How Organizations, Teams, and Communities Raise Performance

FROM SCHOOLS TO BEER AND MUCH MORE

Emotional and spiritual uplift, write authors Andy Hargreaves, Alan Boyle and Alma Harris in Uplifting Leadership, is at the heart of effective leadership. “It raises people’s hopes, stirs up their passions, and stimulates their intellect and imagination,” they write. But there’s also a social and community component to uplifting people – helping people to rise above difficult circumstances, to raise their prospects, the authors write. And combining all this emotional, spiritual and social power, uplifting leaders can help people improve their performance and results, inspiring them to do better than ever before and outperform their opponents.

Both Soft and Hard

According to the authors, the process of uplifting leadership involves six interrelated factors. “Each of these factors,” the authors explain, “also exhibits some inner tensions between what people conventionally consider to be “soft” and “hard” parts of leadership and management.”

Dreaming with Determination. The uplifting journey begins by defining a dream, but that depends on determination to overcome the inevitable setbacks.

Creativity and Counterflow. Uplifting leadership inspires creativity that often goes against the mainstream.

Collaboration with Competition. Part of the counterintuitive approach of uplifting leadership is the willingness to collaborate with actual and potential competitors.

Pushing and Pulling. Team members are going to push each to accomplish more, to meet above-normal expectations. But they will also support each other, helping those who have fallen down or behind, as they are all united by a common purpose.

Measuring with Meaning. As the authors write, “Uplifting leadership makes extensive use of data to manage and monitor progress but also uses data intelligently in ways that fit the values of the organization – and that are meaningful to and genuinely owned by the people who work there.”

Sustainable Success. Uplifting leaders are focused on success, but at the same time they want that success to be sustainable.

The authors are academics and consultants in the field of education policy, and several examples involve the amazing turnaround of school districts and education systems in the U.S., U.K. and Finland. For example, the school district of Hackney, a northeast London borough and one of the most disadvantaged communities in England, makes a compelling case for the power of collaboration with competitors. Taken over by a nonprofit company, the district is divided into the U.K. equivalent of charter schools. The charter schools are not independent islands, however, but work closely together so that students in all schools succeed. The authors detail how the experience of one successful principal taking over a second school that was failing evolved into a system of school-to-school networks called federations.

The authors move beyond education for most of the detailed case studies that pack their chapters. One example is of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, one of the most successful craft breweries in the U.S. Dogfish exemplifies counterintuitive creativity through its decision to put ingredients in its ales that, write the authors, “were inconceivable in mainstream beers.” The brewery also collaborated with one of its major competitors to create an alternative beer. Finally, Dogfish illustrates the foresight of sustainable success, having refused venture capital to avoid too much debt.

The authors present an inspiring picture of leadership. It all starts with a dream, but success is built on hard work, determination and the courage to do the unexpected.

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Book Review: Elevate

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by Rich Horwath

Every leader and manager in business wants to be known as strategic and be able to execute good strategy. However, more than half of all companies say that strategic thinking is the skill their senior leaders most need to improve. In Elevate, strategy expert Rich Horwath provides leaders and managers an approach that will drive results for both the short- and long-term. This book is now available as a Soundview Executive Book Summary.

As Horwath writes, “Using the lens of new value on the ideas, projects, initiatives and tactics proposed each day provides a powerful filter for eliminating meaningless activities. It forces you to more closely examine why things are being proposed and pursued instead of just what is to be done.” Horwath shares with leaders a powerful framework called the Three Disciplines of Advanced Strategic Thinking. His three-discipline approach breaks strategy down into its fundamentals: Coalesce, Compete and Champion. The first discipline coalesce means leaders must have the ability to blend together strategic insights into meaningful differentiated value. The second discipline, compete, which helps leaders gain motivation to try harder. Champion, the third discipline, means leaders have managed time, influenced others, and continually developed new skills, all critical to success. With this approach, you will gain a new way to strategic thinking that will elevate you from your competition.

You will also learn how to use a concrete framework to keep your career vital through innovation and inspiration. Most leaders think strategy and innovation are separate ideas, but when you combine them together you have a powerful tool to conquer any challenge. Your career depends on being strategic. With Elevate, executives will be able to practice strategic thinking daily to guide their business.

