#10 … Top Posts from 2015 — Strategic Foresight

In-the-middle-of-nowhere_Brian-Koprowski

Photo Credit: In the middle of nowhere, by Brian Koprowski, Flickr

In a previous post I shared some observations on my top blogs posts from 2015. In the coming weeks I will be taking time both to share new content and to share some of the top viewed posts from the past year.

The #10 post from 2015 was …

Strategic Foresight:
The Past, Present, and Future Focus of Leadership

This was one of two posts on strategy that made the top ten in 2015. In the article, I argue that in light of the volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world we live in, it is a mandate for leaders to learn from the past and present and look to the future with strategic foresight.

Strategic Foresight

Clarity and foresight are essential leadership characteristics. Organizations and teams need leaders who can see clearly in the midst of confusing organizational and environmental realities.

THE VUCA WORLD

We are increasingly experiencing what some refer to as a “VUCA” world of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. More than ever, we need leaders with vision, clarity, and foresight.

What do leaders need to do in light of such a world?

Read more about the need for leaders to engage with strategic foresight in Purpose in Leadership’s #10 post from 2015. Here’s the link to continue reading…

Strategic Foresight:
The Past, Present, and Future Focus of Leadership

Why Organizational Culture Matters: “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast”

Rolled-Eggs_Cascadian-Farm

Photo Credit: Rolled Eggs, by Cascadian Farm, Flickr

What Is Organizational Culture?

Although the language of culture is used frequently, organizational members do not always understand what is meant by the term “organizational culture.”

In his classic book on the subject (Organizational Culture and Leadership), Edgar Schein summarizes organizational culture as the accumulated shared learning of a give group. This shared learning is observed through a variety of organizational realities such as the way people behave, established group norms, and espoused values.

Culture is essentially the organizational air we breathe. Like air, culture is often not seen directly. Rather, it is seen indirectly through how organizational members engage in their work, how they behave, how they embody group norms, and how they live out espoused values.

Why Does Organizational Culture Matter?

Other authors, such as Patrick Lencioni in The Advantage, highlight the vital dimension of culture.

Lencioni argues that organizational health is the greatest opportunity for organizational improvement and competitive advantage. In contrast to what Lencioni refers to as smart business—engaging fundamentals like strategy, marketing, finance, and technology—organizational health is the real place where competitive advantage may shine beyond the first half of the equation of smart business.

These days, especially in the day and age of big data in business, being smart as a organization is not enough. Organizations also need to be healthy—they need to pay attention to their organizational culture.

“Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast”

Expressing Lencioni’s points another way, Peter Drucker put the essence of culture in the following language: “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast.”

  1. Does strategy (smart organizational practice) matter? Absolutely!
  2. Is strategy (smart organizational practice) enough? No!
  3. Therefore, what do organizational leaders need to do? Leaders must focus on both smart strategy AND healthy culture

Smart and Healthy

As you think about your organization, are you leading and managing in a way that encourages both smart organizational practice AND healthy organizational culture? What practical steps can you take in the coming weeks to help improve the culture of your organization, division, or team?

………..

For those interested in reading more on the priority of organizational culture, see the following post entitled: Organizational Culture vs. Organizational Identity

The Power of Vision, Part 5

Visions-of-Color_Joe-Dyndale

Photo Credit: Visions of Color, by Joe Dyndale, Flickr

I’m in a mini-series focused on the power of vision. Here’s a snapshot of where we’ve been in the series:

  • In Part 1, I began by providing the following definition of vision: vision is a picture of a preferred future. Further, I described the major work of leaders as communicating this picture of a preferred future in a manner that is compelling and unifying.
  • In Part 2, I engaged the capacity of vision to provide passion, motivation, direction, and purpose for life and leadership.
  • In Part 3, I engaged how leaders can help to make vision stick by casting the vision well, celebrating the vision well, and living the vision well.
  • In Part 4, I engaged how leaders can identify their burning passion and compelling vision.

This week, I’d like to provide a final encouragement as you consider the vision you are meant to pursue in the year ahead.

Looking to Your Future

As I write this post, New Year’s Day is just around the corner. In many ways, the start of a new year provides an opportunity for us to do what we should be regularly doing throughout the year—looking to the future and planning in light of it.

