The Founder/CEO Paradox

A recurring theme has been present in several consulting conversations lately. Be it at a networking event, over a drink, in the boardroom, or on a golf course, the discussion is similar. It focuses on working for individuals who are both founders and CEO’s. Here is how a typical conversation sounds.

LISA: Oh, you do Organizational Development work – that must be fascinating. I wish you could work with my organization. Actually, I wish you could work with our CEO.

ME: It is fascinating work. But why do you say that?

LISA: Well, our company has this great product/service. Our founder/CEO has worked hard to get this company off the ground and we’ve developed into quite a force. Their idea is brilliant, and we should have a bright future ahead of us. However, the founder/CEO continues to run us like they ran the start-up. And most of us see all sorts of problems that the CEO doesn’t – their leadership isn’t working anymore.

ME: What do you mean?

LISA: It’s like they need to be involved in everything. As we have experienced success, the company has grown beyond the founder’s expertise. As a result, they have hired some really good people. But then s/he won’t let them do their job. They micro-manage, don’t trust people and keep blowing things up because of their over-involvement. When they started the company, they were the reason for our success. But now they limit our success.

ME: Yes, I’ve heard this story a few times…

I’ve begun to quietly call this the Founder/CEO Paradox. It occurs when a gifted individual with vision and skill launches a company but struggles to take it to the next level. These organizations often get stuck. They recruit and lose talented people because of a simple leadership roadblock – the overall organizational capacity can only rise as high as the CEO’s capacity.

A minor Twitter war erupted a few weeks ago when NFL star Jalen Ramsey, tweeted that he could probably crack a National Hockey League line-up if he trained for six months. I should add an important detail – Ramsey has never skated in his life. To most of us on the outside, we know this claim is absurd. However, this laughable tweet exemplifies the same principle as the CEO/Founder Paradox.

Our most important gifts and abilities are not useful in every situation.

So, if this is true, what should we do? I suggest two antidotes:

  1. Hire people better than yourself. I personally sit in awe of gifted entrepreneurs. They have something that I don’t. Their stories, grit, drive and risk-taking abilities are aspirational. During start-up, this determination has them wearing many hats. However, as the company grows hats need to be handed off and experts with higher capacities need to be hired. This is the first antidote for the CEO/Found Paradox – hire people better than yourself to run areas you cannot.
  2. Know your sweet spot. When our children were born, my wife gave me a book about raising kids. While the content did not make me a perfect parent, it did offer some timeless advice that relates to our topic. It taught that each of us has a parenting ‘sweet spot’. For example, some of us love babies while others seem to naturally parent teens. More importantly, they also reminded readers that few of us are good at every stage. This simple lesson contains the second antidote to the Founder/CEO paradox – know your sweet spot (and celebrate the sweet spots of others)!

And based on several other conversations, I suspect that this paradox is equally applicable in the family business enterprise. But that’s another blog for another day…

Footnote: Thanks to CL for the stimulating golf-cart conversation which inspired this post.


Dr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Contact him today to find out how he can help enhance your personal and organizational effectiveness – jeff@jeffsuderman.com.

Photo Credit – FreeImages.com

Three Ways to Create More Ethical Behavior at Work

Few of us would disagree that ethical behavior is important in the workplace. Yet how we do this is a much more challenging discussion! Below are three practical ways to foster a stronger ethical work culture.

  1. Visible Moral Symbols. Recent research published in the Academy of Management Journal revealed that individuals who have visible moral symbols in their workspace facilitate stronger ethical conduct. A virtuous quote, a religious image or a moral sign serve as visible reminders – both to yourself and more specifically, to those you work with – that ethical behavior is important. Google’s lead value, “Don’t do evil” is a great example of this (though you could debate if this has shifted in their recent value change from “Don’t do evil” to “Do the right thing”). Before you try this, remember to consider the cultural nuances involved in doing this effectively!
  2. Public Ovation. In Trust Factor, Paul J. Zak provides fascinating evidence that connects trust development with activities which release oxytocin (something our body produces which makes us both trust others more and become more trustworthy). In short, Zak teaches that creating moments which release oxytocin will build trust. Since trust is a foundational moral value (partially developed by congruence between what we say and what we do), we have opportunity to deepen trust be facilitating oxytocin-inducing moments. Public praise (or what Zak refers to as ovation) is an effective way to do this. When you catch someone doing the right thing, create a moment of public praise (which also serves as a Visible Moral Symbol!).
  3. Decrease the Gap. Ethics is a combination of two things: what we believe, and, what we do. Inevitably, there will be a gap between them! Effective leaders continually work to decrease their gap. Doing so increases trust and a climate for ethical behavior (see above!). One effective (and humbling) way to decrease the gap is to become a person who regularly asks for feedback. In Thanks for the Feedback (Even When It’s Off-base, Unfair, Poorly Delivered, and Frankly, You’re Not in the Mood), Stone and Heen remind us that research shows we all have 3.2 blind spots. This sobering fact should change the way you live! It also provides a practical method by which to decrease the gap!