Nine Principles and Practices to Create a Wide-Awake and Productive Workplace

BRINGING FREUD BACK INTO THE WORKPLACE

The pendulum, according to Freudian psychologist Shelley Reciniello, has swung too far. So much emphasis is based on behavioral psychology – solving problems by changing behavior – that we have forgotten the impact that our subconscious can have on the world of work. In The Conscious Leader, Reciniello describes in detail that impact – and how leaders can overcome the damage that the subconscious can sometimes wreak when we least expect it.

Sabotage from the Subconscious

Why do the best-laid plans sometimes go unexpectedly wrong? Reciniello describes an investment bank that convinced a competitors’ leading trader to join its ranks. Unfortunately, the former ace was not just a failure at bringing in new business, but also proved to be a divisive influence.

What happened? For the head of the sales and trading division in the first example, she writes, “his unacknowledged fantasy was to relive his own younger, glory days through the ace.” Not satisfied with the caution and judgment of his team, he brings in a narcissistic and reckless individual who creates havoc instead of success.

Psychological Principles

To combat the insidious destruction of hidden feelings and motivations, Reciniello identifies in The Conscious Leader nine psychological phenomena, presented as psychological principles, that, like termites in the foundation of a home, can quietly undermine the best intentioned people, projects and actions and send everything suddenly crashing to the ground.

The first principle is that, Reciniello writes, “human beings are not rational, and every day their illogical unconscious minds are walking into offices with hidden agendas.” People have hidden agendas and secret motivations. This is the first and overarching phenomenon in the workplace: the subconscious exists and will create problems. The antidote to the negative impact of the “unconscious life of your company,” in Reciniello’s terms, is to “make the unconscious conscious, and build a culture of conscious awareness” by looking behind the curtain (what you see is not what you get); listening deeply; becoming comfortable with not knowing; asking “why” even if it makes you feel vulnerable; and letting other people ask “why” without retribution.

After looking at the organization as a whole, Reciniello then focuses on the leader. Her second psychological principle is, “Self-delusion is the single biggest trap for a leader.” While leaders may be willing to believe that others in the organization are probably dealing with psychological issues that are impeding their success, Reciniello has found that these same leaders are blind to their own Achilles heels.

Another important principle is summarized as, “Everyone has preconceived notions of others, and these are largely unconscious.” Be aware of prejudices – and not only your own but also, as Reciniello demonstrates through stunning stories of prejudice and sabotage, the people in your organization charged with promoting diversity. A woman tasked with increasing the presence of women in a company’s executive ranks had actually, she writes, “made a career of being ‘the only woman’ and wanted to keep it that way.” While the other women in her company soon realized that she would do everything to stop their careers, the executives, all men, had no inkling of what was going on.

Among the other nine principles explored in this book are principles related to group thinking and gang rule; the family baggage that is brought to the workplace; the importance of dealing with conflict, anger and power; the recognition of defense mechanisms, the psychological impact of change; and the hard work and unrelenting focus needed to prevent bad habits from taking over again.

Don’t Forget Freud

Reciniello does not discount the contributions of behavioral psychology. Nor does she expect leaders to become psychoanalysts. “I am not asking you to psychoanalyze your employees,” she writes in a chapter on defense mechanisms. “You shouldn’t. But hopefully, you will begin to recognize defense mechanisms and target issues in yourself and in others, and how they may interact.” The greatest contribution of The Conscious Leader is this call to awareness, to become emotionally intelligent but on two the subconscious.

Book Review: The Purpose Economy

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by Aaron Hurst

Over the past decade in the American economy, many people have been turning their innovative ideas into big businesses. Millennials have been ignoring conventional career paths to start their own companies, freelance, or help our local communities. From these ventures, millennials feel a great deal of purpose in their careers. In The Purpose Economy, entrepreneur Aaron Hurst, points out that purpose is the new driver in the American economy. This book is now available as a Soundview Executive Book Summary.

As Hurst writes, “The Purpose Economy describes the new context and set of ways in which people and organizations are focused on creating value, and it defines the organizing principle for innovation and growth. It is an economy where value lies in establishing purpose for employees and customers — through serving needs greater than their own, enabling personal growth and building community.” Hurst presents to us the three types of purpose that represent the needs the Purpose Economy addresses: personal purpose, social purpose, and societal purpose.