As you look out the future, what is the picture of a preferred future both for you and your organization?

First, what does this preferred future look like both personally and professionally?

  • Personally: What is your personal vision … for you, your family, and your community in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead?
  • Professionally: What is your professional or organizational vision … for you and the community you serve in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead?

Second, what does this future look like at different points along the way on the journey toward your preferred future?

  • What does it look like weeks in the future?
  • What does it look like months in the future?
  • What does it look like years in the future?

Developing a Strategy for Visionary Planning

Weekly Carve out 15 minutes at the beginning of each week in order to prioritize your schedule and insure you are working toward your preferred future.
Monthly Carve out 2 hours to evaluate the previous month and then plan for the coming month in light of your visionary priorities.
Quarterly Carve out a day (workday length) in order to evaluate progress in light of your personal and professional vision. Use this evaluation to make adjustments for the coming 2-3 months.
Annually Carve out a 1-2 day retreat (getting away to a hotel, cabin, or retreat center) where you can have focused time not only evaluating the past year, but also reevaluating your overall visionary priorities. This is an annual time to insure that the direction of your life and leadership is moving toward a preferred future in light of the things that matter most in life.
Seasonally (each 5-7 years) Carve out a week or more every 5-7 years for a season of deep rest, refreshment, and renewal. This is not about simply taking a vacation—something that likely happens every year—but rather taking a genuine sabbatical from the normal routines of life. Some professions may allow for this seasonal time to be multiple months of rest, refreshment, and renewal. For other professions and work contexts, this seasonal time may be limited to a typical vacation week. In either case, find a path for intentional reflection on the trajectory of your life and leadership.

Have you seen tangible progress toward major visionary dreams you had 5 to 7 years earlier (degrees you wanted to complete, job changes you wanted to pursue, organizational goals you wanted to accomplish, etc.)?

As you look out into the next 5 to 7 years of your life and leadership, what are your major visionary priorities for the years ahead? What course corrections need to be made now to help navigate toward this preferred future? How can you adjust your schedule, budget, and general pace of life to make space for prioritizing movement toward this preferred future?

Engaging major life questions like this takes time and space for rest, renewal, and reflection. Take time not only for vacation and recreation, but also for sabbatical in order to tackle such visionary reflection and dreaming in your life.

 Vision: the Tool for Leading from the Front

Whether thinking of vision personally, professionally, or organizationally, vision is a powerful tool for your life and leadership.

Engaging the power of vision in leadership, Burt Nanus shares these thoughtful insights:

Vision is the main tool leaders use to lead from the front.
Effective leaders don’t push or production their followers. They don’t boss them around or manipulate them. They are out front showing the way. The vision allows leaders to inspire, attract, align, and energize their followers—to empower them by encouraging them to become part of a common enterprise dedicated to achieving the vision.

Rather than simply using push and production techniques, as leaders we need to learn to lead from the front. Vision provides the essential tool for moving from extrinsic motivation to intrinsic motivation. Vision provides the path for painting a picture of a hopeful future that motives us personally and others organizationally. As Nanus notes, “Vision is the main tool leaders use to lead from the front.”

Taking Your Next Visionary Steps

As you look to your future, the key is to pay attention and make changes based on this visionary reflection. In the week ahead, I encourage you to take some time to pay attention to your preferred future (your vision), and begin to take steps toward this preferred future in practical, tangible, and meaningful ways.

God’s best to each of you as you make strides toward the things that matter most in your life.


Here are all of the post links for this series:

The Power of Vision, Part 3

 

Vision-of-Transformation_Hartwig HKD

Photo Credit: Vision of Transformation, by Hartwig HKD, Flickr

I’m in a mini-series focused on the power of vision.

I began by providing the following definition of vision: vision is a picture of a preferred future (see Part 1). Further, I described the major work of leaders as communicating this picture of a preferred future in a manner that is compelling and unifying.

Last I engaged the capacity of vision to provide passion, motivation, direction, and purpose for life and leadership (see Part 2).

This week I want to take some time to engage how leaders can help to make vision stick.

