Bad Leaders Don’t Forgive

By Grant Wattie
President, N2Growth Australia

“The weak can never forgive.

Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.”

~Mahatma Ghandi

Today I’m writing about a topic that is rarely talked about in the leadership domain, especially amongst corporate leaders. Now, before you poo-poo the idea, please allow me to explain further. 

In my opinion, forgiveness can’t be ignored, because to do so is to defy a natural law like gravity. Forgiveness is one of the primary foundational ways of being for extraordinary leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Jesus and Ghandi. 

In the movie Spiderman 3, Peter Parker dreams of murderous vengeance against the man who shot and killed his Uncle Ben. When the ooze of unforgiveness attaches itself to him, it changes his Spiderman costume to black. His Aunt May, a model of forgiveness, has very wise, prophetic words for him:  Vengeance is a poison that can “take us over and turn us into something ugly.”

 What Peter eventually discovers is that like his Spiderman suit, vengeance isn’t something that can be easily put on and taken off at will. Knowing he has to be free of it or be lost forever, he has enough insight to seek out a way to be freed by reaching out to God. 

The depiction of Peter’s desperate wrestling with the ooze suit doesn’t promote the notion that forgiveness comes easy. Once he’s finally free there is a ritualistic washing. Though the ooze suit is gone, vengeance still remains and is looking for another victim. 

Like Spiderman, I discovered how anger and unforgiveness can turn from servant to enslaver. A few years ago I was involved in a long, exhaustive dispute, and after some time I realised the personal and financial cost was too high. My anger and bitterness that had begun to consume and control my life began to take on a life of its own. I became highly anxious, I wasn’t able to sleep at night, and my health started to deteriorate. Like Spiderman, I barely resembled the contented and calm person I used to be. Finally, when there seemed to be no way out, I became very tired and extremely frustrated and felt like giving up. 

But somewhere in my desperation I remembered the verse “Settle matters quickly with your adversary … or it will cost you your last penny.” That strong inner voice helped me to let the issue go and forgive, and I immediately felt a huge sense of relief and freedom.

To be clear, forgiveness doesn’t mean accepting of the grievance or that any party is right or wrong. It means letting go of the ego’s need for revenge and to be right in order to make the other party wrong.

My experience of forgiveness involved voluntarily and intentionally replacing negative states of anger, fear and unforgiveness with a more constructive state associated with empathy. I was able to reach forgiveness through the following five steps: 

1.  Recall the hurt:  This was easy for me as I had yet to deny my daily suffering.

2.  Empathize:  I was able to empathise and see the issue from the other party’s viewpoint.

3.  Unselfishly offer the gift of forgiveness:  I remembered that many times I harmed or offended others who later forgave me.

4.  Publicly commit to forgive:  I told my family, my advisors and others that I had let the issue go.

5.  Gentle reminders:  To stop backsliding into anger, I had to constantly remind myself that I had forgiven.

There are many benefits of forgiveness. In his book Social Intelligence, Daniel Goleman reveals that forgiving someone we’ve held a grudge against reverses the biological reaction. It lowers our blood pressure and heart rate, the levels of stress hormones, and lessens pain and depression. Many people also feel less hurt, and report a substantial drop in physical symptoms of trauma like poor appetite and sleeplessness. 

Forgiveness generates a restored sense of personal power that may pave the way for future reconciliation. 

Thanks much for reading this post. I invite you to share your comments on this topic as it applies to your personal life and workplace.

Robert Plant: What This Rocker Can Teach Us About Trying Again

By John Baldoni
Chair, Leadership Development, N2Growth

Robert Plant knows what “if first you don’t succeed” means.

On Raising Sand, a 2007 album that Plant did with Alison Krause, he tried a rendition of the Stanley Brothers classic Appalachian tune, “Little Maggie.” “I think we actually murdered it, to be honest,” Plant told David Greene of NPR’s Morning Edition. “I was trying to work out how to work the vocals, being British. It’s a sense of humor that you need to even get anywhere near that stuff, so we couldn’t make it work.”

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Strategy – Why It’s Broken And How To Fix It

By Mark Hefner
Global Practice Chair, Strategy Realization N2Growth

Only 20%-30% of corporate and business unit strategies successfully deliver expected results. That is a bold statement. However this statistic has been reported in many studies from reputable firms and publications and mirrors much of what I have observed and experienced during my career.

