Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Fixed or Growth, What's in your mindset?

I have posited in earlier posts that learning and adapting are key and essential elements of quiet leadership. The hypothesis of an earlier post, It's All About Learning, Part Deux is, "Highly effective, remarkable leaders must be continuous, lifelong learners."

This week, I was introduced to the work of Carol Dweck, professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Her work brain development and learning further validates the importance of learning to success. The short video will give you an introduction to her work.

In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck identifies two mindsets, i.e. fixed and growth, that impact and influence people's success.

1. People with a fixed mindset believe that talents and abilities are fixed. You are rationed an amount and those are the cards you are dealt.

2. People with the growth mindset believe that talents and abilities are developed through education, work, passion, and persistence.

It seems like a simple concept to suggest that people with an openness to learning have greater success and the research of Dweck and others bears this out. It's a pretty simple concept and straightforward relationship.

What can the leader do to increase learning? It appears that encouragement and coaching can have an impact. One study of student achievement by Dweck and others compared the student results across two groups who were learning study skills. The control group received only the standard study skills training. The experimental group received the study skills training and were also taught, "how they could learn to be smart—describing the brain as a muscle that became stronger the more it was used." The skills improvement in the experimental group exceeded the improvement in the control group suggesting that the perception that a person has about their ability to learn impacts learning.

My simple interpretation of the research for leaders is to coach, mentor, encourage, and create opportunities for learning for yourself and the people around you. You are hoping to avoid mindset "lock down" and foster the growth mindset for greater success. Again, it seems that it is "All about learning."

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

What leaders really do.

I was inspired this past week with a new body of work when I discovered an insightful Harvard Business Review article and an extended body of work by former Harvard professor John Kotter.

Thanks to Jim Estill, CEO of SYNNEX Canada in his CEO Blog - Time Leadership blog for facilitating this discovery with his summary of the Harvard Business Review article, What Leaders Really Do.

In the HBR article, Kotter reflects on the difference between management and leadership. Although this topic is frequently explored as verified by a quick Google search, I appreciated a number of Kotter's insights on the role of leadership in a "managed" organization.

So what do leaders do:

They don't make plans; they don't even organize people. What leaders really do is prepare organizations for change and help them cope as they struggle through it.

Leadership isn't mystical and mysterious. It has nothing to do with having "charisma"or other exotic personality traits. It is not the province of a chosen few.

Leadership ... is about coping with change. More change always demands more leadership.

Since the function of leadership is to produce change, setting the direction of that change is fundamental to leadership. Setting direction is never the same as planning or even long-term planning.

The more that change characterizes the business environment, the more that leaders must motivate people to provide leadership as well. When this works, it tends to reproduce leadership across the entire organization, with people occupying multiple leadership roles throughout the hierarchy. This is highly valuable, because coping with change in any complex business demands initiatives from a multitude of people. Nothing less will work.

But perhaps the most aha moment for me started with this Kotter quote, "Most U.S. corporations today are overmanaged and underled." The organization that over focuses on budgets, plans, forecast and organization may miss the mark. I found his military analogy, written in 1991 before the Iraq war, very insightful,
Consider a simple military analogy:
A peacetime army can usually survive with good administration and management up and down the hierarchy, coupled with good leadership concentrated at the very top. A wartime army, however, needs competent leadership at all levels. No one yet has figured out how to manage people effectively into battle; they must be led.
The Kotter article is highly recommended for quiet leaders.

Thank for reading. Please lead quietly.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

And you thought leadership was hard.

Leadership doesn't have to be difficult. I have been studying, exploring, and communicating this hypothesis during the past few months. You might recall my simple strategies for building community using smiles, gratitude, and giving.

This past week while exploring for new quiet leadership insight, I encountered Dee Hock and the 60 Second PhD in Leadership.

My first encounter was a YouTube leadership video by Tom Peters where he quotes Dee Hock. I think the video is 90 seconds well spent.

I wasn't familiar with Dee Hock so I "Googled" and found the The 60 Second PhD in Leadership. I appreciated the simplicity as conveyed by the founder and former CEO of VISA.

1. Make a list of all things done to you that you abhorred.
3. Make another list of things done to you that you loved.
This sentiment is brilliant but like many explorations, one discovery leads to another.

More from Dee Hock

The Google search also led me to a nice biography of Dee Hock the founder of Visa on the FastcCompany site in an article entitled, The Trillion-Dollar Vision of Dee Hock.

An interesting, albeit more complicated, insight from this article is related to organization. The insight was particularly relevant to me.

I work in an environment where focus on structure, organization, governance, budget, resources and funding seems to dominate the attention of our team. From this perspective, a Dee Hock quote in the Fast Company article was compelling,
The better an organization is, the less obvious it is. In Visa, we tried to create an invisible organization and keep it that way. It's the results, not the structure or management that should be apparent.
Our team got 15 seconds of attention this past week on great results in saving a client relationship through some last minute development adjustments.

Certainly, there was more than 15 seconds of effort during the days before. But interestingly during this effort, not once was there a question about estimates, funding, business requirements, project management, or process on this effort. Not once did any body ask who was going to fund this effort. Despite these organizational "deficits" the mission was accomplished and well done. The team seized the opportunity to just perform.

Once the fifteen seconds of accolades were over, we resumed our normal organizational processes where questions of estimates, priorities, funding, forecasts, and governance dominated much of the project discussion and effort. Is this they way things should be?

It's a rhetorical question but this led me to another Dee Hock topic to explore, that is, the notion of chaordic systems. The Wikipedia definition is a system that blends characteristics of chaos and order.

I'll leave this exploration for another post but I'm pretty intrigued that we as a team had this remarkable ability to self-direct and excel when the conditions were right. Why couldn't this be the norm? Anyone else with chaordic experience? I'm looking for comment and insight.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Building Community: Thank you, as a way of leading.

Gratitude is an easy and remarkably powerful step in building the type of community that is essential for successful teams. As I have written before, "Building community is hard. However, it is easy to start quietly and simply with thanks and smiles.

The power of gratitude was twice validated for me this past week.

First, I'd invite everyone to read the wonderful work of Rosa Say. I have employed Rosa's insight several times in the past including, 12 Rules for Leadership and It's All About Learning.

This week, her Managing with Aloha Coaching blog introduced me to the concept of "mahalo" which means thankful living. The most striking suggestion for a quiet leader is,

Say “thank you” often; speak of your appreciation and it will soften the tone of your voice, giving it richness, humility and fullness.

My second validation on the power of gratitude occurred this week during a family member's hospital stay. Nurses and care givers in any health care setting are asked to do a lot. Their role in recovery is huge and the responsibility ranges from comfort to advocacy, from medicine to management.

I had many opportunities this past week to look a nurse or care giver directly in the eye and say "thank you."

No two response were the same, but the power of the phrase was clear. In one case, my perception was that amidst the pain, groaning, expectations, and entitlement, gratitude wasn't expressed very often. In another case, the response led to a "I love nursing" conversation. In a third case the response suggested the partnership between patient and nurse. The responses, although varied, will forever etch the power of gratitude in my mind.

My suggestion to leaders; leverage this wonderful power. Look at your team members or coworkers directly in the eye and say thank you. I believe you'll instantly realize the power of gratitude.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.