Successful organizations do more that pay lip-service to the need to act ethically. These three practices can help turn what you believe into what your organization does. What other practices have you used?


Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

 

Sources:

Jena McGregor (2015). Promoting more ethical behavior. LA Times, 2015.

Paul J. Zak (2017). Trust Factor. AMAcom.

Dr. Henry Cloud (2006). Integrity: The courage to meet the demands of reality. Harper Business.

Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen (2015). Thanks for the Feedback. Penguin Books.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution & the Employment Skills You Need to Survive It

An axiom reminds us that the lessons of yesterday do not always prepare us for the needs of tomorrow.

A recent post about developing future-ready work skills generated reader interest (Are You Second-Skilling?) and today’s post borrows this same theme. The infographic below provide insights about how to develop a skill-set that doesn’t become obsolete. For some readers, this information will help you focus on the education or training you need as you embark on your career. For others, this is a reminder of the skills you will need to upgrade or ‘second-skill’ in order to be competitive in the job market.


Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

 

Source – Guthrie Jenson

10 Questions Leaders Ask in Team Meetings

A few weeks ago my post on Questions to Ask During a One-on-One garnered a lot of attention. Today’s post follows a similar theme and, thanks to a tip from Shannon at Soapbox, provides 10 questions to consider asking during team meetings (with a few of my own ideas thrown in).

  1. When is the best time to give work-related feedback?
  2. What information do you need in order to perform better? How would this help you/us?
  3. What is our team’s biggest challenge?
  4. What blocks our success?
  5. What do we need to start doing? Why?
  6. What do we need to stop doing? Why?
  7. What have we forgot to do that worked in the past?
  8. What was a win we/you had last week?
  9. What is an example of how we successfully demonstrated one of our core values (with our team or with our customers)?
  10. What is an example of how we failed to demonstrate one of our core values? How can we avoid doing this again?

There are a lot of great questions and this list simply provides a few fresh ideas. What would you like to this list?


Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

Google’s Perfect Employee – Skills for Today’s Marketplace

A significant amount of my consulting work is spent improving organizational performance by developing people. Sometimes employee development is done proactively – like taking vitamins before you get sick. More frequently, employee development is a reactive approach to problematic performance. Like setting a broken leg or providing an antibiotic, this approach can still be successful. However, like a physical ailment, it typically involves some organizational headaches and pain.

Negative employee performance often leads to discussions about hiring practices. How can employers screen potential employees in ways which maximize organizational health and minimize organizational ailments?

Traditional hiring methods focus heavily on technical or hard skills. This approach believes that an educated and skilled workforce will bring beneficial competencies into our businesses. In other words, a bevy of technical skills will equip an individual to succeed. However, this model breaks down and we’ve all worked with gifted (aka – skilled) people that no one can work with. So how do we find the right employee?

Recent research from Google provides helpful insights into this important question. Their study about workplace success contradicts the conventional ‘hard skill’ approach. Google, a company founded by techies (and, one that has historically relied on hiring hard skills) analyzed their own data to find their success recipe. In short, they discovered that it takes more than a knowledge of technology to be a technology company. By crunching their own data, Google discovered the following skills were most important:

  1. Being a good coach;
  2. Communicating and listening well;
  3. Possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view);
  4. Having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues;
  5. Being a good critical thinker;
  6. Having effective problem-solving skills; and,
  7. Being able to make connections across complex ideas.

The most fascinating insights is that, direct technical skills, sits at number 8 on this list! While technical skills are needed, they follow (not lead!) the list of high performing employee attributes.

“Google’s Project Aristotle shows that the best teams at Google exhibit a range of soft skills: equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of your teammates, empathy, and emotional intelligence. And topping the list: emotional safety. No bullying. To succeed, each and every team member must feel confident speaking up and making mistakes. They must know they are being heard” (Strauss).

