People or Production — Getting Things Done while Caring for People

People, Viewminder, Flickr

Photo Credit: People, Viewminder, Flickr

People or Production

In management studies, there is a rich history of work engaging the importance of focus on people and results.

— A Concern for People is characterized by leaders or managers emphasizing and recognizing the needs of followers, and then working to meet followers in these areas of need.

— A Concern for Production or Results is characterized by leaders emphasizing organizational objectives and what the best pathways are for meeting these goals and objectives.

Engaging Leadership Style

The “Ohio State” studies, and the “University of Michigan” studies on these themes were complemented by what is known as Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid. Based on the categories of concern for people and concern for production or results, Blake and Mouton’s categorizes leaders in the following manner:

  • Impoverished (low results/low people)
  • Authority-Compliance (high results/low people)
  • Country-Club (low results/high people)
  • Middle-of-the-Road (med. results/med. People)
  • Team (high results/high people).

People and Production

As leaders, it is easy to feel this tension between a focus on results or a focus on people. Many times, managers and leaders view it as a mutually exclusive decision. Either the focus will be on results, or the focus will be on people.

Thankfully, contemporary models of leadership are emphasizing the priority of both. Both people and production are valuable, and in fact the two serve each other in a healthy organizational system.

Chicken or Egg

But what comes first. Must a leader prioritize one over the other, even though both are valuable? Generally, transformational models of leadership emphasize change and getting things done. These approaches emphasize results along with individualized consideration as a necessary part of the leadership approach. This commitment to organizational goals is seen as the best way to meet the needs of people.

Servant-oriented models of leadership emphasize a commitment to people. These approaches emphasize a commitment to serving the needs of people as primary. This commitment to people is seen as the best way to accomplish organizational goals and objectives.

A Matter of Emphasis

It really comes down to a matter of emphasis. Both people and production are a priority. Both followers and goals are essential. But which is the best way to meet these aims. For the time being, I land on the side of emphasizing people first, and seeing this as the best way to also get things done.

Thankfully, there is a growing body or research helping us understand this relationship between goal-orientation and follower-focus.

______________________________________

Pursue both. Leaders who value and develop their people will have a solid community ready to meet organizational goals. Leaders who work with their community to get things done will have healthy organizations that provide stability for their people. Both are a priority, so lead well toward both of these ends.

Perspective, Priorities, and Personal Care — Reflections on Seasonal Transitions

1st Fall Picture, DaDaAce, Flickr

Photo Credit: 1st Fall Picture, DaDaAce, Flickr

Enjoying Summer

I love summer. I love the warm weather that finally arrives in Minnesota. I love the chance to connect with family, friends, and neighbors. I love softball games in the park. I love time to get outside and enjoy nature. I love the change of pace. I love the opportunity to be with people that the normal school year busyness does not always allow.

But summer can be complex as well. Summer activities take planning and coordination. Summer activities take time away from work that needs to get done. Summer activities add a layer of complexity.

Preparing for Fall

I’m feeling this complexity especially as the summer-to-fall transition happens in late August. Summer activities are slowing down and preparations for the school year are ramping up.

For our household, ramping up toward fall is not only about the kids starting back to school. It is also about us as parents preparing for fall teaching. My wife began her teacher training this week. My fall faculty workshop begins next week. And, our kids start back to their first day of school next Monday.

Sometimes ramping up for work can feel like more of a job than the work itself. Training sessions are in motion. School supplies need to be purchased. School uniforms and clothes need to be secured and organized. Lesson plans need to be polished. Syllabi need to be finalized.

Keys for Thriving in Transition

As I’m in the heart of managing this seasonal transition and shifting gears into fall, I’m thinking about keys for managing transitions in seasons of life and work. What are some of the keys to managing transitions well? What are some keys to thriving in the midst of changing seasons?

Here are three guidelines I’ve been thinking about today:

1 — Need for Perspective

If transitional seasons are the norm, this may lead one to weariness very quickly. Thankfully, most of us experience seasons of normalcy between periods of transition. I’m in a very full two week period at the moment. One of the tactics I use to manage this busy season is simply keeping things in perspective.

Anything can be managed for two weeks, right? Perspective helps me to press in, get things done that need to be done, and to remember that this season of transition will soon level out to a new norm in a few weeks. I find that transitions require a need for perspective, and this perspective helps me to stay calm and focused in the midst of the busy season.

