s Rich Tallman. “Leadership at the Peak gives them a chance to examine what’s working and what isn’t, and to refocus their leadership efforts to meet their challenges.”

“Do I have what it takes to get to the next level?”

“On a personal level, LAP gives participants a venue to reflect on where they’ve been and what they want to do next,” Tallman adds. “They have permission to think about their careers and personal life and ask, do I have what it takes to get to the next level? And do I want to do what it takes?”

The in-depth and personalized assessments, reflection and coaching — as well as feedback and input from their peers — sets LAP apart from other executive education courses or workshops.

Bustard and Gross experienced clear and powerful feedback about their leadership effectiveness, as well as support and guidance for taking it all in. Along with their fellow executive leaders, they addressed communication and influence skills, the need to sustain health and energy for the work of leadership, and specific action plans for their pressing challenges.

“I certainly learned a lot about myself — how I behave, react and do things — and the impact I have on others,” Gross acknowledges. “And I realized that my career so far has been well-aligned with my interests. The time to reflect on that was very satisfying and valuable.”

“There is a big difference between my intent and my impact!”

Bustard, too, became more mindful of the impact she has on others: “I learned there can be a big difference between my intent and my impact — that was a blind spot for me. Now I pay attention to how people are receiving what I am saying and doing.”

“Another big lesson was to understand that I don’t need to be the only problem-solver,” she added. “My role is to get the rest of the company to be problem-solvers.”

Both Gross and Bustard stayed with their organizations, both have taken on new roles and/or responsibilities, and both credit LAP with providing the clarity and insight to move ahead as leaders.

As for advice to other senior leaders?

“Take time to reflect, know your value, when to step up and when to step back to let others add value,” says Gross. “And be authentic.”

Bustard suggests her peers should be more excited to try new things to improve as leaders. Drawing on her experience as a triathlete, she says:

“You’ve got to try it”

“I train to be better. I will do anything to make this 56-year-old person faster! Why wouldn’t I try to improve on the job, as a leader, where I spend most of the hours in a day?

“If I tell my runner friends, I got these new shoes and dropped 30 seconds off my time, they would be headed straight to the running store. That’s how it should be with work, too. I should say, I went to this course, I’m more effective now, here’s why — you’ve got to try it. We should talk about what we are doing to be better — and it should be exciting.”

Leadership at the Peak is for leaders of the enterprise. It is designed exclusively for C-level and senior executives in the top three tiers of the organization. To ensure participants have the optimum background to benefit from the program, admission is by application only. Sessions are offered in Colorado Springs, CO, as well as in Switzerland and Singapore.

5 Tips For Leading Innovation

February 21, 2014 By: azjogger Category: Marketing & Sales

From Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) Leading Effectively

It seems everybody is seeking innovation — at least everybody wants the results of innovation. Innovation is often viewed as a panacea or “silver bullet” for underlying organizational issues that are hard to articulate.

Innovation is about creating and implementing something new that adds value.

Innovation is not only about new products — it’s also about changing the way we work, providing new services to our clients, or changing business models to deliver products and services that are hard to replicate.

Innovation Sustains Your Competitive Edge

Innovation fuels new industries, markets, products and services. It allows us to handle complex challenges facing the organization, helping us transform and continually adapt in order to give us a sustainable competitive edge.

So, what gets in the way of innovation? The major challenge — even in organizations that declare the desire to become more innovative — is the full commitment of leaders to practice new ways of leading innovation while continuing to efficiently and effectively manage the core business.

Leading innovation requires new mindsets, skillsets and toolsets, according to CCL’s David Horth and Jonathan Vehar in the paper, Becoming a Leader Who Fosters Innovation. Here, they offer a few suggestions to get you thinking.

Commit. Innovation requires resources and deliberate focus. To break down the organizational barriers to innovation, ensure that people have appropriate governance, funding, resources, support and access to decision-makers.

“But don’t launch a big innovation initiative, contest or campaign,” Vehar warns. “It’s bound to backfire.”

