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Archive for the category “strategic planning”

Learn great leadership from orchestra conductors – What is your style?

Learn great leadership from orchestra conductors – What is your style? 

Photo credit: Pablo by Buffer

When I was young(er) I really did not get the point what an orchestra conductor’s job really was supposed to be. Sure the hairdos and wild gestures were very impressive, but how did all of that transpose into leadership and much less into the beautiful music? After all, the musicians were all professionals who obviously knew their instruments and music? How does a conductor merely lead by gesturing?

Point is that much can be learned about the conductor and leadership by just watching them during performances (please watch this TED Talk about this topic here). By far the worst by today’s standards are the tyrants who honestly think only their interpretation of the music should be played. This turns the musicians into mere instruments. That is so yesteryear. The first conductor shown in the linked video was told that he was indeed a great conductor, but he was also invited to quit at the same time. The musicians appear to not being able to stand the egocentric life and leadership style.

Then there are the minimalists who keep their musicians guessing what and when and how they are supposed to play. Sound familiar? With leaders like that there are fields of raw eggs to stomp on – no matter where you step there may be a mess soon.

The semi good conductors provide visible and audible low key directions. They enjoy the performance and really attempt inviting the musicians to interpret the pieces making the performance memorable.

The crème dela crème are conductors who lead by increasing their musician’s potential. At the performance they are merely there providing a presence of comfort and collaboration. The rest is up to the team of musicians and the notes in front of them. Responsibility and autonomy are at a natural balance. Every stake holder is better off and the audience gets to experience a really unique concert. It’s one of a kind; one that is meant only for this audience.

Substitute conductor for the name of your boss and see where he/ she may fall. Do they know where you stand and are they working on getting better at leadership? If so, be candid and share this post and / or the video with them. Having the courage to look at themselves and then having the persistence of making changes are great ideas. If the leader-manager is you, well, what is your management style?


6 ways firing negative people from your life

6 ways firing negative people from your life 

There are a lot of negative people who take time and energy away from us. This can range from people who like to gossip, complain, to outright nasty people that complain way too much. Then there are the problem monitors who love pointing out flaws and problems without ever offering a solution. Problem is that they seek you out and you can seemingly not escape them. You endure the conversation, but it drags you down with it and getting back to what you wanted to do takes some time. Time that you do not have. Energy and nerves that you do not have to waste.

There are a few negativity busters that you can use to stay positive and on task.

  1. Being positive. Fire away with your winning smiles. Nothing works better at shushing negative people away like having a great attitude and showing it. Negativity begets negativity, but positivity beats it by a mile.
  2. Humor. A good laugh will send negative folks scurrying to their deep and dark caves. Not taking yourself and others so seriously helps staying positive and also works as nasty people antidote.
  3. Effectiveness. If any conversation is really important than this can be scheduled for another time when it is more convenient for both of you. Saying something like this can be highly effective: “Listen, this sounds like it is really important to you and I unfortunately have another meeting (phone call, etc) to go to. Should I schedule a meeting to discuss this further with you?” In most cases the other person will stop talking and not need to speak with you about this any further.
  4. Walk away. Yes, it is that simple. This has nothing to do with you being rude. Was the other person not rude first by raping your ears with things that do not add value, or worse, were offensive or outright nasty?
  5. Associate with and befriend nice people. Duh, you say? Seek out nice people who add energy, creativity, and fun to your life. Hang out with them as much as you can. You become the average of the 10 people you spend the most time with. The added benefit is that nasty people cannot stand this much fun and harmony and thus will stay far away from you.
  6. Candor. When folks stop by often and you never say a word to them about how this is not ok with you, well, that is YOUR own fault. At times other people can just not read your silent clues. Unvoiced expectations cannot be filled. In most instances all it takes is your candid feedback and the “stalking” can stop right after providing your sincerely meant thoughts on the matter.

Negativity is not sustainable as it has its origin in hatred, envy, and a lack of emotional intelligence (self-awareness). It tries to exclude people and thrive on people’s differences. The antidote is love, laughter, optimism, etc as it founded in inclusion. Isn’t it better leading a well-balanced life where you are part of something bigger, self-sustaining and thus something positive? Start with reflecting upon your own view and then make a difference as soon as you can. Stay happy my friends.


6 strategies how to not feel lonely on top of the leadership ladder

6 strategies how to not feel lonely on top of the leadership ladder 

Photo credit: Pablo by Buffer

Getting to be the boss is sometimes not at all what you thought it was going to be. You figuratively move up the ladder and the higher you step the less of a handrail you can hold on to for support and guidance. It can be outright lonely and while you are moving up, there is less and less support to grab a hold of. The stress rises and you are going to miss feedback where you stand with people. Watch out, because it can get worse. What you do hear may be carefully chosen, pre-filtered, and sometimes outright blatantly incorrect information. Candor gets rarer and rarer.

When you do a great job at work there is a good chance that you will progress up the career ladder. Before you know it you manage people, a department, and perhaps the whole company. All of a sudden it is like you have moved from one aisle in parliament to the other. People who used to be your colleagues are now your direct reports and their eyes are on you as well as from the people whom you report to. Game on: It is you versus them. You did not want for this to happen at all though.

Before you know it your stomach is in a knot because you may not know whom and what to trust anymore. Why do you think celebrities and really rich and successful CEO’s are in the news about their sometimes questionable public behaviors and organizational decisions? Sure, some folks cannot help themselves and it is their ego and narcissistic behavior that gets them into trouble. It just does not apply to the vast majority of leader-managers.