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Do You Speak the Language of Performance Driven Execution?

By Damian D. “Skipper” Pitts
Chair, Organizational Development, N2Growth

If you are responsible for leading teams, how can you be sure that the work being done throughout the day will innovatively increase impact and productivity to make tomorrow a better place? Or, if you are responsible for managing Solopreneur projects, how can you be sure that the work will increase impact and productivity? Isn’t that what productivity should be doing? Making the Future Picture (how leaders intend the future to look prior arriving to it in the distant future) a well defined place of improvement? These questions are some that leaders everywhere must consider on a more frequent basis with greater purpose in mind if they are really focused on providing greater impact across their organizations. 

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Jürgen Klinsmann: Defeatist or Master Motivator?

By John Baldoni
Chair, Leadership Development, N2Growth

“I think for us now, talking about winning a World Cup is just not realistic.”

That is Jürgen Klinsmann, coach of Team USA speaking before competition began in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup. These remarks caused many to criticize the German-born coach for being so downbeat. Soccer legend Landon Donovan, whom Klinsmann cut from this year’s squad, said, “This will come as a surprise to nobody, but I don’t agree with Jurgen… As someone who has been in that locker room and has sat next to the players … We believe that we will win,” Donovan added. “And I think that’s the way Americans think.”

 

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Three Simple, Hard and Personally Rewarding Rules to Change Everything!

By Damian D. “Skipper” Pitts
Chair, Organizational Development, N2Growth

Are you looking for that much needed strategic advantage in life? Are you looking to gain an edge over the competition to get that job you believe and think is already yours? If so, all it takes is learning how to follow three simple rules to develop a shift in your mindset to hone your skills to become a stronger leader for yourself and others.

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Leaders Who Think More – Accomplish More

By Mike Myatt
Chairman, N2Growth

* This post was originally published on LinkedIn

I’ve always been amazed at the number of tremendously gifted leaders who underutilize the one asset most responsible for their success – their brain. It’s not that leaders don’t think; it’s that they don’t think enough. And when they do find time to think, many leaders often think about the wrong things, in the wrong ways, at the wrong times. My message is simple, but not necessarily easy; to do more – think more.

 

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10 Ways to Provide Quality Feedback

By Joel Garfinkle
Chair, Executive Coaching, N2Growth

Employees want feedback. They want an honest assessment of their behavior to help them improve their work. They know that if they listen to, and take action on, clear and constructive feedback, their overall performance will improve. And so will their job satisfaction.

However, most managers feel uncomfortable delivering feedback, especially when it involves a problem or concern. So many managers take a passive approach or are guilty of knee-jerk, “drive by” feedback, which can be counterproductive. Providing feedback that gets results isn’t as difficult or painful as you think. Listed below are ten tips to make it a powerful, positive experience.

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Give the Gift of Time

By Brian Layer
Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Marissa Mayer is in trouble.  Information recently spilled through the Yahoo firewall that she is habitually late.  Evidently she has the tardy gene, a degenerative marker that becomes symptomatic with a little authority and can become chronic with a lot.

She is not alone; many bosses do things they shouldn’t when they can. In fact, more authority makes many people less responsible.  But to be fair, managing time is a difficult task that increases exponentially with each promotion.  Regardless, senior executives who cannot manage themselves are incredibly disruptive to their organizations and the best leaders work hard to get it right.

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To Hear the Truth, You Have to Listen

Have to Listen 2-2

By Brian Layer, Chair, Organizational Development, N2growth

Thoreau wrote: “It takes two to speak the truth – one to speak and another to hear.” Most of us are great at the former but at the latter, not so much.  Truth be told, most of us are poor listeners.  When considering great leadership skills, we focus on transmission skills–speaking and writing.  The most effective leaders know they have to be great listeners too. They understand the need to work hard to increase their chance of hearing the truth.   When leaders ask me how they can communicate better, I tell them to listen better, listen smarter, and listen more often.