Making the Vision Stick

In a 2003 talk at the Global Leadership Summit, Andy Stanley provided his reflections on the importance of vision and how to make vision stick for organizations.

Why is this an issue for leaders? As most leaders can attest, vision tends to “leak” in organizations. The vision is put forward for all the key constituents and everyone seems to be on board and excited. Then a few weeks, or even a few days, go by, and suddenly the demands of day-to-day life and organizational needs turn the attention of people away from vision.

In light of this, leaders must be very intentional in working to help vision land and stick with their people. On this point, Stanley argues that leaders must do three primary things with vision: Cast it! Celebrate it! Live it!

Cast it! Celebrate it! Live it!

Casting the vision provides DEFINITION:

Casting the vision helps everyone in the organization to be on the same page. But the vision that is cast bust be clear first. Sometimes when we start talking about vision we realize it’s unclear. As Howard Hendricks states it: “if it’s a mist in the pulpit, it’s a fog in the pews.” Vision must not be “clear as mud.” Vision needs to be exceptionally clear to the leader so that it may be clear for followers once communicated.

Celebrating vision provides INSPIRATION:

Celebrating the vision helps everyone know what a “win” is for your organization. It helps put “skin” on the vision for your people. Make celebration a part of your culture. Celebration is what brings the vision alive to your people. Build in mechanism to celebrate. Normalize and regularize celebration. Tell the story well so that vision comes alive.

Living out the vision provides CREDIBILITY:

Leaders living out the vision helps you to be a leader worth following. When we live it out whether we’re the leader or not, this moves us from leading from position to leading from influence. The vision becomes connected to who you are. People want to know whether or not a leader is living the vision, not just talking about the vision. Without leaders living it, followers may question whether the credibility of the vision is intact. You can’t ask people to do something that the leader is not willing to do themselves.

Leading with Vision

As you lead with vision in your community, how are you working to cast it well, celebrate it well, and live it well? Take a moment to share your story below.


Here are all of the post links for this series:

The Power of Vision, Part 1

Sight-and-Vision_Kate Ter Haar

Photo Credit: Sight and Vision, by Kate Ter Haar, Flickr

Vision is central to the work of leadership.

What is Vision

So what is vision? I define vision simply as …

a picture of a preferred future.

This picture of a preferred future can be for an individual, a family, a team, an organization, or a society.

By “picture” I do not mean a literal image, but rather a mental picture of an envisioned future reality that is preferable and desirable by those most closely connected to the vision. A major part of the work of leadership is communicating this picture of a preferred future in a manner that is compelling and unifying.

Characterizing Vision

John Kotter provides the following characteristics of vision:

  • Imaginable
  • Desirable
  • Feasible
  • Focused
  • Flexible
  • Communicable

In keeping with these characteristics, Burt Nanus describes vision as a realistic, credible, and attractive future.

As leaders help to paint a picture of a preferable future for their followers, the vision becomes compelling and unifying as it is realistic, feasible, credible, attractive, and desirable.

From Sight to Vision

On this distinction between sight and vision, Max De Pree writes:

We can teach ourselves to see things the way they are.
Only with vision can we begin to see things the way they can be.”

Although our eyes allow us to see what is, vision is the pathway by which we can see…and help others to see…what can be.

From Vision to Reality

As we move from sight to vision, the next step is about moving from vision to reality. Warren Bennis describes the work of leadership in the following manner:

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”

Vision is about possibility. The work of leadership is about helping to translate this preferable possibility into living reality.

But vision is not only a picture of preferred future possibility. Vision and the leadership work of vision casting become the means by which leaders help organizations move from vision to reality.

—————————

In the month ahead I will be highlighting several additional features related to vision. Why is it important for leaders, followers, and organizations? What challenges come along with the leadership work of vision casting? Why is vision a primary tool with which leaders work?

Take a moment to share you thoughts on vision below.


Here are all of the post links for this series:

Leading Organizations Fit for People

Facescape_Viewminder

Facescape, by Viewminder, Flickr

Organizations are increasingly utilizing data-based approaches to decision making. These approaches provide helpful insights for organizational leaders aiming to be responsive to their constituents and markets.