Innovation is at its best when it has a job to do. Start with a key organizational issue assigned to a small group and give them your best leadership and support. Then get out of their way so they can find innovative resolutions to the challenge. Create simple and effective ways to reinforce the message that innovation is important for all functions in the organization. Speak in compelling and simple terms that motivate people to think and do things differently (but not just for the sake of it!).

Work on the culture. Shift away from the “management of creativity” (a control mindset) and towards “leadership for innovation,” which calls for developing a culture and climate that promotes and acknowledges the creative process. Without the supporting culture, breakthroughs and meaningful innovations that challenge the status quo rarely emerge. If radical ideas surface, they often never make it to the marketplace or get implemented as innovations. Such ideas are typically rejected before they get very far.

“Innovation leadership goes against the grain of organizations that have been built on the foundation of operational efficiency and repeatable processes,” says Horth. “Innovation and efficiency must co-exist. If this tension is embraced, it becomes a source of all it takes to transform ideas into innovations — but it takes time and deep understanding of the leadership culture so the two don’t cancel each other out.”

Accept risk — really. Innovation rarely works according to a predetermined plan. In a culture where it’s possible for people to try, make mistakes and learn from what happens, innovations can find their own path, flourish and add value. Even so, the success of a new product, service or process might not be guaranteed. What you must demand and can expect is learning — and the chance to succeed the next time around. This is the basis of de-risking by experimenting and rapid prototyping.

Hone your own creative competencies. Most business leaders have bought into the myth that people are either creative or not. This myth is probably considered fact in your organization — and, as a result, your drive for innovation is going nowhere. To change this pattern, you must first get in touch with your own innovation thinking skills, including the ability to defer judgment, tolerate ambiguity and be genuinely curious. Be a model; innovation is part of your job, too.

Finally, nothing kills innovation more than the “know-it-all leader.” A leader’s job is not to tell people how to do things, nor is it to have all the great ideas.

“Model appropriate humility, offer up your best challenge and then get out of the way,” says Vehar. “When you create the culture and step back, people will amaze you with novel, useful and potentially valuable solutions.”

Want more ideas? Download the free CCL white paper, Becoming a Leader Who Fosters Innovation. And read 7 Innovation Myths That Kill Performance on Forbes.com

Leadership Lessons from the Marathon Trail

December 16, 2013 By: azjogger Category: Marketing & Sales

From: Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), “Leading Effectively”

By Christopher Gergen

I am a runner. Like many competitive runners, I am committed to qualifying for the Boston Marathon. So for the past two years, I have trained with that goal in mind but in two concurrent marathons have missed the mark. The results have offered some important leadership lessons.

A colleague of mine at Duke, Sim Sitkin, introduced me a while ago to different types of failure. Lazy or undisciplined failure transpires largely because we aren’t adequately prepared and haven’t put the necessary preparation or work into success. “Intelligent failure” is when we fall short of our intended goal even though we have taken a strategic, disciplined, data-driven approach to succeeding. In trying to qualify for Boston, I experienced both.

When I first set my sights on Boston, I immediately looked to the Chicago Marathon. Known for being a flat fast course with a passionate crowd, it is a great qualifier. But life got busy, I took my eye off the ball and, before I knew it, registration was full. Strike one.
Signing up for the Richmond Marathon

Still determined to qualify I signed up for the Richmond Marathon. It’s hillier, hotter and is known as the nation’s “friendliest marathon” (not exactly a million+ people screaming encouragement). My training was good but sporadic. The week before the race, I participated in a local half-marathon designed as an easy “taper” run. My competitive spirit got the best of me and I ran a 1:31 on a relatively hilly course. I felt awesome during the race and crushed my personal record. But I was only six days away from the marathon and my legs didn’t recover in time. Strike two.

