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Linda Hill & Kent Lineback

More often than we might like, but less often than we probably need, an event at work throws up a mirror in which we catch a glimpse of ourselves. One of those moments occurred for me (Kent) in a meeting years ago. It was a gathering of senior managers to hear a presentation from an outside strategy consultant. When he finished, he opened a discussion about our firm's particular needs. Our needs, though not yet urgent, were strategic and considerable. The firm was about 30 years old and had enjoyed significant success throughout its life, based on great planning and management. For the first 20 or more of those years, before my arrival, it had produced consistent, extraordinary earnings and had been able to grow its top and bottom lines in real terms around 12-15 percent a year, year after year. Best of all, though far from glamorous, this company really did make a difference in the lives of its customers. But something began to change in the company's third decade, when I joined. The U.S. had passed through a sharp recession and the company seemed to lose steam. At first, we all blamed the economy; after all, we were still growing at a decent clip. It just wasn't as fast as before. I spent my first few years there building a successful internal startup. Growth wasn't my problem. But two or three years before this meeting, I had been put in charge of both my new division and the larger, core business, which together provided about 75 percent of total sales and much more than that of total profits. I took possession of the problem, and, with the people who worked for me, had developed a clear sense (we thought) of where the company needed to go and the significant changes required to get us there. But convincing my boss, the CEO/Chairman, and my senior colleagues turned out to be difficult. Things had worked so well for so long that no one wanted to contemplate making fundamental changes in what we did. It frustrated me no end that others couldn't see what we faced. In almost every weekly meeting of senior managers, I raised these issues in one way or another. On occasion, a colleague or two seemed to support me, but nothing I said elicited more than some nodding heads. Such was the context in which the consultant came and made his pitch. As we discussed our needs with him, I took the opportunity (once again) to point out how our world was changing and how we needed to take decisive action. As always, the group's response was to bob their heads and, I suspect, roll their eyes to each other. Okay, I thought, I'm going to learn something here. So afterwards I took the consultant aside and said, "What do you think is going on? I made an important point and everybody yawned and moved on."

"It was an important point," he said, "but you didn't build any bridges." Didn't build bridges? I went home thinking about that. I knew in the center of my being that he was right. I didn't build bridges. I didn't reach out and connect with others on their terms. I talked at them. I had a solution, a beautiful vision. I knew the answer, and I spent my time telling everyone what it was and what the company had to do. If the path forward was painful and difficult, if it would change totally what some of them did, well, so be it. I wish I could say that I thought hard about what I'd been told, that I began reaching out and building bridges, and that all of us went on to take the company to a better future. But I didn't. By some distorted internal logic, I decided I couldn't debase my perfect vision by turning it into a free-for-all idea jam. Better to stay pure and fall on my sword, a martyr. Which is what I did. Slowly, over subsequent years, I came to realize my stupidity. I had failed everyone the company, my colleagues, and the people who worked for and counted on me. I failed myself, too. I had truly wanted to create change. Why don't we learn, even when someone looks us in the eye and gives us the answer? "You don't build bridges." I knew he was right. I knew I should do what he said. But I couldn't. Somehow it cut too much against the grain for me. Ever since, I've wondered what it would have taken to get me to share my vision and let others shape it with me and what might have happened if I'd been able to do that.

1. As a former pastor what you call "building a bridge" I was taught it as "vision casting." A mentor I once had told me "the best ideal I would ever have is the one that came from the people I was leading." He went on to tell me that I would only see things from a single perspective that would always be flawed. But if I could give my vision away and let others make it theirs, it would come back changed but it would be whole. I wish I could say that I was always success, but I wasn't.
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Michelle Sullivan

4 weeks ago

3. Are you an effective leader? Building the relationship, connecting, and staying engaged is key. The connection was lost here...
Understanding the differences between a manager and a leader... are they mutually exclusive? Do you understand the difference between a leader and a manager? There are significant differences, yet they are not mutually exclusive. Leadership is a topic that has been studied and debated for centuries, and simply one definition of leadership would not be adequate. There are distinguishing differences between a manager, leader, and an effective leader. Over time, leadership styles have changed to adapt from a stability model to change and crisis leadership; some willingly and some hesitantly. The greatest leaders are high influencers, relationship builders at all levels, and are highly adaptable to diverse situations and personalities. Effective leaders exhibit an advanced level of emotional and contextual intelligence, and often encompass both management and leadership qualities. To lead high-performing teams, you must first create a motivated team. Many managers do not realize that directive and authoritative leadership is not effective in the modern business world and is counter-productive. I believe that we are people, not workers or simply a number, but in order for an organization to be profitable and competitive, it needs to be high performing. In the long-term, leading out of fear in an environment of low morale will not prevail. Employees need to be motivated to be high performing, and in order to accomplish this, the company needs to employ effective leaders. Leaders know how to adapt to each employee and understand if intrinsic or extrinsic rewards motivate them. One employee may be motivated by an increase in salary whereas other employees might be motivated by recognition for a job well done. Once the motivating factors are determined based on dialogue with your employees, you need to create a personal development plan, which should include incremental goals. They key is to create a great place to work where everyone looks forward to coming to work, feeling their work has a sense of purpose and meaning. Once there is a positive work culture, even menial tasks are not looked upon as loathsome. I have been in situations where morale has been exceptionally low due to several factors such as previous poor leadership, mistrust, downsizing (do more with less), bureaucracy, unethical business practices, etc., and I have introduced several methods that were effective. Team building is one of the first steps to creating a motivated workforce. Depending on the team location and culture, determine an exercise that will take the employees offsite, out of their comfort zone, and engaged in interactive activities. In the case where there may be teammates who are known to have interpersonal issues between each other, I suggest pairing them together for a fun activity. It is amazing what an impact icebreakers can have on easing the tension. This allows individuals to view each other in a positive perspective that they perhaps never had up until this point. In my experience, if there are issues in the future, they will be more mindful and not as emotionally reactive; they will become better team players. In instances where teams consist of varying cultures, it is important to provide cross-cultural training. This helps reduce misunderstandings and how to effectively work with other cultures. For example, as an American working with China, I know that in a meeting, I will have to directly engage with individuals who are below me in position or if their manager is in the meeting. Their culture is not to be forthright even if there is an issue, so I know that I cannot expect

them to openly discuss an issue or debate with a superior. I also establish what I call 1:1s where I meet regularly with people on my team to have an open discussion in addition to setting and tracking goals and development plans. As a follower, this was tremendously beneficial for me to have with my managers. Depending on the team and employee, I suggest meeting weekly or bi-weekly for 30 minutes to an hour at set times to ensure they do occur. To keep the team engaged, either creating or revisiting the mission and as a team through participative decision-making is optimal, and having regular team building sessions (quarterly or bi-annually depending on the situation) will ensure this is executed. This is in addition to regularly scheduled team meetings, which should be held weekly or bi-weekly. In summary, ask yourself, are you an effective leader who is capable of being adaptable, open-minded, willing to change, and build those bridges? http://www.sullivanglobal.net/...

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Ashoksharma_25

4 weeks ago in reply to Michelle Sullivan

7. Yes,well said Sir!! Building effective teams within your Department first and then the Organization will help a long way in ironing out the differences between the peer Groups and also up the line & down the line hierarchy.
There has to be at least weekly meetings within the Department involving all members of the Group which should be followed with monthly review meetings organized at the CEO level involving all Department Heads. The difference between an effective leader and manager is that the Leader is not an effective Manager if he cannot take his peer Groups into confidence by delegating his responsibilities effectively and also effectively monitoring that the tasks are carried out in time.The Top Management should also effectively delegate and fix clearcut duties & responsibilities down the line. Then only can we say that they are effective leaders with managerial capability. There has also to be an effective & robust Performance Management System and the Incentive should be linked to the actual Performance of each Manager/Employee.

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Karen_Tiede
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2 months ago

+100 here: Did the consultant build a bridge to you?

The worst times of my life have been when someone slammed me with this form of statement and I had nothing to go on, no path out of the morass, no clear action. If I knew how to solve the problem on my own, I wouldn't have it, would I? Would you blame yourself if the doctor said, "You have cancer" and left the room? Would you expect that you'd know what to do next on your own? The mistake here was not going back to the consultant and saying, "OK, I see that, now what can I do to be different?" That you were not able to solve the actual problem on your own is not, from my point of view, completely your defect. >Ever since, I've wondered what it would have taken to get me to share my vision and let others shape it with me

and what might have happened if I'd been able to do that. Well, maybe that company died / failed / didn't grow the way it could have. A different question: how has your own life been different since you recognized that you had this stumble? Or, How have you been different about delivering suggestions for deep change to other people? Paul was a tax collector (right?) before he became an advocate for a new way of living. Most addiction treatment programs use former addicts as counselors, at least in part because they understand the challenge of getting across that gap. It seems you're somewhat in the position of the women who started MADD. They can't bring their children back, but they have used their own loss to change the world for the better. The situation you faced personally is actually harder than the problem of fixing the business that you were trying to solve.

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michaelschrage

2 months ago in reply to Karen_Tiede

15. i had the same reaction you did: the consultant is/was a jerk...and an unprofessional one, at that....it is the role of professionals - be they doctors, lawyers or consultants - to HELP the client, not merely toss out a perceptive preliminary diagnosis....yes, kent surely should have followed up...but an honorable consultant would have invited/encouraged him to do so....

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Kentlineback

2 months ago in reply to michaelschrage

19. I like this! It's the consultant's fault! Perhaps there's something to think about there, but I felt at the time that I knew exactly what he meant and didn't need to know more. For me it was the old knowing-doing gap. I knew what to do, but I couldn't/didn't want to do it. Kent Lineback

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michaelschrage
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2 months ago in reply to Kentlineback

I went home thinking about that. I knew in the center of my being that he was right.

actually, according to your post, you didn't 'exactly' know what he meant... :-) nevertheless, had you been my client and i authentically (in a peter block/flawless consulting sorta way) felt you could be more of a 'bridge builder,' we'd have had a talk about how you managed to 'persuade' up and across the enterprise - and were you happy with how effective your investments in persuasion worked out.... then i would have charged you more

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Karen_Tiede
27. >It's the consultant's fault!

2 months ago in reply to michaelschrage

I wonder if s/he's written any blog posts in the years since this happened about the perfectly timed, stunningly accurate bon mot that went nowhere; the habit of effortlessly diagnosing a problem without providing any useful implementation activity? Bet you weren't the only target... Knowing-doing is one response. Observing-doing differently is another. If you've changed your behavior with people who come to you for advice, it might be that you got the lesson.

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Sebastian Font

2 months ago

31. This is a great post. Leadership is about building bridges with those around you. Basic diplomacy. Connecting with people so you are not just heard, but listened to. Sometimes even the most obvious no-brainer solutions needs to be sold a bit. Sometimes those solutions can't get sold without a bridge or connection. Consultants know that better than anyone.

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Traci

2 months ago

35. This is one of the best posts I have read in a long time. I felt like I was reading about myself. I have definitely been in situations like this during my career. I agree with you in that most of those situations I have been unable to go against my own nature...and I know it is a detriment to me, the company and my colleagues. The best advice someone ever gave me was in saying, "You know what the right answer is deep down and you will do what is best in any situation if you don't make it about yourself." 36.
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Kentlineback
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2 months ago in reply to Traci

Thanks, Traci. Glad I'm not alone. I did make it about myself. Kent Lineback

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Niklas Bjrnerstedt

2 months ago

43. Did the consultant build a bridge to you? Your problem in taking his advice seems to mirror the problem you had in convincing others...

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Kate O'Neill, [meta]marketer

2 months ago

47. Thank you for this honest, self-critical post. As others have said, I felt like I was reading my own experiences. And even in candid reflection about moments like those you're describing, I don't think I necessarily wanted to hog all the glory or anything like that; it's more like what you said here: "I decided I couldn't debase my perfect vision by turning it into a free-for-all idea jam. Better to stay pure and fall on my sword, a martyr. Which is what I did."
For me throughout my career, there have been those points where I felt deep in my being that I had the bright shining solution and the sheer beauty of it would convince others to align with me and we'd all be happy and rich and successful. Or something like that. But the truth is there are all kinds of reasons -- some you allude to, such as the new difficulties the changes might represent in people's work -- why people may be reluctant to see the proposed solution as a positive. And in that case, surely, a partial implementation of a beautiful solution would be preferable to no implementation at all. It's just hard to process that acceptance in the moment, when a partial implementation feels like throwing paint on a masterpiece. Anyway, all this discussion about building bridges and listening to advice is fantastic, and I thank you again for it.

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joelfortner03

2 months ago

51. I agree with other posters, this was a great post. People don't often write about where they went wrong but when they do, it's impactful because most likely we've all been there. With that being said, I equate building bridges with gaining buy-in. Leaders are busy people. They're working priorities. They're working what's definite, largely meaning today's tasks that keep the organization rolling. Strategy is hard, which is why it so often gets pushed to the back burner. It's not definite but everyone agrees it's needed. These reasons and more are why I think gaining buy-in is critical just to get the boat moving let alone achieving the goal. One person may have the winning solution but unless others on the leadership team agree, take it to the boss as a team and then gain the boss' buy-in, the idea usually remains nothing more than something you emphatically tell your spouse and friends about coupled with "I don't understand why they aren't listening to me!" I've had to learn this the hard way. In short, I'm an idea guy but only when I secured buy-in from others did the idea truly get moving. As a PR pro in a military environment, I'm often the junior voice at the table - all the reason more why securing buy-in from others is critical. In the end, all of this is about best serving the top boss. Most boss' have many trusted advisors, not just one. They're smart and they want options, not a single-bullet solution. Their trust is gained by knowing their team, not just a single individual, worked an issue hard and came up with a menu of solutions to advance the organization. In this case, again, the subject was a

strategic turn. That kind of decision is not made lightly, reinforcing the need for a team approach just to convince the boss they should at a minimum go home and tell their spouse, "The team came to me today with a very interesting idea. I think I'll tell them to study it more." That alone is a huge win.

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Kentlineback

2 months ago in reply to joelfortner03

55. Thanks, joelfortner03, your post led me to another thought. In all my time in this company as I tried to foster real change, my major efforts were aimed at the CEO/Chairman. I believed that if I convinced him, everything else would follow. Only later did I realize that his resistance largely reflected my inability/unwillingness to enlist my colleagues. If we had gone to him as a group and said, "We really need to do this," he would have listened reluctantly, perhaps, but he would have paid attention. Kent Lineback

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Joy Abdullah

2 months ago

59. Great post! One that truly made me reflect back and realise how important those 'bridges' are. I've had my share of "i could kick myself" and learnt from it. A key facet of leadership is knowing when and how to move a vision froward by using those bridges and building those bridges dont happen overnight. Knowing one's self and ability to relate to people and carry those people are very important. 60.
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Kentlineback
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2 months ago in reply to Joy Abdullah

Thanks, Joy. It wasn't my best moment. Maybe it will help someone else. Kent Lineback

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Peter

2 months ago

67. One of the tricks is to make the change everyone's idea. So many times, things like change do not happen because others do not feel ownership, therefore they do not buy in - or they do not have a bridge to cross because no build has been built. If you are innovative and creative, get over your ego and massage others into owning the idea. If you are there for the betterment of the company/organisation, then you will be feel a great sense of achievment. If you are there to collect the accolades, start business for your self

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Loraine Antrim

2 months ago

71. Leadership strategies abound in current literature, and "building bridges" is very much a part of current leadership thinking. It's the "command/control" mentality vs. collaborative interactions. I'd opt for engaging in conversations and asking for input. This will include people in the decision-making process. "Telling" others about new ideas is command and control. For some, this is not a welcome mindset in this age of all things social media. Loraine Antrim, Core Ideas Communication 72.
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Kentlineback

2 months ago in reply to Loraine Antrim

75. Ironically, Loraine, I wasn't particularly a command and control manager (I'm pretty sure my people would have confirmed that). I just loved MY beautiful ideas too much.

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Francesco Frova

2 months ago

79. That is a deep post. Even though it is not fresh, it still is hard work to acknowledge one's failures and such! I don't feel like I could supply constructive observations right now, but I thank you in advance - for I will be remembering this, months and years from now. "Did I build bridges?"
Thank you Kent, thank you Linda.

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Kentlineback
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2 months ago in reply to Francesco Frova

Thank you, Francesco. Kent Lineback

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Jason Lee

1 month ago

87. Great post. As a leader in my organization, I am not only responsible for building bridges, I am accountable. Leadership goes beyond shaping MBOs, initiatives, and staff development, it means we are expected to collaborate with others on goals larger then our own. I created several bridges during my career and I lesson I learned was to stay focused on the other party's goals and interests. Mold your agenda, conversations, and tone that fit in with the other people involved. Reiterate that the purpose of these initiatives is to help them. 88.
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A Bridge Too Far

1 month ago

91. Interesting discussion. In my current organization--a very large, bureaucratic one--defending and maintaining turf is the most tightly held value.
I was specifically hired 3 years for my relationship skills and ability to build bridges from my department (which is in the CEO's bailiwick) to a group of internal clients in a division whose boss also reports to the CEO. These internal clients are civil and say all the right things in meetings, and make noises about being amenable to changes that would improve our overall organization's products and reputation, but when push comes to shove, they resist most programmatic changes because at bottom, they are judged by their boss on the basis of how well they defended their turf. The organization as a whole cannot move forward, because this division is operating with a separate set of values and goals from the rest of us. Someone might say that the problem is that I haven't convinced these internal clients to do things differently, that I didn't build bridges and incrementally bring them along with me, adapating my ideas as needed and creating a stronger, third path. But that view is wrong. I am stuck downstream of a leadership problem, indeed, but it's a problem between the CEO and the leader of this division. The costs are borne by the managers in my department and in the other division who basically spend all our time bickering--ever so politely--and undermining each others' activities. It's poisonous. I don't feel a personal failure to build bridges or sell these colleagues on my ideas: no matter what I say to them, if their boss doesn't want my--or even 'our'-- ideas to move forward, it won't happen. So while I understand that not building bridges or making your case incrementally, deliberately, and being open to tweaks along the way might have led to better outcomes in the situation described in the original post, I would caution that it is very easy to say "you didn't meet them halfway" when the problem might be actually much more systemic and even built into the cultural fabric of the organization.

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Vijay Shah
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1 month ago

As an experience- one gets signals on need of bridge. But miss to do understand the signals.

And some time it too late to decode the signals- and land up into trouble. The understanding signals and response is ones art-

One has to leave his ego, status and have courage to take required corrective action without losing personal importance- will have a bridge of success.

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Angelapreece

2 months ago

99. It strikes me that there's a link to the change curve here, and unless as an individual or a company, there's a recognition that something needs to change, you or the company cannot move on,on the change journey. In not understanding that you needed to "build bridges" (or build a coalition for change?) in order to make change happen in the company, perhaps you remained stuck on the downward slope of the change curve, and leaving the organisation (martyring yourself, as you say), is a demonstration of the classic "anger" stage on the change curve. I appreciate your openness in sharing your experience, particularly when you say that others who depended on you lost out too - that's a hard lesson. 100.
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Ashoksharma_25
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2 months ago

Thank you very much for this highly insighting post.

I too am facing such a problem in the company I am working as HR Manager. We are a 37 year old Company called KELTRON (www.keltron.org),which had its major ups & down in the past. We are a State Public Sector Undertaking with 100% ownership by the State. Now we are facing man power shortage due to retirements!! I had proposed a comprehensive Man Power analysis & Competency Mapping exercise. The proposal has reached now where & retirements are happening with no new intake. I shall try to learn from the solution of "bridging the gap".but really do not know how to do it!! I have had the opportunity of getting hold of the book "Being the Boss" by Hill & Lineback through a friend of mine in the US and have started reading it!! I shall certainly get back on the Book, which I am sure will be a treat to read Dear Kentline back, could you suggest something for the problem our Organization is facing? Regards ASHOK SHARMA H R MANAGER KERALA STATE ELECTRONICS DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION LTD TRIVANDRUM SOUTH INDIA 009447130111

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Kimberly Wiefling

2 months ago

107. Yup, I wrote a whole book on how to avoid needing to hire me, but people won't do it unless they come up with the ideas themselves. In my consulting I encourage people to come up with their own solutions to problems, and paths to achieve their goals, supported and guided by my knowledge and experience. If I just offer them flat out advice there's the usual resistance, of course - often deserved, because I don't know the whole story. I learned something about how to be more patient with this process: "Activator" sees the need for change. "Resistor" pushes back on the need (a useful and necessary part of the change process). "Reconciler" proposes a way to reconcile the interests of the Activator and the Resistor. (Sometimes the Reconciler can be the Activator or Resistor, if they have the presence of mind to play this role as well.) Reconciliation of the need to change and the desire to remain the same channels both the Activator and the Resistors energy toward solution instead of going head-tohead.

