Getting to More Without Settling for Less

SCALING UP EXCELLENCE

How to Scale Up Faster and Farther

Most companies have “pockets of excellence,” according to Stanford University professors Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao — units, departments or subsidiaries where people perform at the highest levels and generate the best results in the organization. The problem that bedevils many leaders, however, is how to spread that excellence throughout the company — what is known to practitioners as “scaling” or “scaling up.” In their new book, Scaling Up Excellence, Sutton and Rao describe five principles required to scale up the excellence.

  1. Hot Causes, Cool Solutions. This first principle involves the debate on what comes first: changing the mindset and beliefs of the people in the organization (hot causes) or making people change their behaviors whether they believe in the cause or not. The authors argue that either order can work.
  2. Cut the Cognitive Load. Scaling up requires new actions, new processes and new learnings, and sometimes employees can get overwhelmed by all that is new. The authors recommend that organizations that are scaling up look not only to add” but to “subtract” as well. Limit the bureaucracy whenever possible. Find the old processes or old structures that are no longer needed in the new scaled-up organization.
  3. The People Who Propel Scaling. “People propel scaling,” as the authors put it, and that first means having the right people with the right skills doing the right      things. Hiring the right people, however, is just the beginning. No matter how talented your employees, scaling up doesn’t work unless they are accountable: that is, they are compelled to work in the organization’s best interest.
  4. Connect People and Cascade Excellence. Connecting people is also key to spreading the excellence. Diversity plays a role: The more departments, functions, locations and positions on the organization’s ladder are represented, the greater the reach of the scaling-up effort.
  5. Bad Is Stronger Than Good. Because they will have much more impact than any positive actions, it is essential to prevent and eliminate any and all destructive attitudes, beliefs and behaviors from the organization, according to the authors.      Lesson number one: Nip it in the bud.

Each of the principles are supported and illustrated through a variety of case studies and academic research. In addition, the authors offer a specific and detailed list of practical how-tos to instill the principles in an organization. For example, among the seven ways to ensure the talent and accountability required for successful scaling up (principle three) are squelching free riders and bringing in guilt-prone leaders — those who will feel guilty for putting their needs above the needs of those they lead.

Catholicism vs. Buddhism

One of the key questions that leaders of scaling-up initiatives will need to ask themselves is whether or not one size fits all. The authors call this the Catholicism (replicating tried-and-true practices throughout the organization) vs. Buddhism (having a guiding mindset but adapting the practices to fit local conditions). There is no right or wrong answer. Leaders, however, will need to figure out which path is best as they launch their initiatives.

Based on what they call a “seven-year conversation” that included combing through hundreds of academic studies, conducting detailed case studies as well as targeted interviews, and presenting emerging ideas to a wide range of business audiences, Scaling Up Excellence is a definitive guide on one of the key paths to organizational success.

Keeping Business Simple

Checklists are a modest way to reduce failure, ensure consistency, and safeguard comprehensiveness. We use checklists to do the grocery shopping or to plan a weekend project. What if there was a checklist for running a successful business?

Jim Kerr provides an “executive checklist” for those dealing with the extreme complexities and challenges of the 21st century business world.

  1. Establish Leadership – the foundation for change.
  2. Build Trust – a vital component for enduring achievement.
  3. Strategy Setting – translating vision into action.
  4. Engage Staff – the way to gain support and accelerate success.
  5. Manage Work through Projects – a means to strategic alignment.
  6. Renovate the Business – a way to become “of choice.”
  7. Align Technology – it’s at the core of all we do.
  8. Transform Staff – the people part of enterprise-wide change.
  9. Renew Communications Practices – transparency improves performance.
  10. Reimagine the Organization – the expressway to the future.

To learn more about this checklist, how it works and how to use it, join us for our Soundview Live webinar with Jim Kerr on April 10th, entitled A Guide for Setting Direction & Managing Change. Put this eventon your must-do checklist.

Book Review: Focus

by Daniel Goleman

by Daniel Goleman

When a pioneer in any field returns with a new piece of thought leadership, whether written or spoken, the eyes and ears of the business world instinctively turn to see and hear. Daniel Goleman, former New York Times science reporter and multiple-bestselling author, changed the landscape of management with his book Emotional Intelligence (EQ). Goleman returns now with a book that has the potential to rival his previous peak. In Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, Goleman coaches readers on the need to strengthen a trait that like a muscle can indicate just how well we can lift a figurative load. This book is now available as a Soundview Executive Book Summary.

Goleman begins Focus by helping readers understand the anatomy of attention. Of particular interest is his discussion of the bottom-up and top-down minds. The bottom-up mind works faster and is involuntary and automatic, while the top-down mind is, as Goleman writes, “the seat of self-control, which can (sometimes) overpower automatic routines and mute emotionally driven impulses.” The interplay between these two sections of the brain is critical to understanding mental toughness and, perhaps more importantly, mental tiredness.

