A Year in Review: Three of Your Favorite Blog Posts and One of Mine

As I conclude my first year of blogging it is a good time to reflect on the topics that interested you, my readers, the most. Here is a quick reference guide to your most read posts of 2014.

1. Our New Four-Letter Word: This post focused on how we inappropriately use the simple word ‘busy’. This post even resulted in a twitter email from a reader who pledged to not use the word busy for the year (how is it going Cameron?).

2. What if Everything Rises & Falls on Followership? Coincidentally, this post was written days before my attendance at the International Leadership Association Conference (ILA) in San Diego. Followership was one of the hot topics of the event and I am excited to see leadership being reshaped to embrace the importance, power, responsibility of active followers.

3. Focus: Finding Strategic Clarity. Review three signs that indicate your organization may be suffering from a lack of strategic clarity.

I also want to remind you of one of my first, and personal favorite posts, The Tale of the Orange and the Lemon tree. I jogged by this amazing fruit-laden tree this week and was reminded anew of the richness of this metaphor.

As we anticipate 2015, I look forward to getting to know and work with many of you in the months ahead. Your comments and suggestions are always welcome.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another”. King Solomon


 

Jeff SuHead Shotderman is a professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

 

Leading Globally: Understanding Cultural Gender Equality

One of the most fundamental ways in which societies differ is the extent to which each prescribes different roles for women and men (Hofstede). Some societies seek to minimize gender role differences while others seek to maximize these differences. This blog focuses on gender equality and is installment 3 of an 8 part series designed to help you improve your global leadership skills.

GENDER EQUALITY

The chart below illustrates some of the most common differences between cultures or individuals with high and low gender equality. At the bottom of this blog you will find a reference chart which provides specific results for the 62 countries in the GLOBE study.

Gender equality chart 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An interesting conclusion of this study is that societies which have higher gender equality were more prosperous, had longer life expectancy and experienced greater overall life satisfaction. They also enjoyed higher standards of living and acquired greater levels of knowledge.

It is easy to look at this information and determine that we need to help low scoring countries improve their gender equality. However, those who have worked in different cultures understand that the approach of indoctrinating others with your beliefs is both rude and ineffective (something which is called ethnocentrism). Instead, I encourage you to use this information to change your thinking. If knowledge is truly power, then this knowledge should enable you to identify individuals or cultural gender equality and respond in ways which are both culturally sensitive and effective.

Earlier this year I blogged about my experience with ethnocentrism while in Indonesia (The Wrong Side of the Road). At the beginning of my visit I referred to driving on the left side of the road as “the wrong side of the road”. By the end of my trip, I learned a lesson about ethnocentrism and changed my language to “a different side of the road”.

Effective leaders must become cultural catalysts. They must be able to identify and appropriately respond to the different norms they find themselves in. Since the roles of men and women differ greatly around the world, the ability to identify gender equality is a critical skill for global leaders. Before you look at the list of countries below, take a guess about your national gender equity bias. Knowing where you stand is the first step in meeting others where they stand.

NOTE: The content above has been adapted from the seminal work on global leadership commonly called The GLOBE Leadership Study. It assessed 62 different countries and identified important cultural and leadership norms. The results of this massive research project provide us with a goldmine of information which helps us understand cultural differences.


 

Jeff SuHead Shotderman is a professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He partners Gender equality chart 2with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and their FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

Reference

House, R., Hanges, P.J., Javidan, M, Dorfman, P.W., Gupta, V. (2004). Culture, leadership, and organizations: The GLOBE study of 62 societies. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.

Hofstede, G. (1980). Cultures consequences: International differences in work-related values. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

The Leadership Elephant

I’ll start with a simple confession – I’ve read far too much on the subject of leadership.

While I’m at it, here’s confession number two – I’m jaded by the amount of authors who claim to have figured out the leadership solution.

This is well illustrated by The Fable of The Blind Men of the Elephant. In this poem, each man defines an elephant – an animal they have never encountered – based upon the unique body part they can feel. Since each of the men are each touching different parts – the trunk, the leg, the ear, etc. – each provide an accurate description of one component of the elephant. However, a lack of synthesis of their observations results in exaggerated and incomplete viewpoints.

Leadership literature often fails on the same premise. While authors and speakers provide valuable insights about leadership, they often promise the whole elephant instead of understanding and embracing the fact that they are defining a part.  As a result of my frustration, I began looking for a means of looking at the whole leadership elephant and not just the parts. I sought a framework which would help me sort through the clutter.

This pilgrimage was guided by the advice of a former communications professor (thank you Dr. Strom!). He taught me that great communicators use figurative ‘pegs’ to hang their ideas on. When done effectively, these pegs help listeners make sense of the subject matter. When pegs are used effectively, it helps complex subjects seem simple. So I embarked on a journey to understand the pegs on which the various parts of the leadership elephant could belong.