These conclusions align with the triadic leadership model I use with clients. This diagram is a visual reminder that effective employees (and leaders) are a composite of three equally important ingredients:

  1. Skills – what a leader does.
  2. Self-awareness – who a leader is.
  3. Morals/values – why a leader leads.

Over-focusing on any single part of this model (e.g. – hard skills only focus on ‘what a leader does’) will lead to performance gaps.

There is no perfect system to hire or develop an ideal employee. But research is revealing that hard skills are not enough. Soft skills will play an important role in our modern workforce (and increasingly so as automation and robots are equipped to undertake traditional hard-skill tasks).

So, what does this practically mean for you and your organization? Here are a few concluding ideas for business leaders to consider as they seek to implement Google’s conclusions. Please add your own insights to this list!

  • Does your resume review focus on hard skills or soft skills?
  • How do your interview questions assess soft skills?
  • Many of the skills in Google’s list require strong moral development (e.g. – listening skills. empathy or generosity). How do you develop ethical behavior in employees? How do your interview questions reveal a candidate’s moral norms?

Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

 

Source: Valerie Strauss, Washington Post

Questions to ask during one-on-one’s

Clients sometimes ask for input on how to conduct great one-on-one meetings with their team members. One suggestion is to ask good questions. A recent blog post at Soapbox provided 9 helpful questions to consider.

  1. What are your biggest time wasters?
  2. What does our organization/department need to start doing?
  3. Would you like less or more direction from me about your work? In which area(s)?
  4. Are you getting enough feedback about your work? Where are the gaps?
  5. What could I do to make your job easier?
  6. Is there an aspect of your job that you need more help or coaching with?
  7. How could we improve the way our team works together?
  8. On a scale of 1-10, how challenged are you at work?
  9. What organizational strategy or goal are you least clear about

What do you think? Which questions are missing? Are there any you don’t like? I’d love to hear your experiences!

Thanks to Brennan at Soapbox for the great content!


Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

3 Things I Learned About Leadership At My Golf Lesson

At a recent golf tournament, my goodie bag had a coupon for a free golf lesson. If you’ve watched me play, you would strongly recommend that I use the coupon! This week I took Mike up on his offer and spent an hour with him on the driving range. As often happens, I was amazed by the parallels between what I learned as a golfer and the leadership principles that I use with clients. So, as you prepare to unplug and relax over the Christmas holidays, allow me to share three leadership lessons that Mike taught me while swinging a piece of metal at a little white ball.

  1. You don’t know what you don’t know. My lesson was enabled by incredible technology. A video camera, a computer and a swing analyzer tablet recorded and analyzed what happened when I swing a club (called ‘Trackman’ for you curious readers). After hitting 12 balls (and far too much turf) Mike told me that he had seen enough and we sat in front of the computer. He then introduced me to about 25 different metrics of my swing. There were terms I had never heard of like smash factor, spin rate and attack angle. But more importantly, Mike also told me that we were only going to focus on 2 of these 25 metrics because they were the most important fixes that would improve my game.

Leadership Application: Are you brave enough to admit that you don’t know? We all have blind spots – in fact, research tells us that you have an average of 3.4! It takes humility to admit you don’t know a lot of things? Are you actively working to lower your leadership handicap by trying to know more about what you don’t know?

  1. Multiple perspectives give perspective. Being able to observe my swing on video from two different angles gave me a perspective on my golf game that I’ve never had. Mike’s on-screen swing diagrams gave me a baseline to measure against. Now when I swing my club, I can visualize my posture, my club angle and work to avoid my turf-digging hip slide. I can’t tell you how many little things I have attempted to teach myself over the years as I have worked to improve my game (watch the elbow, check the stance, are my wrists open or closed…). I suspect that many of them helped. However, in retrospect, they were a lot of little things. In contrast, a lesson with a knowledgeable coach provided me with the big picture. Now I know what to work on first (and it’s not my elbow!).

Leadership Application: Few of us are good at asking for help and I praise those of you who do so! While you can improve your leadership game on your own over time, your perspective is based on your own personal insights. And some of them are not even correct! An outside perspective (or several) will provide you with a different look at your leadership. Others can help you differentiate between the little things and the big things. Do you intentionally get perspective on your leadership from others?golf-swing-2

  1. Practice. Practice. Practice. I only got to hit the ball for about 15% of my golf lesson. The rest of our time was spent watching my swing on video, learning how to balance my posture and swinging my upside-down club at a giant beanbag. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t nearly as sexy as I had hoped. However, Mike’s coaching reminded me that playing the game well is a byproduct of a lot of practice. In fact, by the time we were done the lesson Mike had me hitting 130 yard shots with one hand! Just imagine what will happen with practice.

