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!


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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?


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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!

 


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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

 

 

The Uberization of Leadership

Change is something we encounter every day. Sometimes it occurs quietly and we don’t even notice it. At other times it is loud and disruptive. However, it seems like we are usually better at noticing change than adjusting to it. As an honest individual once told me, “I love change…until it impacts me”.

Change is quickly (and quietly) impacting how we develop leaders. Or more precisely, it should be impacting how we develop leaders. In an insightful HBR article, Jesuthasan and Holmstrom remind us, “as work changes [and it is!] our leadership development has to keep up”. They provide three important areas where leadership development must adjust to meet the needs of our changing organizations.

  1. Develop Digital Leaders: “‘Digital’ is not something that is happening to organizations, it has and continues to be the means through which work is accomplished” (Jesuthasan and Holmstrom). As a result, they suggest leadership development must involve digital mastery, agility, thriving amidst disruption and a readiness for change. Furthermore, we must use different methodology to accomplish this as we work with digital natives (those who were born with an electronic device in their hand) and digital immigrants (those who did not grow up in an era of ubiquitous technology).
  2. Move Beyond the Classroom: Learning has traditionally been delivered in two forms; on-the-job or in-the-classroom. In our current environment, effective learning outcomes are best achieved by blending these two methods seamlessly. Many forms of this symbiosis are still emerging but I believe organizations which effectively learn how to do so will find themselves on the leading edge of success.
  3. Utilize Coaching: Coaching is moving from a reactive strategy (it fixes a problem) to a proactive strategy (it helps solves problems before they occur). Coaches are an effective way for people to have a safe outlet and a accessible way to receive perspective on day-to-day issues. My coaching engagements often utilize my professorial teaching content, but in ways which apply these lessons to an individual’s unique work circumstances. Similar to just-in-time inventory management, effective coaching provides just-in-time leadership wisdom to those who need it.

In the past seven years, Uber has changed the way our taxi system works. This change has been rapid and dramatic. Similarly, our leadership development model is in the midst of a quiet uberization. The way we used to do things just don’t work in our business environment any more.

Your leadership development opportunities are abundant. However, they are not all relevant. As you look for ways to enhance your leadership ensure that your opportunities equip you to lead digitally, blend theory and practice and involve ongoing coaching opportunities. These are the leadership skills which will equip you to be a future-ready leader.


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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

Source: HBR

Photo Credit: FreeImages/DebbieWogen

5 Ways We Respond to Interpersonal Conflict

A benefit of my consulting work is that it requires me to learn on a regular basis. As I prepared for an upcoming workshop about organizational conflict I was revisiting some books to refresh my memory. While doing this, I re-encountered a wonderful model about the different ways we respond to interpersonal conflict (Rahim). Five different approaches to conflict are illustrated in this Johari window.

5-types-of-conflict

Response 1 – Avoid [low concern for self and low concern for others]

  • Avoid the topic or situation causing the conflict.
  • Example – An email is sent to your team informing them that there is one gourmet cupcake left in the kitchen. Since several of your team want it, you just avoid the conflict and keep working.

Response 2 – Oblige [low concern for self and high concern for others]

  • We give in to what others want when there is conflict.
  • Example – You reach for the final cupcake at the same time your colleague does. You graciously withdraw your hand and say ‘go ahead, you deserve it’.

Response 3 – Compromise [moderate concern for self and moderate concern for others]

  • Find a solution which is acceptable to both parties.
  • Example – Instead of giving the final cupcake to your colleague, you suggest that one person cut the cupcake in half and the other person choose their half first.

Response 4 – Dominate [high concern for self and low concern for others]

  • Attempt to dominate the conflict through power, coercion or force.
  • Example – You tell your colleague that you saw the cupcake first so you deserve it.

Response 5 – Integrate [high concern for self and high concern for others]

  • Find solutions which are acceptable to both parties.
  • Example – You discuss the problem with your colleague and decide that if you sell the sought after cupcake and split the proceeds, you can each buy a whole cupcake at another store on the way home.

This research also has significant cultural nuances to it. For example, cultures that highly value ‘saving face tend to use obliging or even avoidance styles as a means to accomplish this. Rahim’s model is a useful way to identify responses to conflict because it is so easy to remember. Specifically, I appreciate how it reminds us that conflict avoidance is usually a lose/lose situation. So how about you – what’s your go-to style?


