Friday, October 29, 2010

Powerful Metaphor for Leadership

In a string quartet, all four musicians are trained to move certain ways for technical reasons specific to their type of instrument to produce the perfect note (sound). For example, let's consider the cellist. The cellist is hunched-over their instrument, head-down, making jerky, distracting movements (they are connected to themselves as cellists). Isolated, this behavior negatively impacts the other three musicians because the cellist's movements are distracting, it's difficult to make eye-contact, etc... What would happen if the cellist modified her behavior to allow a better connection with the other musicians? This is leading from the inside-out.

Additionally, what each musician predominantly hears (in this case the cellist) is the sound of their own instrument. What they hear is their reality only (cello music). What if the cellist practiced exercises to help them develop an "ear" for the other musicians' instruments while playing? This is leading from the inside-out.

Leading from the inside-out means being connected to yourself (cellist knowing themself) and then connecting to the quartet. For example, the cellist thinks about what they need to do to generate confidence, clarity and focus and then modifying to connect to the quartet is leading from the inside-out. The contract comes last.

What it is not is what most of us do today. We operate as part of a quartet first. The contract between the musicians comes before the relationship (for example - traditional project agreement vs. an Integrated Project Delivery agreement) and before each musician is connected with themselves.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Another Example of Self-Absorption

In the Fast Company Article - "Robots are Changing the Future of Telecommuting" the case presented is that "bots" are the next evolution of staying connected. Wake-up. This is not the direction we need to go.

Increased connectivity equals less presence (especially presence of mind). Instead of continuing to hurtle forward into the awareness abyss, we need to "do a 180" by removing the ear buds from our ears, practice paying more attention to what's going-on around us and stop doing too many things for too many people.

Have you ever been at the gym waiting to use an exercise machine and the ear-bud-studded person camped-out on it has no clue you are there and they are being inconsiderate? What about the couple sitting on the picnic blanket across from you at the outdoor jazz concert? You notice the husband and wife playing "dueling iphones" communicating with colleagues in another time zone while there's a beautiful evening and great music to enjoy (not to mention, each other's company). Lastly, what sense does it make to have multiple email addresses, answer mail, email, text and telephone calls, have accounts on Linked-In, Facebook, Twitter, u-Tube, ad nauseum...

Self-absorption = inward-focused, distracted easily and "too busy" all the time.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Facilitation Golden Rule - Create "Raw Material" for Innovation

I was facilitating a "user group" for a client this morning. They were looking for product innovation. The user group submitted a list of requests to my client of product enhancements they wanted. These users weren't enthusiastic about "digging-up, dusting-off or uncovering" innovative ideas by asking questions around these product enhancement requests. They want the client to "just do it."

My reaction? How can you expect a different result (product innovation) by doing the same thing you always do (submit list of product enhancements)? Don't you have to generate some additional "raw material" to work with to help generate a different result?

Three ways to generate "raw material" for innovation:
  • Start at the result you are looking for and "work backwards," step by step to the present issue.

  • Add "who, what, if, because and how" to the issue (this tool is called the strategic inquiry tool).

  • Write a few sentences (up to a paragraph) of what it looks like when the objective is achieved (this is called a "future pace" letter). What does extraordinarily successful look like?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Definition of a Thought Leader

1. A person/firm that focuses on a particular industry (e.g. construction) or body of knowledge that reaches across industries (e.g. coaching) on a distinct topic (dramatically building builders or creating lasting behavior change in senior-level executives).
2. Generates innovative ideas and is often a contrarian.
3. Continues to add to an already impressive body of work around a distinct topic.
4. Sought-out and quoted by others.
5. The world recognizes that the person/firm deeply understands its business, the needs of its clients/industry and the larger market in which it operates.

Monday, October 18, 2010

What's remarkable about Marshall Goldsmith?

Marshall Goldsmith is widely considered to be the preiminent executive coach in the U.S. I was one of a small group of 13 people to spend time with him last week in Palm Beach, Florida discussing Thought Leadership.

Here are reasons why Marshall is a Thought Leader:
  • All of his intellectual property is free for anyone to use (his coaching model, his articles, his videos, etc...).
  • He doesn't charge his coaching clients unless they achieve results.
  • His value proposition fits on a t-shirt and his most important job is client selection.

He is the opposite of what most people do which helps him stand-out in a crowd.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Safety professionals are specifically trained to keep their eyes on their surroundings at all times in order to act on what they see. If their eyes are down, they cannot be aware of what's going-on around them. If their eyes are up they can detect smoke from a building in the distance, observe a person's suspicious behavior as they go around a corner or notice a sudden change in the weather and do something with the information.

Keeping your eyes-up is not as easy as it seems. Try keeping your eyes-up when you are with family and friends. Tougher still, try keeping your attention on strangers just a few seconds longer than you are accustomed. What do you experience? What additional information do you gather?

If 70% - 90% of communication is non-verbal, it makes sense to practice keeping your eyes-up longer and increase the chance of learning something you would normally miss whether words are involved or not.

If this request feels awkward or takes effort, you are benefiting. When you start to learn as much from what you see as what you hear from others you have gained competency.

What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, October 7, 2010

There's Always Hope

Next time you feel overwhelmed or stuck, use this four-question tool to regain your momentum.

1. What outcome do I want to improve and why did I select that outcome?
2. Who do I need to influence in order to improve that outcome?
3. What do I need to influence them to think about?
4.How am I going to influence them? What leadership approaches am I going to use in an attempt to effectively influence what these people think about?

Thanks to my colleague, Dan Coughlin for these questions.