Archive for February, 2011

Getting Naked

25 Feb

What a title for a business/leadership book. But it hooked me . . . and it was a great read.

Patrick Lencioni, who authors a number of similarly formatted business/leadership books, does a masterful job articulating simple, yet profound, principles.

Lencioni spends most of the book telling an engaging story  (a business fable) that begins to unfold practical philosophies beneficial in business relationships. Getting Naked is no exception. He presents three fears that sabotage client loyalty.

Following is a brief summary.

“At its core, naked service boils down to the ability of a service provider to be vulnerable – to embrace uncommon levels of humility, selflessness, and transparency for the good of a client . . . as obvious as (this) may sound, it is more difficult than it seems, because humility and selflessness and transparency often entail suffering.”

Humility  . . .  selflessness  . . .  transparency. Not our favorite trio. It requires an expression that is contrary to ou need to survive, to make ourselves look good in the eyes of others. Yet, these attributes are extremely powerful because those with whom we are engaging realize we are more intent on ensuring their success than our own comfort.

Lencioni addresses three fears we must overcome:

  • the fear of losing business (or losing a position/job)
    • what people want more than anything is to know we are more interested in helping them succeed than we are in maintaining a revenue source.
  • the fear of being embarrassed
    • this is rooted in pride . . . not being willing to readily admit we don’t know it all.
  • the fear of feeling inferior
    • this is rooted in ego . . . wanting to preserve our sense of importance and social standing relative to others.

Getting naked . . . to be vulnerable with those with whom we live and work in order to build stronger relationships, demonstrate our trust in them, and inspire them to improve by being vulnerable themselves!


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Lost in Space: Organizational Design Agents

21 Feb

A 21st-century organization with a structural model designed for the 20th-century limits how well it can perform and creates massive unnecessary and unproductive complexity that frustrates employees and wastes money. It is the leader’s responsibility to redesign an organization that takes advantage of today’s sources of wealth creation; and, it isn’t easy. By redesigning an organization to marshal the ‘mind-power’ of its workforce and tap into its talents, knowledge, relationships, and skills, organizations help their people undertake more rewarding, productive work and create sources of new wealth and opportunity (Bryan,, 2007).

It is, therefore, the interaction between leader and employee and how the interaction transpires that affects organizational sustainability and competitiveness. Debbie Bigelow (2007) challenges leaders to recognize the power of business’ most valuable asset: people. Her model emphasizes relationship and the importance of acknowledging people as intellectual assets rather than the so-called “hard” assets of the Industrial Age.

Microsoft, for instance, emphasizes the importance of Bigelow’s assertion in their on-line People-Ready publication dated September 16, 2007.

“People drive business success. Human imagination creates the ideas that move business forward. Human conversations and human effort shape those ideas into products and services for the market. The unique ability of people to listen, respond, persuade, and think for themselves enables companies to sell effectively, serve their customers, and work together with their business partners in rich, satisfying ways that create lasting, high-value relationships.”

Leaders must actively recognize people as the most critical resource in any organization and create a common culture that aligns employees to a common goal while retaining the flexibility to alter its organizational design to meet the demands of a changing business environment (Overholt, no date).

Facing Change

Leaders who wish to benefit from more of the opportunities available to them now and in the future understand change is occurring and change is necessary. “You have a choice” is a statement most have heard many times. W. Edwards Deming once stated, “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” Deming’s statement is even more applicable today. Change is not an option if organizations want to survive. Strategic change is essential for organizations to maintain a sustainable competitive advantage. Leaders are the organization’s design change agents. They are responsible for translating theory into practice.

In some instances, organizational structure is confused with organizational design. Structure refers to the location of the decision-making power while design refers to the creation of roles, processes, and formal reporting relationships within an organization. Galbraith writes that design is a continuous process, not a single event, which involves a sequence of decisions. These  decisions include; strategy, structure, key processes, key people, roles and responsibilities, information systems, performance measures and rewards, training and development, and career paths (Galbraith, 2002).

Taking design theory and incorporating it into an organization is a ‘delicate dance/’ Change is typically disruptive, causes stress, evokes skepticism, can result in chronic instability, and distract management (Nadler, 1997). The larger and more complex an organization, the more potential there is for obstreperous behavior and chaos. As such, if people are the organization’s most valuable resource, it is incumbent upon leaders to incorporate transition management principles to minimize potential turmoil.