2 — Need for Prioritization

We can’t do everything. This is certainly true for me. I’m grateful for the many opportunities I have: serving in a job I love, time with family and friends, invitations to speak, engagement with research and writing projects, pursuing opportunities for learning, serving among communities I value, and the list goes on. But, I can’t do everything…and neither can you. This requires prioritization.

Priorities are based on perspective. As we aim to see our lives and the investment of our time will help us better understand when to say yes and when to say no. When opportunities and invitations arise, having perspective, and prioritizing based on this prospective gives a basis for decisions relate to time investment.

I’m thinking a lot about what to say yes and no to in this season of transition. Though not the only example, I sent a final “no” regarding a conference I wanted to attend in September. I valued the learning opportunity, but in the midst of prioritization, that was something that had to go as I looked to the month ahead.

How are you prioritizing in this season?  Based on these priorities to what are you needing to say yes, and to what are you needing to say no?

3 — Need for Personal & Spiritual Self-Care

I’m also reminded of the need for good spiritual and personal self-care in these seasons of transition. It is amazing what simple things like eating well, getting enough sleep, and taking time to pause for spiritual reflection do in the midst of busy seasons. I like the title of Bill Hybels’ book Too Busy Not to Pray. When it comes to good spiritual and personal care, I think there are many “too busy not to” priorities:

  • Too busy not to sleep well
  • Too busy not to eat well
  • Too busy not to exercise
  • Too busy not to pray
  • Too busy not to reflect and meditate on the Bible
  • Too busy not to spend time with those closest to me

You likely have your own list of priorities for personal and spiritual self-care. In the second point above I emphasized the need to say no to some things. Equally important in busy seasons is the priority of saying yes to what matters most—saying yes to the personal and spiritual self-care that sustains us in busy times.

­_________________________

As you look to your own seasons of change, how are you managing the transitions? Are you getting the perspective you need to guide your decisions? Are you prioritizing based on this perspective? Are you maintaining the needed personal and spiritual self-care in the midst of it all?

 

Macro Change through Micro Improvements

Sunny Pebbles, Laura Thorne, Flickr

Photo Credit: Sunny Pebbles, by Laura Thorne, Flickr

I read an interesting article in The Economist recently. It is entitled Little Things that Mean A Lot, and the author argues that businesses should aim for lots of small wins that add up to something big.

New Routes to Organizational Success

The article focused primarily on the role of analyzing large pools of data in order to identify opportunities for incremental improvement. One illustration came from UPS. In America, there are some 60,000 UPS vans that drive 100 plus miles each day. If through data analysis UPS can find ways to reduce driving by 1 mile per day for each van, it is estimated that the company would save close to $50 million in fuel and related costs each year.

Although most of us are not looking for $50 million in small wins for our organizations, the new market realities in our world are calling for most organizations (for profit and nonprofit alike) to look for both big and small opportunities. Most of the “big wins” have already been identified since the beginning of the Great Recession. It is now time for organizations to up their game in finding the “small wins.”

Building a Mountain with Pebbles

One of the quotes in the article expresses the need in this manner: “It is about building a mountain with pebbles.” While most of us would simply prefer to find the mountain, the new realities of our world often translate to using a both-and approach to organizational improvements.  We need to have an explorer mindset, looking for new mountains of opportunity. We also need to have the mindset of the statistician, looking for macro opportunities within the micro dimensions of business and organizational life.

Explorers and Statisticians

How are you pursuing big-wins through small opportunities? How are you maintaining the entrepreneurial mindset of the explorer, while also seeing the details as the researcher or statistician would? This requires us to partner well with others on this journey. This requires us to build our teams with a diversity of expertise so that we can pursue growth and opportunity on both fronts.

Enjoy the journey, and keep your eyes open for macro change through micro improvements.

6 Characteristics of Organizations with Vision

mind_scratch, Ultima visión, Flickr

Photo Credit: mind_scratch, Ultima visión, Flickr

In a previous post, I highlighted the importance of Leading from the Front with Vision. Focusing on why vision matters, Burt Nanus provides a list of characteristics of organizations with and without vision. Here is a summary of these characteristics:

Organizations with Vision

Organizations without Vision

  • Opportunity-Driven
  • Focused on Change
  • Progressing toward Goals
  • Oriented Strategically
  • Focused on Long-Term Results
  • Proactive
  • Problem-Driven
  • Focused on Stability
  • Focused on Past Performance
  • Oriented Tactically
  • Focused on Short-Term Results
  • Reactive

An orientation toward change, pursuing opportunities, working toward goals, focusing strategically, paying attention to long-term interests, and being proactive tend to go along with visionary focus.