On race day, I ran with a buddy who was aiming to break three hours. Based on my half-marathon time the week before, I felt I could keep pace and we went out way too fast. I had also poorly prepared my nutrition so by the time I saw my wife at mile 17, I had a glazed look in my eyes. At mile 20 I staggered into the water station and had to stop. Eventually I stumbled the last six miles to the finish line — finishing in four hours though I had hit mile 20 two hours earlier. Strike three and an important lesson in “lazy failure” — when a disappointing result could be avoided by better decision-making.

Lessons Learned

The following year, I was determined to learn from my poor decisions in Richmond. I persisted through an arduous registration process for Chicago. I trained hard and put the necessary miles in both on the trails and track, training side-by-side with a good friend to push harder. Leading up to the race I rested, ate well, hydrated and by race day I was primed. Race morning was spectacular. Cool weather and blue skies set the stage for a record-setting day. Though my horses were ready to run, I tucked myself into the 3:15 group (the time I needed to qualify). By 13 miles I was on a true runner’s high. The crowds were awesome; I had hit stride, and the pace felt great. I blew by my previous stumbling block at mile 20 feeling strong.

Slowing down for water at mile 24, I fell off the pace group and had to work to catch up but the end was in sight and so was Boston. At mile 25, I collapsed. I don’t remember stopping. I do remember throwing up, almost passing out, not being able to move, and calling my wife to let her know that I had hit the wall again. An ambulance took me to the medical tent. Not my intended way to arrive at the finish line and enormously disappointing. Boston would have to wait.

It was a case of body over mind

So what happened? Persistence was not a problem. In fact, this was definitely the case of body over mind. I had also adapted from my mistakes in the past race. Because of my commitment to learn from “lazy” mistakes I could also start to narrow down potential culprits contributing to my crash-and-burn in Chicago. This was a case study for “intelligent failure.” Training and prep were solid as was pacing and hydration so I could rule all of those out. I am now focusing on better nutritional strategies (more protein?) as well as getting myself checked out medically.

While a painful process, the two races provide vivid leadership development lessons. Persisting and adapting are critical to achieving our goals. So is disciplined decision-making so that if and when failure happens, we can respond intelligently based on feedback loops and take a smarter approach to our goals. Building on lessons learned, I have Boston back in my sights. But right now all I am thinking about is a nice mellow run this weekend.

Christopher Gergen is CEO of Forward Impact, a fellow in Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Duke University, and author of Life Entrepreneurs: Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Lives. Follow him on Twitter @cgergen.

Top Six Leadership Challenges

December 16, 2013 By: azjogger Category: Marketing & Sales

From: Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), “Leading Effectively

The Challenges Leaders Face Around the World: More Similar than Different 

What is most challenging about leading organizations today? And do the challenges differ around the world?

CCL researchers went straight to the source for an answer to these two questions: 763 middle- and executive-level leaders in organizations from seven different places in the world (China/Hong Kong, Egypt, India, Singapore, Spain, the United Kingdom and United States).

 The CCL study found these leaders consistently face the same six challenges — even if they describe their challenges and specific context in different ways.

1. Developing Managerial Effectiveness: the challenge of developing the relevant skills — such as time-management, prioritization, strategic thinking, decision-making and getting up to speed with the job — to be more effective at work.

“Workload is very challenging at times. Lots of different critical projects and activities going on with limited resources in the group. Juggling priorities is always at the forefront.” —Manager from the U.S.

2. Inspiring Others: the challenge of inspiring or motivating others to ensure they are satisfied with their jobs and working smarter.

“To motivate a group of 70 staff who had been working with the organization for more than 10 years. Some of the staff have been in the same position without promotion for more than 6 to 8 years,”  —Singaporean manager

3. Developing Employees: the challenge of developing others, including mentoring and coaching.

“Qualify my direct reports to fill in for me in the tasks previously done by myself, mainly on two fronts, 1st to develop their business knowledge and sense of perfection which will, 2nd, help them gain their team members’ trust and dedication.” —Egyptian manager

4. Leading a Team: the challenge of team-building, team development and team management. Specific challenges include how to instill pride in a team or support the team, how to lead a big team and what to do when taking over a new team.