Managing Design Change

     Leadership Style

There are several approaches to studying change implementers but the most promising approach has come from transformational leadership since it has been explicitly defined around the concept of change. Transformational leaders operate by the higher-order needs of employees and ‘transform’ individual employees to make them more receptive to, and build capacity for, bringing about organizational change. To accomplish this, leaders articulate a clear vision for the future, foster the acceptance of group goals, communicate high-performance expectations, provide intellectual stimulation, model appropriate behavior, and display supportive leader behavior (Bommer et al, 2005).

Characteristic of transformational leadership is the implicit communication of the leader’s confidence in the employee’s ability to meet high performance expectations. As such, these positive, confidence-instilling actions are generally associated with increased employee self-efficacy and, in turn, trust in the leader. Subsidiarity is also a characteristic of a transformational leader. They are willing to extend the decision-making power to the lowest possible level – to be trusted is to trust (Bommer et. al, 2005).

     The Learning Approach

Handy posits that most people do not like change. However, he contends change does not need to cause chaos and does not have to be forced on employees by crisis or calamity. He argues change is a learning opportunity (discovery) and, if approached from this perspective, will encourage employees to become the architects of new ways, new forms, and new ideas. He suggests three ‘lubricants’ that will help employees navigate through change:

  1. Those who learn best and most, and change most comfortably, are whose who take responsibility for themselves and their future, have a clear view of what they what the future to be, want to make sure that they get it, and believe they can achieve their goals.
  2. Those who have the ability to see things, problems, situations or people in other ways are able to perceive them as opportunities, not problems. They address these issues directly but have the capacity to reframe them for their benefit and the benefit of the organization.
  3. Those who have the capacity to live with mistakes and failures without being defeated are those who understand that ‘getting it wrong is part of getting it right” (1990).


     The People-Centric Organization

This organizational model has characteristics similar to those found in the transformational leader. The culture of this organization, this theoretical modeling technique, enables executives to build the organization centered on the emotional and psychological needs of individuals. This model recognized that organizations are living, ever-changing and adapting systems organized around its survival strategy. This design model creates structures and processes that link the individuals to the organization producing internal cultural alignment and congruence and is composed of seven interactive, interdependent components:

  1. the individual or group of individuals who are the decision makers,
  2. the decision maker’s publicly stated and articulated values and beliefs of the organization,
  3. the hierarchal structures, reporting relationships, reward systems, and control systems of the organization (organizational design),
  4. the constraints and demands of the organization’s technologies and processes that determine daily operations and the links that provide the information for the decision maker,
  5. the interactions between individuals and groups,
  6. the informal network of friendships, acquaintances, and alliances that link individuals together, and
  7. the established culture of the organization, the normative set of beliefs of how the organization operates.

A stronger bond between the individual and organization is created when more threads are designed and implemented by the organization to meet employee needs. These threads emerge from the leader as they establish vision, set strategic direction, shape the organizational design, and make decisions as to how much information is available to employees and the degree of individual decision-making allowed (Overholt et. al, no date).

The Danger

In September 1965, the three year TV series Lost in Space launched it’s first episode. Among the cast of interesting personalities was a robot. Its function was to provide technical and informational support to the crew. During the series, the writers chose to formulate a friendship between the robot and the young boy, Will Robinson. Invariably, during every episode, you would see the robot waving its mechanical arms and voicing, “Danger . . . danger, Will Robinson, danger!”

Leaders who choose the status quo / laissez faire approach and ignore the ‘danger’ signs of the continuously changing environment around them do injustice to their organization and their employees. They must learn, as Galbraith posits, that organize is an active verb, it is a continuous event. “Organizational design is a process; it is a continuous process, not a single event. To keep the process continuous and current, a sequence for changing design policies is required. But the right mind-set in leaders (managers) is required” (Galbraith, 2002, p. 154).

In the beginning (Genesis 1:14), God established lights in the heavens to distinguish the day from the night, to serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years. In Exodus, God used Moses and Aaron to give the Pharaoh signs to encourage him to let the Israelites leave Egypt. Pharaoh ignored the warning signs and suffered a great loss. Church leaders and Christian leaders working in a secular environment cannot abdicate this mantle of responsibility, cannot ignore the danger signs of a continuously changing environment as they lead people and organizations.