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EllenM

2 months ago

111. Reading this post revealed a perspective to my own, recent, lack of building bridges dilemma. My mentor left the organization and I was left floundering under a director that I found to be untrustworthy, uninformed, and uninterested. I, too, felt I had the answers and that no one wanted to hear them and that eyes would roll when I would speak. I thought I was on the same bridge as my co-workers...apparently I wasn't. I was removed from my project management role and replaced by a subordinate. I have tried hard not to find fault with how the project is being managed without me (after all, everyone has their way of doing things) and I've tried to view my "failure" from differing perspectives. I actually got a little comfort from your post. I don't feel like such a failure and realize that without a mentor, you're in jeopardy of not reading the signs correctly. One of my biggest failures has been idealism. I'd like to build a bridge to the city of realism. What is my next step?

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Boston 123
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2 months ago

Couple of situations where bridge building happens more easily:

a.) when the business is in deep trouble, loosing money etc. and all parties know that changing is the only option.. or they loose their jobs b.) When you start a business, and have a small manageable group of very close contacts, who can see the business as you can. c.) We are in the midst of a change initiative, making us look at growing faster. But in the same breath the VP wants us to overcome unexpected raw material inflation, and make our earnings numbers for the quarter.. I mean what's so sacrosanct about quarterly earnings? I asked the same question of doctor's re. colonoscopy for people at age 50.. and asked what's so magical about this number? What about those that contract colo-rectal cancer earlier than 50.. an increasing number, BTW.

Troops quickly catch on to what the true priorities are, and no amount of 'spinning' will result in bridge building. Actions speak louder than words.

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Kentlineback

2 months ago in reply to Boston 123

119. Good points, Boston 123. Many years ago a glossy magazine called "Innovation" (I think) came and went, but one of the articles in it made a distinction I've always liked. Every organization is like music and lyrics. You can say what you want in the lyrics, but what people pay attention to is the music.If the leaders say, "Innovate, grow" (lyrics) but all you hear day to day is the beat of "cut costs, cut costs" (music), guess what message the people get. Kent Lineback

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Mtoney

2 months ago in reply to Kentlineback

123. Your reply is an entire new blog post in itself! Lyrics and beats are an excellent way to describe the underlying message of what holds an organization back from success, or propels them forward through positive change. Also, having the knowledge of what is right to do does not mean that the emotional readiness is there also. (I just had to laugh that it was a magazine called "Innovation" that came and went. Ouch.)

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Rebecca Tversky

2 months ago

127. Maturity gives us the ability to recognize how to build bridges and bring people safely where we're leading. Sounds like you needed a good mentor and one didn't come. #in

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Kentlineback

2 months ago in reply to Rebecca Tversky

131. Good point, Rebecca. I did have one, one of the older senior managers, but I went to him far less than I should have.

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Satish kumar Varada

2 months ago

135. Very few admit failure as candidly. It comes from honest, deep reflection and 'living' the leadership role - not just the position you are put in by virtue of past successes, but, solely thinking for the people, organization completely forgetting own interests. As always and most marketing / sales folks know, deep down the strategic solution is not always that great, but the way one connects emotionally with the audience (external or internal) makes the difference in eliciting engagement.

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Kentlineback

2 months ago in reply to Satish kumar Varada

139. Good points, Satish. Linda and I say in our book that managers need strong egos but not big egos. In this case, I had the opposite. Kent Lineback

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Tapiwanashe
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2 months ago

@Karen Tiede - Good points there.

We are all salesmen in the corporate world. The job of the day is thus; understanding our customer and making pitches that 'sell' our products to them. THe sooner we believe this the more we will 'sell' in our careers. I realized this a bit too late after having been forced out of my Vice GM post. I am however grateful for what seemed at first like a misfortune; I have taken the lesson to other better customers and I am selling more.

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Gary Winters

2 months ago

147. Excellent post which gave me food for thought. I was also struck by some of the responders who wondered about whether the consultant had "built a bridge" with you. It's hard to gauge that from the article, but here's what it got me to thinking: are there parallels between your reaction to the consultant (ignore the advice), and the reaction your boss and others gave to YOUR advice about a change in strategy? Perhaps they "got it (your ideas)" as well, but couldn't abandon their current beliefs just as you refused to "debase your perfect vision."
In other words, perhaps your boss and the senior team took your pitch exactly like you took that of the consultant. Maybe they, too, reflected later on how "right" you were, and how they should have seized the moment. Anyway, as I say, good food for thought, and I do appreciate the article.

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Kentlineback

2 months ago in reply to Gary Winters

151. Thanks, Gary. I'd like to think they couldn't "get it" either, but that feels a little like a cop-out to me. I certainly did not do all I could have done. Kent Lineback

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notmd

2 months ago

155. Let's say that we are not yet senior executives deciding on the company's vision but rely on cross functional areas to complete our objectives..i do think they are different..If one of the departments feeding in this chain of events that doesn't deliver ,I will first attempt to understand their issue and what steps they are taking to resolve it..If i determine it is all window dressing that department will soon discover that i don't need to cross bridges to solve the issue but will fly over it..

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Cphoward

2 months ago

159. Terrific piece, leadership is mostly difficult and not obvious, let alone always wrapped in people and therefore emotion. Understanding ones self is critical in over coming the challenge presented in the article.

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2 months ago
But did you want to "build a bridge "? Flag

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Kentlineback
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Kent Lineback

2 months ago in reply to None

At that moment? No. The real learning question is - why didn't I want to build bridges?

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Susan Starkey

1 month ago in reply to Kentlineback

171. Great question! I'm reading Kegan and Lahey's book "Immunity To Change" and learning how to explore: a) my stated goal, ie. "build bridges", b) what I do instead, ie. "stick to my beautiful vision and repeat it over and over", and then c) what Hidden Commitment am I honoring by doing (b) instead of (a). For me (since this post reflects an issue I have as well as Kent) my Hidden Committment might be "I am committed to being right, because it feels like my life depends on it". Each of us would have a different answer. By exploring (c) we can begin to see how we have a perfectly good reason why we have our foot on the gas pedal and the brake at the same time and don't do something that we say we are committed to doing. I'm not sure I'm saying this very well, but you might want to check out Kegan and Lahey's work.

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Jeff Pundyk

2 months ago

175. everybody's got "the right answer." the trick is to find the right answer that everybody can make happen. much harder.

Are You the Boss You Need To Be?


How are you doing as a boss? As a leader and manager, someone responsible for the results obtained by others, are you the boss you need to be? Are you getting the best from your people, and from those you need but don't control? Are you fully satisfying the ever-rising expectations of your firm and its customers? Equally important, are you meeting your own expectations? How would you like to work to develop yourself? Are you good enough to achieve your own aspirations? Are you ready for increased responsibility? These are critical questions all bosses must ask if they want to be fully effective. Why? The two of us have spent nearly 60 years in total studying and practicing management, and again and again we've made a troubling observation: Most managers grow and develop to a certain point, and then they stop. They reach the "Plateau of Good Enough." Perhaps they struggled at first as new managers, but they quickly learned how it's done in their organizations, how to cope with the challenges they typically face every day, and they've come to feel comfortable. Unfortunately, they mistake comfort for real competence. They only ask, "Am I good enough?" when they should be asking, "Am I as good as I should be and want to be?" If your answer to the second question is less than an unqualified "Yes!" we hope you'll follow us as we explore here what it means to be a great boss the boss you want and need to be. In particular, we're going to explore three critical areas: What's required to become a great boss. It's a difficult journey that requires years, not weeks or months, of learning and steady personal growth. It's difficult because most of your learning will come from your own experience, and so it will at times be painful. What effective bosses actually do. You cannot learn if you don't know where you need to go. You need benchmarks to measure yourself against. Here we will focus on what we call the "3 Imperatives": Manage yourself, Manage Your Network, and Manage Your Team. Those are not only the three areas in which we've seen managers again and again fall short, they are also the basic ways bosses do their most fundamental task of influencing others. The 3 Imperatives are the heart of management and leadership, an action-oriented framework that encompass everything essential to being a great boss.

How you can assess where you currently are. Understanding the journey and knowing what great bosses do aren't enough. The real question is this: how do you make progress on your own journey? The answer is simple in concept but difficult to do. All progress begins with a good understanding of where you currently stand. To assess yourself not once but continually, you must hone such personal skills and practices as regular reflection, honest self-assessment, the ability to admit and learn from mistakes, and the willingness to seek and absorb candid feedback. All these areas present daunting challenges for managers at all levels who are determined to make progress on their journey to mastery. As we explore different facets of becoming a great boss, we hope to hear from all of you who are facing the challenges and making progress. We hope you'll share your reactions, thoughts, experiences, and stories of what has worked for you and what hasn't, lessons you've learned, along with tips and techniques you've found helpful. There is much you can teach us and each other. We look forward to the journey together.

The Words Many Managers Are Afraid To Say


Challenge the Boss or Stand Down? (HBR Case Study and Commentary)

[For more, visit the Communication Insight Center.] When is the last time you said words like these to the people who work for you? "I don't know." "I was wrong." "I'm sorry." "Would you help me?" "What do you think?" "What would you do?" "Could you explain this to me? I'm not sure I get it." No one, boss or not, likes to admit error or ignorance. But an inability to recognize and admit openly when you lack knowledge or make a mistake will make you less effective as a manager in two ways. First, it will keep you from learning. If you're in a first-level manager's position, you may know more than your people because you once excelled as an individual in the work they do. But, as you advance, you'll soon rise beyond the level where you can be expert in the work of all those you manage. Sooner or later probably sooner you must learn to manage those who know more than you and know they know more. Linda once worked with someone in a global investment bank who took over a trading desk where he managed a group of experienced traders. At first he tried to give detailed instructions for adopting or closing specific positions or pursuing different trading strategies. The traders, who knew he lacked experience in many of the foreign markets where they were active, resisted his directions and demanded to know his rationale. He interpreted their resistance as a questioning of his authority, and tension grew between them. However, he did know he lacked knowledge of foreign markets, and one day he asked a trader to explain a certain aspect of pricing. The trader gladly spent several minutes on the subject and even volunteered to talk more at the end of the day. The incident, the manager said, provided an important insight. Because of it, he stopped talking all the time, and began to ask questions and to learn. And as he learned, traders stopped questioning his decisions so much, and tension in the group dropped.

The second reason to acknowledge error or ignorance is the issue of trust. The foundation of your ability to influence others is their trust in you as a manager, their belief that you will do the right thing. Pretending you know more than you do, or failing to recognize and draw on the expertise of others, is a good way to keep people from trusting you and your judgment. People know when you don't know something; they know when you're wrong or made a mistake or need help. They're reassured when you know it too and are willing to say so. People expect you to understand the business and how it works and to know enough to make sound judgment calls. But you needn't be the expert-of-experts. Having said that, let's be clear. This is another of those fine lines that managers must approach but not cross. On one side of it, people respect your ability to recognize your own shortcomings and your willingness to learn. Without those qualities, people are less likely to trust you. On the other side of that line, however, too much expression of weakness, error, and uncertainty will also diminish people's trust in you. In every situation, you must find that line and remain on the positive side. Straying too far from it, one way or the other, will make you less effective.
1. Yup very good piece that's more relevant in today's fast moving information world where corporate hierarchies are in many cases a 20th mgmt. century relic and should being flattened
>Pretending you know more than you do, or failing to recognize and draw on the expertise of others, is a good way to keep people from trusting you and your judgment. This is spot on ! Flag

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Vish Mahajan
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1 month ago

I want to offer a view contrary to the theme of discussions.

Word many managers are afraid to say are also 'You are not performing as per expectations', 'please listen to your colleague, he knows more' etc... when dealing with laggards in the teams. More often than not, the personal equations and nicities will overtake the objective judgement and no-nonsense straight talk. Have seen this happening more in professional services industries where the individial has a distinct role and the manager does not want to risk the short term success of the project , albiet with overworked performers and low morale...

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Mitch McCrimmon

1 month ago

7. Yes, managers should be able to admit it when they are wrong or lack knowledge, but this post has some really unfortunate implications. The question: "What do you think?" is offered as an example of an admission of being wrong. But this is a question that I frequently advise managers to use to engage employees. There are multiple variations on this question: "What do you see as the issue?" "What do you see as possible solutions, best solution, pros and cons of that solution, etc?" Naturally, if managers want to be more engaging by asking such questions, they should manage expectations by explaining that they are doing so to engage and develop people, also to foster shared ownership and better decisions.
Positioning such questions as an admission of ignorance simply fuels the counter-productive myth that managers should be answer-givers, solution generators instead of facilitators, catalysts and coaches. Yes, I realize that a lot of managers need to be right but they would be better served by arguing for the merits of using questions as an engaging tool than by encouraging them to admit their ignorance. What manager wants to feel such a lack of confidence? I wrote an article called: "How's your confidence today?" where I argued that managers should base their confidence on facilitative skills rather than having knowledge. It is much easier to ask similar repeatable questions than to know it all. See: http://www.lead2xl.com/hows-yo... - this is about helping to build the confidence of managers rather than asking them to admit that they lack it.

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Kentlineback

1 month ago in reply to Mitch McCrimmon

11. I disagree slightly, Mitch. For many managers, asking "What do you think" feels like an admission not of being wrong necessarily but of not knowing the answer.

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Jean Caton

1 month ago in reply to Kentlineback

15. To me asking "What do you think?" indicates respect for the opinion of others, openminded style. Teaches others to think and problem solve. As a Coach, I firmly believe that you best develop leaders and managers by teaching them to think.
Another phrase I like is I have some ideas but I would like to hear what you think first

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pong

1 month ago in reply to Jean Caton

19. "what do you think?" is a type of question that either you don't have much confidence on your ideas or you just want the others to think or express ideas different from yours. It's sometimes defined as consultative way of leadership.

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Mitch McCrimmon

1 month ago in reply to Kentlineback

23. Kent, I agree with your point if the question is asked in a culture where managers are expected to have the answers and no doubt most cultures are like this. That's why I said in my original comment that managers wishing to work this way need to explain why they are doing it: to engage others, develop them, generate broader ownership, better solutions, etc. They should also explain that their role is to get the best out of all resources and that entails stimulating team members to think more, to rely less on the manager.

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Beatrice

1 month ago in reply to Mitch McCrimmon

27. I absolutely agree! There is one caveat that I would like to point out: all too often it happens that leaders ask those questions with the (outspoken) intention to engage others, etc. However, then their input is never considered, nor is there any feedback or further discussion. This is discouraging for those who have been asked to the extend that they prefer not to have been asked in the first place. It feels to them as if they are being played. In my role as consultant, I have witnessed that all too often. Hence those questions with the said intent should only be asked if leaders (or those who ask them) intend and are ready to work with the answers!

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David M. Kasprzak
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1 month ago

Sometimes, the problem is knowing what the problem is.

You can't always make a decision and drive it. Sometimes, you have to embrace humility and admit you don't have all the answers. Doesn't matter if you're the boss or not, it just becomes more acute when you are. The correct behavior starts long before you're in charge. The same person who can't admit their limitation when they are the boss probably never admitted them when they were an underling, either. Instead, they got good at hiding them or knowing how to avoid situations where they would have to expose them. Therefore, they always looked good and got promoted. Some tout this as Peter principle, others tout it at career management. What's broken is what we reward. The overall behavior in the management ranks won't change until the system of rewards at lower levels is also changed, to assure that the management ranks are filled only by those who demonstrate humility and the ability to depend on others in the first place.

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Abhishek Syal
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1 month ago

Accurately said. More than this, seniority breeds egoism in general. Flag

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Paul Flanigan

1 month ago

39. What throws this list are "I'm sorry" and "I was wrong." Take those out, and you have a list that a great manager uses all the time to proactively be better at his/her job AND better at managing.
If you take those two by themselves, I believe that don't show vulnerability at all. They show integrity. "Mistakes" often become huge blunders largely due to lack of admittance to begin with. If you screw up, you admit it. Think of it this way: Jason Giambi admitted taking sterioids. He got his act together and was back in the game. Most people gave him a large degree of credit for owning up. Then you take Mark McGuire, who took years and a potential Hall Of Fame bid to finally fess up. How would the public have handled him if he fessed up right away? Obviously these are sports figures, not managers, but the publicity of the mea culpa is the same. If a manager can show a side of humility and integrity, it makes him/her a stronger manager.

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Rebecca Tversky

1 month ago in reply to Paul Flanigan

43. Along with this goes the tendency of decision-makers to blame day-to-day managers for the effects of the decisions they made. If goes a long way when a leader can recognize how their decisions affected the outcome of a project, apologize for any mistakes made and ask for help with finding a solution.

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pixiedust8

1 month ago in reply to Rebecca Tversky

47. THANK YOU! Someone low-level in my organization is taking heat for a mistake right now, but the person made the mistake because someone high up didn't staff or train adequately. Unfortunately, the leader will never admit it to himself, let alone rectify the situation.

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Paul Flanigan

1 month ago in reply to Rebecca Tversky

51. Rebecca, what's great about your point is that IF decision-makers do this, they are doing exactly what they SHOULD be doing - taking responsibility, leading by example, empowering others to do the same. Great point.

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Rick Wheatley

1 month ago

55. This was an excellent post representing one of the key success factors and challenges for new leaders. How to deal with one's own vulnerability - there are a lot of jokers in suits roaming around out there pretending they have it all together. Unfortunately, their drive sometimes takes them far despite their lack of focus on contributing to something bigger than themselves.
Authenticity, vulnerability and a growth mindset (everything is learning - see Dweck) are the way toward a better future... In my humble opinion ;)

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Blessing Ehiwario-Samuel

1 month ago

59. Good comment, i belief also that creating a condusive working environment which promotes excellence and discourages mediocrity is an excellent way to get the best from your subordinates. but when there is no motivational strategies put in place to uphold that, the long run effect is that it could lead to moonlighting, another word for lack of commitment due to organizational infidelity, frequent leave and attacks targeted on change or frustrate cross breeding of ideas and if these urgly trends are not given the right managerial precriptions, it could lead to exit of high performance, a career menopause will be attained by census takers who choses to remain in the system and the organisation will struggle to remain afloat or be forced to go into extinction. Consequently, when managers are sensisitve to staff welfare and are able to articulates individual and corperate performance to achieve results then applying this tactis is not a problem. but in a situation where this foundation is not laid and staff members are seen as machines and not humans, then asking for ideas in this unfavourable circumstance could only attract an executive slap.

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Redge

1 month ago in reply to Blessing Ehiwario-Samuel

63. As a change agent / turn-around specialist, our President and CEO assigned me to plants that were struggling desperately, sinking fast, or already hit bottom. As such, the teams / workforces I encountered were already on the brink of burnout, moonlighting, demotivated, disengaged, bitter, and even hostile.
The potential end result you mention was my starting point.

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knowledgenotebook

1 month ago

67. 1) [ "What would you do?" "Could you explain this to me? I'm not sure I get it."
No one, boss or not, likes to admit error or ignorance. ] Respectfully, I don't see the logical connection between the two. If an employee or client perceive the other party being weak or ignorant by such a sensible and thoughtful question then the other party is a PROBLEM! Good to STOP here! 2) [ "Would you help me?" ] Personally I would fight such an expression, too close to begging while you're still not "drowning" yet. 3) [ too much expression of weakness, error, and uncertainty will also diminish people's trust in you. ] Of course. Any intelligent person won't do that.

