Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Difference Between Management and Leadership

Most of what is taught in business school has a focus on steady, incremental improvement.  I don’t want to throw that out.  I do, however, suggest that businesses can create quantum leaps.  And the difference between the two processes is what defines leadership.

So, where do I start?  I ask:  What’s the difference between a manager and a leader?  Managers become managers because they were great at solving problems.  Those that make the transformation become senior managers.  Senior leaders transform from problem solvers to problem creators.  If a President or CEO spends more than 5%-10% of their time solving problems, they need to devise a plan to change that. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Why Do Americans Hate Smart People?

There is a saying: If you make people think they are thinking, they will love you. If you make people really think, they will hate you.

In Thomas Friedman’s book, The World is Flat, he talks about how people stand in long lines and buy tickets from scalpers to see Britney Spears. Yet, in China, they stand in long lines and scalp tickets to hear Bill Gates speak. Friedman makes this point to question American values and priorities.

Britney helps us escape reality. Great innovators such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Frederick Douglas, Henry Ford and, for those of you who want to think, Nikola Tesla, helped us invent new realities.

Why do we, at first, condemn those who give us new realities?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Problem Isn't a Shortage of Talent, It's How You Hire

Over the decades, many corporations complain about the trouble of finding talent.  However, I question whether that’s true.  Most businesses look for someone who is experienced at doing exactly what the company needs. This is a poor strategy for recruiting. Because skills and competencies become obsolete in a relatively short time period, companies need talent for tomorrow, not today. In fact, organizations constrain their ability to find very talented individuals because they are seeking people who have the exact experience for today. That is just laziness on the part of businesses. Every enterprise needs to have a commitment to train people for tomorrow. If they did, unemployment would be a lot lower.

There is a report from McKinsey which underscores the amount of staff who do not provide sufficient value to the enterprise. Those people will be part of the next round of layoffs we experience in the US. Corporations need to rethink training. People need to be trained to add value to the enterprise. This would increase innovation.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Watch out! Don't Be Your Own Worst Enemy

Everyone has moments of self-reflection where they question what makes them who they are. While the answer to that is complicated and depends on the person, I would like to propose that who you are was predetermined before you were born. Each of us was given an identity based on race, social economics, gender, height, weigh, etc. Those factors informed us as to whether or not we could be cool, smart, beautiful, tough… While the very characteristics that we were given from birth create our identity, they also stand in the way of creating breakthroughs.

To put it bluntly, what got you to your current level of success is not what will take you to the next level. As a rule, you will have to become someone else and acquire new skills and competencies to rise to the next level of success. However, most of us lack the process for achieving that or the imagination to conceive of new mental models. Others lack the courage in some cases to invalidate who they were. If you observe your life, you will see that your environment and network supports who you have been. Anything that disagrees with who you are makes you uncomfortable, and you avoid it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Is There a More Effective Method for Hiring Talent?

With companies like Google, Facebook and Apple aggressively seeking top talent, you have to wonder if there is a method to their success. Are the employees at those companies the reason for their success? Or is it the vision? Author and management consultant Peter Drucker said that too many companies focus on “who” to hire. He emphasized that businesses should focus first on “what” has to be done before you ever decide to choose “who”. 

Drucker disdains traditional hiring practices. He has dubbed them “creeping credentialism”, whereby employers focus on how applicants look on paper. He felt we have gotten ourselves into a trap when it comes to recruiting talent. In Managing in a Time of Great Change, he stated, “It’s easy to fall into the trap, because degrees are black-and-white. But it takes judgment to weigh a person’s contribution.”

When you look at the social dynamics in the US, you have to wonder if we (human beings) are as good at judging people as we think. While the fact that over 50% of marriages end in divorce is a sign of incorrect judgment is another article, it has some relevance in the conversation about poor judgment in the workforce. Most of us have little or no training in judging people. And we have very few tools that can judge future performance of an individual. Perhaps we need better tools instead of relying solely on the perspectives of human resources.