The Apostle Paul is directed by the Holy Spirit to address the church in Rome concerning living lives of transformation. In Romans 12, verses six through eight, he discusses different giftings God has given. In the latter part of verse eight Paul writes, if it is leadership to (to which you are called), let him govern diligently (assiduously, conscientiously, thoroughly, carefully, attentively, meticulously)” (NIV). The responsibility to be transformational in leadership is apparent. The potential for loss is too great. “If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously” (Rom. 12:8b NLT).

Anonymous 2007; About People-Ready Business. Microsoft Business & Industry. Sept 16, 2007., Accessed September 16, 2007.
Bate, Paul, Khan, Raza and Pyle, Annie 2000; Towards a Culturally Sensitive Approach to Organization Structuring: Where Organization Design Meets Organization Development. Organization Science. Vol. 11, No. 2, p. 197-211.
Bigelow, Debbie 2007; Power to the People. Chief Project Officer. Accessed September 8, 2007.
Bommer, William H., Rich, Gregory A. and Rubin, Robert S. 2005; Changing Attitudes About Change: Longitudinal Effects of Transformational Leader Behavior on Employee Cynicism about Organizational Change. Journal of Organizational Behavior. Vol. 26, p. 733-753.
Bryan, Lowell L. and Joyce, Claudia I. 2007; Better Strategy Through Organizational Design. McKinsey Quarterly. Issue 2, p. 20-29.
Galbraith, Jay R. Designing Organizations: An Executive Guide to Strategy, Structure, and Process. San Francisco; Jossey-Bass, 2002.
Ghosh, Dipankar 2000; Organizational Design and Manipulative Behavior: Evidence from a Negotiated Transfer Pricing Experiment. Behavioral Research in Accounting. Vol 12,    p. 1-30.
Greenwood, Royston 2000; How Investment in Organizational Design Impacts the Effectiveness of KM. Knowledge Management Review. Vol. 3, Issue 4, p. 10-11.
Hagan, Abdalla, Wilkie, Macil and Haj, Mahmoud 2005; Progressive Management Practices as Predictors of Organizational Future Performance: Empirical Evidence. Academy of Strategic Management Journal. Vol 4, p. 41-59.
Handy, Charles. The Age of Paradox. Boston; Harvard Business School Press, 1995.
Handy, Charles. The Age of Unreason. Boston; Harvard Business School Press, 1990.
Lewis, Laurie K., Schmisseur, Amy M., Stephens, Keri K. and Weir, Kathleen E. 2006; Advice on Communicating During Organizational Change. Journal of Business Communication. Vol. 43, No. 2, p. 113-137.
Lockwood, Thomas 2004; Integrating Design into Organizational Culture. Design Management Review. Spring, p.32-39.
Overholt, Miles H., Connally, Gerald E., Harrington, Thomas C. and Lopez, David (no date); The Strands that Connect: An Empirical Assessment of How Organizational Design Links Employees to the Organization. Human Resource Planning. P. 38-51.
Overholt, Miles H. (no date); Flexible Organizations: Using Organizational Design as a Competitive Advantage. Human Resource Planning. P. 22-32.
Nadler, David A. and Tushman, Michael L. Competing by Design. New York; Oxford University Press, 1997.
Walton, Thomas 2004; Managing Design to Leverage Organizational Objectives. Design Management Review. Summer, p. 6-9.

No part of these articles may be reproduced in any form without permission from the author.

fear of change

16 Feb

recently, a clinical psychologist (ph.d) taught a group about the three negative emotions: fear, anger, and hurt. all other negative emotions, he stated, are associated in one way or another with these three.

fear (the negative aspect), as defined by webster, is a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, or pain. fear can keep us from doing something that could cause us harm, it can keep us from doing something that could be beneficial, and it can paralyze us to the point of not acting at all.

for any organization, fear can result in the organization being unable to do what is necessary for it to accomplish its mission or enable it to do what is necessary for sustainability. moreover, fear of change is one of the most debilitating emotions organizations must overcome as we progress further into this century, a century filled with more uncertainty and rapid change than any we have previously faced.

if you are part of an organization confronting change, the easiest thing to do is to ignore engaging in any discussion or decision-making. this is like ‘burying your head in the sand hoping the danger will pass.’ however, as w. edwards deming – noted intellect and leading personality of the quality revolution – stated, “it is not necessary to change. survival is not mandatory.”