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Karim Ismail

1 month ago

71. One thing that would help managers and excutive is a lot is to behave like a coach, not a boss. This requires them to ask lots of questions, including admitting their vulnerabilities. Too often, leaders tell rather than ask, thus shutting off great solutions and different perspectives from people who report to them. The Leader as Coach approach would help every executive do a far better job in harnessing the strengths of their people.

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Rico Mcmillan

1 month ago

75. This is a great posting...with great insight and observation of a central issue facing corporations. The results of such lacking is less than stellar performance and/or efforts. I face the challenges daily sometimes in my company of getting the powers to be to recognize an error in judgement, strategy, observation, etc cost us real dollars at the end of the day. My impression is that the implicit power of authority prevents many well meaningful

managers/leaders from unwrapping the shrouds of their title's supreme right. This pervasive notion that to lead is to dominate with absolute rule and authority and that critical analysis, structural recommendations, new idea presenting, or simply challenging the status quo is not a function of a creating efficiencies in the systems, but is disobedience of the omnipotence bestowed upon those for whom such privilege has been granted. It has been my experience that its refreshing and surprisingly encouraging to hear leadership say..."I was wrong...please go over this with me again because I think your idea is a great one that has merits in working". Their title power is not diminished in anyway in my eyes because of this admission! In fact the opposite effect, I find myself working harder for them subconsciously. I'll twist a saying.."just because you have the power or right to...doesn't make what you do correct or powerful!"

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Robin Cohn

1 month ago

79. A problem can be rapidly diffused when one apologizes, admits mistakes or admits the lack of knowledge. Not doing so leads to anger and unrest for a longer time period. Such behavior is hardly productive.

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Alex Lanni

1 month ago

83. Nicely built up article. Its true its difficult to admit our mistakes and shortcomings but if we indeed do it we start learning and overcoming it with time. Same goes with managers, they may technically not master every bit but yes will have a general overview to talk about it.

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Achim

1 month ago

87. I agree, one rarely hears these words in traditional command and control organisations. But nobody is perfect and that includes leaders. True leaders don't claim to know everything, but they will make sure to surround themselves with the best experts available. Furthermore, they will delegate responsibility to these experts.
For them it is perfectly normal to say 'Let's do it your way' - another sentence you're not likely to hear in command and control organisations. As Grace Murray Hopper said: "You manage things; you lead people".

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Redge

1 month ago

91. I may not have all the right answers but I don't hesitate to ask the right questions. My colleagues and team members know that if I don't have the answer, I'll figure out a way to get one.
As presented in the context of this article, my experience suggests this behavior is a strength.

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Kentlineback

1 month ago in reply to Redge

95. I think it is, Redge. The best bosses I ever had were the ones who asked the best questions. Sometimes they were nudging me in a different direction and sometimes they didn't know the answer themselves. Either way, their questions made me a better manager.

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Steve Brazell

1 month ago

99. These words sound like what my 11 year-old says when he hasn't finished his homework. With the exception of No. 5, they are not just admitting vulnerability, they are admitting lack of clear thinking, problem solving, and ability to get the job done. What corporate America needs is less pats on the ass for lack luster performance and more accountability. If you want to be a CEO instead of a Manager, start acting like a leader not a therapist.

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David Kaiser

1 month ago in reply to Steve Brazell

103. I have to disagree, Steve. No one knows everything, no one is mistake-free, no one is an island unto himself. So, avoiding the words "I'm sorry" or "I don't know" or "I need help with this" actually shows weakness, an unwillingness to face and admit reality, and as the authors note, workers usually can tell when you are BSing. The result is they are less willing to trust you, to communicate with you openly, and more likely to engage in the same sort of posturing that makes them look good in front of the boss, regardless of actual performance, and we sure as hell don't need more of that!
David Kaiser, PhD Executive Coach and CEO www.DarkMatterConsulting.com

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pixiedust8

1 month ago in reply to Steve Brazell

107. Trust me, the leader of my agency pretends he knows everything, and everyone knows he doesn't. He just looks stupid because he won't admit he doesn't have the answer to everything. No one can, so it's ridiculous of him to posture like that.

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notmd

1 month ago

111. Besides admitting our mistakes,I think you make a point that can be applied to most behavior..draw a line and put at each end the extreme..for example,you can have autocratic control at one one end and total hands off at the other..it is our ability to know where we should be on that line (depending on the issue) that takes us from a good manager to great manager..

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Kentlineback
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1 month ago in reply to notmd

115. Thanks, notmd. You just summed up a key theme of the book we wrote.

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jmcaddell

1 month ago

119. Admitting vulnerability is difficult for managers, who are often promoted (and valued) for their strong opinions and decisiveness.
As you point out, the reality of managing is fraught with ambiguity, shifting circumstances and missing information. As a result, mistakes are inevitable. Being able to see this and learn from them (as opposed to papering over or denying accountability for mistakes), is a hallmark of a great, highly skilled manager. I've been studying mistakes in business for several years now (and am collecting findings at http://mistakebank.com), and I'm constantly amazed by how often highly accomplished people admit they were wrong. One of my heroes, Royal Little, the founder of Textron, published an autobiography of mistakes ("How to Lose $100,000,000 and Other Valuable Advice"), and rather than laugh at his miscues, I rather admire him all the more for having the guts to examine his past and learn from it.

regards, John

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Kentlineback
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1 month ago in reply to jmcaddell

123. Thanks, John. Will take a look.

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jmcaddell

1 month ago in reply to Kentlineback

127. By the way, am reading your book now; like it a lot. Very sound and practical advice for managers. Kind of a companion piece to Sutton's "Good Boss, Bad Boss," more focused on how to achieve "good boss" behaviors. 128.
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DCOCA

1 month ago

131. This is an interesting little tidbit, and makes sense, but I think the cautionary tale at the end of the article regarding finding the right balance between humility and weakness is critical. I think a boss' being willing to admit they don't know everything and seek help from their team does build a lot of good will. It gives subordinates an opportunity to have an experience of contributing, which builds confidence and morale. I've had a boss who was expert at doing this without ever seeming weak, and I think that was the key. He was never sheepish about it, so it never made me or anyone else feel like we had to be embarrassed for him. That's been a valuable lesson, and one that I've tried to take with me as I've advanced in my career. Toning down my know-it-all tendencies has worked well in fostering an environment of open communication for everyone. I find that when it comes from the top it gives others the freedom to express their own uncertainties, which has led to great conversation, collaboration, and teamwork. 132.
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pong

1 month ago

135. admitting mistakes does not mean you are weak, in the first place you have not achieved the top level of management without passing through difficult and hard times. Even if you are one of the stakeholders of a certain entity you still need opinions from others most especially in the lower level. it doesn't also mean that you don't know much of what is happening, but it is more team building and challenging when you learn also from others.

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M. Jehanzeb Saeed

1 month ago

139. I am reading a book on Resonant leader ship and the very theme of the book is that boss's/leader's behavior resonates into the behavior of the team. Hence, if employee are ready to accept their shortcoming, the overall morale of the organization is positive and improvements are seen in all the parameters of management results areas , Customers, employees, shareholders and organizational structure.

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IKE

1 month ago

143. The boss doesn't like to admit error or ignorance! Instead the boss confabulates. . .replace fact with fantasy in his memory. Alas, we have seen people like these wrecking "companies with potentials".
In the field of Psychiatry there is a name for this mental process called "confabulation", which is defined as: Filling in memory gaps with a falsification that a person believes to be true. The dementia afflicted person absolutely believes without question, that this memory is complete and intact. Sometimes these "memories" are plausible explanations that sound reasonable and other times, they are absolutely preposterous. Because the belief in these is absolute, it makes no difference that they are illogical, impractical, or even impossible. No one has absolute knowledge, information, or understanding of everything. KNOWLEDGE is a lost property. Come and HELP me. Hail to thee, noble friend!

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Redge

1 month ago

147. In my career as a General Manager there have been times where "I'm sorry" and "I was wrong" were quite applicable. I believe the culture of the company creates the level of "emotion" that accompanies the messages you're sending.
I always believed in creating strong relationships with employees at all levels of the company. Everyone knew who I was, I knew who they were, and they knew my door was always open. We fostered an engaged team that was keenly aware of the company's activities - both good and bad. In today's terms we call this transparency. When times were extremely difficult, I personally spoke to the people who were layed off - I didn't pass this on to my direct reports. I truly was sorry for the situation we found ourselves in. In other cases where an employee had to be dismissed, again I was sorry that things didn't work out. When a person is hired, an implied trust exists that we will each perform our respective duties in a competent and professional manner. In our company, people matter.

I have also advised all employees in open forums that if I make a decision and it's wrong I have no problem admitting it and I will take responsibility for it. As a matter of principle, I advised our teams that if they were unsure of the decision they were making that they could talk to me or share their concern with the rest of the team. I am more concerned when employees knowingly take responsibility for high risk decisions when they know the team is always available to support them. While respect and trust are earned, they are rooted in honesty and open communication. Sincerity can only follow and people absolutely know the difference. After a number of years, one facility I managed chose to decertify the union after recognizing the management style of the "new" team was radically different from what they were accustomed to. A complete change from the traditional labour / management relationship I found when I first arrived. This same plant has continued to improve, grow, and prosper to this day. Having said all of this, we hired talented, skilled people who cared about our business. We set the bar high, paid accordingly, and became an employer of choice and a recognized leader in our area of expertise. It takes time to build a team where the culture of the company is a "safe" place for people to be who they really are. I would contend that building and maintaining TRUST is the key and underlying theme to achieve the ideal culture where we don't have to worry about where the lines are and what side we are standing on. There are many movies that exemplify the importance of building a strong culture first before we even attempting to play the game. In business we have to learn to do both at the same time. I have also found that employee and customer satisfaction are directly correlated. Taking care of your team is another way to great care of your customers.

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Peter Gluck
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1 month ago

I wrote recently something similar, about the most important word: http://egooutpeters.blogspot.c...

By the way, nobody could guess this magic word peter

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Dasagi Vijaya Bhaskara Rao

1 month ago

155. Well said. At times, even if one may go wrong, one has to move on. Some times it needs to be autocratic. Because the end result is not predictable. A manager has to take risk. A manager is paid for the risk taking. And one can say 'sorry' few times...(and outcome of the manager's decision should not be costly). But if one keeps saying sorry many times, and also be autocratic all the times (or otherwise hands-off to avoid risk taking), there is something wrong! Better the manager quit the job! It is balanced act that good managers should do.

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Jazzman

1 month ago

159. I have mixed feelings about this post. Yes I value honesty and straight talk and try to apply it to my professional life. However, in today's corporate culture, it can be seen as an admission of guilt that invites sanctions from higher ups. Everyone in a management position needs a convenient scapegoat. My recent sideline experience is a point in case: A large IT project got delayed for a lot of different unrelated reasons, one of them was the project's manager reliance on his team's input about deadlines. When the proverbial poop hit the fan, he got fired mostly because of that deadline failure (at least officially). With this kind of "results or die" corporate culture, no wonder we are supposed to be macho managers that never admit ignorance or guilt. Being honest and admiting your lack of knowledge on some subjects certainly makes you a good person, but it will probably not get you to the top. Call me a cynic, but I've seen too much of that in the real world :( 160.
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Kentlineback

1 month ago in reply to Jazzman

163. I must confess that we probably meant this blog to apply more to your dealings with those who work for than for those you work for. Nonetheless, it does work both ways. Up or down, you have to find that line that cannot be crossed, and it's entirely possible in some organizations that it will be different in the two directions. It's still true that if your boss knows you made a mistake, or that you don't know something, pretending that you're fine will certainly not commend you to him/her.

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Abhishek Syal
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1 month ago

Accurately said. More than this, seniority breeds egoism inn general. Flag

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Joy Abdullah

1 month ago

171. A very helpful and excellent post. The key is--"This is another of those fine lines that managers must approach but not cross."-As a manager/team leader/boss, knowing one's self and one's abilities, is a huge plus in understanding how to use humility positively and get the most out of a team. 172.
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Alain Theriault

1 month ago

175. Would be interesting to push the reflexion a bit and wonder if there is a difference in white/blue collar workplace. One thing sure, In some cultures, you could call it walkking the razor's edge.

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Kentlineback

1 month ago in reply to Alain Theriault

179. It certainly is a razor's edge, Alain. That's a good way to put it. You'll create problems if you stray too far one way or the other. Our objective in the blog was to point out that it's not always a safe choice to say nothing. People need to see some level of honesty and self-knowledge, but neither too much nor too little.

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V P Kochikar

1 month ago

183. Being an effective manager means straddling many such thin lines. Being too restrictive with employees vs. giving them too much freedom; delegating too much vs. not delegating enough are two others.

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Gustavo Chinchilla

1 month ago

187. Interesting...I want to add a third way it will make us less effective: if we don't ask questions and just talk....how are we going to find out how much our people know (strenghts), or don't know(opportunities), in order to coach and develop them!

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Saket Bansal, PMP

1 month ago

191. Good post, i think emotional intelligence is a basic quality which manager must have in order to succeed in his role. Self awareness is something without which one can not go far in his career path.

If You Don't Want To Influence Others, You Can't Lead


The stereotypical bad boss is one who marches through the workplace barking orders left and right. But there's another type we've probably all experienced at one time or another: bosses who don't do what they need to do. They provide no direction or guidance. What they want or expect isn't clear. They're distant, unapproachable. They can't or won't make choices. The list could go on and on. It's not that these bosses don't know what to do. It's more basic than that. They're not willing to do what the job requires. They lack something some spark, some urge, some need that's obvious when absent. When he was running a small division years ago, a manager we know, Christien (not his real name), promoted Laura to head a small group of designers. Almost immediately, Laura faced a major challenge. The division had just introduced a line of products aimed at an important new market segment. Since the company sold primarily through direct marketing, the design of such materials as catalogs and, increasingly, web pages had a direct impact on sales. And sales were below forecast. In the flurry of analysis and research that followed those early results, a major dispute erupted between product developers and the design group. The sales materials for the new products were too "artsy," the developers said. A prospective customer had to study them carefully to understand the product and its benefits, and few prospects would do that. As one developer said, "The designers are trying to win design awards, not sell product. This isn't about projecting some image. It's about moving the goods." Laura clearly felt trapped in the middle. She didn't deny many of the developers' claims, which were backed up with data from interviews and focus groups. But "if developers had their way," she told Christien, "they'd cover every catalog with starbursts and the words 'NEW' and 'SAVE MONEY' with lots of exclamation points. No competent, selfrespecting designer will do that. If I force my designers to do it, they'll leave their talent at home and do horrible work until they find another job. And I'll lose whatever confidence they have in my design sense. If that happens, I'll be useless to them and you." When Christien stressed the need to find some resolution, she asked him to sit in on her next meeting with the designers.

In the meeting, where Christien listened and observed more than he spoke, Laura mostly moderated the discussion as designers complained about the "idiots" in development who knew nothing about good design. She clearly expected Christien to deliver the "your work on these products is unacceptable and you must change" message to her people. He did not, and the meeting ended without resolution, except that now Christien understood he had two problems. First, of course, there was the need for better marketing materials, but it was clear as well that Laura lacked something required of all managers the fundamental will or need to influence others. She was unwilling to press her people to take a new and different course. In our experience, a surprising number of managers share this reluctance. Their reasons can vary. Some will do most anything to avoid conflict or disagreement; indeed, they see the manager as the one who maintains a harmonious workplace. Others are reluctant to do anything that might threaten or upset their personal relationships; their need to be liked dominates their behavior. In Laura's case, she still saw herself as a designer, not a manager. She was reluctant to put at risk her colleagues' professional opinion of her. Why, then, do such people become managers? Most of all, they don't understand what the role will require of them. They like the status and income that come from rising in a hierarchy. But until they get past whatever is keeping them from a willingness to influence proactively the behavior of others, they won't be fully effective. Effective managers are sensitive to, and caring of, people they know that why and how they exert influence matter greatly but behind everything they do is this fundamental need to shape and change what others do and the thoughts and feelings that drive their actions. Ask yourself: Do I want to influence others? Am I ready and willing to do so? This is the most fundamental task that managers and leaders perform. If you will not or cannot do it, if it makes you uncomfortable, if other needs to be liked, for example feel more compelling, you will struggle as a boss.
1. Like many lurkers in international commerce, I'm waiting for the long overdue book that forthrightly deals with the topic here in terms of how most advancement takes place. Perhaps the title will be, "The Real Cost of the Corporate Suck-Up. If advisors remain focused only on marketing themselves to conventional decision makers, we won't see this book anytime soon. As the old Greek saying goes, "Flatterers get payment: truth tellers get exile".
The distinction between manipulation and leadership is an important one. Manipulation, often described as internal corporate politics and played out as passive/aggressive gamesmanship, is a short term tactic that can create the illusion of productivity and get a mediocre manager promoted; but there is no greater good served by it, meaning, it isn't a durable productivity strategy for the enterprise. Manipulation is necessarily limited in scope and value because its goal is an immediate gain in appearance for the manager, not the wellbeing of the enterprise as a whole. It is a very common debility because it is usually rewarded by those many higher-ups who value reinforcement over challenge. Impulses of genuine leadership can be

destabilizing and threatening among peer managers with comparable responsibilities but widely disparate talents. Seen from the outside, the distinction is obvious. Many who advise enterprises, either as consultants or on the business lecture circuit, recognize the vivid difference between management through leadership and management by manipulation. We also know how widespread is mediocrity of this sort, an institutional disease propagated by senior executives who prefer adulation to driving competence. Often they rightly fear new leadership talent that may compete with them on merit and win. They dont see themselves as gaining by doing the right thing for the enterprise as a whole. Top executives, guarded by a protective phalanx of compliant, worshipful managers, too often are oblivious to this major structural weakness in management. Ultimately the organization pays for this managerial behavior through loss of team cohesion, low morale, attrition of good employees and soft performance in the competitive marketplace. The best leaders at the top respect their team members enough to ask them basic questions about performance and then listen to their answers; when this happens, the talented managers who can lead quickly self-sort from among the boot licking mediocrities, the interests of the enterprise come front and center, talent is recognized and the future is far brighter. Flag
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Gregory Layne
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Michael:

2 months ago in reply to Michael Colopy

Your point regarding disparate talents among peer managers bears emphasis. I suspect we all have had to contend with the inertia created by managers, at whatever level, who have gained their positions through one form of attrition or another -- as the result of inveterate brown-nosing, skillful politicking, or simply seniority -- without ever developing the skills needed to actually provide critical leadership in challenging situations. But while the actions of such individuals in extraordinary situations can nearly always be counted on to betray them, it's really their day-to-day, literally "business as usual," approach that's likely to do the most damage. I agree with the other commenters who believe that some individuals possess, whether by nature or through professional nurturing, a distinct skill for leadership. But the contrast to that should never be complacency or borderline competence.

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Mitch McCrimmon

2 months ago in reply to Michael Colopy

7. This is a popular view, calling for honesty over brown-nosing, but it isn't this simple. Executives are vulnerable human beings just like everyone else. Compare them to golfers or tennis players whose confidence can go up and down with every shot. Every human being is susceptible to negative feedback. Yes, it is ideal to be honest and challenging and we need more of that, but you only make enemies by too overtly shooting someone down. The best influencers know how to position feedback positively and sensitively.

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Michael Colopy

1 month ago in reply to Mitch McCrimmon

11. The observations are based entirely on broad empirical evidence; whether or not it is "a popular view" is immaterial to the validity of the point. Yes, many senior execs are "human" and vulnerable but we are discussing the ascendancy of leadership and its effects on the wellbeing of an organization. The top spots presumably go to candidates on a competitive basis and being very human, while assumed, isn't a metric of performance in this context.
Merit, theoretically speaking, is the essential attribute qualifying a manager for promotion in a transparent and fair system but in practice it is often subsumed, usually under non-meritorious considerations as was stated. The entire organization suffers as a result -- or at the very least forfeits the progress it would otherwise gain. As a result of which everyone forfeits income and/or other benefits generated by organizational success. Nor is the comment about "shooting someone down". Quite to the contrary. "The best leaders respect their team members enough to ask them basic questions about performance and then listen to their answers; when this happens, the talented managers who can lead quickly self-sort from among the boot licking mediocrities, the interests of the enterprise come front and center, talent is recognized and the future is far brighter." It is about honesty, fairness, showing respect and gaining for the organization the value that attaches to effective leadership.