The Purpose Economy also offers insight on how to achieve and manage purpose for yourself and your organization. Hurst writes that before you can create purpose, you must first be self-aware. The first approach to maintaining purpose is task-focused purpose, meaning that you first need to overcome task-related challenges. The other approaches include impact-focused by seeing how your work impacts others, focus on your own identity, and financial drivers of purpose. Readers will also learn how other companies are creating value and purpose within their businesses. The Purpose Economy will help not only build a successful organization but also human-centered markets to create purpose for employees and customers alike.

How to Think Like an Entrepreneur and Thrive in an Unpredictable Economy

OWN YOUR FUTURE

Don’t Have a Career Plan!
In the past, long-standing, respected, industry-leading companies might disappear due to competition from nimble upstarts; today, as author Paul Brown describes in the early pages of Own Your Future, it is entire industries that keep unexpectedly and jarringly disappearing: “Been to a music store lately? Drop off any photos to be processed? Used a pay phone? … Used a travel agent to book a routine vacation? Probably not.”

What does this mean for building careers? It means, according to Brown, that career plans are often useless. If you were an associate marketing manager for TomTom and had a plan to work up to regional manager and, some day, director of marketing, those plans ended when the unthinkable happened to the stand-alone GPS market: car manufacturers started including them in their cars. The same holds true for the ambitious low-level manager at Blockbuster.

The bottom line, according to Brown, is simple: don’t have a career plan! Brown has a better idea for dealing with the uncertainty of today’s world: a methodology known as ALBR.

What Serial Entrepreneurs Do

Nobody knows more about uncertainty, writes Brown, than serial entrepreneurs. Launching a company is always an exercise in terrifying uncertainty: Will my products or services attract customers? Will they be willing to pay the price that I need them to pay? Serial entrepreneurs – those who are always looking for the next business to start -thrive on such uncertainty. And for that reason, he writes, thinking like a serial entrepreneur is the best way to succeed in an uncertain economy.

Writing with Charles Kiefer and Leonard Schlesinger, his collaborators on his previous book Just Start, Brown describes in Own Your Future the path that serial entrepreneurs take as they launch their latest business.

  1. Serial entrepreneurs set out to do what they want to do. Passion is a word that is sometimes overused. Indeed, not every company launched by a serial entrepreneur was based on a passion. But at the very least, there was desire: serial entrepreneurs start companies doing something they want to do.
  2. Serial entrepreneurs act. Serial entrepreneurs don’t spend decades pondering an idea. No company was thought into being. But when they do act, they take a small step toward their goal. They don’t overcommit. They don’t risk everything. And they don’t become paralyzed by thoughts of “what if ” or “what might happen.”
  3. Serial entrepreneurs learn. After taking the small step, they stop and see what they have learned from that small step. Is the market response suggesting a different course? Do they still have the desire to move forward, or do they think they would like to do something else?
  4. Serial entrepreneurs build on what they’ve learned. After taking a small step and pausing and reflecting on that small step, they use the lessons of the first step to develop the next step.
  5. With the next step, they start the process all over again. Brown summarizes the process as Act, Learn, Build, Repeat – or ALBR. According to Brown, ALBR is the methodology that serial entrepreneurs use to deal with the endless uncertainty of launching new companies, the methodology that in Just Start helped organizations deal with uncertainty and, in Own Your Future, the methodology that will help individuals build successful careers no matter what their job.

The power of ALBR is that it turns career planning on its head. Instead of imagining the perfect job of the future and then figuring out how to get there, through ALBR you slowly create your dream job. This is a vital difference for the simple fact that the perfect job of the future on which you have set your sights may suddenly disappear from the horizon.

Own Your Future is a career and success book that, unlike many others in its category, is adapted to today’s realities. Brown and his coauthors are not afraid to dispute some of the most basic advice often seen in other books. (e.g., the oft-repeated maxim that if you do what you love, the money will follow is false; the money may not follow). From overcoming obstacles and choosing between love and money to how to act entrepreneurially without starting a company, Own Your Future is packed with advice and keen insight for those looking for their next job… which should be everybody.