As I reviewed a myriad of leadership literature I discovered three pegs or themes on which almost all leadership concepts can be categorized. They are as follows:

  1. WHO is a leader? This focuses on the identity of a leader.
  2. WHY do leaders lead? This delves into the motivation of a leader.
  3. WHAT do leaders do?  These involves the measures & outcomes of a leader.

So how is this helpful? Together, WHO, WHY and WHAT envelope almost every concept you read in leadership literature. For example, Jon Kotter’s famous book, Leading Change, primarily focuses on what a leader does. Ten Engstrom’s The Making of a Christian Leader, focuses extensively on who a leader is based on biblical standards. Robert Greenleaf’s model of servant leadership focuses heavily on why a leader leads. While leadership  books  or speeches often touch more than one category, you will find that authors typically have a predominant focus on one of these three components.

This concept is simply illustrated by using something that I call the triadic leadership model (Figure 1). The triadic concept is not my own and is supported by social science research. In short, the core strength of triadic thinking is that is ways to present an integrated whole while also demonstrating the interplay and tension between the individual components. When it is used to define leadership, triadic thinking provides three simple pegs on which to hang leadership ideas.

leadership elephant

Figure 1

For example, Donald Trump’s television show, The Apprentice,demonstrates strong themes from the WHY corner of the triad. Trumpian leadership focuses on money as the reason that to lead. In contrast, a biography about Mother Theresa will reveal a very different why – to serve others. As the leadership triad has become seared into my leadership worldview, I find myself using this filter to contextualize leadership concepts. If you are speaking of vision, I know you are dealing with the WHAT of leadership. When you focus on desirable leadership traits I understand you are referring to the WHO of leadership.

At this point I must state a clear caveat. While the model of triadic leadership has helped me understand leadership in a deeper way, I do not purport it to be the answer to leadership studies. Rather, I hope it will be a means to assist you as you try to make sense of the complex leadership elephant.

As you consider this model, I invite your insights about the following questions:

  1. How does this model help you understand leadership better?
  2. What aspects of leadership do not fit into the triadic leadership model?
  3. Which corner of the triad is most prevalent in what you read or hear about leadership?

Note: This blog was previously published on the web site of my friend and colleague, Paul Sohn


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Head ShotJeff Suderman is a consultant and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and their FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

 

Relevance: A Lifelong Investment

“The worlds wine cork producers want you to know that they’re sorry” (Pierson).

A front page article in this weekends LA Times pronounced what happens when success meets comfort. The once dominant cork industry has lost 25% of it’s market share in the past 10 years to screw caps and plastic corks. The communications director for the world’s largest cork company noted, “We got the proverbial kick in the pants”. The root cause is a failure to proactively address issues of cork taint, a fungus which negatively affects between 1% and 5% of corked wines. This small oversight combined with over 250 years without significant competition has led to significant loss of market-share in the $290 billion global wine industry.

Similarly, Kodak, the progenitor of photography and ‘Kodak moments’ failed to address changes amidst the emergence of digital camera and film. In fact, Kodak was so entrenched in their methods, they created a means to transfer digital images back to film. As a result of assumed relevance, they were forced to declare bankruptcy in 2012. Like the cork industry, Kodak’s history reminds us that relevance is earned and cannot be assumed.

There is a similar trend affecting higher education in North America. In 2013 the New York Times noted that “One-third of all colleges and universities in the United States face financial statements significantly weaker than before the recession and… are on an unsustainable fiscal path. Another quarter find themselves at serious risk of joining them” (Selingo). As the educational climate changes (think University of Phoenix or MOOC’s – massive open on-line courses), a growing number of colleges are facing trouble ahead.

Anaïs Nin once said, “We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are”. Whether you are in the cork industry, photography or the bastions of higher education, we all are susceptible to seeing things ‘as we are’ or ‘as we want them to be’. Relevance is earned. Over, and over, and over again!


Head ShotJeff Suderman is a consultant and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and their FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

 

References:

Pierson, David (Dec. 7, 2014). Wine corks look for the old pop. The Los Angeles Times.

Selingo, Jeff (April 12, 2013). Colleges struggle to stay afloat. The New York Times.

Leading Globally: Understanding Future Orientation

What do the terms Just Do It, Don’t Worry be Happy, Manyana and Hakuna Matata have in common? Each provides a glimpse into a person’s orientation toward the future. Nike’s Just Do It phrase connotes immediacy, importance and the need for self-determination. In contrast, Manyana suggests that we should live in the moment as there is always tomorrow.

Individuals and organizations each possess a bias towards one of these two styles. This is called future orientation and it is an ingredient which defines how we operate, individually, nationally and an organizationally. This blog will focus on future orientation and is part 2 of an 8 part series which will help you develop global leadership skills (click here to review the first blog on Performance Orientation).

FUTURE ORIENTATION

Future Orientation is the degree to which we encourage and reward future oriented behaviors such as planning and delaying gratification. 