Losing Sight of People

Noting this trend from a marketing perspective, the following quote from a recent Harvard Business Review article identifies a hidden danger such approaches:

“As marketers continue their love affair with analytics,
there’s a danger that they’ll lose sight of their customer’s humanity.”

In marketing circles, the “4 P’s” of marketing are often emphasized:  Products, Price, Place, & Promotion. In my MBA program, my Marketing Management professor emphasized that those leading in the realm of marketing must not forget about a fifth “P”—People.

Servant Leadership in the Organization

Whether in the realm of marketing or in broader discussions of organizational leadership, such insights are vital. Leaders must remember the priority of people in the work of lead. Leaders must never lose sight of the humanity of their followers, team members, customers, and constituents.

From a servant leadership perspective (Find my blog series on Servant Leadership here), the core of effective leadership involves putting the needs of followers before the self-interest of leaders. But such principles of leader-service are not just about certain leadership roles. It involves looking at the totality of the organization and working hard to keep the focus on people.

Management 2.0

Gary Hamel discusses such principles around the concept of what he calls Management 2.0. At the heart of Management 2.0 is asking the question of whether or not our organizations are fit for human beings.

The industrial revolution brought about significant management strides that contributed to increased levels of organizational performance. But such strides often came with a cost of dehumanizing organizations.

Within the Management 2.0 movement, organizations are again seeing significant change in management that contributes to increased performance. In contrast to previous approaches to management, these recent changes focus on advancing organizational goals while also recognizing and working with people’s humanity. They focus on making organizations that are fit for human beings, not just fit for organizational output.

Principles of Management 2.0

Principles often associated with Management 2.0 often include the following:

  1. Openness
  2. Community
  3. Meritocracy
  4. Activism
  5. Collaboration
  6. Meaning
  7. Autonomy
  8. Serendipity
  9. Decentralization
  10. Experimentation
  11. Speed
  12. Trust

Leading Organizations Fit for People

As you consider the role you play in your organization, how are you using your leadership and management responsibilities to move toward principles that take the humanity of your people seriously? Are you working to help create organizations that are fit for humans?

Perhaps you see other principles that help to nurture this type of culture. I’d love to read your thoughts. Please take a moment to share below.

 

Wide-Angle Leadership

Lense, by Richard Heaven, Flickr

Lense, by Richard Heaven, Flickr

What makes leaders distinct from other organizational members or employees?

This question may be answered several ways, but one key answer centers on ownership and perspective. First, leaders bring ownership to their work—they own challenges and problems rather than pass them off to others. Second, leaders bring perspective to their work—they focus on the big picture and see how the various parts work together.

Leadership Lenses

When thinking of lenses for leadership, I imagine the diverse lenses available to a professional photographer as a helpful leadership metaphor.

For instance, there are macro lenses that allow for a magnified perspective of the micro level as a photographer captures images extremely close to the subject. Through macro lenses, we can gain great perspective on small and particular objects at a granular level.

There are also wide-angle lenses that allow photographers to capture a broader perspective on the subject. Through macro lenses, we gain great perspective on broad and sweeping views of the whole of a scene.

I would argue that leaders need to draw on both of these metaphors in their leadership practice. They need to be able to zoom in on the details of an issue, but they must bring to this detailed analysis the broad perspective that comes from seeing the big picture. While organizational members or employees have their specific area of work, leaders not only look at the specifics, but also the specifics within the context of the whole.

Wide-Angle Lenses and Organizational Perspective

If you desire to move into leadership within your organization, one of the first steps is to begin thinking like a leader from your particular vantage point. This means that you need to begin using not only the macro lens of seeing details, but also the wide-angle lens of looking at the big picture.

Wide-angle leadership is about looking at the organization as a whole. In a traditional business setting, this means thinking through how various departments and units need to work together to bring success to a particular venture. From product development, to marketing, to sales, to customer service, and beyond, wide-angle leaders are not content to just pay attention to particular job responsibilities, but rather to think like owners and look at the whole of the venture in broad perspective.

“That’s Not My Job”

How many times have you either heard, or perhaps said, the phrase “That’s not my job.”