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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

Source: A. Rahim (1983). A measure of styles of handling interpersonal conflict. Academy of Management Journal.

Photo Source: FreeImages.com/LisaKong

The Seven Stages of Innovation

In the past I have spoken about the process of innovation (see Hot or Not and Hype Cycles). These posts utilized the Gartner model to show how a product or idea progresses through several stages before it moves from an idea into a useful product (see chart below). This model provides a means to understand the technical stages innovation undertakes. However, what about the human side of innovation? How do we as people impact the innovation process? How do we respond to it?

Figure 1: The Gartner Hype Cycle

Figure 1: The Gartner Hype Cycle

Morgan Housel recently outlined the different stages people go through when we adopt a new innovation. He outlines seven steps which big breakthroughs typically follow:

  1. First, no one’s heard of you.
  2. Then they’ve heard of you but think you’re nuts.
  3. Then they understand your product, but think it has no opportunity.
  4. Then they view your product as a toy.
  5. Then they see it as an amazing toy.
  6. Then they start using it.
  7. Then they couldn’t imagine life without it.

To illustrate this Housel showed that some of the greatest innovations of the last century – the telephone, the automobile and flight – were all unheralded and criticized widely at the genesis of their innovation cycle. However, over time these steps have come to fruition and we now view all of this list as things we cannot do without.

While these seven steps focus on products, I believe they also apply to ideas. As leaders, we need to anticipate that new ideas will result in skepticism and opposition. After all, “we’ve never done it that way before”. However, this model shows that successful ideas will require determination, perseverance and communication.

Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, provides a perfect summary:

“Invention requires a long-term willingness to be misunderstood. You do something that you genuinely believe in, that you have conviction about, but for a long period of time, well-meaning people may criticize that effort … if you really have conviction that they’re not right, you need to have that long-term willingness to be misunderstood. It’s a key part of invention”.


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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

Source: Morgan Housel

Selecting the Right Leadership Style

At some point, all of our children received tools from their grandfather. These thoughtful gifts were a great way to equip them with the tools they need to begin to learn how to build, fix and create. However, I often found myself chuckling as they learned to use their tools. I have seen hammers used to drive a screw into a two-by-four. Conversely, I’m also seen them use a screwdriver to drive a nail into the wall. However, with practice and a bit of teaching, they learned to use the right tool for the right task.

This simple metaphor contains a profound lesson. As leaders, we must be able to recognize what tool is needed to get the job done. This is the premise of Michael D. Watkins STARS leadership assessment model in his book The First 90 Days. Like using different tools for different tasks, Watkins outlines five different leadership strategies for five different types of situations. While his book is designed for leaders who are in new roles, they are equally applicable for almost any leadership situation. Each of the letters in the STARS acronym outlines how each type of situation requires a different style.

STARS Leadership Model

There are a several lessons which we can learn from this model. First, we must understand that there is more than one tool in the leadership toolkit. Our inability to use multiple styles will hinder our performance. Second, we must remember to use different tools for different reasons. Many new leaders have failed because they relied on past skills (styles that previously fostered success) in an environment that needed a different approach! Third, leaders must equip themselves to read-and-respond to new opportunities. Similar to a game of chess, our game plan must be contingent upon circumstances. Finally, we must be cognizant of the strengths and weaknesses of our own style. Few of us will excel at all of the STARS categories but I’ll bet most of us are really good at one or two of them!

In conclusion, I encourage you to consider the following questions:

  1. Do you know your preferred tool from the STARS model?
  2. What is your weakest tool in the STARS toolkit?
  3. In which STARS category have you experienced the greatest success? The greatest failure?
  4. Who can you utilize to help assess a situation and/or your leadership to ensure you are using the right leadership tool?

To take a closer look at Watkins book you can click the photo on the right.


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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

Photo Credit: FreeImages.com/RonitGeller

Courage: How Do You Fill Your Tank?

This week a client emailed me something that was refreshingly honest:

I am having ‘one of those days’! Do you have any ‘this is why we put up with this crap…the ultimate outcome will be worth it’ blogs that I could read?

