The lack of confidence in the institutions that define our collective culture is threatening the civility, economic prosperity, and standing of the United States as a world leader. Let’s start with the government. The President’s approval rating is underwater and continuing to sink. A recent Gallup poll found that only [...]
The 1971 Oscar in the Short Film, Cartoon category went to a piece titled “Is It Always Right To Be Right.” It was directed by Lee Mishkin, narrated by Orson Welles, and written by Warren Schmidt. The opening words of the film are: There once was a land where people were always right. They knew they were right and they were proud of it. It was a land where people stated with confidence, "I am right and you are wrong." These were words of conviction, courage, strength, and moral certainty. In this fictional land, any attempt at cooperation and understanding were viewed as cowardice and weakness. Everyone was so convinced of their rightness that no one dared to utter words such as, “You may be right” or “I may be wrong.”
This would have been the message if the speaker at your last business meeting presented in nursery rhymes: Jack be nimble. Jack be quick. Jack jump over The candle stick. You feel better, right? You now know what is expected of you and the definition of success. And, you have no real context for why it is important or idea about how to move forward.
We taught mice and pigeons to do all sorts of interesting things during my graduate school class in behavioral psychology. The principle is simple: provide a stimulus and elicit a response. The stimulus-response cycle still plays an important role in animal training today. And, it is evident in virtually every routine action we take. You don’t think about your response; you just make it. And at some point, it becomes automatic. On most days, those automatic responses are benign routines that allow you to effectively navigate. Unfortunately, they can also become anchors that prevent you from making a change that will transform your business and your life.
These days it seems that we’re all so busy, overcommitted, and information-obsessed. Our never-ending to-do lists are long and we run around trying to “keep up” or “be important,” and in the process stress ourselves out. Unfortunately, it often takes something bad to happen to slow us down, wake us up, and force us to focus on what truly matters most in life.
My presentations about leading change usually include a story about Double Stuf Oreos and Brussels Sprouts. You can view the story here, but the basic principle is simple: A child will willingly change what they are doing to reach a jar of cookies on top of your refrigerator. You seldom see them act with the same sense of urgency to acquire Brussels sprouts. With that in mind, leaders generate creative tension when the vision they create for change is compelling – like cookies – rather than boring like vegetables.
How do you define integrity? Is there an absolute definition? Or, do you find yourself quoting the phrase made famous by Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart: “I know it when I see it”? We know that it appears at or near the top of every list of desirable leadership traits. It is the essential ingredient for building and sustaining trust with others. Go ahead—take a stab at it. Integrity is . . . It is more difficult to define integrity than you thought, isn’t it?
The government we want is nimble, flexible, and responsive. The government we experience, in many cases, is slow, cumbersome, and totally unresponsive. Let’s put this another way: We want our government to operate like our favorite business. We believe, in contrast, that our government is the poster child for lumbering bureaucratic inefficiency and employees who are out of touch with the realities of the marketplace. Twenty plus years of working with private and public sector organizations has taught me that the truth is actually somewhere between the two extremes.
I saw this quote by David Frost posted on Twitter: “Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will naturally come.” It sounds great, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it is not true.
There are three realities in leadership: Leaders are defined by their results. The act of leadership is about the ability to influence others to accomplish the desired result. You will never succeed at your first two responsibilities if you can’t or won’t develop others to excel in their work. You [...]