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notmd
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2 months ago
Linda..

Many managers will tell you they believe they are assertive and want to influence people however when assertiveness doesn't work ,they back off..This particularly happens between departments..they send out reports about the department and hope someone at a higher level will read them the riot act..this is the point when a manager defines themselves as good or great..If their tendency is to back off this will become their conditioned response for their career therefore perpetuating mediocre performance..It is the time for smart courage..it happens in the blink of an eye..don't accept the wall..be smart and find a way over/under ,around or through it..don't let that moment make you a victim..

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Kentlineback

2 months ago in reply to notmd

19. Blogs, I'm discovering, are not a great venue for making detailed distinctions. As I pointed out in a comment above, we wanted to make one simple point: If you don't want to influence others, you will struggle as a boss. However, as we mentioned (though only briefly), how you exert influence matters too - a lot. But that's a topic for another day.

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Mitch McCrimmon

2 months ago

23. Clearly an important issue: managers who can't influence others. But the title of your post threw me off: "If You Don't Want To Influence Others, You Can't Lead" with an emphasis on "Want." My immediate reaction to this title was that people can lead by example without specifically wanting to lead or being aware of doing so.
However, when I read the example you provided, it occurred to me that managers may indeed WANT to influence but not know how. I don't see where your analysis differentiates between these two possibilities. You are right that some managers want to preserve harmony and be liked, but that doesn't mean that they don't want to influence people. In my experience, it often means that they are afraid to assert themselves for fear of being disliked or they lack the confidence to take a stand for fear of being wrong. If that is the case, what they really need is some practical advice on how to influence while minimizing such risks. I tend to advise saying to their team or stakeholders something like: "You need to own this decision, so what do you see as the options and what is your preferred option?" By judicious use of such questions you can facilitate resolution without seeming to impose a decision or being autocratic about it. But then I see such facilitation as a management technique, not leading anyway. I agree with you that leadership entails influence. Facilitation is facilitation not leadership, as I see it anyway.

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HappyTheClown

2 months ago

27. A very romantic view that managers are leaders. Many managers are managers because someone is rewarding them for doing a job well - not for any managerial or leadership capability. If you are a good accountant you get to be the manager of accountants - that doesn't mean you have any managerial or leadership skills. They may be boot licks or just good at whatever their specialty is, but that doesn't make them automatic managers/leaders. You promote some squid or boot lick to being a manager and you get exactly the clueless yelling, bullying, ineffective manager you describe - and that has been going on since there was business.

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Jwhodkinson

1 month ago in reply to HappyTheClown

31. "Many managers are managers because someone is rewarding them for doing a job well"
I would suggest that many more managers are managers as a reward for having done a job the way that met the needs or expectations of the person in a position to reward them, regardless of whether the job was done well or not.

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Justin Hong
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2 months ago

Linda and Kent,

Great stuff. I think that you guys make a great point that many people who become managers really are focused with the status, prestige, and extra income that come with the position... however, they're not necessarily ready to

manage. I believe that managers definitely need to have leadership ability, and without the ability to inspire and connect with their people, these managers will find it difficult to achieve the results that they're looking for. Justin

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Paul Brown
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1 month ago

What a great article Linda and Kent, and lots of excellent debate too.

I agree with the comments in the article that managers who are overly worried about the approval of their former peers should not be leading, and it is unfortunate that it is often the case that individuals are promoted not because they are great managers but as a reward for being great at their job. Unfortunately I have seen too many managers who become unable and sometimes unwilling to lead and wish they could go back to their old job. It's too easy to blame the the incumbent manager though, it is often the case that these managers want to be able to influence and lead but are ill-equipped or lack the skills to do so because they have been promoted wrongly or prematurely as a reward for performing well. Take the case of a star salesperson and consider how the majority of company's would reward that success, usually through a linear promotion into managing the team, typically though the star salesperson is not an effective manager so not only does the salesperson become ineffective in their promotion but the company loses on two fronts, the first being the revenue generated from a star salesperson and the associated boost to the team atmosphere, but also the deterioration in overall performance of the new ill-appointed manager's team. I believe that companies need to consider a nonlinear progression and rewards system where individual employees are promoted into positions which ensure the right people are in the right positions and the company does not lose good operational employees for lack of alternatives to management positions. But that requires a bit of forward thinking on the part of senior management.

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Kentlineback

1 month ago in reply to Paul Brown

43. You've identified a significant problem, Paul, one that to my knowledge no one has really learned to resolve. Some high-tech companies have created "scientist" or "fellow" positions for the purpose you describe, but there's a limit to how many such positions a company can have. The corollary of the problem is that once you become a manager, there's no going back. Almost any movement to a non-managerial position will be considered a demotion.

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Lyn Bicker

2 months ago

47.

Interesting post, and obviously touching a nerve with lots of people.

I completely agree with the basic premise: no influence = no leadership. Assuming that influence up is the only way to go - which some folks see as the brown-nosing approach - is short-sighted. Influence down really does equal leadership, it's how you inspire people to get things done for goodness sake! In my experience, leaders are often unsure how to gain influence, let alone exert it. One simple way is to listen to your people, properly, with interest and respect. You don't have to agree with them, but the fact that you do listen means they feel heard, and therefore valued, and will - generally - return the compliment. Influence is such an important, masquerading as simple, concept. I've worked with many coaching clients who suddenly 'get' what it means to them and to their teams or departments if they have and exert influence. It's about performing to everyone's best. Thanks for getting this debate started! www.tsoconsulting.co.uk

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Kentlineback

1 month ago in reply to Lyn Bicker

51. Influence is the fundamental task of both management and leadership. In fact (forgive the plug!), we wrote "Being the Boss" around the 3 imperatives - manage yourself, manage your network, manage your team because they are the three basic tools of influence.

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Nwhimkeeline

2 months ago

55. I enjoyed the article, and agree with the premis, as a new manager the biggest mistake I made with attempting to precipitate change was not to fail to engage an issue, but to try and soften it with too many words and therefore muddy the issue. This was mainly due to lack of preparation. I can see what would happen next in the scenario. Laura realizes she needs to confront the problem head on, but is unsure what to say or what to do, so nervously starts talking about the issues and succeeds in angering eveyone (which she expected) but then realizes everyone left the meeting not really sure what she wanted them to do, when she wanted it done by, and how one could measure their sucess of meeting her wishes. All of these need to be clearly delineated and written out in advance by Laura for the outcome to be sucessful. Instead of talking the entire meeting, she could make her main points, state the facts and then spend the rest of the meeting listening and addressing concerns mitigating any animosity. I wish I could say that I learned this from a book and then implemented it sucessfully, but no, I blew it and won't do it again.

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Kentlineback

1 month ago in reply to Nwhimkeeline

59. Not a bad approach, Mr. ...keeline. An alternative might be to tell the designers, "What you're doing isn't working, and so YOU need to recognize the problem and find ways to resolve it. By the end of tomorrow, I want to see at least three different approaches." Or you could do what Laura actually did. After she and Christien talked at length about what to do, Laura insisted that her key designers observe the next live focus group. At first reluctant to be told how to design, even by customers, they were so intrigued by what they heard customers saying that they sketched out some new ideas on the spot and asked the group moderator to present them. From that interaction, the designers themselves came to a different, better approach.

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Robert Ginnett

2 months ago

63. Very interesting. Even more surprising, apparently to a lot of people, were some of the results that I discovered in my research for NASA on effective and ineffective team leadership. One of the early studies used commercial airline crews and the behaviors of their captains.
First, the not surprising. A leader can ruin a team's creativity by being over-domineering and authoritarian. This is the classic, old-line, hard-ass airline captain profile--so no one was surprised by these results. What was more surprising, even to me, was there were some airline captains who failed for exactly the same reasons in this blog--an unwillingness to exercise authority or influence at all. While this is not the worst leadership behavior discovered to destroy a team's potential effectiveness, it was clearly one of the top four ineffective leadership patterns.

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Raajenmahesh

1 month ago in reply to Robert Ginnett

67. I agree with you. Inaction is also an action. In other words the leader is not taking any risk (or) moving away from comfort zone.

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Kentlineback
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2 months ago in reply to Robert Ginnett

Thanks for sharing your research, Robert. Are your results available anywhere online? Flag

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Kbulava
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1 month ago

Great article, thank you.

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Ap23

2 months ago

79. Maybe I missed this, but don't you have to have an endpoint in mind before you go to influence of guide people? Maybe the meek managers just don't know what they want. Except of course to not blow the next promotion.

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Kentlineback

1 month ago in reply to Ap23

83. I couldn't agree more, Ap23. Influence works best when it's aimed at fulfilling some purpose and accomplishing goals based on that purpose.

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Xiaoheihym

2 months ago

87. I don't know whether such force can be called as "the desire of power', the three basic necessity for a leader. There's no wonder that people say their boss is too strict and picky. Maybe that's not because they are not satisfied with the staff. It's because they want the task done in another way. Being a manament major, I suppose that this theory is a little too impractical for such managers. They are not appropriate for the job.

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Rick Harris

2 months ago

91. Linda and Kent, I love your thesis, but I'm not so hot about your example. First, the love bit. In my experience individuals develop as leaders through a series of defining moments when they make clear cut decisions and expect others to execute them. You simply can't get from decision to result without influencing others--influence that it's time to make a decision; influence that it is the best decision; influence to put resistance in the rear view mirror and get on with it...etc.
The reason I take issue with your example is that you seem to be loading up on Laura. She's obviously in over her head, but Christien didn't need to go to a meeting to know that. She's telegraphed it in the way she persuaded him to attend the meeting. His opportunity to lead her better came (and went) when he agreed to go to the meeting rather than say something like, "If I go to that meeting, then your people will expect me to make a decision that they want you to make. This is your chance to make a stand with them. Let's talk about your goals for this meeting." Then when the meeting is over, he can say, "How can I help you with your relationship with your peers who don't seem to be very supportive of your point of view?"

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Kentlineback

1 month ago in reply to Rick Harris

95. I think your approach could work too, Rick, but I also think there's real value in seeing the real-time interaction between Laura and her people around a significant problem. For what really happened, see my comment above. The conversation you suggest between Christien and Laura happened after the meeting. I disagree with you only in that I don't believe it could only happen before the meeting.

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boston123

2 months ago

99. Linda, Ken, Good post. Yes, influencing people becomes more important, the higher up the organisation you are. However influencing requires a build up of trust, reciprocity and good interpersonal skills... all helping to get someone else to do what you want them to do, by themselves.
But I think a point is missed here. It is not whether 'directive' managing is better or worse than 'coaching' and empowering someone . Surely the situational aspect is important, because all leadership is situational. If the receipient / follower has a minimal skill base but enthusiasm for a job, he may still need 'directive' managing, where the manager spends some time on teaching, clearly outlining goals, milestones etc. On the other hand, a skilled, fully aware, self confident follower may simply require delegation of a broad goal, and getting out of the way. Using the same technique for all 'followers' can be ruinous... remember different strokes for different folks.. I find that most managers/ leaders find it difficult to adapt their style to the audience.

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Kentlineback

2 months ago in reply to boston123

103. Good point, boston123 and worth making. We didn't try to specify how to exert influence because we wanted to focus on the need or will to influence that must be in place before anything happens.

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Ali Echihabi

2 months ago

107. I personally do not like influencing others. To me "influence" is inherently limited in time (consider the expression "under influence"). I'd rather "convince", "advise", "direct" than try to influence. I'd rather explicitly ask a person to make a concession for the team or do me a personal favor if they are not convinced instead of working on influencing them.

Thank you for the article.

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Kentlineback

2 months ago in reply to Ali Echihabi

111. I understand your reluctance, Ali, but we use "influence" in its broadest meaning - to make a difference in someone else's behavior. So, to us, convincing, advising, directing, and asking a personal favor are all forms of influence.

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Vinay Chaganti

2 months ago

115. I am tempted to recall Eisenberg's 'Strategic ambiguity'. Managers do not disclose details for a lot more reasons apart from just being indecisive (or seemingly so, like in the article by Ram).
That apart for now. Also, in the example shared here, influencing happened and had not happened at two different levels. Considering the relation between Christien and Laura, by not doing what Laura expected, Christien definitely is influencing Laura's behavior (perhaps in a desirable direction, of influencing her subordinates). While between Laura and her subordinates, Laura did/did not really influence her subordinates since she could not risk her colleagues' opinion of her. But then, she is made a manager just then, and might learn her priorities as she goes along. Influencing still happens.

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Kentlineback

2 months ago in reply to Vinay Chaganti

119. Good point. Failure to influence can itself be a form of influence, just as failure to make a decision is often itself a decision. It's true we shape the behavior of others as a boss even when we do nothing. I suppose I'd tell Laura she needed to exercise influence in a more proactive, conscious way.

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artee

2 months ago

123. A very insightful article! Yes there has to be a will to influence others in order to get things going. The harmony maintenance manager might look good in the short term but someone needs to take decisions. I think the leaders Vs. manager issue brought up is super hyped- nobody has a title of leader in corporate world but

most of us are managers. However we reach the manager level because we are expected to lead(and manage) a set of people who seek guidance and take decisions. A better manager is someone who leads the way and not just approves subordinates' leaves. So in a way a manager is a leader. However the only difference is mostly because a leader is followed in most of his manners but a manager is cooperated with for most of the decisions he makes.

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Kentlineback

2 months ago in reply to artee

127. Speaking for myself, artee, I agree with you that the leader-manager distinction is super-hyped, especially in terms of a boss's everyday conduct. We used "Boss" in the title of our book ("Being the Boss") in good part to avoid the distinction. Bosses, those responsible for the performance of others, need to lead and manage. I prefer the good old days (more than 20+ years ago) when "manage" was the more comprehensive term and included leadership.

To Be a Better Boss, Know Your Default Settings


Every day as managers and leaders, we bring ourselves to the job. We bring who we are as people, our likes and dislikes, our preconceived ideas, the peculiar set of values and predispositions we've acquired, our unique personalities, values, and experience. Nothing wrong with that. It just means we're human and we don't leave our humanity at home when we work. But problems arise when we apply our preconceptions or values to situations at work without understanding what we're doing when we tilt one way or the other, not based on what's best in the circumstances, but on what we tend to prefer. What we prefer is sometimes the right choice, but often it's not. In our previous blog post, Kent described a learning moment when someone told him, "You don't build bridges," and he immediately recognized the truth of those words but was unable to change. What he needed to do cut too much against the grain for him. It would have required a change in how he saw himself and the value he felt he added. The first step to successfully changing ourselves is to understand who we are. Unless we understand our preconceived preferences our "default settings" we will be at their mercy. They will drive the choices we make every day, and we won't even understand what's happening. But if we know ourselves, we give ourselves the chance to stop and think: "I want to do such-and-such, but is that really the best choice here? It will make me feel comfortable, but is that the real test of what's best?" If we can ask those questions, we give ourselves a better chance of making the right call. All this is important for becoming an effective boss because managing and leading are built on a foundation of paradoxes. A paradox is a statement that's true even though it contains contradictory elements. For example, "Effective bosses are proactive and patient" or "To manage people, you must exercise close control and give people wide latitude." The essence of management is about knowing when one side of the paradox is more appropriate when to take action and when to wait, for example, or when to manage closely and when to give someone a long rein. Here's where preferences come in. For every management paradox, each of us will tend to prefer one of the choices over the other. It may be your nature, for example, to prefer action over patience, or close control over latitude or vice versa. Since these preferences are the product of our personality, values, and experience, which may have

nothing to do the immediate circumstances, they may or may not produce the best choice in those circumstances. What are your preferences? Be as candid as you can in answering the following eight questions, each of which is based on a core management paradox. In each case, there are no right or wrong answers. Effective managers will sometimes need to choose one way, and sometimes the other. The question is what would you prefer to do if you just followed your gut all the time?
1. Do you prefer to include others in choices you make by asking for their ideas

and opinions or even giving them freedom to decide or do you tend to direct others on what to do? 2. Do you prefer to focus on the work people do or on the people doing the work? In your relationship with direct reports, do you tend to deal primarily with the work, or do you prefer to interact with them as close colleagues and unique individuals?
3. Do you prefer to develop people through constructive criticism of what they need

to improve on, or by praising them for what they do well? Do you let them figure out for themselves how to improve, or work with them using close contact and instruction? 4. Do you prefer to deal with your direct reports one-on-one or as a team? When there's a problem in your group, do you tend to call everyone together and deal with it as a team, or do you prefer to go around person to person and work on it? 5. Do you prefer to focus on today's challenges or do you prefer to think about tomorrow and what's coming in the future? 6. Do you prefer execution, getting work done day after day, or innovation, creating new products or services or new ways of working? 7. Do you tend to work mostly with direct reports, your own group, or do you prefer to work with others throughout your organization? 8. When you have to make a tough choice, do you tend to focus on the harm that might befall someone or some group? Or do you prefer to focus on the greater good even if a choice may cause harm to some? Include others vs. direct others, work vs. people, critique vs. praise, one-on-one vs. team, today vs. tomorrow, execute vs. innovate, direct reports vs. rest of organization, harm vs. greater good. These are some of the most fundamental choices we must make every day as bosses. If we don't know our preferences when we encounter them, we're far less likely to make the best choices. Going with your gut isn't always the best way to be a boss. More on: Leadership, Managing people, Managing yourself Join the Discussion |

Email/Share Previous The Leadership Learning Moment That Wasn't Next If You Don't Want To Influence Others, You Can't Lead Never miss a new post from your favorite blogger again with the Harvard Business Review Daily Alert email. The Alert delivers the latest blog posts from HBR.org directly to your inbox every morning at 8:00 AM ET. More from Linda Hill & Kent Lineback The Leadership Learning Moment That Wasn't Read More Subscribe to HBR Close Trackbacks TrackBack URL for this entry: http://blogs.hbr.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/8799 No trackbacks have been made to this entry. Comments

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Mitch McCrimmon

2 months ago

2. Great topic! I've spent my whole career doing managerial assessments so I am very much in tune with how our preferences influence our actions. The advice here is hard to argue with but I would suggest a slightly different emphasis. Too much introspection can be paralyzing. And how well do we know ourselves anyway? I think many might find it easier to focus instead on what the situation or the other person needs. Yes, it helps to understand our biases, but the starting point should be to ask what the situation requires, I think. You can expand on this by gaining an awareness of the range of optional ways of dealing with a situation and asking yourself what might work best. This can be done, I think, without necessarily knowing yourself all that well and without incurring the side effect risk of undermining your confidence, which too much introspection can cause.
The general advice that you need to know yourself before you can manage can be overdone it seems to me. This is an input focus, suggestive of the "manufacturing mindset" when what is really needed is an output emphasis, a focus on the customer.

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Kentlineback

2 months ago in reply to Mitch McCrimmon

6. Good points, Mitch. We're certainly not advocates of navel-gazing, which can be paralyzing, but it still seems self-evident (to me anyway) that knowing something of one's own preferences has to lead to better, more thoughtful choices. A friend spent a week in Paris and had for dessert every evening his standard treat, a scoop of vanilla ice cream. He kicked himself when, a week after returning, he saw a magazine article about French pastry. Now, knowing his long-time practice of having a scoop of vanilla ice cream didn't require deep self-knowledge. Simple self-awareness would have given him a better experience.

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Mitch McCrimmon

2 months ago in reply to Kentlineback

10. Thanks Kent. I don't disagree with your point that "knowing something of one's own preferences has to lead to better, more thoughtful choices." My objection relates to the impression we create that you must know yourself to lead. I want to draw attention to low-level, small-scale leadership such as occurs in technical contexts when employees lead by example or by promoting a change to a product without self-awareness. A good example of what I am getting at would be artists who are so absorbed in their art that they are barely aware of their surroundings let alone themselves. But if their art is original they may lead other artists by example to follow their approach.
I think we glorify self-awareness as a necessary condition to lead for the same reason that we romanticize top-level leadership, that is WE WANT leaders who understand us. I have criticized our focus on the ideal leader here: http://www.lead2xl.com/the-ide...

