Month: July 2010

H.R. or H.B.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
— Albert Einstein

Both Ted and Ed are CEO’s. Each man runs his business in a very different manner.

Teds’ company is well positioned and could be an industry leader, but whenever business gets off track Ted’s reaction is to make derogatory remarks about his staff’s level on the food chain. Then he institutes a new “carrot or stick” incentive plan to try to improve performance. The problem is that this tactic is based on the assumption that people are resources that can easily be externally motivated to perform. So the company rides high and low waves headed for a certain crash. Finally the program lands belly up on the big beach of bad ideas. After several attempts to resuscitate, it dies along with morale. Then Ted grabs another quick fix technique, pushes people to work harder and begins all over again.

Ed, on the other hand, met with his employees several years ago and said, “Starting today we will build this business on three things: faith, family, and fortitude.” At that time this small company was double digit millions in debt and credit was scarce. The new CEO put a simple plan in place then began holding employee meetings each week. He taught them about the business, talked about the three things, got to know their strengths and solicited their ideas on how to build a brighter future. Today this organization is healthy, the board is pleased, and morale is high – even though not all employees or board members made it through the turnaround. When I walked around his facility recently I learned about the eight employees that Ed is mentoring this year. Next year he will begin all over again.

Writing about these two not-their-real-names executives and reflecting on the Einstein quote helped me crystallize one of my key beliefs: “There are only two ways to work with people. One is as though people are human resources. The other is as though people are human beings.”

Journal Entry: Take some time this week examine your day-to-day interactions and see what your actions say about how you work with people. What you decide could impact your success this year and begin building your legacy in leadership and life.

Conflict & Leadership Strategy

A Dilbert cartoon about succession planning was in last week’s newspaper. The big-haired Vice President said to her balding boss, “So, this means if something horrible happens to you, I’d get a promotion!” Next frame: a this-was-a-bad-idea thought bubble appears above his head. He never sits with his back to his office door again.

Succession planning began to show up on our clients’ strategic plans back in 2003. It is still listed on most of those plans today, because it hasn’t been addressed. At the mention of the S word, an image of impending personal conflict is often conjured up. As you know, conflict can either be avoided or managed. One effective conflict management technique is to offer several viable options for consideration, instead of declaring one right answer. Succession planning offers the opportunity to apply this approach since is consists of three parts.

1. Emergency Succession planning ensures that key leadership and administrative functions can continue without disruption in the event of an unplanned, temporary absence of a key executive.
2. Departure-Defined Succession planning is recommended when a long-term leader has announced their departure date two or more years in advance. It includes identifying the key goals going forward, determining the tools and skill set a successor will need to achieve those goals, and building the capacity of the board, managers, and systems beyond the current executive’s tenure.
3. Leadership Strategy Succession Planning is the ongoing practice of identifying the characteristics and skills necessary to carry out an organization’s vision and putting in place a process that attracts and retains an abundance of talented individuals who have or who can develop those talents and attributes.

So next time succession planning pops up, have your team look over the three parts above and determine which would be the best place to begin. Making part 1 the starting place, as Dilbert illustrated, is laden with high conflict potential. However, if part 3 is implemented first, the other two parts are often more easily resolved. Of course, there are no guarantees, but if your Leadership Strategy is facilitated effectively, you may experience a benefit or two, like: a few less bad-idea bubbles and a lot more time with your chair facing the window.

Journal Entry: Which succession step would make sense for you to take so the managers in your organization can move forward with more confidence in their leadership and life?

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