“Creating a really collaborative team in a newly established unit.” —Spanish manager

5. Guiding Change: the challenge of managing, mobilizing, understanding and leading change. Guiding change includes knowing how to mitigate consequences, overcome resistance to change and deal with employees’ reaction to change.

“Leading the organization through a business-wide transformation program as part of the executive team. This involves the consolidation of product offerings, driving customer centricity, well-managed agendas, substantial outsourcing and headcount reduction.” —U.K. manager

6. Managing Internal Stakeholders and Politics: the challenge of managing relationships, politics and image. This challenge includes gaining managerial support and managing up and getting buy-in from other departments, groups or individuals.

“The ability to convince and influence other stakeholders to follow the regional and global direction.” —Manager from India

“How to enhance the department position in the organization to add more value to the organization in both operational and strategic perspective.” —Manager from China

Knowing that these challenges are common experiences for middle and senior managers is helpful to both the leaders and those charged with their development, according to the CCL researchers.

Individuals can benefit from knowing their experiences as leaders are more similar than different and can feel more confident in reaching out to others to help them learn and face these challenges. Learning and development professionals can more clearly tailor their efforts to meet the most pressing needs of the leadership pool they serve.

Details of the research, as well as suggestions for helping leaders develop skills to address these top challenges, are found in the new CCL white paper, “The Challenges Leaders Face Around the World: More Similar than Different.”

Manager of Managers: 6 Factors for Success

September 20, 2013 By: azjogger Category: Management, Training

From: Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), Leading Effectively

Effective leadership can look different depending on where you sit in the organization. For managers of other managers — typically mid- to senior-level leaders — the view can be murky.

Functional or divisional managers, plant managers, GMs and managers with many other manager titles operate somewhere in the middle zone of organizations. They are charged with meeting the demands of top leadership and knowing the realities of frontline management. Managers of managers move up, down and across the organization as they bridge organizational strategy with everyday work.


What does it take to effectively lead in these roles?

One of CCL’s core programs — the Leadership Development Program (LDP)® — gets at the heart of the matter. LDP participants strengthen and refine their leadership fundamentals in the context of their more complex and demanding roles. They also focus on competencies that have not been essential in previous roles.

If you’re a manager of managers, or otherwise leading in the middle zone of the organization, pay particular attention to these six factors:

  1. Self-awareness underpins effective leadership at all levels. For managers of managers, gaining an accurate picture of who you are and how you lead allows you to adjust and learn. Seeking feedback from a range of constituents is an important part of handling the push-and-pull of competing demands and people. Be especially open to the idea that strengths which have worked well in the past may not get you where you need to go next.
  2. Learning agility allows you to process information and take wise action in rapidly changing conditions. Effective leaders seek out opportunities to learn and are able to learn quickly.
  3. Communication remains essential, with the recognition that you have multiple audiences as a middle-zone manager. Communicating and collaborating with peers — other functional or departmental managers over whom you have no direct authority — becomes increasingly important.
  4. Influence is about gaining cooperation to get things done and is closely tied to effective communication. The ability to influence allows you to move beyond mere compliance and, instead, gain genuine agreement, buy-in and collaboration.
  5. Resiliency helps you handle the stress, uncertainty and setbacks that are part of your job. These realities are not going away. The ability to stay focused on what matters most in the midst of pressure is a both a life skill and a leadership skill. Being resilient benefits your own mental and physical health while allowing you to be more effective in your management roles.
  6. Thinking and acting systemically requires you to act not only as an individual manager but also to lead in the midst of a system. Each of us tends to get engrossed in our own work and our own perspective. It’s important to step outside of that, look at the larger system, and ask, what is going on beyond my own level? Why is it playing out the way it is? What could I do differently?

As a manager of managers, you are pulled between priorities and people. However, it is also an exciting place to be in an organization. You are in the right place to work on interesting projects, solve problems and build relationships with a range of people. By clarifying your role, challenges and leadership skills, you and your organization will reap the benefits of your time leading in the middle zone.