Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

The Dangers of Leading a Turnaround

Written by Dr Steven Goodwin. Posted in Leadership

Samuari StatueThere is an old Samurai tradition that admonishes warriors that, before battle, they must “accept their own death.” Only in this acceptance can they be fully present for the battle. Accepting the reality that one might die makes that warrior fearless and thus more likely to survive. The same is true for the would-be turnaround leader.

Lest you think I am making an unequal comparison, let me remind of you of Machiavelli who said in The Prince, “And it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”

Of course, turnaround leaders are not likely to actually die, but they may experience the death of their careers. Yes, being a turnaround leader is that dangerous to one’s career, which is why so few willingly accept such assignments. It is also why so many careers have been either damaged or destroyed as a result.

All that being said however, I personally am still drawn to turnaround leadership. It has been my life’s work to rebuild worthy organizations that have stumbled, but which have enormous potential to return to greatness and thereby significantly make this a better world. I have spent years researching the nature of turnarounds and their leaders to try to understand, to find patterns, insights, and resources to launch more turnaround leaders. In all this one truth shines through everything: turnaround leadership is dangerous and should not be undertaken lightly.

My advice to you who lead: carefully, even prayerfully, assess whether you are up to the task of being a turnaround leader. If you are, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, in a position where you are called upon to lead a turnaround, my singular advice to you is to seek out an expert coach in this field. Leading a turnaround is unlike any other successful leadership endeavor. And . . . it is far more dangerous!

Strategic Planning for Leadership

Written by Dr Steven Goodwin. Posted in Leadership

  • Meeting2

  • Meeting, 2 People
  • Meeting, Standing
  • Meeting, Wall

Strategic Planning for Leadership

Strategic planning is all the rage. Turn the page on your favorite business or professional journal and you are likely to come across a reference to strategic planning, if not discover a full-blown article on the subject. Some will tout the merits of strategic planning with the implicit demand that every top-flight organization will, of course, have one, while in the next journal another author argues that strategic plans are rarely followed and therefore are not worth the time and energy to produce.

They are both right. Strategic plans can be produce revolutionary transformation in your organization both by aligning your team by virtue of a concerted process and by producing a universal game plan. Strategic plans also tend to sit on the shelf once completed and never see the light of day.
If you wish to ensure that your strategic planning effort achieves that level of transformative power you aspire to while at the same time minimizing the chances that your plan goes unused, then build into it a “strategic plan for leadership development.” Let me explain what I mean.

The overwhelming presumption about leadership in Western culture is that leadership is just something that one either has or does not have. Organizations operationalize this assumption both in their hiring process, as they seek the magical, fully formed leader, or when they simply demand their current managers “just step up.” Both perpetuate the myth of the born leader. Instead, we know that leadership is an acquired skill, one that must be as carefully studied, practiced, and mastered as any other human skill. Thus, your strategic plan should not fail to contain an intentional plan for how you will develop the leadership capacity and mastery to achieve its vision for mission. No matter your strategy, a new level of leadership will be required. Why not then weave into the very fabric of the plan itself a well-crafted plan to grow your leaders?

In this way, at the conclusion of your strategic planning, you will have both a Strategy and a clear Plan to get there!


Watch Your Language

Written by Dr Steven Goodwin. Posted in Leadership

Conversation, Laughter, Small

Language is one of the primary tools of culture. Language is not solely a product of our minds; it also acts upon us, shaping our thinking and our behavior. It is therefore one of the primary tools used by leaders to not only direct their teams and subordinates, but also to shape the organizational culture in which their work is performed. The language used by leaders conveys so much more than instructions on what needs doing and how to do it. It values, emotion, purpose, urgency, morality, relationship, and so much, much more.

Given the significance of language to the function of leadership, it therefore behooves leaders to “watch your language.” Here I do not mean the use of foul language, though such inarticulate speech has no place in polite or, for that matter, any other kind of company. Rather, I mean that leaders do well to be constantly aware that the language they use shapes the culture of the organization just a surely and steadily as the Colorado River continues to carve the Grand Canyon.

First, leaders need pay attention to their own language. Never describe someone as a “problem employee” or as a “difficult person.” This language will drive you to treat another human being as you would a logistical problem. This devalues them; it dehumanizes them. It may seem like pure semantics to change this phrase around to say “an employee who is causing me problems,” but there is more at stake than semantics. Language used in this way will change the way you confront the issue. ‘People First” language, that is, language that puts the human being first in the clause followed by the modifier, forces you to think about the other as another human being. This formulation of your words will drive you to empathetically approach the other person. It will remind you to invite that person to help you solve your problem with their actions or behavior. A small change makes a big difference.

In addition to paying attention to their own language use, great leaders also listen carefully to the language used around them. Language casually used by co-workers and subordinates can signal a myriad of undercurrents in the organization. For example, when work units start to describe themselves as “second floor” people as opposed to workers on other floors, you can take this as a clue that a silo might have formed. Every time such language is used the mental walls of the silo are fortified. Or, as another example, pay particular attention to pronouns. The pronouns used in workplace conversation can indicate the mental division of the world into “us” and “them.” When you hear such language used, you know that you need to do more to lead and manage with your language so that everyone is rowing in the same direction. Work consciously to substitute entire team language or refer to the organization’s values, mission, and vision as the goal. In this way, you will be constructing an aligned culture that will always out-produce a diffused or confused culture.

So this week at work, keep a log of the language you use and the language you hear around you. Then, over a cup of coffee late on Friday afternoon, take some time to analyze what all these words and conversations have to signal about your organization.