The History of Leadership

Leadership & History

The History of Leadership

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

I love history, and have always enjoyed being a student of history. Earlier this week we launched a new project: The History of Leadership. The project consists of an interactive historical timeline of the world’s greatest leaders dating as far back as 2000 BC. Since history has been recorded, so have great lessons in leadership. The ultimate test of leadership has always been, and will always be, whether or not it can endure the test of time. Time tells a story, validates or invalidates theories, positions, and philosophies, and ultimately, time shapes a leader’s legacy. While anyone can be great in the moment, few can sustain greatness over time. Put simply, there is much to be learned from viewing anything through a historical lens – especially leadership. I would invite you to visit The History of Leadership and leave suggestions for possible inclusions, debate omissions, and mostly further the dialog around the topic of leadership. Leadership is nothing without engagement – let’s engage.

You're Not Special

You’re Not Special

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

This video applies to us all – especially those in leadership. I highly recommend watching this video as a recommencement of sorts – to being grounded in humility, reality, authenticity, and transparency. The reason people want to be led by you is not because your special, but because you understand you’re not. Leadership isn’t about you; it’s about what you can do for those whom you lead. Thoughts?

Leadership and Office Politics

Leadership and Office Politics

Leadership and Office Politics

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

This is the time of year when most of us turn our attention to presidential politics, but let us not forget that business is also political – to think otherwise is simply naïve. Office politics exist in every organization without regard for industry, structure, culture or values. Good leaders will do what they can to align interests/actions on matters more important than individual political agendas, but if you’ve been in business for any length of time, you realize no organization is immune to office politics. The tricky part about politics in business is you’re supposed to be on the same team with your co-workers. In today’s post I’ll share a few thoughts on how to navigate the muddy waters of office politics.

The sad reality is covert actions take place everyday in the hallways, offices, and boardrooms of the business world. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a senior leadership position, a middle manager, or an administrative staff member, the sad reality is political high-jinks are likely part of your world whether you like it or not. While I don’t care for the chicanery of office politics, and attempt to avoid it where possible, I also understand the importance of being savvy enough to recognize it when it’s adversely impacting my world. I know this sounds quite cynical, but the dark side of business rears its ugly head in every environment, and if you don’t pay attention to your surroundings you’ll fall prey to its venomous bite.

Let’s face it, the regrettable truth is not all people in business have altruistic intentions. There are in fact many more mercenary self-promoters than any of us would care to admit. While I’m certainly not advocating you adopt a state of perpetual paranoia, I am suggesting you practice a heightened sense of awareness. When you’re dealing with somebody’s career, you are also dealing with a person’s sense of power, ego, financial security, self-worth, and many other things people will do virtually anything to protect. Moreover, many people ordinarily thought of as being incapable of unethical behavior, are in fact quite capable of outright reprehensible actions if it means getting a leg-up in the workplace.

I have witnessed everything from the typical water-cooler gossip, to the land-grabs that take place while people are out on medical leave. I have observed family members treating other family members as if they were mortal enemies, and supposed best friends undermining one another behind each other’s back. I have watched the constant turf wars that take place for increased responsibility or visibility, to shareholders frozen out, to executives ousted for little more than hearsay, and the list goes on and on…

The bottom line is politics are unavoidable in business. Not recognizing this fact may lead to you being on the outside looking in, while not ever knowing what hit you until it was too late. It pays to be aware of your surroundings and to look for inconsistent or predatory behavior on the part of subordinates, peers, and superiors alike. If you understand what’s at stake for whom, and you pay attention to the behavioral patterns of those around you, it is quite possible that you may avoid unnecessary political battles, as well as win the battles that must be fought.

As a final thought, my best advice is to lead rather than politic. Stay out of the drama whenever possible and let your work and your actions speak for themselves. Focus your efforts on building strong relationships underpinned by a solid foundation of humility and trust. The more time spent in helping those around you become successful, the more allies you will create, and the more political capital you’ll amass. The combination of doing the right thing, while being aware of your surroundings is the most best approach to managing office politics. Avoid office politics where you can, resist being political, but do everything you can to become politically savvy.

Thoughts?

Leadership & The Expectation Gap

Leadership & The Expectation Gap

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

When it comes to leadership, I can share the issues of creating and delivering on expectations are no small matter. In fact, understanding how to come out on the right-side of the expectation curve can often be the difference between being viewed as an average leader and one held in high regard. Let me make this as simple as I can; managing expectations is gamesmanship – aligning them is leadership. Moving the goal posts by arbitrarily raising and lowering expectations creates confusion, and is often an intellectually dishonest exercise. Aligning expectations doesn’t need to be difficult – set them, align them, stick to them, and execute on them.

Conflicts, disagreements, disputes, and litigation are often born out of expectation gaps. The thing leaders need to keep in mind is expectations cut both ways. Keeping what you perceive as being your end of the bargain is only half of the equation, as what you think only matters if it’s in alignment with the understanding of the other party. We have all found ourselves in the unenviable position of assigning work product only to end-up with the deliverable falling far short of expectations, while having the producer of said work product thinking they exceeded all expectations. I’ve often said, those leaders who fail to clearly communicate their expectations have no right to them.

Nothing engenders confidence and creates a trust bond like delivering on promises made, and likewise, few things erode confidence and credibility like commitments not kept. Leaders who deliver on promises quickly rise to the top, and those that fail to develop this skill won’t survive long.  The best leaders make a practice of saying what they mean, meaning what they say, and doing what they say they’ll do.

The science of aligning expectations is about systematically connecting what is said with what is done. The art of aligning expectations is about closing, or better yet, eliminating the expectation gap. Blend the art and science together and you have the framework for what is becoming the differentiating factor in performance based decisioning. Several years ago I created the Venn diagram depicted below to explain the confluence of factors that need to occur in order to close the expectation gap:

Expectations exist throughout the entire value chain, with every stakeholder needing and deserving to have their expectations understood and met (hopefully exceeded). Whether it is addressing customer expectations, board expectations, shareholder or analyst expectations, or the inverse situation of employees having to deal with the expectations of executives, it is the ability to excel at decisioning based upon setting, aligning and executing expectations that creates high performance organizations.

Promises made and consistently kept based upon solid reasoning and underlying business logic, will help to create a solid brand attracting loyal customers and talented employees. The following three practices will help create an organization that delivers on its commitments:

  1. Collaborate early and often: Decisioning in a vacuum, or without all the facts, will place you in a deficit from the beginning. It is at best extremely difficult to align expectations and deliver on commitments made if you don’t have clear visibility as to what is wanted or needed. Before making promises or commitments collaborate with all concerned parties to ensure that expectations are understood.
  2. Resist making verbal commitments: Most misunderstandings occur as a result of improper interpretation of oral communications. Most broken commitments result from impulsive verbal promises made before all the details were sorted out. Once you have gained clarity as to the perceived need to be fulfilled, place your understanding of the deliverables in writing by outlining key business points and circulate the document for review and comments. Where possible resist formalizing agreements, proposals, or other commitments until you have alignment on key expectations and deliverables.
  3. Treat promises like projects: Build a culture that breaks down all commitments into deliverables, benchmarks and deadlines. Allocate resources, budget and staff while delivering the commitment within a framework of measured accountability. Treating all commitments and promises as formal projects will help manage performance risk and will also create continuity of process and delivery.

Performance focused decisioning based upon principles of expectation alignment will lead to a certainty of execution that should translate into one of your company’s greatest competitive advantages. Top CEOs recognize that they can promise and deliver, under-promise and over-deliver, or even over-promise and deliver…they just don’t dare over-promise and under-deliver. Thoughts?