Here are four things to consider:

  1. Do you ever stop talking? It’s been said, “if you want to learn something new, stop talking.” This is especially true for leaders.  Because as a leader you rarely get interrupted, but when you stop talking, someone will fill the silence and often with what you need to know.  We’ve all been in meetings where everyone but the boss knew an important truth, but it never surfaced because the boss never stopped talking.
  2. Do you ask smart questions?  A leader’s questions indicate interest in learning and also show respect for the insight of their people. I’m not recommending questions that prove how smart you are, but the probing questions that indicate your interest and uncertainty. Military commanders use a formal tool to identify their information needs; a list of questions to clarify information that will lead to understanding, decision, and action.  All effective leaders ask great questions and use every tool at their disposal to increase their understanding.
  3. Do you listen to all the answers? Its easy for leaders to listen to voices that sound like their own, but the best leaders listen to a chorus of voices. They welcome unexpected and even uncomfortable answers by encouraging the messenger. They listen where the rubber meets the road and the truth most often resides.
  4. Do you make honesty your policy?  I’ve yet to see a great organization that didn’t make honesty a core value.  We are conditioned to please authority figures–parents, teachers, bosses–and as a consequence people will lie, cheat and steal to please the boss unless the boss makes it clear that doing the right thing pleases them more.

If you really want to hear the truth, listen better.  Leaders who don’t will learn the truth sooner or later, but it just might come from an unwanted headline, broadcast, or blog.

Thoughts?

Related Post: Leadership and The Power of Listening

Leadership and Simplicity

Leadership and Simplicity

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

One of the most effective ways to order your world is to simplify everything you encounter. However the problem for many is keeping it simple often becomes very difficult when our basic human nature is to over-complicate everything we touch. In thinking about the people I respect the most, to the one, they possess the uncanny ability to take the most complicated of issues and simplify them. You will find that the best leaders, communicators, teachers, innovators, etc., have a true knack for taking extremely complex, dense, or intricate content and making it engaging and easy to understand. In fact, it was Leonardo Da Vinci who said: “simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication.” In today’s post I’ll take a look at the often overlooked benefits of keeping it simple…

While simplicity may have become a lost art, understanding the importance of simplicity is nonetheless critical to your success. Consider all the presentations/meetings you’ve attended in the last few weeks; was it the people who were able to articulate their positions in a simple and straight forward fashion, or the individuals that made things complex and tedious that got traction with their ideas? It has been my experience that the more complicated, difficult, or convoluted an explanation is, that one or both of the following issues are at play: 1) the person speaking is a horrible communicator, or; 2) the person speaking really doesn’t possess a true command of their subject matter. It is one thing to toss around the latest buzz-words or to have the most complex flow chart, but it is quite another thing to actually possess such a deep and thorough understanding of your topic that you can make even the most complex issues easy to understand.

It is almost as if business people have come to believe that complexity is synonymous with sophistication and savvy. It has been my experience that the only things that “complexity” is synonymous with are increased costs and failed implementations. There is an old saying in the software development world that states “usability drives adoptability” which tends to lend support to my observations. Those of you that know me have come to understand that I prefer to cut to the chase and get to the root of an issue as quickly as possible – this requires the ability to simplify, not complicate matters. Complexity is precisely what plagues many businesses. You don’t solve complicated matters by adding to the complexity. The most effective way to deal with complexity is to strip it away by addressing it with simplicity.

The truth is that simplifying something doesn’t make it a trite or incomplete endeavor. Rather simplification makes for a more productive and efficient effort that is often more savvy than other more complex alternatives. Another benefit of simplicity is that it serves as a key driver of focus, which enables greater efficiency, productivity, and better overall performance. Keeping things simple allows you to focus on one thing at a time without the distractions that complexity breeds by its nature alone. I would suggest that you break down every key area of your business (operations, administration, marketing, branding, sales, finance, IT, etc.) and attempt to simplify your processes, initiatives, and offerings.

As a C-level executive you must focus on simplifying your day in order to maximize your effectiveness. By simplifying everything from the information and reports you view, to your communications protocol, to your agenda, to your decisioning structure, you will be better able to operate in today’s unnecessarily complex world. I’ll leave you with this quote from Longfellow: “In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.”

What say you?

Related Post: How Dumb is Your Business?

100% Of Companies Have This Problem

100 Percent of Companies Have This Problem

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Process… just the mere use of the word can spread fear and panic in the workplace. This sad reality exists for a reason – 100% of companies unnecessarily suffer from a process problem. They suffer to varying degrees, but they are nonetheless suffering. The good news is bad process is one of the easiest things for leaders to remedy. By simply being willing to stop the madness and reclaim the asylum from the lunatics (inept leaders, lazy managers, and fee happy consultants), huge gains in morale and productivity can be quickly achieved.