I pondered this idea for a while before concluding that I didn’t have a magic blog which addressed this. However, I became fully convinced that we all need things that can get us through the tough times! As I continued to consider this idea, I found myself focusing on the word encouragement. We all need it and few of us receive too much of it. So where do you and I find this vital source of strength? Where do we go to build courage?

The word encourage is derived from two French words:

en (meaning ‘in’) + corage (meaning ‘courage’)

This simple etymology reminds us that encouragement is something that helps us build courage within ourselves. Have you ever thoughtfully considered your need for courage? We need courage to try something new. I need courage when I face uncertainty. You need courage when you are afraid.

I began to realize each of us has an invisible courage tank. Like your vehicle’s gas tank, the level of your courage tank will vary based on life’s circumstances. Sometimes it will be full, perhaps even brimming over. Yet at other times, it will be so empty that you feel like a hitchhiker with their thumb in the air begging for just enough courage to get you by. This metaphor reminds us that you and I must regularly fill our courage tanks!

Lesson 1: We all must obtain courage! You cannot thrive without it.

The next step in my mental journey was pondering where we obtain courage. If we all need it, where do we get it from? My conclusion was that the source of courage is both internal (yourself) and external (others). As an example, there are times when I alone muster the strength needed for a tough meeting or to make a difficult decision. I must draw courage from my own courage tank! There are other times when I rely on others for courage. My mentors, friends, spouse, and even authors I have never met have all made deposits to my courage tank. These deposits and their advice equip me with courage. In fact, my ability to make courage deposits in the lives of others is one reason that I am hired as a business coach. Therefore, in our quest for courage, we have two sources and we must learn to access both.

Lesson 2: Courage can and should be obtained from both internal and external sources.

Finally, I considered the different encouragement needs that I have, If we are having ‘one of those days’, what exactly will encourage us? I believe that a well-balanced courage diet is derived from more than one source. Just as my sources of courage are different (internal and external) my encouragement needs are also different.

Lesson 3: Courage development is fostered mentally, physically and spiritually.

If we only rely on only one source of courage, we will develop imbalance. During your time at the gym have you ever seen someone with a well-built upper body but the legs of a stick-man (I have!)? This same imbalance will occur if we only build courage in one area of our life. Education will build mental courage but it won’t equip your body to fight a heart-attack. Running each week will develop your physical courage but it won’t provide the same peace that time watching ocean breakers will. Like eating a nutritionally-balanced meal, we must also practice balance in our courage-development.

My client’s question may or may not be answered by this blog. No matter, I value the personal lessons that her email evoked. As you seek to maintain a full tank of courage, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. If your courage tank had a full/empty meter, how much is in the tank right now?
  2. Do you intentionally spend time filling your own courage tank? How?
  3. Who are the people in your life that are equipped to fill your courage tank?
  4. Are you filling your tank with a well-balanced blend of courage (mental, physical and spiritual)?

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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

 

Image Credit

Five Questions to Diagnose Organizational Needs

As a consultant, a lot of my time is spent diagnosing matters related to organizational success. Sometimes as I listen, I discover themes about challenges that need to be addressed. At other times, I hear people provide insightful ideas about organizational opportunities. My goal is to help organizations clarify their needs and then help them act on them.

However, this process should not only be the domain of consultants. No matter who you are, you must learn to diagnose organizational gaps and opportunities. I have discovered five useful questions which can help you do this. Michael Watkins suggests that leaders should use them when they begin working at a new organization. However, I think they are questions which can be helpful to ask even if you are not new. Here they are;

  1. What are the biggest challenges the organization is facing (or will face in the near future)?
  2. Why is the organization facing (or going to face) these challenges?
  3. What are the most promising unexploited opportunities for growth?
  4. What would need to happen for the organization to exploit the potential of these opportunities?
  5. If you were me, what would you focus attention on?

In one of my recent blogs, Mr. Blanchard commented, “Many leaders are scratching their heads in the eventual decline phase of organizational life without a plan to launch a new service or product” (see Assessing Organizational Opportunities). This astute assessment summarizes the demise of many organizations! The five questions above are simply one way to overcome this problem.

But what about you? What questions have you found helpful in diagnosing the needs of your organization?


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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

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