The chart below illustrates some of the most common differences between cultures or individuals with high and low future orientation. At the bottom of this blog you will find a reference chart which provides specific high/mid/low future orientation results for the 62 countries in the GLOBE study. Here is a list of the things which distinguish high versus low future orientation:

Future Orientation Overview

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you work with individuals, here are some practical ways to identify whether your coworker has a higher or lower future orientation:

Future Orientation Individual

 

 

 

 

 

 

An interesting lesson from this research is that almost every country places a very high value of future orientation. However, the difference between high and low performers is execution – the ability to act on your plan and delay gratification. The study also revealed that being a rich country does not necessarily correlate to having a high future orientation. There are many poorer countries with high future orientation that are not wealthy.

Overall, higher levels of future orientation is an ingredient for personal and organizational success. For example, my blog earlier this week (Hello My Name is Agility) demonstrated that the most effective companies have time planning horizons of more than 5 years. Therefore, we typically want to help people increase their future capacity.

The ability to identify future orientation helps you work with individuals or organizations more effectively. Here are a few tips on how to use this information as you work with others.

  • Begin with awareness. Is the person/organization you are working with able to self-identify their time orientation? Awareness is the first step!
  • Be positive! Remember that most people/organizations want to have a high future orientation!
  • Stay focused. Help those with low future orientation establish clear future goals. Consistently remind how about these goals and the need to delay gratification in order to achieve them.
  • Keep it personal. Help those with high future orientation maintain healthy social relationships. People matter!

In our next installment of Leading Globally, we will discuss how gender affects cultural norms.

NOTE: The content above has been adapted from the seminal work on global leadership commonly called The GLOBE Leadership Study. It assessed 62 different countries and identified important cultural and leadership norms. The results of this massive research project provide us with a goldmine of information which helps us understand cultural differences.


Future Orientation Country

Jeff SuHead Shotderman is a professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and their FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

Reference

House, R., Hanges, P.J., Javidan, M, Dorfman, P.W., Gupta, V. (2004). Culture, leadership, and organizations: The GLOBE study of 62 societies. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.

More Agility Please! The State of Strategy

There is a strong correlation between a companies financial returns and their planning horizon.1 Effective strategy considers the future! If you know me or read my writing you know that I resonate strongly with this concept.

In recent months I have read several blogs which proclaim that strategic planning is dead. While these titles are somewhat over-sensationalized (see The Problem with 7 Step and 3 Things), I believe that the concept is correct. Strategy as we know it is dead and this is a very good thing because it is being replaced with something better. This is supported by a recent study which examined three different strategy models and their corresponding success rates (see Figure 1). The results are as follows:

1. Ad Hoc – Success Rate: 46% | Tagline: Hand-to-mouth strategy | Definition: This style develops and implements strategy as the organization wishes and there is no defined planning horizon.

2. Traditional – Success Rate: 53% | Tagline: Your father’s strategy | Definition: This is the best understood as the current strategic planning model which typically develops strategy for the next  3-5 years (though most actually plan within the 1-3 year horizon).

3. Agility – Success Rate: 85% | Tagline: Strategy which makes uncertainty part of the plan | Definition: Strategy is evaluated and regularly re-evaluated in the context of a rapidly changing environment. EffectStrategic Cycles and Successive organizations actively study the future in order to compete in the present and have strategic cycles which are longer than 5 years.

This study reveals that effective organizations apply long-term agility-based thinking to conundrums, something that planning and control sciences were unable to do.Pierre Wack, a forerunner of the agility movement, once stated, “In our times of rapid change and discontinuity, crisis of perception – the inability to see a novel reality emerging by being locked in obsolete assumptions – has become the main cause of strategic failure”

If we live in an unchanging environment, then traditional planning methodologies work. However, very few people that I speak with believe that they operate in a stable environment. The need to develop agility is supported by the fact that over 85% of executives noted that their strategy formulation failures were rooted in the lack of understanding of future trends.Figure 6 reveals how foresight tools are being used to develop agility.Foresight Case

Strategic planning may not be dead but I believe that it has morphed. Research reveals that effective organizations use planning time frames which are greater that five years. This requires that we shift from a strategic mindset of control to one of agility. Foresight and tools which foster future agility are becoming the new normal for effective strategy development and execution.

Do you work in an organization that needs to extend your planning horizon? Contact me to schedule a free assessment of your strategic planning processes (jeff@jeffsuderman.com).


Head ShotJeff Suderman is a consultant and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and their FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

 

References:

1 A.T. Kearney (2014). The state of strategy today. Retrieved from http://www.atkearney.com/strategy/futureproof-strategy/detail/-/asset_publisher/A6BMR7XFiteh/content/the-state-of-strategy-today-topic-overview/10192

This concept was derived from a personal conversation with my teacher and mentor, Dr. Jay Gary

Pierre Wack (1984). The gentle art of re-perceiving. Unpublished manuscript. Harvard Business School.