As opposed to those who think like leaders, organizational employees who are not thinking like leaders are often solely focused on what is in their job description alone. If a question, need, or demand arises that is outside of that job description, the response may simply be: “That’s not my job,” or “That’s not my problem.”

If one does not aspire to leadership responsibilities, “That’s not my job” may work as a response. But for those that want to progress into leadership responsibilities, such a response no longer cuts it.

Aspiring leaders must begin to think like leaders. Aspiring leaders push aside the “that’s not my job” logic and begin to take ownership of the problems as a whole and the solutions as a whole. They begin to think and act like owners.

Ownership over Excuses

Leadership comes down to taking ownership rather than making excuses. Leadership comes down to moving beyond just the narrow concerns of one’s job, and seeing how these narrow concerns connect to the big picture of the whole enterprise. Leadership is about ownership over excuses.

Wide-Angle Leadership

Not only is leadership about ownership, leadership is also about gaining perspective on the broader situation. Marketing leaders cannot simply be concerned with marking problems. Product development leaders cannot simply be concerned with product development concerns. Sales leaders cannot simply be concerned with sales problems. In contrast to just looking at problems at the micro level, leaders need to gain wide-angle perspective to inform area-specific problems.

In other words, wide-angle leadership is holistic leadership—seeing the unique demands of a particular business area in light of how the whole of the organization works. In contrast to a “just doing your job” mentality, leaders recognize that part of their job is about seeing the big picture, and this comes by engaging in wide-angle leadership as particular problems are addressed.

Next Steps—Starting to Think and Act Like a Leader

Leaders bring ownership to their work—they own challenges and problems rather than pass them off to others. What opportunities do you have to take ownership and responsibility in your work? Are you intuitively responding with a “That’s not my job” approach, or are you learning to take ownership for solutions?

Leaders bring perspective to their work—they focus on the big picture and see how the various parts work together. What opportunities do you have for taking a wide-angle approach to your work? Are you learning to see the big picture rather than just focusing on your specific area of work responsibilities? While you need to deliver on your particular job responsibilities, this will be best accomplished when done from a place of wide-angle leadership perspective.

8 Keys for Building Trust as a Leader

Trust, by Terry Johnston, Flickr

Trust, by Terry Johnston, Flickr

Leader trust is a powerful currency in today’s world. As we continue to see examples of leaders who lose trust in the eyes of their people and stakeholders, it is easy to see how a lack of leader trust quickly erodes businesses, organizations, and relationships.

And, while leader trust often takes years to build, this trust can be lost in a moment.

So how can leaders build and maintain trust? In his book The Trust Edge, David Horsager provides his readers with the 8 Pillars of Trust:

  1. Clarity:People trust the clear and mistrust the ambiguous.”
  2. Compassion:People put faith in those who care beyond themselves.”
  3. Character:People notice those who do what is right over what is easy.”
  4. Competency:People have confidence in those who stay fresh, relevant, and capable.”
  5. Commitment:People believe in those who stand through adversity.”
  6. Connection:People want to follow, buy from, and be around friends.”
  7. Contribution:People immediately respond to results.”
  8. Consistency:People love to see the little things done consistently.”

What steps are you taking to build your trust as a leader? As your most powerful currency in today’s world, intentional trust building is well worth the investment of your time and effort. For the sake of your leadership effectiveness, and for the sake of your organization’s health and results, invest in building your leader trust.

For those interested in a deeper look at The Trust Edge, check out David’s website at: davidhorsager.com

11 Lessons for Those Feeling “Stuck” or “Trapped” in their Careers

Limitless, by David Melchor Diaz, Flickr

Limitless, by David Melchor Diaz, Flickr

Have you ever had the feeling of being “stuck” or “trapped” in a career or job? Most people have at one time or another.

The question of what to do with this “stuck” feeling is vital for anyone facing a challenging season, and is at the heart of what I’d like to engage in this brief reflection.

Changing Your Work Context

Sometimes this experience or feeling leads toward a shift away from one’s current role, whether this shift is dramatic or more subtle.

One expression of this might be the bold step of quitting a job even though a next step is not in place. Another expression of this might be putting your résumé out and getting a feel for other options. Still another expression of this might be going back to school in order to eventual make the jump out of a current role.