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True Greatness in Leadership

07 Feb

In his book titled Good to Great, Jim Collins lists two distinctive character qualities shared by leaders of ‘great companies.’

First, these individuals possessed incredible professional will – they were driven to endure most anything to make their organization a success. Note: the drive is not for self-glorification, it is to ensure the organization is successful.

The second trait these leaders had in common was their modest demeanor. Collins writes, “the good-to-great leaders never wanted to become larger-than-life heroes. They never aspire to be put on a pedestal or become unreachable icons. They were seemingly ordinary people quietly producing extraordinary results.”

Those who worked for these leaders continually used words like humble, quiet, modest, reserved, shy, gracious, mild-mannered, self-effacing, understated, did not believe his own clippings.”


This makes no sense . . . or does it?

C.J. Mahaney brings the point to bear in his book titled Humility: True Greatness. Listen to what he writes:

Individuals motivated by self-interest, self-indulgence, and a false sense of self-sufficiency pursue selfish ambition for the purpose of self-glorification.

Serving others . . . is the genuine expression of humility. (And I would add, a genuine expression of leadership.)

For those of us who provide leadership in the Church, humility must be a foundational attribute of our character and leadership. Consider this:

Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness . . . John Calvin wrote, “It is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look at himself.”

Enjoy the journey . . .


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25 Rules for Leaders

06 Feb

Linda Tischler compiled Fast Company’s 25 rules for leaders during their 2002 RealTime San Diego conference. Whether you work with a for-profit or not-for-profit organization, this collection of ideas, tools, and inspirational advice will benefit you.

1. Audit Your Company Cultures
“Companies don’t have one culture. They have as many as they have supervisors or managers. You want to build a strong culture? Hold every manager accountable for the culture that he or she builds.”
Marcus Buckingham, coauthor of First, Break All the Rules and Now, Discover Your Strengths

2. Informed People Don’t Fear Change
“People are not afraid of change. They fear the unknown.”
Dick Brown, chairman and CEO of EDS

3. Beware “Aspirational Accounting”
“Enron has changed things significantly. You used to be able to buy a company, account for it in bizarre ways, and make money on the sale. That world is over.”
Nolan Bushnell, founder, chairman, and CEO of uWink Inc.

4. Empower Your People — Turn Them Loose
“Freedom is the greatest when the ground rules are clear. Chalk out the playing field and say, Within those lines, make any decisions you need.”
Dick Brown, chairman and CEO of EDS

5. Prevent Erosion of Human Assets
“We are systematically depreciating our human capital. For most people, the first year with the company is the best. It’s downhill from there.”
Marcus Buckingham, coauthor of First, Break All the Rules and Now, Discover Your Strengths

6. Be Generous With What You Know
“Knowledge sharing is the basis of everything. Share knowledge with reckless abandon.”
Tim Sanders, chief solutions officer at Yahoo

7. Expand Your Roster
“Think of your team as not just the people you pay, but as the people who pay you as well.”
Feargal Quinn, executive chairman of Superquinn

8. Don’t Judge a Man by the Size of His Wallet
“The only thing wrong with poor people is that they don’t have any money. That’s a curable condition.”
Bill Strickland, president and CEO of the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild and the Bidwell Training Center

9. Harness Your Skills for Good
“Technology has enormous potential to facilitate public-health problem solving. Marcus Welby needs you guys.”
Dr. Irwin Redlener, president and cofounder of the Children’s Health Fund and president of the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore

10. Groom Your People for Success
“Weakness fixing might prevent failure, but strength building leads to excellence. Focus on strength, and manage around weaknesses.”
Marcus Buckingham, coauthor of First, Break All the Rules and Now, Discover Your Strengths

11. Promote Brand Awareness Throughout Your Enterprise
“Everybody throughout the enterprise should know what the brand can and cannot do. There’s an imperative for education.”
–Jim Goodwin, vice president of marketing at the Absolut Spirits Co.

12. Embrace Imperfection — Fast!
“Beware of perfect people. They will never propel your enterprise to greatness. They’re too cautious. You’ve got to be fast to be good.”
Dick Brown, chairman and CEO of EDS

13. Don’t Let the Venture Capitalists Get You Down
“Revolutionary change is where real value is created. Don’t assume the capital markets know what the hell they’re doing. The VC market is currently in more disarray than most companies.”
Nolan Bushnell, founder, chairman, and CEO of uWink Inc.