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Simon Harvey

2 months ago in reply to Mitch McCrimmon

14. Mitch, I had to re read your comments, and while I agree with too much of anything is not good (we all need balance).The "This can be done, I think, without necessarily knowing yourself all that well " I had to add to.
Yes there needs to be balance, we do not all need to become Ghandi's or such, but I feel that half the battle we deal with, be it in leadership or customer service way, is that the Leader, of server that has too little idea of who they are, has little idea about how they are perceived by others. Leanning about your self is a lifelong development process, to get the most out of situation awareness, (a very important skill in my business) you must have a reasonable level of skill in Self awareness. Companies such as Southwest and others are very aware of this and do a fine job of focusing on the customer by getting their employees to understand self first. It is because we understand ourselves that we can start to understand the customers need and wants. I would rather not deal with emotion head on, my personal preference is to skirt it, to analyze it, and make it logical, problem solved, (for me). There you have my "default setting" and one that will bite me every time I forget it. What is logical to me can be downright absurd to others, and best I not forget this. We all must find our balance point. Just because you learn you default does negate any affect or effect it has, good or bad, but what is does is arm you with knowledge that we can then turn into a skill. How to understand others better

Without knowing you have a 6 speed gearbox, or your red line is at 12000rpm, how do you stop from blowing the engine up, running inefficiently, or missing peak performance? It is trial and error until you learn the "default setting". Perhaps not too different in ourselves?

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SIMONGB

2 months ago

18. Very true, and if one wants to go a little further perhaps look into taking a psychological type instrument to dig into your self awareness a little more. How we perceive thing can be so different. Ask you closest friend to be as candid as they can, promise not to get upset, and ask them to tell you what type of leader they see you as.
The closer they come to how you HONESTLY see yourself the better you understand yourself. Learn from what you are told. Remember it's all a matter of perspective. Read this both ways: WEARENOWHERE What others see and what you see

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Lynne C. Levesque, Ed.D.

2 months ago in reply to SIMONGB

22. I agree with Simon. Asking such questions of yourself is a critical first step. Getting feedback from self-assessments and from 360-degree feedback on these issues is a very important next step. Instruments such as the Leadership Versatility Index, which takes a 360 degree assessment of a leader's ability to manage many of the paradoxes that Hill and Lineback pose above, can be extremely helpful!
Lynne C. Levesque, Ed.D. www.breakthroughcreativity.com

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Lesley

2 months ago

26. Having completed an MBA, the Professional Development papers were a welcome addition to the heavy going of the Executive Papers .... information such as the HBR article were all part of our development BUT putting it into practice requires a high degree of EQ and practice. It's a matter of practice makes perfect and I don't know if I've got it right yet. .... here is hoping though :-)

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Rajendra Menon

2 months ago

30. Transparency, trust and humility can remove all resistance to manage. Transparency creates trust, trust creates respect and humility creates love. To b (boss) or not b http://rajmenon.wordpress.com 31.
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Albertod Oliveira
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2 months ago

We must differ ourselves between leaders and bosses. They are very different things! Flag

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Janice van Reyk

2 months ago

38. In one company I worked for we captured the paradoxes in "tights and looses". The tights were non negotiables - the outcomes and values required. The looses was the how.

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Nuno Tasso de Figueiredo

2 months ago

42. If you are a Leader and not a BOSS on your daily activities, people and your TEAM will understand better, because at the end they know that they are also humans and not machines as it was seen on the Taylorism times!
In fact there is a lot of Cognitive dissonance, as Daniel Pink says, between what social scientists know but most managers don't. The term boss itself is demeaning to those who depend on him. I even believe that the modern business in the world has to make a qualitative leap in relation to organizational, communication and management models of the past. We are all human, and as leaders we have to do a lot of insight but above all, because we also make mistakes, we should be more understanding of the failures of others. Moreover the error can be seen as a learning factor in and if we penalize the error constantly we will cut initiative and creativity. So, organizations should be more concerned about Leadership as a process of conducting a group of people, making it a team that generates results and also as the ability to motivate and influence team members, in an ethical and positive way to contribute voluntarily and enthusiastically to achieve the objectives of the team and organization.

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Avia Lindie
46. Profound! Flag

2 months ago

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Simon Harvey

2 months ago

50. If you are interested about more on these points about Self Awareness look here. http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/0... 51.
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Tom Bender

2 months ago

54. Linda and Kent, thanks! Great post and oh, so true. For that matter: knowing who you are that goes to work should immediately be mirrored to your employee (or should I say colleague?); since they bring themselves and there personal circumstance to work too. Interaction requires mutual understanding and goodwill. Asking about someones sick mom, might just be the medicine to improve both work and working environment. Manager can and should go the extra mile. It will bring them a lot. Thanks for sharing!

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Kentlineback

2 months ago in reply to Tom Bender

58. Good point, Tom. Great bosses, in my experience, build strong human relationships, caring and even close, but always with the understanding that it's fundamentally about the work.

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Andrebudianto

2 months ago

62. I have many idea in business development, fixed assets and the shadow property of prosperity. We got the concept, the expertise, otherwise we just wait of the capitalism of decision maker in real industry.

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Aakash Kundal

2 months ago

66. As a leader you need to know that every human being is moved by his / her emotions. The need is one & same: Need of belongingness to the systems/ organization. Unless your employees connect with your company vision or your shared values nothing will bring their motivation up!. First you need to identify their challenges in job profile assigned by you. If you are hiring new people, do it according to the value they can create or their ability to adjust to the work requirements. Induction of an new employee is an important step in this regard. For leader its paramount that he has good listening skills. Everybody in team looks up to him & he has to be wise enough to understand Team Dynamics. Try to keep your conversation neutral, avoid discussing divisive & personal issues. Never to get into argument mode, just change the topic. Invest time building positive bridges to your difficult people.
You also need to carry a carrot approach. Reward good behavior & good work. If needed redefine your company work SOPs & ask everyone to be part of the exercise. Welcome feedback from everyone & try to incorporate all good points which adds value to the system & de-stress system. Another suggestion is that make yourself approachable if your people have team issues. However, not at the cost of your other team member. Hierarchy if in place needs to be respected. Always call for manage review meeting, unannounced only with 24 hours notice, twice a month. Team will always be on its toes & always try to concentrate more on work/ goals of the organization. Less gossips, Less clutter... I am leading a team of 20 people, into international trading business. please give me your feedback for the thought process... I wait, thanks!

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Simon Harvey

2 months ago in reply to Aakash Kundal

70. While you have many valid points there are a couple I would caution about. There has been a fair amount of research that the "carrot" idea can actually be negative (see Carol Dweck's Research). Also, and this pertains to this and the "Hierarchy" think about cultural and personality differences. One personality preference can be to want a solid Hierarchy in place while another looks at it as a type of hindrance, necessary but a hindrance none the less. As to cultural, people from different cultures can have wide gaps in how they look at and what they expect from leadership. Read up on this if you are going to deal with a multi cultural workforce.
"Hierarchy if in place needs to be respected" makes my blood pressure go up. I much prefer "Hierarchy if in place needs to show respect and understanding" Yet this too from a person who likes your statement will annoy them. The human factor has been left out of too many equations when it comes to training and developing people skills. Hope this helps

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Aakash Kundal

2 months ago in reply to Simon Harvey

74. Thanks Simon for the help... I've been trying like anything to improve morale of my people.. Our is a young team & loads of interpersonal issues..

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Simon Harvey

2 months ago in reply to Aakash Kundal

78. You are welcome. If you have a few interpersonal issues I would recommend looking into a type instrument. Without dealing with those interpersonal issues you will be treading water for a long time and sooner or later you or someone else will go down. You can bring all the business lingo, figures, goals, incentives you want but in my view unless you deal with the interpersonal issues you will never have true engagement from your workforce.
We (humans) are very skilled at hiding our true selves. Just browse HBR and see how much is being talked about these type of issues, just under different names. Look at the "Recently from Linda Hill & Kent Lineback" articles mentioned at the top of this page. All relating to type preferences and they are all linked to how you were raised, your schooling, your environment today, your personal life, culturally inherited traits, and more. The business world is slowly waking to the eye opener that "We are all very different" and that few of us spend much time thinking about "self awareness". We tend to blindly go through our lives being pulled this way and that, oblivious to the notion that we are straying far from the path that leads to personal development and success as a human being. It is easy to point fingers, and natural (it is our way of defense), a fight or flight response, but in the end we all need to hold mirrors up in front of ourselves if we are to truly get the best from life. This is where most of our problems lie, in ourselves. So while you may have loads of interpersonal issues in your team, one may well be yours ( I have lots). It may even be what is stopping your whole progress (it takes just a small block of wood to keep a 1000 ton jet from rolling forward), imagine how small a problem would keep your progress at a stand still. Look at your own self first (self awareness), or as HBR puts it "your default setting". Bring up a fault you know you can have as an example to your young team.Nobody is perfect and they will be glad to hear, you know you are not either. They may be looking at you as a leader that is "perfect", and be thinking "it's easy for him to say" . So as this article notes "To Be a Better Boss, Know Your Default Settings" but remember to share them (your mental model) with the people you are trying to lead.

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Kentlineback

2 months ago in reply to Simon Harvey

82. Good point, Simon. A great boss I had once, one I tried to emulate, was open about his own inclinations- his default settings - and knew they didn't always produce the best outcome if he followed them automatically. So he made those of us who worked for him aware of them and essentially asked us to raise a flag if we thought he was making a choice based on them rather than the unique circumstances of the situation. His willingness to be open in this way, and to accept our comments when we thought he was perhaps not considering a choice fully, made him stronger, not weaker, in our eyes.

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Kentlineback

2 months ago in reply to Aakash Kundal

86. It's hard to disagree with your points, Aakash. Good luck. By the way, I'm amazed that you can get all your people together on 24 hours notice.

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HappyTheClown
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2 months ago

Put a manager under a good amount of stress and they will revert to type. Flag

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aaroneden

2 months ago

94. I love the questions you posted and to tell you the truth, I am an advocate of anything constructive from criticisms to creation of plans. I would call it something like 'Whining with a good cause' and it helps me get to know my people better. I guess, we will always have all those 'differences' that make us humans and it's a challenge on how we can work our way around it. Now, I'm just assuming that those who telecommute are often more productive with their works, simply because they don't have to spend time on useless rumor mongering and the likes that people normally do in the office. Am I wrong here? Thanks for the tips, anyway.

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Oscar Zepeda

2 months ago

98. It all boils down to all the personal choices we as leaders make during the day. Two books that complement this article that I just happenes to finish reading are "Fish" which posits that we must choose our attitude, and "Leadership &Self-Deception" which basically writes about being IN THE BOX and how we chose to blame others and deceive ourselves into thinking that we are better.

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Btcsorensen

2 months ago

102. Agree! We are who we are, not our job or position within the company. So from an educational point of view there could be room for some new programmes. Focus on personal (leadership) styles and development. Not only for MBA students but earlier, highschool latest.

The Leadership Learning Moment That Wasn't


12:48 PM Tuesday January 25, 2011 | Comments ( 45)

Email Tweet This Post to Facebook Share on LinkedIn Print More often than we might like, but less often than we probably need, an event at work throws up a mirror in which we catch a glimpse of ourselves. One of those moments occurred for me (Kent) in a meeting years ago. It was a gathering of senior managers to hear a presentation from an outside strategy consultant. When he finished, he opened a discussion about our firm's particular needs. Our needs, though not yet urgent, were strategic and considerable. The firm was about 30 years old and had enjoyed significant success throughout its life, based on great planning and management. For the first 20 or more of those years, before my arrival, it had produced consistent, extraordinary earnings and had been able to grow its top and bottom lines in real terms around 12-15 percent a year, year after year. Best of all, though far from glamorous, this company really did make a difference in the lives of its customers. But something began to change in the company's third decade, when I joined. The U.S. had passed through a sharp recession and the company seemed to lose steam. At first, we all blamed the economy; after all, we were still growing at a decent clip. It just wasn't as fast as before. I spent my first few years there building a successful internal startup. Growth wasn't my problem. But two or three years before this meeting, I had been put in charge of both my new division and the larger, core business, which together provided about 75 percent of total sales and much more than that of total profits. I took possession of the problem, and, with the people who worked for me, had developed a clear sense (we thought) of where the company needed to go and the significant changes required to get us there. But convincing my boss, the CEO/Chairman, and my senior colleagues turned out to be difficult. Things had worked so well for so long that no one wanted to contemplate making fundamental changes in what we did.

It frustrated me no end that others couldn't see what we faced. In almost every weekly meeting of senior managers, I raised these issues in one way or another. On occasion, a colleague or two seemed to support me, but nothing I said elicited more than some nodding heads. Such was the context in which the consultant came and made his pitch. As we discussed our needs with him, I took the opportunity (once again) to point out how our world was changing and how we needed to take decisive action. As always, the group's response was to bob their heads and, I suspect, roll their eyes to each other. Okay, I thought, I'm going to learn something here. So afterwards I took the consultant aside and said, "What do you think is going on? I made an important point and everybody yawned and moved on." "It was an important point," he said, "but you didn't build any bridges." Didn't build bridges? I went home thinking about that. I knew in the center of my being that he was right. I didn't build bridges. I didn't reach out and connect with others on their terms. I talked at them. I had a solution, a beautiful vision. I knew the answer, and I spent my time telling everyone what it was and what the company had to do. If the path forward was painful and difficult, if it would change totally what some of them did, well, so be it. I wish I could say that I thought hard about what I'd been told, that I began reaching out and building bridges, and that all of us went on to take the company to a better future. But I didn't. By some distorted internal logic, I decided I couldn't debase my perfect vision by turning it into a free-for-all idea jam. Better to stay pure and fall on my sword, a martyr. Which is what I did. Slowly, over subsequent years, I came to realize my stupidity. I had failed everyone the company, my colleagues, and the people who worked for and counted on me. I failed myself, too. I had truly wanted to create change. Why don't we learn, even when someone looks us in the eye and gives us the answer? "You don't build bridges." I knew he was right. I knew I should do what he said. But I couldn't. Somehow it cut too much against the grain for me. Ever since, I've wondered what it would have taken to get me to share my vision and let others shape it with me and what might have happened if I'd been able to do that. Has anyone else faced a moment like this and been able to move forward? What did it take to go against your own nature? That must be the hardest lesson of all to learn Do you build bridges? No? Why not? What's holding you back?

To attend a webinar hosted by Linda Hill and Kent Lineback, follow this link. More on: Leadership, Managing people, Managing yourself Join the Discussion | Email/Share Previous Are You the Boss You Need To Be? Next To Be a Better Boss, Know Your Default Settings Never miss a new post from your favorite blogger again with the Harvard Business Review Daily Alert email. The Alert delivers the latest blog posts from HBR.org directly to your inbox every morning at 8:00 AM ET. More from Linda Hill & Kent Lineback Are You the Boss You Need To Be? Read More Subscribe to HBR Close Trackbacks TrackBack URL for this entry: http://blogs.hbr.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/8743 No trackbacks have been made to this entry. Comments

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Paul Mccurley

2 months ago

2. As a former pastor what you call "building a bridge" I was taught it as "vision casting." A mentor I once had told me "the best ideal I would ever have is the one that came from the people I was leading." He went on to tell me that I would only see things from a single perspective that would always be flawed. But if I could give my vision away and let others make it theirs, it would come back changed but it would be whole. I wish I could say that I was always success, but I wasn't. 3.
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Michelle Sullivan

1 month ago

6. Are you an effective leader? Building the relationship, connecting, and staying engaged is key. The connection was lost here...
Understanding the differences between a manager and a leader... are they mutually exclusive? Do you understand the difference between a leader and a manager? There are significant differences, yet they are not mutually exclusive. Leadership is a topic that has been studied and debated for centuries, and simply one definition of leadership would not be adequate. There are distinguishing differences between a manager, leader, and an effective leader. Over time, leadership styles have changed to adapt from a stability model to change and crisis leadership; some willingly and some hesitantly. The greatest leaders are high influencers, relationship builders at all levels, and are highly adaptable to diverse situations and personalities. Effective leaders exhibit an advanced level of emotional and contextual intelligence, and often encompass both management and leadership qualities. To lead high-performing teams, you must first create a motivated team. Many managers do not realize that directive and authoritative leadership is not effective in the modern business world and is counter-productive. I believe that we are people, not workers or simply a number, but in order for an organization to be profitable and competitive, it needs to be high performing. In the long-term, leading out of fear in an environment of low morale will not prevail. Employees need to be motivated to be high performing, and in order to accomplish this, the company needs to employ effective leaders. Leaders know how to adapt to each employee and understand if intrinsic or extrinsic rewards motivate them. One employee may be motivated by an increase in salary whereas other employees might be motivated by recognition for a job well done. Once the motivating factors are determined based on dialogue with your employees, you need to create a personal development plan, which should include incremental goals. They key is to create a great place to work where everyone looks forward to coming to work, feeling their work has a sense of purpose and meaning. Once there is a positive work culture, even menial tasks are not looked upon as loathsome. I have been in situations where morale has been exceptionally low due to several factors such as previous poor leadership, mistrust, downsizing (do more with less), bureaucracy, unethical business practices, etc., and I have introduced several methods that were effective. Team building is one of the first steps to creating a motivated workforce. Depending on the team location and culture, determine an exercise that will take the employees offsite,

out of their comfort zone, and engaged in interactive activities. In the case where there may be teammates who are known to have interpersonal issues between each other, I suggest pairing them together for a fun activity. It is amazing what an impact icebreakers can have on easing the tension. This allows individuals to view each other in a positive perspective that they perhaps never had up until this point. In my experience, if there are issues in the future, they will be more mindful and not as emotionally reactive; they will become better team players. In instances where teams consist of varying cultures, it is important to provide cross-cultural training. This helps reduce misunderstandings and how to effectively work with other cultures. For example, as an American working with China, I know that in a meeting, I will have to directly engage with individuals who are below me in position or if their manager is in the meeting. Their culture is not to be forthright even if there is an issue, so I know that I cannot expect them to openly discuss an issue or debate with a superior. I also establish what I call 1:1s where I meet regularly with people on my team to have an open discussion in addition to setting and tracking goals and development plans. As a follower, this was tremendously beneficial for me to have with my managers. Depending on the team and employee, I suggest meeting weekly or bi-weekly for 30 minutes to an hour at set times to ensure they do occur. To keep the team engaged, either creating or revisiting the mission and as a team through participative decision-making is optimal, and having regular team building sessions (quarterly or bi-annually depending on the situation) will ensure this is executed. This is in addition to regularly scheduled team meetings, which should be held weekly or bi-weekly. In summary, ask yourself, are you an effective leader who is capable of being adaptable, open-minded, willing to change, and build those bridges? http://www.sullivanglobal.net/...

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Ashoksharma_25

1 month ago in reply to Michelle Sullivan

10. Yes,well said Sir!! Building effective teams within your Department first and then the Organization will help a long way in ironing out the differences between the peer Groups and also up the line & down the line hierarchy.
There has to be at least weekly meetings within the Department involving all members of the Group which should be followed with monthly review meetings organized at the CEO level involving all Department Heads. The difference between an effective leader and manager is that the Leader is not an effective Manager if he cannot take his peer Groups into confidence by delegating his responsibilities effectively and also effectively monitoring that the tasks are carried out in time.The Top Management should also effectively delegate and fix clearcut duties & responsibilities down the line. Then only can we say that they are effective leaders with managerial capability. There has also to be an effective & robust Performance Management System and the Incentive should be linked to the actual Performance of each Manager/Employee.

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Karen_Tiede
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2 months ago

+100 here: Did the consultant build a bridge to you?