Changing Your Perspective on Your Work Context

Other times, the answer is not a shift away from a role or organization, but rather a shift in perspective within that role or organization. This path is about taking a proactive posture toward the stuck feeling. Rather than seeing this as something brought upon you by the organization or others, this is about shifting to take ownership and responsibility for what you have control of as you face this feeling.

Advice for Getting Unstuck

On this point, Robert Steven Kaplan provides thoughtful reflections in his HBR article entitled Reaching Your Potential. Here are some recommendations and reflections drawn from Kaplan’s work for those desiring to move out of this feeling of being “stuck” and “trapped.”

  1. Understand Your Strengths and Weaknesses
  2. Use this Understanding to Guide Your Career Choices and Goals
  3. Identify Three or Four Tasks that Are Central to Your Work Responsibilities; Make Sure You Excel at These
  4. Show Character and Leadership within Your Role and Organization
  5. Put the Interests of the Company and Your Colleagues ahead of Your Own Interests
  6. Be Willing to Speak Up, Even Voicing Unpopular Views
  7. Don’t Play It Too Safe
  8. Identify Your Dreams
  9. Develop Skills to Realize these Dreams
  10. Demonstrate Courage to Pursue these Dreams
  11. Remember their Will be Bumps Along the Way

What Are Your Next Steps for Getting Unstuck?

Although we could identify other recommendations to add to these, Kaplan provides great insight here for those wanting to move forward from this place of feeling stuck. The key is to move away from a passive posture and on toward an active posture of taking ownership in moving toward your career potential.

What steps have been most helpful for you in getting “unstuck” in the context of your job?

9 Effective Leadership Practices

Number Nine, by Mario Klingemann, Flickr

Number Nine, by Mario Klingemann, Flickr

Servant leadership is a good idea. The core of servant leadership is about leaders placing follower needs at the highest priority level. Most would agree this is a good idea. The question many do raise, however, is whether or not this good idea is also effective?

Thankfully social science research methods can help us. One of the benefits of social science research is its capacity to confirm the utility or effectiveness of practices that are inherently valid philosophically or biblically.

Good Ideas that Work

For instance we do not need research to inform us that humility is important for individuals and leaders; this is an argument that may be made practically, philosophically and biblically. The validity and importance of humility may be argued apart from research. However, research can come alongside logic and experience to confirm the utility or effectiveness of an idea like humility. This is what was found by Jim Collins in his research on Level Five Leaders. Not only is leader humility ethically-good and biblically-consistent as an idea—an argument that may be made biblically, philosophically, and practically—Jim Collins found through research that leader humility is also effective.

Servant Leadership: An Good Idea Whose Time Has Come

A similar argument may be made for understanding servant leadership. The importance and validity of servant-oriented leadership practices can be argued ethically, morally, philosophically, practically, and biblically apart from questions of its utility and effectiveness. However, it is powerful when leadership practices that are ethically-good and biblically-consistent are also found to be effective.

While servant leadership is a good and values-based model of leadership practice—and this alone is enough for leaders to utilize servant leadership practices—it is also helpful to know that servant leadership is effective. And indeed it is. Servant leadership is not only a good idea. It works.

9 Effective Leadership Practices

So what characterizes servant leadership? What leader behaviors are consistent with servant leadership practice?

Here are 9 core leadership practices that I’ve identified as not only good ideas, but also as effective.

Cluster One — Beginning with Authentic Leaders

Practice 1: Modeling what Matters

Practice 2: Engaging in Honest Self-Evaluation

Practice 3: Fostering Collaboration

Cluster Two — Understanding the Priority of People

Practice 4: Valuing and Appreciating

Practice 5: Creating a Place for Individuality

Practice 6: Understanding Relational Skills

Cluster Three — Helping Followers Navigate toward Effectiveness

Practice 7: Communicating with Clarity

Practice 8: Supporting and Resourcing

Practice 9: Providing Accountability

In the coming weeks, I’ll unpack each of these practices and provide reflections both on why they are important and how leaders may use them to effectively guide their followers.

For those wanting to dig a bit deeper, please check out my article entitled “A Model for Effective Servant Leadership Practice.”