Does this sound like you? Painful, isn’t it? One powerful example how a successful manager avoided this dead end situation, was that he had been lucky enough to have an ex monk on staff. In the book titled “The CEO and the Monk” the monk became the spiritual adviser to the CEO more or less due to serendipity. Any of the CEO’s decisions – good, bad, or indifferent – had an impact on the organization and the monk provided extremely candid feedback that no one else felt safe conveying. The CEO was thus able making more long term sustainable decisions with a high degree of employee morale. He was in luck because he had had help. That is not what the average leader goes through though. You need not look for a monk though order to organize a well working support structure for yourself. With a few strategies you can do just as well on your own:

  • Listen well. Actually, what comes before that is to simply park your ego and ponder how you can make the life of your people better. When you do this the better listening part comes all but automatically. What does park your ego mean? Do not take yourself so seriously. It is not whether or not you succeed; it is about that your job is such that your team and team members succeed.
  • Seek candid feedback. Sounds easier said than done. Then again, you have the greatest impact on this. Candor can only happen when there is a trustworthy and safe environment for the people to actually share how they really feel and what they think is the best path moving on forward. That is your choice. Nothing is worse than reaming people out, chastising them in front of others, taking their information and immediately turning it on them or others, and many more of such examples destroy trust (remember: trust is what your organization sells and needs in order to survive and thrive). You just managed to never again get a good picture of what is going on again.
  • Walk through the office and shop floor from wall to wall. Get to know your folks. You think you may not have time, well, then make time. Not only is it good for your health to get up and move around at least every 90 minutes, but you have the prime opportunity to bond with people on a personal level. Sometimes you will notice people struggling with their jobs, calls, the striking scanner or printer. Help out and while you are at it you may want to ask what one the one most important thing that needs to change is in order for the department or company to survive. Be ready to do something with the knowledge and provide feedback.
  • When you mutter the words “open door policy” mean them. If your door is only left open because you like a fresh breeze or you like the view, I see some really intense self-reflecting and re-adjusting in your near future, or your chair may be facing a different occupant soon. Seriously, so much has been written about how important it is providing genuine and sincere one-on-one time for your employees. Put the phone on do not disturb, look at the team member and not your oh-so-important paperwork or Outlook schedule. Be there in the moment with the one who interrupted her day to speak with you. This is show time for some candor and fertile ground for growth of you, the employee and the organization.
  • Speak with your peer supervisors and leadership. Often, the people reporting to you would rather confide in other people. No need to get upset about this (remember? Park your ego!). Embrace the trust that your fellow manager enjoys. You two can really do wonders for the employees and the organization if you are using the information wisely and to the benefit of everyone. You can help the other supervisor by returning the favor. Keep in mind that the common denominator for all of the above measures is trust.
  • This is no time for favorites. Favorites are for TV shows, movies and perhaps sports. Here you do not want to only listen and speak to people that you are the most familiar with, or that you like dealing with the most. Favoritism will no doubt to an unsustainable form of leadership. People who need to listen to you all the time, will only do so reluctantly and at the end tell you what they think you want to hear. On the other side of the spectrum, folks that you normally do not speak with you, will be even less likely speaking with you if you do not make the effort first.

Hopefully you got a little comfort out of this blog post. Candor flourishes when you as the leader allow for it to happen without any, and I mean any, repercussions. Provide a safe, ethical and positive environment and you will be amazed how many problems seem to fix themselves. It is like nailing guard rail extensions to your success ladder. There is no way but up for your team, you, and the organization.



Turning crisis into opportunities

Turning crisis into opportunities 

Photo: The engine that started it

I am sure you are intimately familiar with days where nothing seems to work in your favor. Such a day happened to me during apprenticeship way back when in Germany. It was a late afternoon fall day and I had just finished with work and I was on my way home. The engine suddenly sputtered and hesitated like crazy and I barely made it home. This was just what I needed – not! How would I get to work the next day without the car? This was going to be an expensive repair. Would I even be able to afford the fix?

That same evening I went to the local gas station in the village and the owner agreed to take a quick look. He did that and told me that he had no time to fix it until later in the week. Well now, that was not going to work. Just as I tried leaving the gas station I saw a relatively new Audi with out of state plates on it pull in. The nicely dressed owner got out and started to talk to the gas station owner. He also had had car troubles and need to get it looked at right away. I stopped in my tracks as I observed the car getting pulled into the shop bay and getting worked on right away. I was totally shell shocked and mad as a hornet. For one I learned that being neatly dressed, driving a nice car, and money get people’s attention and help getting problems fixed. The more important lesson I picked up was that I could choose turning a disaster into a great opportunity. That was the day I turned this trouble into a passion of mine: Fixing cars, bicycles, and motor cycles.

Still mad at the gas station owner for not helping me, I bought myself a repair manual the next day and also a few special tools and parts. I used my old moped to get to and from work allowing me to work on the car engine. I went in my garage to address the problem. It turned out to be a blown head gasket that did not take long to fix at all. I had a lot of fun doing the work and was quite happy with the result and myself. Not only did I get this fixed a lot sooner than any shop would have been able to fit me into their schedule, but I also saved a lot of money. Almost overnight I had turned a moment of being disappointed and mad at a situation into a lifelong love for fixing things on wheels and otherwise.

The defining moment of change was realizing whether or not I wanted to do something about this problem myself was nobody’s choice but mine. Once I chose that this problem was also an opportunity things turned for the better. I even received unexpected help from my uncle and granddad who both were very handy people. When life hands you lemons, you can choose to make lemonade out of it.


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