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Posts from the ‘Resource’ Category

Creating New Leaders from Within

While the predicted tsunami of Baby Boomer retirements has not yet materialized, the fact remains that 42% of the workforce will become able to retire by 2017 and 70% within the next 10 years.1 The question for all organizations is how to best prepare for this significant change in leadership and management?

Many organizations look externally for candidates. But with intentional planning and preparation, new leaders and managers can be built through internal processes. The following outline of questions provides a foundation for creating such a process.

What are we trying to achieve?
Every organization has a mission. It has linchpin positions or capacities that keep momentum moving toward fulfilling that mission. A linchpin is a special pin that is used to keep axles on vehicles. In organizations, a linchpin keeps the team functioning smoothly, delivering what is needed – with a great attitude. A linchpin manages operations efficiently. A linchpin looks to the future, translating plans into actions while remembering the lessons of the past. A linchpin knows that it is about relationships throughout the system. Can you state the mission; and, list the linchpin positions and what they achieve for your organization?

What does it mean to be an effective linchpin?
Take your linchpin list and apply the “know-do-be” algorithm. Create a one-sentence statement of what makes someone effective in each linchpin position. For example:

  • Know skills that allow the person to manage people, processes, and technology.
  • Do behave in ways consistent with achieving results in building positive relationships, thinking strategically, and communicating well.
  • Be a person who is an athlete in self-awareness, practices trustworthy and authentic leadership, and has a calling to serve others.

What are the essential linchpin competencies?
Now add a column to your list that gets specific about capacities and competencies that are necessary for success in each linchpin position. These should include knowledge and expertise, behavioral competencies, and critical success factors. Again, the examples are general; your list should be as specific as possible, limited by the needs of the linchpin.

Knowledge and expertise might include:

  • Possesses technical skills
  • Understands how to cultivate productive relationships
  • Communicates skills and values
  • Develops resources
  • Understands organization finances
  • Asks the right questions
  • Works across complex organization systems

Behavioral Competencies might include:

  • Self-managing
  • Exemplifies integrity
  • Resilient in uncertainty
  • Adapts to new environments
  • Builds trust
  • Manages strategic relationships
  • Influences others
  • Communicates confidently
  • Handles conflict resourcefully
  • Mentors and coaches others

Critical Success Factors might include

  • Committed to the organization’s values
  • Innovative and creative
  • Understands the financial impact of decisions

What actions need to be taken?
Add a fourth column that lists names of persons in your organization who have high potential for leading and managing each linchpin position. For each person identified, create an action plan. Their plan should include opportunities to expand knowledge, grow behavioral competencies, and be given opportunities to act. Here are concrete ideas to use in systematically developing leaders and managers:

  • Job rotation
  • Special project assignments
  • Action learning: study and make recommendation on a significant issue
  • Individual coaching and feedback
  • Targeted training – online or in person – in operations and leadership
  • Opportunities for role transition – allowing them to serve temporarily in a linchpin capacity while someone is on vacation or leave.

What other actions will support this process?
How will you communicate this information throughout your organization? Would a profile and checklist for each linchpin capacity allow everyone in the organization to understand the requirements and development path? How might you build this into your performance reviews? When and how will you start building your leadership pipeline?

There are many compelling reasons to begin building an actionable plan for developing future leaders. What first steps will you take to begin planning today?

1Government Accounting Office

Other reading:
Godin, S. (2011). “Linchpin: Are you indispensable?” Penguin Group, New York, NY.
Charam, R. (2012). “The Leadership Pipeline.” Wiley, San Francisco, CA.

fearless leadership

Here are the opening paragraphs of a longer article:

Organizations are only as good as the people inside. Yet the organizations and the people are under increasing stress. Do more with less. Cut costs. Do the same work with fewer people. Order supplies “just in time.” Skip training – there’s no time or money. Check your email, texts, and social media 24/7. We have entered a time when managers can be asked repeatedly to cut costs, people, and resources without loss of quality.

Many people in organizations that I work with can no longer tell me when the workday ends or even when the workweek begins. The main behavior at lunch or in meetings is the head bent down to check the latest electronic message. The pressure increases as boards and agencies create unfunded mandates and demand measureable results in shorter timeframes. Complexity increases as decisions made across the street and around the world have equal impact on operations. Forget what you know about employee engagement, the value of training and development, about making decisions from core values. Just get it done.