The overarching theme that focus is a mental muscle serves as a powerful metaphor that will help the material stick with readers. Focus moves through subjects such as self-awareness, reading others, and smart practice in ways that offer new, thought-provoking views. As with Emotional Intelligence, Goleman has found a way to turn the complexity of human behavior into an engaging read with practical takeaways. Focus will help keep any executive razor sharp.

The #1 Rule for Real Leaders

WALK THE WALK

The Power of Doing What You Say You Will

People who become leaders have many options. One way a leader can lead is by becoming a ruler. Machiavellian leaders who rule tell people what to do, and intimidate, coerce or bully them into compliance. Other leaders ask their followers to help them sustain business as usual, often with declining results. Another type of leader simply holds his or her position until somebody else comes along to mop up the mess.

Finally, there is the true leader. This leader, whose attributes are described in detail in author Alan Deutschman’s latest book Walk the Walk, is the powerful person who does exactly what he or she says he or she will do. A leader who doesn’t just talk the talk but walks the walk is somebody who stands up to opposing forces by following the values and belief systems that he or she described while rising to the top position in the organization.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

At the beginning of Walk the Walk, Deutschman describes an elegant example of a leader who embodies the quality that he illuminates throughout his book: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Not only did King preach a nonviolent approach as the best way to end the inequality suffered by African-Americans in the United States, but when called to task, he lived the beliefs that he spoke about in his speeches.

Deutschman describes a day in September 1962 when King was speaking before a crowd in Birmingham, Alabama. While talking to about 300 black civil rights leaders at the annual national gathering of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a 24-year-old neo-Nazi stepped up to the podium and punched King in the face. He then proceeded to pummel the civil rights leader with his fists. Instead of defending himself and returning the man’s blows, King dropped his arms to his sides, demonstrating how somebody who chooses nonviolence should act when encountering a violent response.

When King’s followers in the audience rushed to his defense, King told them not to touch his attacker. King followed the words he had been preaching all along. He showed his constituents how to turn the other cheek. When King did this, he served as an example to his followers of how they should act when involved in their own struggles for fairness and freedom. By doing so, King walked the walk, embodying the rule that Deutschman writes is the singular quality that separates those who truly lead from those who only claim to lead.

Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos

Throughout his book, Deutschman offers dozens of colorful examples from a variety of professions to show readers how this quality manifests itself in a multitude of ways. For example, he describes the actions that allowed Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon.com, to become one of the most admired leaders in the world. Early in his life as a leader of Amazon, Bezos said that his main priorities were his company’s customers and its long-term success. Defying the Wall Street analysts who were looking for shorter-term results, Bezos grew his company slowly while creating an infrastructure that never wavered from his original goals. Today, Deutschman explains, Bezos is a leader among leaders whose success is a direct result of his ability to walk the walk.

Part of Bezos’ success, Deutschman writes, comes from one of the crucial ways that a leader who walks the walk can stay on track. To do this, he writes, “you reveal the ranking of your values.” For King, his two values were nonviolence and equality. When he refused to strike back at his attacker, he showed that nonviolence was what Deutschman calls “his paramount value for the movement that he led.” When Bezos refused to remove several customer-centric applications that he installed on his Web site to improve the value that they get from their interactions with his company, he demonstrated his “first virtues” of customer-centricity and a long-term focus.

Many powerful examples like these fill Walk the Walk. Deutschman’s ability to tell stories filled with highly pertinent details make his latest book a compelling inroad to the most important attributes that a leader can embody. Using the techniques described by Deutschman, leaders can take the necessary steps to find their way to organizational success.

How is Your Leadership “Health”?

Too often, people consider intelligence or experience or other qualities, such as connections and who you know, to be the secret to successful leadership. These qualities are essential, no doubt about it. However, they are just parts of the bigger picture. “Health” is the key word here, and one that many leaders overlook.

There are six forces working against leaders as they seek to move their company’s forward:

  • The speed of change
  • Impermanence
  • Demands for transparency
  • Complexity
  • Intense competition
  • And a new world order of global interconnectedness.

Bob Rosen, author of Grounded, proposes a new approach that’s designed for actual humans who must grapple with the forces of today’s unpredictable world. This new paradigm speaks to our better selves. Based on the author’s Healthy Leader model, it focuses on the six personal dimensions that fuel—and refuel—the world’s top leaders: physical, emotional, intellectual, social, vocational, and spiritual health.

Bob has personally interviewed over 350 CEOs—in 45 countries—in organizations as diverse as Ford, Motorola, Johnson & Johnson, Singapore Airlines, Brinks, Northrop Grumman, Toyota, Citigroup, PepsiCo, ING, and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Bob has distilled his most critical findings into the Healthy Leadership Model, which shows leaders at every level how to further develop six specific dimensions of themselves for greater impact.

If you would like to learn more about how you can bring health into your life and leadership, join us on April 3rd for our Soundview Live webinar How Leaders Stay Grounded, when we will talk with Bob Rosen about what it means to be grounded.