The worst times of my life have been when someone slammed me with this form of statement and I had nothing to go on, no path out of the morass, no clear action. If I knew how to solve the problem on my own, I wouldn't have it, would

I? Would you blame yourself if the doctor said, "You have cancer" and left the room? Would you expect that you'd know what to do next on your own? The mistake here was not going back to the consultant and saying, "OK, I see that, now what can I do to be different?" That you were not able to solve the actual problem on your own is not, from my point of view, completely your defect. >Ever since, I've wondered what it would have taken to get me to share my vision and let others shape it with me and what might have happened if I'd been able to do that. Well, maybe that company died / failed / didn't grow the way it could have. A different question: how has your own life been different since you recognized that you had this stumble? Or, How have you been different about delivering suggestions for deep change to other people? Paul was a tax collector (right?) before he became an advocate for a new way of living. Most addiction treatment programs use former addicts as counselors, at least in part because they understand the challenge of getting across that gap. It seems you're somewhat in the position of the women who started MADD. They can't bring their children back, but they have used their own loss to change the world for the better. The situation you faced personally is actually harder than the problem of fixing the business that you were trying to solve.

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michaelschrage

2 months ago in reply to Karen_Tiede

18. i had the same reaction you did: the consultant is/was a jerk...and an unprofessional one, at that....it is the role of professionals - be they doctors, lawyers or consultants - to HELP the client, not merely toss out a perceptive preliminary diagnosis....yes, kent surely should have followed up...but an honorable consultant would have invited/encouraged him to do so....

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Kentlineback

2 months ago in reply to michaelschrage

22. I like this! It's the consultant's fault! Perhaps there's something to think about there, but I felt at the time that I knew exactly what he meant and didn't need to know more. For me it was the old knowing-doing gap. I knew what to do, but I couldn't/didn't want to do it. Kent Lineback

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michaelschrage

2 months ago in reply to Kentlineback

26.

I went home thinking about that. I knew in the center of my being that he was right.

actually, according to your post, you didn't 'exactly' know what he meant... :-) nevertheless, had you been my client and i authentically (in a peter block/flawless consulting sorta way) felt you could be more of a 'bridge builder,' we'd have had a talk about how you managed to 'persuade' up and across the enterprise - and were you happy with how effective your investments in persuasion worked out.... then i would have charged you more

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Karen_Tiede
30. >It's the consultant's fault!

2 months ago in reply to michaelschrage

I wonder if s/he's written any blog posts in the years since this happened about the perfectly timed, stunningly accurate bon mot that went nowhere; the habit of effortlessly diagnosing a problem without providing any useful implementation activity? Bet you weren't the only target... Knowing-doing is one response. Observing-doing differently is another. If you've changed your behavior with people who come to you for advice, it might be that you got the lesson.

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Sebastian Font

2 months ago

34. This is a great post. Leadership is about building bridges with those around you. Basic diplomacy. Connecting with people so you are not just heard, but listened to. Sometimes even the most obvious no-brainer solutions needs to be sold a bit. Sometimes those solutions can't get sold without a bridge or connection. Consultants know that better than anyone.

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Traci

2 months ago

38. This is one of the best posts I have read in a long time. I felt like I was reading about myself. I have definitely been in situations like this during my career. I agree with you in that most of those situations I have been unable to go against my own nature...and I know it is a detriment to me, the company and my colleagues. The best advice someone ever gave me was in saying, "You know what the right answer is deep down and you will do what is best in any situation if you don't make it about yourself." 39.
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Kentlineback
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2 months ago in reply to Traci

Thanks, Traci. Glad I'm not alone. I did make it about myself. Kent Lineback

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Niklas Bjrnerstedt

2 months ago

46. Did the consultant build a bridge to you? Your problem in taking his advice seems to mirror the problem you had in convincing others...

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Kate O'Neill, [meta]marketer

2 months ago

50. Thank you for this honest, self-critical post. As others have said, I felt like I was reading my own experiences. And even in candid reflection about moments like those you're describing, I don't think I necessarily wanted to hog all the glory or anything like that; it's more like what you said here: "I decided I couldn't debase my perfect vision by turning it into a free-for-all idea jam. Better to stay pure and fall on my sword, a martyr. Which is what I did."
For me throughout my career, there have been those points where I felt deep in my being that I had the bright shining solution and the sheer beauty of it would convince others to align with me and we'd all be happy and rich and successful. Or something like that. But the truth is there are all kinds of reasons -- some you allude to, such as the new difficulties the changes might represent in people's work -- why people may be reluctant to see the proposed solution as a positive. And in that case, surely, a partial implementation of a beautiful solution would be preferable to no implementation at all. It's just hard to process that acceptance in the moment, when a partial implementation feels like throwing paint on a masterpiece. Anyway, all this discussion about building bridges and listening to advice is fantastic, and I thank you again for it.

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joelfortner03

2 months ago

54. I agree with other posters, this was a great post. People don't often write about where they went wrong but when they do, it's impactful because most likely we've all been there. With that being said, I equate building

bridges with gaining buy-in. Leaders are busy people. They're working priorities. They're working what's definite, largely meaning today's tasks that keep the organization rolling. Strategy is hard, which is why it so often gets pushed to the back burner. It's not definite but everyone agrees it's needed. These reasons and more are why I think gaining buy-in is critical just to get the boat moving let alone achieving the goal. One person may have the winning solution but unless others on the leadership team agree, take it to the boss as a team and then gain the boss' buy-in, the idea usually remains nothing more than something you emphatically tell your spouse and friends about coupled with "I don't understand why they aren't listening to me!" I've had to learn this the hard way. In short, I'm an idea guy but only when I secured buy-in from others did the idea truly get moving. As a PR pro in a military environment, I'm often the junior voice at the table - all the reason more why securing buy-in from others is critical. In the end, all of this is about best serving the top boss. Most boss' have many trusted advisors, not just one. They're smart and they want options, not a single-bullet solution. Their trust is gained by knowing their team, not just a single individual, worked an issue hard and came up with a menu of solutions to advance the organization. In this case, again, the subject was a strategic turn. That kind of decision is not made lightly, reinforcing the need for a team approach just to convince the boss they should at a minimum go home and tell their spouse, "The team came to me today with a very interesting idea. I think I'll tell them to study it more." That alone is a huge win.

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Kentlineback

2 months ago in reply to joelfortner03

58. Thanks, joelfortner03, your post led me to another thought. In all my time in this company as I tried to foster real change, my major efforts were aimed at the CEO/Chairman. I believed that if I convinced him, everything else would follow. Only later did I realize that his resistance largely reflected my inability/unwillingness to enlist my colleagues. If we had gone to him as a group and said, "We really need to do this," he would have listened reluctantly, perhaps, but he would have paid attention. Kent Lineback

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Kate O'Neill, [meta]marketer and 1 more liked this Like ReplyReply

Joy Abdullah

2 months ago

62. Great post! One that truly made me reflect back and realise how important those 'bridges' are. I've had my share of "i could kick myself" and learnt from it. A key facet of leadership is knowing when and how to move a vision froward by using those bridges and building those bridges dont happen overnight. Knowing one's self and ability to relate to people and carry those people are very important. 63.
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Kentlineback
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2 months ago in reply to Joy Abdullah

Thanks, Joy. It wasn't my best moment. Maybe it will help someone else. Kent Lineback

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Peter

2 months ago

70. One of the tricks is to make the change everyone's idea. So many times, things like change do not happen because others do not feel ownership, therefore they do not buy in - or they do not have a bridge to cross because no build has been built. If you are innovative and creative, get over your ego and massage others into owning the idea. If you are there for the betterment of the company/organisation, then you will be feel a great sense of achievment. If you are there to collect the accolades, start business for your self

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Loraine Antrim

2 months ago

74. Leadership strategies abound in current literature, and "building bridges" is very much a part of current leadership thinking. It's the "command/control" mentality vs. collaborative interactions. I'd opt for engaging in conversations and asking for input. This will include people in the decision-making process. "Telling" others about new ideas is command and control. For some, this is not a welcome mindset in this age of all things social media. Loraine Antrim, Core Ideas Communication 75.
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Kentlineback

2 months ago in reply to Loraine Antrim

78. Ironically, Loraine, I wasn't particularly a command and control manager (I'm pretty sure my people would have confirmed that). I just loved MY beautiful ideas too much.

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Francesco Frova

2 months ago

82. That is a deep post. Even though it is not fresh, it still is hard work to acknowledge one's failures and such! I don't feel like I could supply constructive observations right now, but I thank you in advance - for I will be remembering this, months and years from now. "Did I build bridges?"
Thank you Kent, thank you Linda.

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Kentlineback
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2 months ago in reply to Francesco Frova

Thank you, Francesco. Kent Lineback

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Jason Lee

1 month ago

90. Great post. As a leader in my organization, I am not only responsible for building bridges, I am accountable. Leadership goes beyond shaping MBOs, initiatives, and staff development, it means we are expected to collaborate with others on goals larger then our own. I created several bridges during my career and I lesson I learned was to stay focused on the other party's goals and interests. Mold your agenda, conversations, and tone that fit in with the other people involved. Reiterate that the purpose of these initiatives is to help them. 91.
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A Bridge Too Far

1 month ago

94. Interesting discussion. In my current organization--a very large, bureaucratic one--defending and maintaining turf is the most tightly held value.
I was specifically hired 3 years for my relationship skills and ability to build bridges from my department (which is in the CEO's bailiwick) to a group of internal clients in a division whose boss also reports to the CEO. These internal clients are civil and say all the right things in meetings, and make noises about being amenable to changes that would improve our overall organization's products and reputation, but when push comes to shove, they resist most programmatic changes because at bottom, they are judged by their boss on the basis of how well they defended their turf. The organization as a whole cannot move forward, because this division is operating with a separate set of values and goals from the rest of us. Someone might say that the problem is that I haven't convinced these internal clients to do things differently, that I didn't build bridges and incrementally bring them along with me, adapating my ideas as needed and creating a stronger, third path. But that view is wrong. I am stuck downstream of a leadership problem, indeed, but it's a problem between the CEO and the leader of this division. The costs are borne by the managers in my department and in the other division who basically spend all our time bickering--ever so politely--and undermining each others' activities. It's poisonous. I don't feel a personal failure to build bridges or sell these colleagues on my ideas: no matter what I say to them, if their boss doesn't want my--or even 'our'-- ideas to move forward, it won't happen. So while I understand that not building bridges or making your case incrementally, deliberately, and being open to tweaks along the way might have led to better outcomes in the situation described in the original post, I would caution that it is very easy to say "you didn't meet them halfway" when the problem might be actually much more systemic and even built into the cultural fabric of the organization.

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Vijay Shah
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1 month ago

As an experience- one gets signals on need of bridge. But miss to do understand the signals.

And some time it too late to decode the signals- and land up into trouble. The understanding signals and response is ones artOne has to leave his ego, status and have courage to take required corrective action without losing personal importance- will have a bridge of success.

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Angelapreece

2 months ago

102. It strikes me that there's a link to the change curve here, and unless as an individual or a company, there's a recognition that something needs to change, you or the company cannot move on,on the change journey. In not understanding that you needed to "build bridges" (or build a coalition for change?) in order to make change happen in the company, perhaps you remained stuck on the downward slope of the change curve, and leaving the organisation (martyring yourself, as you say), is a demonstration of the classic "anger" stage on the change curve. I appreciate your openness in sharing your experience, particularly when you say that others who depended on you lost out too - that's a hard lesson. 103.
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Ashoksharma_25
106.

2 months ago

Thank you very much for this highly insighting post.

I too am facing such a problem in the company I am working as HR Manager. We are a 37 year old Company called KELTRON (www.keltron.org),which had its major ups & down in the past. We are a State Public Sector Undertaking with 100% ownership by the State. Now we are facing man power shortage due to retirements!! I had proposed a comprehensive Man Power analysis & Competency Mapping exercise. The proposal has reached now where & retirements are happening with no new intake. I shall try to learn from the solution of "bridging the gap".but really do not know how to do it!! I have had the opportunity of getting hold of the book "Being the Boss" by Hill & Lineback through a friend of mine in the US and have started reading it!!

I shall certainly get back on the Book, which I am sure will be a treat to read Dear Kentline back, could you suggest something for the problem our Organization is facing? Regards ASHOK SHARMA H R MANAGER KERALA STATE ELECTRONICS DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION LTD TRIVANDRUM SOUTH INDIA 009447130111

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Kimberly Wiefling

2 months ago

110. Yup, I wrote a whole book on how to avoid needing to hire me, but people won't do it unless they come up with the ideas themselves. In my consulting I encourage people to come up with their own solutions to problems, and paths to achieve their goals, supported and guided by my knowledge and experience. If I just offer them flat out advice there's the usual resistance, of course - often deserved, because I don't know the whole story. I learned something about how to be more patient with this process: "Activator" sees the need for change. "Resistor" pushes back on the need (a useful and necessary part of the change process). "Reconciler" proposes a way to reconcile the interests of the Activator and the Resistor. (Sometimes the Reconciler can be the Activator or Resistor, if they have the presence of mind to play this role as well.) Reconciliation of the need to change and the desire to remain the same channels both the Activator and the Resistors energy toward solution instead of going head-tohead.

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EllenM

2 months ago

114. Reading this post revealed a perspective to my own, recent, lack of building bridges dilemma. My mentor left the organization and I was left floundering under a director that I found to be untrustworthy, uninformed, and uninterested. I, too, felt I had the answers and that no one wanted to hear them and that eyes would roll when I would speak. I thought I was on the same bridge as my co-workers...apparently I wasn't. I was removed from my project management role and replaced by a subordinate. I have tried hard not to find fault with how the project is being managed without me (after all, everyone has their way of doing things) and I've tried to view my "failure" from differing perspectives. I actually got a little comfort from your post. I don't feel like such a failure and realize that without a mentor, you're in jeopardy of not reading the signs correctly. One of my biggest failures has been idealism. I'd like to build a bridge to the city of realism. What is my next step?

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Boston 123

2 months ago

118.

Couple of situations where bridge building happens more easily:

a.) when the business is in deep trouble, loosing money etc. and all parties know that changing is the only option.. or they loose their jobs b.) When you start a business, and have a small manageable group of very close contacts, who can see the business as you can. c.) We are in the midst of a change initiative, making us look at growing faster. But in the same breath the VP wants us to overcome unexpected raw material inflation, and make our earnings numbers for the quarter.. I mean what's so sacrosanct about quarterly earnings? I asked the same question of doctor's re. colonoscopy for people at age 50.. and asked what's so magical about this number? What about those that contract colo-rectal cancer earlier than 50.. an increasing number, BTW. Troops quickly catch on to what the true priorities are, and no amount of 'spinning' will result in bridge building. Actions speak louder than words.

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Kentlineback

2 months ago in reply to Boston 123

122. Good points, Boston 123. Many years ago a glossy magazine called "Innovation" (I think) came and went, but one of the articles in it made a distinction I've always liked. Every organization is like music and lyrics. You can say what you want in the lyrics, but what people pay attention to is the music.If the leaders say, "Innovate, grow" (lyrics) but all you hear day to day is the beat of "cut costs, cut costs" (music), guess what message the people get. Kent Lineback

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Mtoney

2 months ago in reply to Kentlineback

126. Your reply is an entire new blog post in itself! Lyrics and beats are an excellent way to describe the underlying message of what holds an organization back from success, or propels them forward through positive change. Also, having the knowledge of what is right to do does not mean that the emotional readiness is there also. (I just had to laugh that it was a magazine called "Innovation" that came and went. Ouch.)

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Rebecca Tversky

2 months ago

130. Maturity gives us the ability to recognize how to build bridges and bring people safely where we're leading. Sounds like you needed a good mentor and one didn't come. #in

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Kentlineback

2 months ago in reply to Rebecca Tversky

134. Good point, Rebecca. I did have one, one of the older senior managers, but I went to him far less than I should have.

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Satish kumar Varada

2 months ago

138. Very few admit failure as candidly. It comes from honest, deep reflection and 'living' the leadership role - not just the position you are put in by virtue of past successes, but, solely thinking for the people, organization completely forgetting own interests. As always and most marketing / sales folks know, deep down the strategic solution is not always that great, but the way one connects emotionally with the audience (external or internal) makes the difference in eliciting engagement.

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Kentlineback

2 months ago in reply to Satish kumar Varada

142. Good points, Satish. Linda and I say in our book that managers need strong egos but not big egos. In this case, I had the opposite. Kent Lineback

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Tapiwanashe
146.

2 months ago

@Karen Tiede - Good points there.

We are all salesmen in the corporate world. The job of the day is thus; understanding our customer and making pitches that 'sell' our products to them. THe sooner we believe this the more we will 'sell' in our careers. I realized this a bit too late after having been forced out of my Vice GM post. I am however grateful for what seemed at first like a misfortune; I have taken the lesson to other better customers and I am selling more.

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Gary Winters

2 months ago

150. Excellent post which gave me food for thought. I was also struck by some of the responders who wondered about whether the consultant had "built a bridge" with you. It's hard to gauge that from the article, but

here's what it got me to thinking: are there parallels between your reaction to the consultant (ignore the advice), and the reaction your boss and others gave to YOUR advice about a change in strategy? Perhaps they "got it (your ideas)" as well, but couldn't abandon their current beliefs just as you refused to "debase your perfect vision." In other words, perhaps your boss and the senior team took your pitch exactly like you took that of the consultant. Maybe they, too, reflected later on how "right" you were, and how they should have seized the moment. Anyway, as I say, good food for thought, and I do appreciate the article.

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Kentlineback

2 months ago in reply to Gary Winters

154. Thanks, Gary. I'd like to think they couldn't "get it" either, but that feels a little like a cop-out to me. I certainly did not do all I could have done. Kent Lineback

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notmd

2 months ago

158. Let's say that we are not yet senior executives deciding on the company's vision but rely on cross functional areas to complete our objectives..i do think they are different..If one of the departments feeding in this chain of events that doesn't deliver ,I will first attempt to understand their issue and what steps they are taking to resolve it..If i determine it is all window dressing that department will soon discover that i don't need to cross bridges to solve the issue but will fly over it..

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Cphoward

2 months ago

162. Terrific piece, leadership is mostly difficult and not obvious, let alone always wrapped in people and therefore emotion. Understanding ones self is critical in over coming the challenge presented in the article.

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2 months ago
But did you want to "build a bridge "? Flag

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Kentlineback
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Kent Lineback

2 months ago in reply to None

At that moment? No. The real learning question is - why didn't I want to build bridges?

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Susan Starkey

1 month ago in reply to Kentlineback

174. Great question! I'm reading Kegan and Lahey's book "Immunity To Change" and learning how to explore: a) my stated goal, ie. "build bridges", b) what I do instead, ie. "stick to my beautiful vision and repeat it over and over", and then c) what Hidden Commitment am I honoring by doing (b) instead of (a). For me (since this post reflects an issue I have as well as Kent) my Hidden Committment might be "I am committed to being right, because it feels like my life depends on it". Each of us would have a different answer. By exploring (c) we can begin to see how we have a perfectly good reason why we have our foot on the gas pedal and the brake at the same time and don't do something that we say we are committed to doing. I'm not sure I'm saying this very well, but you might want to check out Kegan and Lahey's work.

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Jeff Pundyk

2 months ago

178. everybody's got "the right answer." the trick is to find the right answer that everybody can make happen. much harder.

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Linda Hill & Kent Lineback


Better Time Management Is Not the Answer
9:47 AM Tuesday March 15, 2011 | Comments ( 29)

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Managers tell us all the time they have "a time management problem." Their days, they say, are often hijacked by unplanned events, interruptions, crises matters that can't be ignored. They go to work planning to do certain things as a boss and at day's end they realize they've done none of it. "How do I cope?" they want to know. "How do I do what I'm supposed to do in the middle of chaos? When do I do the work of being a boss things like working toward goals, developing people, building a team, and creating and sustaining a network?" Does this sound familiar? Do you have this kind of time problem? The answer isn't what you probably expect or hope to hear. Even if you push off less important demands, delegate better, and are stingy in your expenditure of time all good time management practices you would still have a problem. The reality is, management is fragmented and reactive by nature. The problem isn't you, and it's not a lack of time management skills. It's management itself. It's a problem even for senior managers. Those who head major business units also struggle to stay ahead of daily events. Great bosses have discovered the right approach. They don't focus merely on managing their time better. They don't think about their work as comprising two different parts handling unexpected, daily problems versus doing what they should do as bosses. They don't try to do their daily work and also the work of management. Instead, they use the chaos unplanned events, crises, obligations to do managerial work. To do this, they use an approach we call "Prep-Do-Review" in every activity they undertake.