In the face of pressure and uncertainty, leaders want to solve, fix, and inspire. Many believe that if only they work harder or learn the latest management techniques, they can address the difficult challenges. They act from a genuine desire to help, to save the system and people around them. They fight the urge to revert to command and control management. But they end up exhausted by demands from above and dissatisfaction below.

But there is a choice: to be a fearless leader.

Click here to read more about fearless leadership.

What’s your story about leadership in the face of complexity and uncertainty?

decide: to cut off

Decision-making can be one of the most challenging parts of leading and managing. The root of the word decide comes from the Latin decidere, literally, to cut off, from de- + caedere to cut. When I make a decision I “cut off” other options. Perhaps that is why it is sometimes easier to put off decisions until tomorrow.

Organizations teach and use decision-making methods from facilitation strategies to formal Six-Sigma processes. There are personal methods like pro/con lists. I’ve recently been reading about and experimenting with the Cynefin Framework.

The Cynefin Framework (pronounced “key-nevin”) asks decision makers to assess context patterns and ask ourselves how we learn and what we know in five different domains. With the domain identified, we can choose questions, analyze the issue, and create an action plan. It enables us to include linear decision-making processes and expand beyond them when the context demands it.  It asks us to integrate what we know about our expertise, management theory, psychology, and complex adaptive systems.

Here is a short summary of the five domains:

  • Simple, where the relationship between cause and effect is obvious to all, the approach is to Sense – Categorise – Respond and we can apply best practice.
  • Complicated, where the relationship between cause and effect requires analysis or some other form of investigation and/or the application of expert knowledge, the approach is to Sense – Analyze – Respond and we can apply good practice.
  • Complex, where the relationship between cause and effect can only be perceived in retrospect, but not in advance, the approach is to Probe – Sense – Respond and we can sense emergent practice.
  • Chaotic, where there is no relationship between cause and effect at systems level, the approach is to Act – Sense – Respond and we can discover novel practice.
  • Disorder, which is the state of not knowing what type of causality exists, in which state people will revert to their own comfort zone in making a decision. (1)

And, from Snowden and Boone, developers of the Cynefin process:

In the complex environment of the current business world, leaders often will be called upon to act against their instincts. They will need to know when to share power and when to wield it alone, when to look to the wisdom of the group and when to take their own counsel. A deep understanding of context, the ability to embrace complexity and paradox, and a willingness to flexibly change leadership style will be required for leaders who want to make things happen in a time of increasing uncertainty. (2)

What methods do you use when making decisions? What questions would you find most useful in each of these domains?

Cognitive-Edge Methods (free)
Harvard Business Review: A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making

(1) Cynefin retrieved from on January 28, 2013.
(2) Snowden, D. J. & Boone, M. E. (2007) “A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making.” Harvard Business Review, 85(11), p. 69-76.

Resource: Meeting Matters

Read the entire article or browse the summary below. What are your meeting “pet peeves?”

Meeting after meeting after meeting quietly corrodes our spirits and our organizations. We are used to boring meetings, long meetings, meetings without a purpose. We are used to mediocre and downright bad meetings. We like to call them, but there are often limited benefits from attending.

Beyond the measurable wasted time, meetings matter. They matter because our organizations use them to make decisions, to have social interactions that create vital connections, and – most of all – they support change. Here are 10 “Golden Rules” that, when followed, can help to create more effective meetings:

  1. Avoid meetings.
  2. Limit invitations.
  3. Create and send an agenda in advance.
  4. Prepare and confirm.
  5. Begin and finish on time.
  6. Use meeting rules.
  7. Stick to the agenda.
  8. Create a space for each participant to air their ideas, thoughts, and opinions.
  9. Finish well.
  10. Follow up.

These “Golden Rules” sound like good ideas. Yet, we still go to ineffective meetings led by outside agencies, bosses, team members, and peers. Why? We feel obligated. But if you ask the meeting organizer, they will say that they feel obligated too. The meeting is a gathering called by someone who has no choice, attended by others who have no choice.