Based on these characteristics, are you embedded in an organization with or without vision? If you are leader, are you guiding your organization with vision?

The Priority of Potential — Spotting Talent for our Organizations

Potential!, Miles Goodhew, Flickr

Photo Credit: Potential!, by Miles Goodhew, Flickr

In a previous post I highlighted 8 Core Leadership Abilities. In the same HBR article, Claudio Fernández-Aráoz engages the important theme of how to spot talent in the 21st century.

A History of Talent Searching

Over the centuries and years, diverse approaches have emerged for identifying leadership and managerial talent. Fernández-Aráoz identifies this progression around four movements:

Focus on Physical Attributes — Those who were fittest, healthiest, and strongest.

Focus on Intelligence and Experience — Those who were the most intelligent, most experienced, and those with the best past performance.

Focus on Testing for Competencies— Those who possess the right set of characteristics and skills associated with predicted job performance.

Focus on Potential  — Those who are ready to engage the VUCA environment of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity.

Why Potential

In the VUCA world of increased volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, there are new demands on prospective talent. Fernández-Aráoz discusses the factors of globalization, demographic shifts, and challenges to the talent development pipeline. The talent development pipeline is significantly stretched due to increased competition in this changing environment of the 21st century. These factors are forcing organizations to focus on identifying potential (not just track-records of success), and then developing and retaining this talent in the years ahead.

What to Look for When Looking for Potential

So, how is potential spotted? What qualities are the hallmarks of such potential? Fernández-Aráoz identifies the following hallmarks for spotting talent and potential in the 21st century:

Motivation — “…a fierce commitment to excel in the pursuit of unselfish goals.”

Curiosity — “…a penchant for seeking out new experiences, knowledge, and candid feedback and an openness to learning and change.”

Insight — “…the ability to gather and make sense of information that suggests new possibilities.”

Engagement — “…a knack for using emotion and logic to communicate a persuasive vision and connect with people.”

Determination — “…the wherewithal to fight for difficult goals despite challenges and to bounce back from adversity.”

How to Develop those with Potential

Because spotting potential is quickly becoming the new norm, developing this potential talent in our organizations is becoming the highest priority. How are motivation, curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination built upon so that individuals with potential translate into individuals with performance?

Fernández-Aráoz identifies the priority of stretch development. On this point Fernández-Aráoz notes, “when it comes to developing executives for future leadership assignments, we’re constantly striving to find the optimal level of discomfort in the next role or project, because that’s where the most learning happens.” Finding stretching assignments, where those with potential don’t immediately have all the answers, is one of the chief pathways in moving individuals from potential to performance.

______________________________

How are you identifying potential around you? How are you developing this potential into performance?

Visionary Change with a Plan: Remembering the Importance of Effective Management in the Change Process

Change, SomeDriftwood, Flickr

Photo Credit: Change, SomeDriftwood, Flickr

Change agendas often fail due to good visions that lack a thoughtful plan. I observed this in some of my previous work with smaller nonprofits. In these contexts, leadership energy was devoted to generating new ideas and visions for the future but there was not sufficient managerial energy devoted to plans that would support the enactment of vision.

Doing things Right

Peter Drucker noted that management is doing things right while leadership is doing the right things. Although leadership is focused on doing the right thing and casting appropriate visions for change, it is often management that focuses on doing things right. Change initiatives that are launched but not sustained often fail due to lack of effective planning and lack of doing things the right way.

Consistent with Drucker’s observations, John Kotter highlights the central functions of leaders and managers. Leaders focus on setting direction, aligning people, and motivating people. In contrast to this, managers plan and budget, organize and staff, and control and problem solve. Successful change efforts are not focused on only one of these lists, but rather both. Successful change efforts are not focused on leadership or management, but rather effective leadership and effective management.

Change Initiation and Change Implementation

Since leadership tendencies of setting direction often initiate change agendas, it is easy for change failure to occur in the absence of management. Without leadership, change fails due to lack of initiation. Without management, change fails due to lack of implementation.

What change vision are you pursuing as a community? Are you pursuing both effective initiation and implementation? How are you pursuing the change visions with a plan?

8 Core Leadership Abilities

Follow the Leader, by Vinoth Chandar, Flickr

Photo Credit: Follow the Leader, by Vinoth Chandar, Flickr

In a recent issue of Harvard Business Review, Claudio Fernández-Aráoz identifies 8 abilities that the best leaders possess. Here is the list, along with a brief description and summary of each item on the list.