In a nutshell, Prep-Do-Review calls on you to think of every activity not as one step doing but as three steps: preparing to act, acting, and then reviewing the outcome. It works this way:
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Prep: Before you do anything, prepare. Ask yourself questions like these: What am I going to do? Why what's my goal or purpose? How will I do it? Who else will be involved or affected?
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Do: Do what you prepared to do.

Review: When you're done, think about what you did and what happened. What did you learn? How would you do it differently next time? (Don't assume the right lesson is obvious; it often is not.) The wisdom of Prep-Do-Review may be simple and obvious, but how often do you just react to what's in front of you? In the name of time management, how often do you deal with something that's come up in the quickest way possible, just to resolve it and get it out of the way so you can go on to what you're supposed to do as a boss? Great managers use Prep-Do-Review (whether they call it that or not) to convert every activity into a means of pursuing some management purpose to make progress toward a goal, to develop someone, to reaffirm work standards, to strengthen bonds among members of their team, to model the behavior they want, and on and on. In their minds, every activity contains some seed of progress, and Prep-Do-Review is how they find that seed and nurture it .They use a crisis to reconnect with an important colleague in their network. They use a customer service problem to begin working through a broader issue with their boss. They use a "pointless" meeting as an opportunity to brief a colleague during the break about a change in plans. They use a production problem to develop the skills of a key employee. If you don't Prep spend a a minute or two, or even just a few seconds before dealing with a problem, you won't see the possibilities in what you thought was some mundane activity. If you then don't carry out the action as planned, and if you don't step back afterwards to crystallize what you and others learned, you'll spend your days struggling to get to your work as a manager. Make Prep-Do-Review a practice that you consistently, systematically, and routinely pursue. By using this simple but powerful approach, you can convert many of the activities that crowd your days into management tools for moving your people forward individually and as a group. More on: Managing people, Managing yourself, Time management
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David Kaiser

2 months ago

2. I have to disagree. While do-prep-review is certainly helpful from both a learning and planning context, it is not enough. I think it is both possible, and desirable, to block out time to actually do work, and push back on the forces that are tugging at your attention. Can we do this 100% of the time? No, and we wouldn't want to, many of those distractions are necessary and even useful. However, many are not, and they can be pushed back to their source, scheduled for later, or safely ignored, while work is being done. Covey had this right (and I think he borrowed it from Dwight Eisenhower) when he suggested that work can be differentiated into urgent / not urgent and important / not important. Too many of us spend too much time on work that is urgent but not important. This is like filling up on fast food, it leaves little room for what is truly nourishing. It takes discipline to push back and focus on achieving longterm goals while juggling short-term drama, but that is what separates the true leaders from those who struggle to keep their heads above water.
David Kaiser, PhD Time Management Coach for Authentic Leaders www.DarkMatterConsulting.com

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Kent LIneback

2 months ago in reply to David Kaiser

6. It's hard to disagree with you, David. To make our point, we cast the world in black and white. Other approaches are needed: block out time, hand out assignments that will come back to you as must-do interruptions, etc. The point remains, though, that you can apply every time-management technique and still be overwhelmed. What's required is a different way of thinking about how to deal with what's urgent but not important - i.e., deal with it by making it into something important as well.

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David Kaiser

2 months ago in reply to Kent LIneback

10. I understand what you're saying, and that you used a black and white approach to illustrate a point. As a writer, coach and teacher, I do the same.
Perhaps we are saying the same thing, I'm not quite sure. I definitely agree we need a different approach to time management. You are quite right that no system for increasing efficiency of throughput will ever be sufficient, it will always be overwhelmed by rising demand. Where we differ perhaps is our approach to what is "urgent but not important," you suggest making it into something important, a point I must confess I don't understand, unless you are saying this should be a negative example for learning, which I would definitely agree with. My belief is that to the extent possible, tasks which are "urgent but not important" should be denied (respectfully of course) or at least deemphasized, precisely because they are "not important." This frees up time and energy to do what is important.

David Kaiser, PhD

Time Management Coach for Authentic Leaders www.DarkMatterConsulting.com

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Yin Lee
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2 months ago in reply to David Kaiser

Perhaps one can evaluate the tasks first in the Prep phase and decide to "Do" or not in Step 2. One could still carry out Step 3 regardless.

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Mitch McCrimmon

2 months ago in reply to David Kaiser

18. I totally agree with this comment. But not many managers have this sort of discipline, not because they are disorganized, but because they genuinely like to be involved and to DO things. Such managers are their own worst enemy. See my other comment on this post.

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Sorrento Gal

2 months ago in reply to David Kaiser

22. My reading is that the main message is to instil a discipline in ourselves to avoid kneejerk actions or reactions, which could end up wasting more of our time and effort, if not more serious consequences. The "prep" phase actually provides the space for us to differentiate urgency from importance.

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Mgreads

2 months ago in reply to David Kaiser

26. I am a proponent of the concept Prep-Do-Review, irrespective of what it is called. This combined with Davids comment leads to a more realistic approach. Both of these expect one to pause and think for a second. If this is intended towards rectifying a reactive approach of managers under crisis, realistically, how does one even put a pause in such a cycle, if it is already a norm!

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NowThatsLeadership

2 months ago

30. Time is an awful employee. You can't train it. You can't fire it for failing to follow your system or perform to your standards. You can't manage it.
I have a strong results bias myself so I look to be certain that what I'm doing or asking others to do is pointed at an intended result (i.e. goal). I think the concept of plan-do-review makes sense and I think what may have been missed here is a bit more description to the recipe. I think it might be 3 parts prep/plan, one part action/do and a pinch or two of review. One of the biggest time savers is to plan (or better yet let's just call it think). All too often the time crunched and over extended are in reaction mode. Solving a problem which becomes a different problem or a bigger one. All because a few moments weren't spent thinking things through. I was recently in an office and witnessed a manager come frantically direct an employee to enter, by hand, 500 names, addresses and e-mails from a spreadsheet into individual order forms. It was an urgent and important item that needed to be completed within one hour in order to meet a shipping deadline for a large order. Now I'm not a fast typist but 500 error free in an hour seemed a daunting task for even the best typist. The manager was in crisis mode and not thinking things through. So, she wanted to increase resources against the task and began to huddle up more employees by pulling them away from other projects. I suggested she implement a mail merge instead. "No one knows how and we don' have TIME". I influenced her to place a few calls with me. Together, we placed three calls around the building to admin personnel which took about 5 minutes. No success (uh oh!). I suggested IT and for our fourth call we got on the phone with a sharp IT rep. We explained the result we were after and about 15 minutes later the task done; 40 minutes ahead of deadline. The few minutes spent thinking things through (prep/think/plan) and tapping the right resource (act) made a huge difference. Also plenty of time to spot check the order forms (review).

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Mitch McCrimmon

2 months ago

34. I agree that managers are caught up on a reactive style of working and that it isn't a time management problem. I also agree with David Kaiser's comment that managers could push back more if they made the effort. So, the question is: Why don't they? I think the truth is that managers like to feel involved, needed and important so they respond positively to requests for their attention. I think the important questions they need to ask are not around what is the purpose of this task but rather: What is the best use of my time today? How can I best add value here? How can I get better use of all resources at my disposal, say by being more of a catalyst, facilitator and coach? For me, management is like investment: an effort to achieve tasks in a way that makes the best use of all resources. This means continually asking yourself strategic questions about how best to invest those resources. I once coached a manager to DO less and be more facilitative and he said he could see the point but that doing so wouldn't feel like making a real contribution, like doing real work. So, it seems to me, that managers are their own worst enemy because they like to DO things.

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Audra Martin

2 months ago in reply to Mitch McCrimmon

38. Agree. Your comments made me think that real impediment in many of these situations is actually procrastination. Sometimes "doing" something is really about avoiding or postponing the more difficult thinking, managing, etc

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Mitch McCrimmon

2 months ago in reply to Audra Martin

42. Audra, you make a great point that "doing things is about avoiding the more difficult work of thinking, managing, etc." I totally agree. I wouldn't put this down to procrastination though. Rather, I think people get promoted to managerial positions partly because they are good at getting things done and they "play to their strengths" especially when stressed. Heavy workloads generate anxiety and it simply feels good to DO tangible things, whereas thinking and managing are more abstract, less tangible and concrete without immediate personal rewards.

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notmd

2 months ago

46. I find that the one of the most common issues facing management that results in management stress that is attempted to be solved by time management is..allowing poor performance to exist on your team..this is where the sports analogy doesn't work..if a sports team is performing poorly the manager doesn't go out to center field..however in the work place ,the manager does land up doing the work of their staff...the weaker the team ,the more stress,the more time management is prescribed and the more we mask the true cause..rarely do i hear a team or a member of time feel stressed when they are performing at their best and time management stays in the bottle..

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Darcy Eikenberg

2 months ago

50. This article is a great reminder that the real work of today's manager is NOT managing others, but managing themselves to focus on where they can create the most value, make the biggest contribution, and inspire the best work from all who surround them. To many managers I work with miss the 'prep" and "review" part of this model, instead spending all of their time in "do" mode, and missing out on questioning whether the work at hand is something to "do" at all! In order to make leaps ahead and stop making the mistakes of the past, we must break the "busy" bias and create enough white space to think, to question, and to create new models that work for how we work today.

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Ndedi Alain

1 month ago

54. I am sure if I get the point that you are trying to elucidate. Anyway, time management is the obly panacea to good and sound amangement principles. But, it will be always part of the ingredients for better management folks!!!

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Jeff@Daytimer

2 months ago

58. The Prep-Plan-Do process will fail if appropriate choices aren't made during the Prep phase. Unfortunately, people spend much less time than is appropriate -- if any at all -- during these crucial minutes and seconds where decisions are made as to what fits into our core goals and values.
I think most people go off track because they spend more time on the "how" and not the "why." Good, thoughtful article.

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Kent LIneback

2 months ago in reply to Jeff@Daytimer

62. Excellent points, Jeff. Linda and I excerpted and simplified the Prep-Do-Review notion from our book and if you read the relevant sections there, you'll see we stress the need in Prep (notice it's not just "Plan") to apply the purpose, plans, and goals you've already developed. We talk about the 3 Imperatives of being a boss and Prep is where you decide how to use unavoidable daily events to apply them. It's a lot more than "Think before you act."

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Rebecca Tversky

2 months ago

66. Thanks for the practical post. Taking advantage of crises and distractions to combine short term and long term tasks is a great habit to get into. The Plan-Do-Review is a variation on the model Deming proposed for project management: Plan-Do-Check-Act. The added step of acting on the results of the review process can improve planning in the next cycle.
Another thing to keep in mind is that great managers also seem to know what they do best at what time of day and try to plan their days around that knowledge as much as possible. For instance, if you think most clearly and create most easily in the morning, schedule strategy sessions and writing as much as possible between 10 and 12. Schedule tasks like time entry, research and project milestone reviews in the 3-4 hour if that's when your mind has a tendency to wander looking for solutions.

We can't predict every moment of our days, but we can predict the kinds of things likely to happen. If we make an effort to handle each one when we're best suited to do it, we can make the flow manageable. If we take a little time at the start and end of our days/tasks to assess the situation we're in, the demands that are on us and align the actions we take with our goals, it is easier to be good managers, leaders and doers.

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Kent LIneback

2 months ago in reply to Rebecca Tversky

70. Thanks, Rebecca. Someone who read Linda's and my book, where we talk about Prep-Do-Review, commented that Deming had said something of the sort, But now you've provided the details to look it up. Someone else also commented that Prep-Do-Review was a little like telling people to Inhale-Exhale, but, in fact, it's not. InhaleExhale happens automatically, but Prep-Do-Review, which should be an automatic process, is not. Thanks, again. Kent Lineback 71. Flag 72.
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Susan
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2 months ago in reply to Kent LIneback

Actually, Inhale-Exhale does not happen automatically. You're talking about breathing.

Inhale-Exhale is more in alignment with variations on meditation techniques. When people are in a reactive mode, rather than a take charge mode (after doing their assessment and planning), they forget to stop, take a few deep breathes which helps you calm down, stop, focus, plan, execute.

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Merri

2 months ago

78. Adding the Thinking element (prep, review) is a huge insight for the Doers. Adding the Doing element is a huge insight for the Thinkers. The combination is the key.

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Stephen J. Lalla

2 months ago

82. Can't remember who said it but the quote is "you can't manage time you can only manage self." Ultimately whatever system you use has to keep this in mind. And that is why I have come to rely upon GTD. It's just another system but it works for me ad long as I work it.

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Ruben

2 months ago

86. The Prep-Do-Review concept seems great but I can't quite visualize its application without a seeing a concrete example of converting an activity into an management tool. Can the authors and/or commentators offer any examples?
Perhaps this could answer any lingering questions or

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Rajeev Mujumdar

2 months ago

90. There is no doubt that every one must try to manage one's own time as efficiently as possible. That said, I also believe that Time Management is not only an individual's problem as it is largely influenced lot of other issues like organization structure, clarity of roles & responsibilities, efficient cross functional processes et all. In short, it is collective responsibility of all employees from top management to the operating level, to respect other's time

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Clare Evans

2 months ago

94. Prep Do Review is an excellent process and one that I encourage people to use along with other strategies. It's one of the more difficult habits to adopt - especially when under pressure. People have a natural tendency to get 'stuck in' and sort the problem out as quickly as possible without doing the 'Prep' to find the best solution that might actually save time or give a better result in the longer-term.
One of the key symptoms to poor time habits is that managers are reacting rather than being proactive about how they use their time. Launching in to their day by 'Doing' with the urgent but not in a considered way and not being focused on the outcome and results and how they fit into their goals and targets. Few people 'Review' on a regular basis - looking at what worked and what didn't and putting the learnings into practice the next time.

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Shampton

2 months ago

98. Reminds me of the old joke about a good Presbyterian sermon having three parts --- saying what you are about to say, then saying it, and then recapping what you said. There is certainly no harm in getting three bites at the apple, and Prep-Do-Review is a good natural process, allowing for reflection before and after the chosen action. www.bizmology.com

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Mike Moyer

2 months ago

102. Great article! Managers who prep-do-review are simply more efficient. It takes discipline to prep instead of react. Management communication in any form must be well thought out as it affects our policies, procedures, and directives. Reacting to daily issues without proper preparation ultimately leads in inconsistencies. Prep-do-review is critical to convey consistency with our employees. Employees must feel as though their managers will take the time to understand the issue, address it, and follow up with the results.
Mike Moyer www.myinterpersonal.com

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Fdo57

2 months ago

106. I like the Prep-Do-Review cycle. But, experience is also important as the risk is that people do more "doing" without some prep or without learning from the review leg of the process. That translates to Managers who "shoot from the hip" without making a positive impact on the organization or on results.

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Chris @ Buy3You'llLose2.com

2 months ago

110. Great news for hopelessly disorganized managers. remembering Plan-Do-Review cycle is much easier than cooperating with your Franklin Planner. Having an impact vital and others knowing you follow up is critical. Thanks.

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Chris @ Buy3You'llLose2.com

2 months ago

114. Great news for hopelessly disorganized managers. remembering Plan-Do-Review cycle is much easier than cooperating with your Franklin Planner. Having an impact vital and others knowing you follow up is critical. Thanks.

How to Get Involved Without Micromanaging People


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One of the more vexing problems most managers face every day is how to get involved in the work of their people without doing the work themselves or micromanaging those doing it. You can resolve this challenge with the same approach that we described in our previous blog the technique we call Prep-Do-Review. In this simple but often forgotten action model, you think of every activity not as one step doing but three distinct steps: prepare to act, act, and then reflect on the outcome and what can be learned from it. Last time, we focused on how you can convert everyday activities into tools for making managerial progress moving toward goals, developing people, building a team, creating and sustaining a network, and all the other things managers are supposed to do but never seem to have the time to do. Here we focus on using Prep-Do-Review with your people. Start by expecting your people to use Prep-Do-Review themselves in their work. Not only will it make them more effective, but it will provide a way for you to become involved in their work as appropriate for the person and the situation. This is the way it works: Prep: Start by previewing people's plans with them and suggesting changes, if necessary. You do this by asking crucial questions. What are you going to do? Why for what purpose? How will you do it? How can you use this to make progress on our goals and plans? Who should be involved or kept informed? How can this be used to help you learn and get better? What if your assumptions are wrong or the unexpected happens? This is how you move your group's purpose, plans, and work forward, how you coach and develop others, how you delegate more confidently, how you assure yourself that someone is well prepared and ready to act on her own. Do: Based on what you learned in the Prep stage, you can decide whether and how to be involved in the doing of the activity. Working with a novice, you may want to perform

the activity yourself while the person observes. Next, you may want to monitor periodically as the person does the activity and then give them feedback afterward. Thereafter, you probably don't need to be present at all the Prep and Review stages are where you'll be involved. Review: Great managers make post-action review a regular practice for themselves and their people. You can make it the focus of a one-on-one after an activity has been completed. Or it can be part of periodic meetings with each of your people or a standard procedure you go through in the updates your people provide at staff meetings. Be sure to model what you expect when you describe something you did Here's what we learned. Next time we'll do it this way. Remember to do a review regardless of the outcome of an action failure or success. We are much more likely to reflect on our failures. Too often, we don't take time to learn from our accomplishments and never really understand the keys to our success and what lessons we can take forward. Most of your managerial interactions with people will occur in the Prep and Review stages. Only with someone inexperienced or in situations of high stakes and high risk will you, or should you, be involved in the actual performance of a task. Used this way consistently and consciously, Prep-Do-Review becomes a powerful management tool that will improve how you manage your people. By giving you ways to be involved without directly intruding as your people do their work, it will make your interactions with them richer, improve outcomes, help people learn, and make you a better delegator. If you operate this way as a boss consistently, you'll find certain core management tasks become easier and more systematic. It will let you delegate more intelligently, based on both a person's skill and experience level and on the situation. It will help you coach people more effectively; indeed, it will help you turn many tasks into learning experiences. And it will let you use your time more effectively by helping you determine when you do and don't need to be involved. With very experienced people, and especially with routine tasks, you needn't be involved in either Prep or Do, but as a boss you never completely let go of the Review stage. You may not review outcomes after every task, but ongoing performance review is something you'll never give up entirely. If you think about it, Prep-Do-Review is the fundamental cycle of activities by which effective bosses manage through a perpetual loop of prep-do-review-prep-do-review. By using it to become more mindful and deliberate in all you do, it will help you convert mundane workaday activities into management activities. It will help you make progress through the daily work. And it's the way you guide your people, produce results, and help them learn without inserting yourself unnecessarily into what they do. It's not the

solution to every management challenge, but it's a powerful approach and the closest thing to a management secret that we know. More on: Leadership development, Managing people, Managing yourself
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Previous Better Time Management Is Not the Answer Next Why Does Criticism Seem More Effective than Praise? Never miss a new post from your favorite blogger again with the Harvard Business Review Daily Alert email. The Alert delivers the latest blog posts from HBR.org directly to your inbox every morning at 8:00 AM ET. More from Linda Hill & Kent Lineback Better Time Management Is Not the Answer Read More Subscribe to HBR Close Trackbacks TrackBack URL for this entry: http://blogs.hbr.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/9113 No trackbacks have been made to this entry. Comments

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Asha Sridhar

1 month ago

2. The other thing we need to keep in mind here is the competence of the individual, who is doing the task. I refer, of course to the Situational Leadership II model of Ken Blanchard. The amount of direction aka micro management one provides obviously depends on how competent that individual is at the task.
Having said that, really good read. Thank you for writing it :-)

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Kent Lineback

1 month ago in reply to Asha Sridhar

6. You're welcome, Asha. It does depend entirely on the individual. In the beginning, you (the boss) may start by doing it all yourself. Prep in this situation is explaining to the person what you're going to do and why. Then you do the task yourself as the person watches. And you review or debrief to discuss anything that came up in the doing and to answer any questions. Next, perhaps, you step back and observe while the person actually does the task, and the review is an analysis of the person's performance. After that, you work with the person in prep, but let her do the task herself and then review the outcome with her afterwards. Eventually, when someone is fully accomplished and the task is fairly routine, you simply do some sort of review with the person and even that may only occur periodically. Then, if the task changes, or the stakes become much higher for some reason, you may become more involved once again - say, with a more extensive prep session - because the risk is higher. Prep-do-review gives you many ways to be more or less involved.