The good news: you can choose. The meeting system can change. Act. You are too effective and competent to put up with meetings that don’t work. Choose to change your own meeting behavior. Choose to make your own assessment of which meetings are worth your time, energy, and budget dollars. Change happens when each leader and manager chooses to transform themselves and their organization. The opportunity is presented. Game on.

Meetings and other wrecks
Overheard conversation

Resource: The Twelve Attributes of a Truly Great Place to Work

Tony Schwartz recently wrote a post worth reading on the HBR blog site: The Twelve Attributes of A Truly Great Place to Work. Since I’ve been teaching leadership and facilitation courses this fall, #9 stands out to me:

Hold leaders and managers accountable for treating all employees with respect and care, all of the time, and encourage them to regularly recognize those they supervise for the positive contributions they make.

People who choose to lead positively are what make a place somewhere other people want to work. Respect and care are attributes that have made Kouzes and Posner’s top 20 characteristics of the best leaders since their survey began in 1987. Perhaps it is because genuine respect and caring are critical ingredients of trust – a requirement for a successful organization.

Which of these attributes speak to you?

Resource: 40 Lessons to Learn from Southwest

Resource: 40 Lessons to Learn from Southwest

I discovered this list of lessons from Southwest Airlines while reading Bill Taylor’s post on the HBR blogs: How do you know a great person when you see one? Both are worth a read.

One of my favorite Southwest lessons is #32 – set and renew noble expectations, which has me thinking about adding to my allowed list.

40 Lessons to Learn from Southwest

Resource: Oblique Strategies

Resource: Oblique Strategies

In one of those journeys that can only happen on the web, where link-leads-to-link, I discovered Oblique Strategies. The idea of Oblique Strategies is that disruption increases creativity. Disrupting the patterns we live and work by, allows our brains to take notice and generate something different. To break the pattern or shift your brainstorming session, try one of the prompts: “Emphasize differences” – “Use an old idea” – “What mistakes did you make the last time?” – “A line has two sides”- “What are you really thinking about just now?”

The original Oblique Strategies appeared on a card deck. These have since been translated to the web, iPod, etc. Try a prompt today!

Resource: Organization Development Processes

Resource: More design thinking from the

The Stanford has released a new toolkit for organizations involved in design thinking. As Tim Brown says in Change by Design, “You have to start with observation because it’s the only way to illuminate the subtle nuances about how people actually get things done (or don’t get things done), and it’s these deep insights that lead to powerful new ideas.”

Here are some of the focus areas addressed in the new toolkit:

  1. problem finding and framing
  2. multi-disciplinary team building
  3. ideation/brainstorming
  4. prototyping/testing
  5. storytelling

Download the new toolkit; explore and research!

Previous Bootcamp Bootleg

Resource: Design Thinking Process

The Stanford updated the Bootcamp Bootleg, a working document that outlines some of the methods from their “Design Thinking Bootcamp” course. “The guide outlines each mode of a human-centered design process and describes a number of methods which may support your design thinking throughout the process.” Bootcamp Bootleg


The Japanese word, kaizen, is often translated as continuous improvement. A more literal translation is change (kai) better (zen). Continuous change happens while taking one step at a time into the future. Continuous – meaning that we never arrive at perfection, but steadily work to improve. Matt May describes the kaizen steps using the acronym IDEA: “Investigate, Design, Experiment, Adjust.”

I’ve been reflecting on the power of combining kaizen with Appreciative Inquiry. Together they create a unique process for organization development. Appreciative Inquiry (AI) asks us to investigate, inquire, and discover what is working well. It asks us to imagine and design next steps. Then, without conclusion, AI cycles to delivering results and back to renewed inquiry. Adding the “Experiment” from IDEA into the process, improves and strengthens the design by asking us to innovate using design thinking.

AI opens a conversation with every level of an organization. It builds on existing resources and strengths, creating possibilities. I’ve seen managers surprised by the energy and ideas coming from within their team. I’ve seen departments shift their focus, creating entirely new opportunities and practices. I’ve seen large systems discover ways of engaging across formerly impermeable boundaries. I’ve seen individuals take steps toward personal goals. Appreciative Inquiry is an effective framework for kaizen and organization development.

When and how have you experienced kaizen? What processes do you use to support “change better?”

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