  1. Strategic Orientation: The capacity to engage in broad, complex analytical and conceptual thinking.” The new realities surrounding organizations demand that leaders have a capacity to engage in strategic thinking in the face of complexity.  Are you thinking about your organizational realities through a strategic lens?
  2. Market Insight: A strong understanding of the market and how it affects the business.” Along with increased complexity, the world is more connected to our organizations than ever before. Are you paying attention to the environment surrounding your organization and how this environment will shape the way your organization goes about its work?
  3. Results Orientation: A commitment to demonstrably improving key business metrics.” Increases in complexity and connectivity in our world translate into increased competition. This increased competition necessitates that leaders pay attention to performance for the things that matter to your community. Are you measuring what matters most to your organization?
  4. Customer Impact: A passion for serving the customer.” In-grown organizations will struggle to thrive in the changing economy. Who do you serve as an organization? Do you have a passion for providing the best possible service for these individuals and communities?
  5. Collaboration and Influence: An ability to work effectively with peers or partners, including those not in the line of command.” Leadership in today’s organizations is not simply about individuals getting individual work accomplished. Complex problems require complex solutions that are often worked out in collaboration. Do you possess a collaborative orientation?
  6. Organizational Development: A drive to improve the company by attracting and developing top talent.” Finding, recruiting, and retaining top talent is a substantial need in the coming years. Factors such as globalization and demographic shifts are making this need more pronounced. How are you leading your organization in a path of intentional leadership development?
  7. Team Leadership: Success in focusing, aligning, and building effective groups.” As noted above related to collaboration, it is no longer about individuals accomplishing individual outcomes. Organizations today require effective groups or teams working together to accomplish increasingly complex outcomes. Are you developing your capacity as a team player?
  8. Change Leadership: The capacity to transform and align an organization around a new goal.” Our changing world translates into dynamic and changing organizations. How are you developing your change leadership capacity? As a community this will be essential as you lean into these organizational and environment transitions?

As the world around us changes, a capacity to adapt to new environments is critical. As you consider these 8 Core Leadership Abilities, what are your strengths? What are your growth edges? Are you committed both to developing yourself and those around you to meet the demands of leadership today?

5 Types of Leadership Communication

Communication by Krossbow, on Flickr

Photo Credit: Communication, by Krossbow, Flickr

In a previous blog post I highlighted 7 Levels of Leadership Communication. In this post I will highlight 5 Types of Leadership Communication.

As leaders, communication is a central skill for accomplishing the goals and outcomes our organizations desire. We are tempted to view communication in very monolithic ways such as COMMUNICATION = TALKING. However, in the flow of leadership, communication is more nuanced than this. Yes, it includes talking, but there are other types and levels at which communication does and must take place.

Here are 5 categories or types of leadership communication.

1 — Verbal & Nonverbal

The first type of communication is verbal and nonverbal. Whether you want to or not, as a leader you are always communicating. This may be happening with your words, or it may be happening with your nonverbal cues. How many times have you been in a meeting with someone who is constantly looking at their watch or looking out the window rather than paying attention to the conversation in which they are engaged? Such nonverbal cues communicate powerfully. They powerfully communicate disinterest and lack of engagement.

As leaders, both our verbal and nonverbal communication matter immensely. What are you communicating with your words? What are you communicating with your nonverbal cues? Is there continuity or discontinuity in these threads of communication?

2 — Intentional & Unintentional

Communication may be verbal or nonverbal. It also may be intended or unintended on the part of the leader. This is the second type—intentional and unintentional communication. Saying the thing we wish to say, in the way we wish to say it, at the time we wish to say it is one example of intentional communication. But it does not always work this way in leadership. Sometimes we unintentionally say the wrong thing, in the wrong manner, or at the wrong time. Other times we may unintentionally communicate conflicting messages—saying one one with our words intentionally and another message with our actions non-verbally.

Our intentional and unintentional communication are both important. What are you communicating intentionally? Are you aware of what is communicated unintentionally?

3 — Conscious & Unconscious

The third type of communication is conscious and unconscious. This third type of communication builds on the above foci. Verbal, nonverbal, intentional, and unintentional communication can take place either consciously or unconsciously. I may be communicating something both nonverbally and unintentionally, but still be aware of it. The real challenge to leaders is that which is communicated unconsciously. This takes intentional effort to address. Such effort may take the form of inviting others to observe us and give us feedback. Unconscious communication may support our leadership goals, or they may be working against us. Others can help us pay attention to our approach to communication.