Leadership Application: Whether it is taking time for education, being a voracious reader of asking a lot of questions, your leadership success is also contingent on practice. What are you doing to practice and improve your leadership game?

To conclude, I’ll also offer a plug for Michael Maggs – he is very good at what he does. If you’re in the desert and you need some coaching to help you get rid of your slice or add a few extra yards send him an email and tell him Jeff sent you (mike@maggsgolf.com or his website). Merry Christmas!


Head Shot

Dr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

Cover Photo: Jeff Suderman (PGA West TPC, La Quinta, CA)

Leadership Lessons: Emotional Intelligence 101

During a meeting with a prospective client this week I was asked how I identify leadership potential. There are many good answers to this question, but to my surprise, I quickly blurted out “self-awareness” before I had even given the question thoughtful consideration.

Socrates is reputed to have once taught his students a simple lesson – “Know thyself”. This theme lies behind the principle of self-awareness. Self-aware people know what they are good at. More importantly, they know what they are not good at (and surround themselves with people who are good at these things!). People who lack self-awareness think they are good at tasks they do not excel at. As a result, they often repeat mistakes and cover up deficiencies.

My best employees have consistently been self-aware people. Conversely, those who have caused me the greatest frustration usually do not ‘know thyself’ very well! This is why I am a fan of the concept of emotional intelligence. It is a principle which reminds us that effective leadership can be learned and is not reserved for those born with the right skills. The infographic below is sourced from Davitt Coroporate Partners and provides a great introduction to emotional intelligence. Developing emotional intelligence is a great way to get to ‘know thyself’ better and increase your leadership capacity.

emotional-intelligence-what-you-need-to-know-infographic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Head ShotJeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

Infographic Credit: Davitt Corporate Partners

Leadership Lessons: Thinking Gray

A friend recently introduced me to the wisdom of Steven B. Sample and his book The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership. I have been pondering his lesson about how effective leaders need to train themselves to think. His model also provides some helpful insights about recent US political events (relax – this will not be another political rant!).

Sample teaches that we all have a choice of approaching complex matters with one of two mindsets:

Binary Thinking: Being bold, decisive and making decisions quickly. Approaching issues as black or white.

Gray Thinking: Not forming an opinion about an important matter until you have heard all the relevant facts and arguments, or until circumstances force you to form an opinion without access to all the facts.

As we assess these definitions we learn that binary thinking is much easier than gray thinking. However, when we use binary thinking as we contemplate complex matters we are prone to make these leadership errors:

  1. Close mindedness: Closing our mind to facts and arguments that will come to our attention later.
  2. Flip-flopping: We flip-flop on issues because we made premature decisions with inadequate information.
  3. False Security: We believe that which we sense is strongly believed by others (Sample).

In psychological terms, point number three is labelled “false-consensus bias”. If we continually listen to only one point of view, our minds begin to subconsciously believe that this view is right (“I keep hearing the same thing, therefore it must be true”). This binary approach limits our ability to think gray on matters we often know very little about. The 2016 US election is full of examples of false-consensus bias (as evidenced by the shock of many about the presidential election results).

Author F. Scott Fitzgerald once stated, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function”. Every issue does not need to be approached with gray thinking. However, most of us default to binary thinking more than we should.

As I age, I am finding that I know less than I ever had. I suppose that technically, my repository of knowledge is growing. However, to quote an old adage, ‘the more I know, the more I know that I don’t know’. Perhaps this is what gray thinking looks like in day-to-day life. As a result, I believe we all have a few matters where we need to shift from binary to gray thinking. So what are they? Find your journal and write down two or three things that need to move from your binary column to the gray column.

Thinking gray is a characteristic of great leaders. How gray is your world?


Head Shot

Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

Sean Blanda – The other side is not dumb

Podcast: The Importance of Culture

Today’s post is a podcast that I recently provided for the Lead This! organization.

Mergers and acquisitions consistently top the headlines, yet most of them fail. In this recording I explain the pivotal role that organizational culture has in mergers and acquisitions as well as how to strategically use it to foster a healthy organization. Just click the graphic below and enjoy!

 


Head Shot

Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com