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Michael Soper

1 month ago

10. Good read ... and good comments. You make an excellent point in your "Review" section, saying, "Next time we'll do it this way." In my experience, nothing helps a micro-manager more than adopting a future focus.
Micro-managers (and I'll include myself) first reaction comes at the end of "Doing." It is to grab and fix a project to meet their own expectations. This results in everything being upward delegated to the manager, robs the professional of ownership, and obviously increases everyone's frustration. With a future focus, most project / activities will be successful the first time and even better in the future. Finding themselves always in control of the "doing" phase, should be a reminder that too little time / effort was spent preparing or in the "Review" of similar projects in the past.

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Mr. UpLift!

1 month ago

14. I am a big fan of Being the Boss. I have told all of my friends and some folks that reported to me in prior roles that it is a must-have book.
Thanks to the two of you for penning a "new classic".

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Guy Farmer

1 month ago

18. Great insights Linda and Ken. I really like the idea of leaders letting go as much as possible. The need to control everything employees do is a sure way to decrease their motivation and limit their creativity. It's helpful for leaders to build a work environment where they trust their employees to do great work. Employees feel better when they know they're supported by leadership rather than being micromanaged.

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Poisture

1 month ago

22. I have noticed the temptation of staff, when they know you are going to review, is to provide "draft" copies of their deliverable. This can often lead to incomplete or sloppy work and a temptation by management to perform a complete rewrite. I coach my staff to ensure that what they are giving to me is complete and not to forward drafts unless requested to do so.

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James Mortensen

1 month ago

26. If you communicate updates to your boss, they probably won't try to take over the project. This also depends heavily on your corporate culture. If senior management won't make room for mistakes in order to allow people to grow, then they'll always need to take over projects.
It's also important to manage mistakes. You should definitely intervene if the mistake is going to cost the company a customer or significantly increase costs. However, if it means the project is going to be delayed, and as long as everyone is aware that the project will be delayed, then there shouldn't be any long term damage. The worst damage is caused by a team who is afraid to make decisions because they've never had any freedom or empowerment to make decisions on their own. Unless the mistakes are fatal, the cost of intervening is more than the cost of not intervening.

There are some tips here on How to Avoid Micro-Managing a Team that will help provide managers with tips to balance maintaining control of the team with also empowering the team to make decisions. It's possible to balance the goals of the project with the goals of growing your team skills.

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notmd

1 month ago

30. A word of caution..you follow these steps and your boss is not pleased with your staff's work..Many managers react by taking control over future projects(or reining in their staff).It is a temptation(who wants to lose their job because of their staff).this is a moment that will define you as a mediocre leader or a great leader..If you do their job you have dropped a heavy anchor on your personal journey while others sail by..

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Hogman

1 month ago in reply to notmd

34. I disagree, if the boss is on top if his game and follows these steps of prep-do-review then we should not have any issues as he has overseen the project. The boss should be addressing any issues in the prep and do stages. If he waits until the review stage then he is not truly a supervisor I would like to work for. As he is waiting for failure and this will reflect on him as well.

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Boris Fowler

1 month ago

38. A lot of this is based on personality as well. Some people need to have their hand held because they are not able to be independent yet, but there is a specific way to go about getting that done.
As people get better at their job, they should be given more freedom, but in order for this to work, bosses need to set the right expectations in the beginning.

Better Time Management Is Not the Answer


9:47 AM Tuesday March 15, 2011 | Comments ( 29)

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Managers tell us all the time they have "a time management problem." Their days, they say, are often hijacked by unplanned events, interruptions, crises matters that can't be ignored. They go to work planning to do certain things as a boss and at day's end they realize they've done none of it. "How do I cope?" they want to know. "How do I do what I'm supposed to do in the middle of chaos? When do I do the work of being a boss things like working toward goals, developing people, building a team, and creating and sustaining a network?" Does this sound familiar? Do you have this kind of time problem? The answer isn't what you probably expect or hope to hear. Even if you push off less important demands, delegate better, and are stingy in your expenditure of time all good time management practices you would still have a problem. The reality is, management is fragmented and reactive by nature. The problem isn't you, and it's not a lack of time management skills. It's management itself. It's a problem even for senior managers. Those who head major business units also struggle to stay ahead of daily events. Great bosses have discovered the right approach. They don't focus merely on managing their time better. They don't think about their work as comprising two different parts handling unexpected, daily problems versus doing what they should do as bosses. They don't try to do their daily work and also the work of management. Instead, they use the chaos unplanned events, crises, obligations to do managerial work. To do this, they use an approach we call "Prep-Do-Review" in every activity they undertake. In a nutshell, Prep-Do-Review calls on you to think of every activity not as one step doing but as three steps: preparing to act, acting, and then reviewing the outcome. It works this way:
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Prep: Before you do anything, prepare. Ask yourself questions like these: What am I going to do? Why what's my goal or purpose? How will I do it? Who else will be involved or affected?

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Do: Do what you prepared to do.

Review: When you're done, think about what you did and what happened. What did you learn? How would you do it differently next time? (Don't assume the right lesson is obvious; it often is not.) The wisdom of Prep-Do-Review may be simple and obvious, but how often do you just react to what's in front of you? In the name of time management, how often do you deal with something that's come up in the quickest way possible, just to resolve it and get it out of the way so you can go on to what you're supposed to do as a boss? Great managers use Prep-Do-Review (whether they call it that or not) to convert every activity into a means of pursuing some management purpose to make progress toward a goal, to develop someone, to reaffirm work standards, to strengthen bonds among members of their team, to model the behavior they want, and on and on. In their minds, every activity contains some seed of progress, and Prep-Do-Review is how they find that seed and nurture it .They use a crisis to reconnect with an important colleague in their network. They use a customer service problem to begin working through a broader issue with their boss. They use a "pointless" meeting as an opportunity to brief a colleague during the break about a change in plans. They use a production problem to develop the skills of a key employee. If you don't Prep spend a a minute or two, or even just a few seconds before dealing with a problem, you won't see the possibilities in what you thought was some mundane activity. If you then don't carry out the action as planned, and if you don't step back afterwards to crystallize what you and others learned, you'll spend your days struggling to get to your work as a manager. Make Prep-Do-Review a practice that you consistently, systematically, and routinely pursue. By using this simple but powerful approach, you can convert many of the activities that crowd your days into management tools for moving your people forward individually and as a group. More on: Managing people, Managing yourself, Time management
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David Kaiser

2 months ago

2. I have to disagree. While do-prep-review is certainly helpful from both a learning and planning context, it is not enough. I think it is both possible, and desirable, to block out time to actually do work, and push back on the forces that are tugging at your attention. Can we do this 100% of the time? No, and we wouldn't want to, many of those distractions are necessary and even useful. However, many are not, and they can be pushed back to their source, scheduled for later, or safely ignored, while work is being done. Covey had this right (and I think he borrowed it from Dwight Eisenhower) when he suggested that work can be differentiated into urgent / not urgent and important /

not important. Too many of us spend too much time on work that is urgent but not important. This is like filling up on fast food, it leaves little room for what is truly nourishing. It takes discipline to push back and focus on achieving longterm goals while juggling short-term drama, but that is what separates the true leaders from those who struggle to keep their heads above water. David Kaiser, PhD Time Management Coach for Authentic Leaders www.DarkMatterConsulting.com

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Kent LIneback

2 months ago in reply to David Kaiser

6. It's hard to disagree with you, David. To make our point, we cast the world in black and white. Other approaches are needed: block out time, hand out assignments that will come back to you as must-do interruptions, etc. The point remains, though, that you can apply every time-management technique and still be overwhelmed. What's required is a different way of thinking about how to deal with what's urgent but not important - i.e., deal with it by making it into something important as well.

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David Kaiser

2 months ago in reply to Kent LIneback

10. I understand what you're saying, and that you used a black and white approach to illustrate a point. As a writer, coach and teacher, I do the same.
Perhaps we are saying the same thing, I'm not quite sure. I definitely agree we need a different approach to time management. You are quite right that no system for increasing efficiency of throughput will ever be sufficient, it will always be overwhelmed by rising demand. Where we differ perhaps is our approach to what is "urgent but not important," you suggest making it into something important, a point I must confess I don't understand, unless you are saying this should be a negative example for learning, which I would definitely agree with. My belief is that to the extent possible, tasks which are "urgent but not important" should be denied (respectfully of course) or at least deemphasized, precisely because they are "not important." This frees up time and energy to do what is important.

David Kaiser, PhD Time Management Coach for Authentic Leaders www.DarkMatterConsulting.com

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Yin Lee

1 month ago in reply to David Kaiser

14.
Perhaps one can evaluate the tasks first in the Prep phase and decide to "Do" or not in Step 2. One could still carry out Step 3 regardless.

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Mitch McCrimmon

2 months ago in reply to David Kaiser

18. I totally agree with this comment. But not many managers have this sort of discipline, not because they are disorganized, but because they genuinely like to be involved and to DO things. Such managers are their own worst enemy. See my other comment on this post.

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Sorrento Gal

2 months ago in reply to David Kaiser

22. My reading is that the main message is to instil a discipline in ourselves to avoid kneejerk actions or reactions, which could end up wasting more of our time and effort, if not more serious consequences. The "prep" phase actually provides the space for us to differentiate urgency from importance.

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Mgreads

2 months ago in reply to David Kaiser

26. I am a proponent of the concept Prep-Do-Review, irrespective of what it is called. This combined with Davids comment leads to a more realistic approach. Both of these expect one to pause and think for a second. If this is intended towards rectifying a reactive approach of managers under crisis, realistically, how does one even put a pause in such a cycle, if it is already a norm!

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NowThatsLeadership

2 months ago

30. Time is an awful employee. You can't train it. You can't fire it for failing to follow your system or perform to your standards. You can't manage it.
I have a strong results bias myself so I look to be certain that what I'm doing or asking others to do is pointed at an intended result (i.e. goal). I think the concept of plan-do-review makes sense and I think what may have been missed here is a bit more description to the recipe. I think it might be 3 parts prep/plan, one part action/do and a pinch or two of review. One of the biggest time savers is to plan (or better yet let's just call it think). All too often the time crunched and over extended are in reaction mode. Solving a problem which becomes a different problem or a bigger one. All

because a few moments weren't spent thinking things through. I was recently in an office and witnessed a manager come frantically direct an employee to enter, by hand, 500 names, addresses and e-mails from a spreadsheet into individual order forms. It was an urgent and important item that needed to be completed within one hour in order to meet a shipping deadline for a large order. Now I'm not a fast typist but 500 error free in an hour seemed a daunting task for even the best typist. The manager was in crisis mode and not thinking things through. So, she wanted to increase resources against the task and began to huddle up more employees by pulling them away from other projects. I suggested she implement a mail merge instead. "No one knows how and we don' have TIME". I influenced her to place a few calls with me. Together, we placed three calls around the building to admin personnel which took about 5 minutes. No success (uh oh!). I suggested IT and for our fourth call we got on the phone with a sharp IT rep. We explained the result we were after and about 15 minutes later the task done; 40 minutes ahead of deadline. The few minutes spent thinking things through (prep/think/plan) and tapping the right resource (act) made a huge difference. Also plenty of time to spot check the order forms (review).

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Ndedi Alain

2 weeks ago

34. I am sure if I get the point that you are trying to elucidate. Anyway, time management is the obly panacea to good and sound amangement principles. But, it will be always part of the ingredients for better management folks!!!

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notmd

2 months ago

38. I find that the one of the most common issues facing management that results in management stress that is attempted to be solved by time management is..allowing poor performance to exist on your team..this is where the sports analogy doesn't work..if a sports team is performing poorly the manager doesn't go out to center field..however in the work place ,the manager does land up doing the work of their staff...the weaker the team ,the more stress,the more time management is prescribed and the more we mask the true cause..rarely do i hear a team or a member of time feel stressed when they are performing at their best and time management stays in the bottle..

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Mitch McCrimmon

2 months ago

42. I agree that managers are caught up on a reactive style of working and that it isn't a time management problem. I also agree with David Kaiser's comment that managers could push back more if they made the effort. So, the question is: Why don't they? I think the truth is that managers like to feel involved, needed and important so they respond positively to requests for their attention. I think the important questions they need to ask are not around what is the purpose of this task but rather: What is the best use of my time today? How can I best add

value here? How can I get better use of all resources at my disposal, say by being more of a catalyst, facilitator and coach? For me, management is like investment: an effort to achieve tasks in a way that makes the best use of all resources. This means continually asking yourself strategic questions about how best to invest those resources. I once coached a manager to DO less and be more facilitative and he said he could see the point but that doing so wouldn't feel like making a real contribution, like doing real work. So, it seems to me, that managers are their own worst enemy because they like to DO things.

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Audra Martin

2 months ago in reply to Mitch McCrimmon

46. Agree. Your comments made me think that real impediment in many of these situations is actually procrastination. Sometimes "doing" something is really about avoiding or postponing the more difficult thinking, managing, etc

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Mitch McCrimmon

2 months ago in reply to Audra Martin

50. Audra, you make a great point that "doing things is about avoiding the more difficult work of thinking, managing, etc." I totally agree. I wouldn't put this down to procrastination though. Rather, I think people get promoted to managerial positions partly because they are good at getting things done and they "play to their strengths" especially when stressed. Heavy workloads generate anxiety and it simply feels good to DO tangible things, whereas thinking and managing are more abstract, less tangible and concrete without immediate personal rewards.

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Darcy Eikenberg

2 months ago

54. This article is a great reminder that the real work of today's manager is NOT managing others, but managing themselves to focus on where they can create the most value, make the biggest contribution, and inspire the best work from all who surround them. To many managers I work with miss the 'prep" and "review" part of this model, instead spending all of their time in "do" mode, and missing out on questioning whether the work at hand is something to "do" at all! In order to make leaps ahead and stop making the mistakes of the past, we must break the "busy" bias and create enough white space to think, to question, and to create new models that work for how we work today.

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Jeff@Daytimer

2 months ago

58. The Prep-Plan-Do process will fail if appropriate choices aren't made during the Prep phase. Unfortunately, people spend much less time than is appropriate -- if any at all -- during these crucial minutes and seconds where decisions are made as to what fits into our core goals and values.
I think most people go off track because they spend more time on the "how" and not the "why." Good, thoughtful article.

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Kent LIneback

2 months ago in reply to Jeff@Daytimer

62. Excellent points, Jeff. Linda and I excerpted and simplified the Prep-Do-Review notion from our book and if you read the relevant sections there, you'll see we stress the need in Prep (notice it's not just "Plan") to apply the purpose, plans, and goals you've already developed. We talk about the 3 Imperatives of being a boss and Prep is where you decide how to use unavoidable daily events to apply them. It's a lot more than "Think before you act."

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Rebecca Tversky

2 months ago

66. Thanks for the practical post. Taking advantage of crises and distractions to combine short term and long term tasks is a great habit to get into. The Plan-Do-Review is a variation on the model Deming proposed for project management: Plan-Do-Check-Act. The added step of acting on the results of the review process can improve planning in the next cycle.
Another thing to keep in mind is that great managers also seem to know what they do best at what time of day and try to plan their days around that knowledge as much as possible. For instance, if you think most clearly and create most easily in the morning, schedule strategy sessions and writing as much as possible between 10 and 12. Schedule tasks like time entry, research and project milestone reviews in the 3-4 hour if that's when your mind has a tendency to wander looking for solutions. We can't predict every moment of our days, but we can predict the kinds of things likely to happen. If we make an effort to handle each one when we're best suited to do it, we can make the flow manageable. If we take a little time at the start and end of our days/tasks to assess the situation we're in, the demands that are on us and align the actions we take with our goals, it is easier to be good managers, leaders and doers.

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Kent LIneback

2 months ago in reply to Rebecca Tversky

70. Thanks, Rebecca. Someone who read Linda's and my book, where we talk about Prep-Do-Review, commented that Deming had said something of the sort, But now you've provided the details to look it up. Someone else also commented that Prep-Do-Review was a little like telling people to Inhale-Exhale, but, in fact, it's not. InhaleExhale happens automatically, but Prep-Do-Review, which should be an automatic process, is not. Thanks, again. Kent Lineback 71. Flag 72.
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Susan
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1 month ago in reply to Kent LIneback

Actually, Inhale-Exhale does not happen automatically. You're talking about breathing.

Inhale-Exhale is more in alignment with variations on meditation techniques. When people are in a reactive mode, rather than a take charge mode (after doing their assessment and planning), they forget to stop, take a few deep breathes which helps you calm down, stop, focus, plan, execute.

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Merri

2 months ago

78. Adding the Thinking element (prep, review) is a huge insight for the Doers. Adding the Doing element is a huge insight for the Thinkers. The combination is the key.

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Stephen J. Lalla

1 month ago

82. Can't remember who said it but the quote is "you can't manage time you can only manage self." Ultimately whatever system you use has to keep this in mind. And that is why I have come to rely upon GTD. It's just another system but it works for me ad long as I work it.

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Ruben

1 month ago

86. The Prep-Do-Review concept seems great but I can't quite visualize its application without a seeing a concrete example of converting an activity into an management tool. Can the authors and/or commentators offer any examples?

Perhaps this could answer any lingering questions or

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Rajeev Mujumdar

1 month ago

90. There is no doubt that every one must try to manage one's own time as efficiently as possible. That said, I also believe that Time Management is not only an individual's problem as it is largely influenced lot of other issues like organization structure, clarity of roles & responsibilities, efficient cross functional processes et all. In short, it is collective responsibility of all employees from top management to the operating level, to respect other's time

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Clare Evans

2 months ago

94. Prep Do Review is an excellent process and one that I encourage people to use along with other strategies. It's one of the more difficult habits to adopt - especially when under pressure. People have a natural tendency to get 'stuck in' and sort the problem out as quickly as possible without doing the 'Prep' to find the best solution that might actually save time or give a better result in the longer-term.
One of the key symptoms to poor time habits is that managers are reacting rather than being proactive about how they use their time. Launching in to their day by 'Doing' with the urgent but not in a considered way and not being focused on the outcome and results and how they fit into their goals and targets. Few people 'Review' on a regular basis - looking at what worked and what didn't and putting the learnings into practice the next time.

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Shampton

2 months ago

98. Reminds me of the old joke about a good Presbyterian sermon having three parts --- saying what you are about to say, then saying it, and then recapping what you said. There is certainly no harm in getting three bites at the apple, and Prep-Do-Review is a good natural process, allowing for reflection before and after the chosen action. www.bizmology.com 99.
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Mike Moyer

2 months ago

102. Great article! Managers who prep-do-review are simply more efficient. It takes discipline to prep instead of react. Management communication in any form must be well thought out as it affects our policies, procedures, and directives. Reacting to daily issues without proper preparation ultimately leads in inconsistencies. Prep-do-review is critical to convey consistency with our employees. Employees must feel as though their managers will take the time to understand the issue, address it, and follow up with the results.
Mike Moyer www.myinterpersonal.com

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Fdo57

2 months ago

106. I like the Prep-Do-Review cycle. But, experience is also important as the risk is that people do more "doing" without some prep or without learning from the review leg of the process. That translates to Managers who "shoot from the hip" without making a positive impact on the organization or on results.

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Chris @ Buy3You'llLose2.com

2 months ago

110. Great news for hopelessly disorganized managers. remembering Plan-Do-Review cycle is much easier than cooperating with your Franklin Planner. Having an impact vital and others knowing you follow up is critical. Thanks.

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Chris @ Buy3You'llLose2.com

2 months ago

114. Great news for hopelessly disorganized managers. remembering Plan-Do-Review cycle is much easier than cooperating with your Franklin Planner. Having an impact vital and others knowing you follow up is critical. Thanks.

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