The discussion of conscious and unconscious communication relates to a concept known as the Johari Window. The blind spot and unknown quadrants in the table below represent unconscious areas. When we are communicating at these levels, especially when we communicate negatively, it is important to invite the feedback of others so that we may raise these areas to the conscious level and proactively improve the leadership message communicated.

Johari Window image, from Wikipedia

Johari Window image, from Wikipedia

4 — Action & Inaction

The fourth type of communication is action and inaction. As with the above types of communication, effective leadership communication practice must pay attention to both action and inaction. Kouzes and Posner emphasize the priority of modeling the way in their book The Leadership Challenge. Modeling the way is an example of positive action communicating a desired leadership message. However, inaction also communicates powerfully. For example, if a leader consistently avoids confronting unhelpful or unethical behavior on a team, this inaction communicates a powerful  and negative message to other team members seeking healthy and ethical team performance.

How are you communicating as a leader through your actions? What leadership messages are communicated through your inaction? What needs to change in light of these observations?

5 — Head & Heart            

The final type I’ll note is head and heart communication—communication at both the cognitive and affective levels. This distinction acknowledges that leaders communicate both cognitively and affectively. They communicate at both the level of the head and the heart. Challenges arise when leaders are communicating at one level while followers need another. In some ways, this distinction relates to the dimensions of intellectual stimulation and inspirational motivation within transformational leadership theory. At times, followers may be need affective, heart-oriented, and inspirational motivation from their leader. Challenges arise when leaders communicate in just the opposite manner—communication at the cognitive, head-oriented, and intellectual level. Leaders must look not only to what needs to be said and how they as leaders need to say it. Leaders must also look to how followers and organizational members need to hear a message.

Do you tend to communicate more cognitively or affectively? Are you emphasizing your personal communication style preference in this area as a leader, or are you providing your community and followers with the type and style of communication that they need? Thinking of the head-heart category of leadership communication is one approach for adjusting to follower needs.

____________________

In light of the 5 Types of Leadership Communication noted above, what areas are your strengths? Which types are your growth edges? Are you inviting trusted friends and peers to give you feedback on how you communicate with others and how you may grow as a leadership communicator?

I’d love to hear how you approach navigating the complexities of leadership communication. Share your thoughts when you get a chance.

 

 

People, Planet, and Profit — Business Leaders and Sustainable Economics

United States Capitol

Photo Credit: United States Capitol, Justin A Irving, purposeinleadership.com

Today I had the pleasure of meeting with a group of business and political leaders at the United States Capitol in Washington, DC. Facilitated by The Washington Institute, a group of leaders who are interested in the integration of faith and work gathered to hear insights from key leaders in Washington.

Economics of Mutuality

One of these senior business leaders was Jay Jakub of the Mars Corporation who shared a great deal about the corporation’s thinking on the economics of mutuality. Jakub began by noting that if you want to make money for a year you ask one set of questions, but if you want to make money for 100 years you ask different questions. The 100-year questions revolve around mutuality and sustainability, and challenge the purely profit-driven approach to business rooted in Milton Friedman’s economic theory.

A Triple Bottom Line

To summarize the in-depth presentation we heard, Mars is aggressively piloting and pursuing a Triple Bottom Line approach to business and economics.  While a single bottom line approach is the norm in most business—particularly within publicly traded companies—Mars and other corporations are growing in also taking the bottom line of people and planet seriously as well. Taking profit, planet, and people seriously in the corporate environment means identifying and implementing metrics to measure performance in all three bottom line variables of People, Planet, and Profit.

Triple-Bottom-Line

The Triple Bottom Line & The Economics of Mutuality

Myopic Economics

Economic approaches that isolate only one of these variables will err. A profit-only approach to business burdens people and damages the environment. A planet-only approach to business often is unsustainable because it is not profitable, and because the lack of sustainability will not serve people. A People-only approach sounds helpful, but often lacks environmental consciousness and likely will fail in the long run due to an absence of profitability.

Holistic Economics

The key insight I took away from this interaction with Jay Jakub is to pursue business economics in a holistic manner. Pursuing only one bottom line priority is myopic (People, Planet, OR Profit) and is driven by short term questions in pursuit of short term solutions. In contrast to a myopic and short term approach, pursuing the Triple Bottom Line of People, Planet, and Profit leads to a business economic model that is bearable, equitable, viable, and ultimately sustainable.

I’m hopeful that Mars and many other companies will make a successful transition from the single bottom line to the triple bottom in the next decade. Societal, economic, and human flourishing in our world under God’s care will benefit greatly from such transformation!