14. Allow Yourself to Dream
“Dreams are maps. The ability to think about the future is what drives us all to attain.”
Dr. Irwin Redlener, president and cofounder of the Children’s Health Fund and president of the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore

15. Increase Your Net Worth
“Networking is sharing your contacts with others to create value without the expectation of compensation. Your network is your net worth.”
Tim Sanders, chief solutions officer at Yahoo

16. Use Every Teachable Moment
“Every time you give somebody compensation, it’s a great time to give feedback.”
Dick Brown, chairman and CEO of EDS

17. Shine Some Hope
“If you want to work with people who have no hope, you have to look like the solution and not the problem.”
Bill Strickland, president and CEO of the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild and the Bidwell Training Center

18. Set a New Standard of Performance
“We need to get beyond the single bottom line and measure a company’s performance by a triple bottom line. Financial profits alone aren’t enough. The results also need to be good for people and for the environment.”
Scott Bedbury, CEO of Brandstream

19. Laugh at Yourself
“Just when you think the sun shines out of your butt, all you have is an illuminated landing area.”
Nolan Bushnell, founder, chairman, and CEO of uWink Inc.

20. Get Up, Stand Up
“YCDBSOYA: You can’t do business sitting on your armchair.”
Feargal Quinn, executive chairman of Superquinn

21. Stop Whining — Start Seeking
“In these times, it’s important to find the opportunities in the disruptions rather than just to lament the change.”
Rob Glaser, chairman and CEO of RealNetworks Inc.

22. Leaders: Move It or Lose It
“Managers consistently delude themselves about how much good they’re doing. The oath for managers should be the same as physicians: First do no harm. ”
Robert Sutton, professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University

23. Be Honest
“The same thing you want from management is what customers want from you: honest communication. Be honest with your customers; tell them everything you know.”
Bonnie Reitz, vice president of sales and distribution at Continental Airlines

24. Don’t Stretch This Rule
“When you start thinking about growing your brand, be sure not to ignore the Spandex rule: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”
Scott Bedbury, CEO of Brandstream

25. What’s Your Bottom Line?
“People over 65 were asked, ‘If you could live your life over, what would you do differently?’ They said three things: ‘I’d take time to stop and ask the big questions. I’d be more courageous and take more risks in work and love. I’d try to live with purpose — to make a difference.’ You don’t have to be an elder to ask, What’s my own bottom line?”
Richard Leider, founding partner of the Inventure Group


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The End of Leadership

04 Feb

Recently, I re-read an article written by Warren Bennis published in 1999. What had first caught my attention was the title . . . The End of Leadership;[1] then the by-line hooked me . . . A shrinking world in which technological and political complexities increase at an accelerating rate offers fewer and fewer arenas in which individual action, TOP down leadership, suffices. The source for effective change is the workforce in creative alliance with top leadership.’

Bennis begins his article by recounting an experience. He was asked to participate in a debate where he would oppose the phrase ‘all successful organizational change must originate at the top.’ Though reluctant at first, during the debate he came to the unmistakable realization that ‘top-down leadership was not only wrong, unrealistic, and maladaptive but also, given the report of history, dangerous. And given certain changes taking place in the organizational landscape, this obsolete form of leadership (emphasis added) will erode competitive advantage and destroy the aspirations of any organization that aims to be in the phone book beyond the year 2002.

Obsolete form of leadership? That was my first response six years ago. However, as I reflect on my recent studies in strategic leadership, organizational structure and design, and strategic foresight, I am more and more convinced this must be the shift for every organization striving to remain viable in this rapidly changing century.

Yes, every organization, even the Church. Although our tradition has been and continues to be hierarchal, I am persuaded Robert Greenleaf’s reintroduction of primus inter pares in his book Servant Leadership is more applicable to the church than we would like to admit.

But, I still struggle with the quest for significance. And what will happen if I loose my status title?

You may think I am being sarcastic  . . .  maybe a little. However, this is a real dilemma. It may be the struggle with form over function . . . or . . . the end does not justify the means if the means to the goal are far from appropriate.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

[1] Bennis, Warren, “The End of Leadership: Exemplary Leadership is Impossible Without the Full
Inclusion, Initiatives, and Cooperation of Followers,” Organizational Dynamics, vol. 28 (Summer
1999), p. 71-80.


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