With the plethora of conflicting information written about process design, implementation and management, combined with the nightmares we’ve all experienced as a result of bad process, many executives fear the pain associated with flawed process less than they value the benefits created by good process. How sad it that?

Here’s the thing – It’s not what you know, but what you don’t know about process, or perhaps what you’ve allowed process to represent that has left you fatigued and frustrated. I’m going to crawl out on a limb and make a bold claim: by the time you’ve finished reading this piece you’ll find the topic of process no longer creates untold amounts of brain damage, but has transitioned to something you’ll find altogether invigorating – trust me on this one…

One of the ways successful companies gain a competitive advantage is through creating process advantage. The problem is most companies are buried in process disadvantage.  Good process is sophisticated (not complex), efficient (simple) and effective (usable and value added). Good business processes serve as the central nervous system for your organization providing a framework for every action, decision, activity or innovation to flow from and through. There are many who would say process stifles creativity and slows production, and while I would concur  this statement is usually the case with bad process, nothing could be further from the truth as it relates to good process. Good process serves as a catalyst for innovation, which in turn optimizes and accelerates engagement, collaboration, work-flow, and enhances the overall productivity of business initiatives.

So, here’s where the fun and excitement comes in – I want you to place your business processes under the microscope using the following 7 points as  filters for what processes you create, keep, refine or discard moving forward:

  1. The Right Mindset: If your business processes are perceived as a rigid set of mandates and rules, rather than a set of flexible guidelines – you’re in trouble. Good process should provide a fluid framework to inspire creativity not stifle it. Sound process encourages the use of good judgment, it shouldn’t insinuate people don’t have any judgment. Believe it or not, good process should allow people to take risks not preclude them from doing so. The debate shouldn’t be one of systems vs. talent, but systems and talent.
  2. The 20% Rule: I’ve yet to encounter a business that couldn’t eliminate 20% of their existing business processes and be better for it. You; yes you, are allowing the expenditure of precious time and resources on silly processes that add no value whatsoever – they should be eliminated immediately. Bad process is indicative of an unhealthy mindset that justifies anything currently existing as valuable. The fastest way to inject a breath of fresh air into your business is to give permission space to your workforce to tell you where bad process exists and then to do something about it.
  3. Design Matters: While good process can be inspired from anywhere, it should be designed by those closest to the work. Imposed mandates from above while often well intended, are rarely as effective as organic initiatives created by team members who most frequently interact with said process. Don’t fall into the trap of allowing consultants to “install”  a “best practice” process. Rather, allow your team to create a next practices solution. By choosing the latter over the former you’ll save considerable time, money and frustration.
  4. Simplicity Matters: If your process isn’t simple, it’s going to be very expensive, not very usable, and probably not sustainable – put simply, it will fail. Whether evaluating new processes, or determining which ones to reengineer or discard, make simplicity a key consideration. Remember this – usability drives adoptability, and simplicity is the main determinant of usability.
  5. Don’t Think Product – Think Outcome: I know this will offend some, but process is not a new software program or application. While toolsets can enhance process or can become a by-product of process, they do not in and of themselves constitute process. Don’t get caught in the trap of perpetual spending or development as a solution. Recognize if you’re caught in this trap it’s a symptom of bad process not a reflection of good process.
  6. No Band-Aids: Good process is not reactionary. A series of bubble gum and bailing wire solutions put in place in haste as a knee-jerk reaction to the latest problem is not good process design. Process by default will never provide the benefits of good process engineering by design. Think long-term, and if you must, bridge with a phased solution, but be planful in approach.
  7. No Panacea: While good process will help optimize any business, it will not make up for shortcomings in other disciplines or functional areas. Process is not the main driver in business, but merely a critical support system built for enablement, delivery, accountability and measurement.

Good process comes as a by-product of clarity of purpose. It is the natural extension of values, vision, mission, strategy, goals, objectives and tactics. It is in fact working down through the aforementioned hierarchy that allows process to be engineered by design to support mission critical initiatives. Recognition of the fact that you don’t start with process design, but that process design should be used as a refining framework to enable better execution is critical to the development of good process. Process is the part of the value chain that holds everything together and brings and ordered, programmatic, yet flexible discipline to your business.

Good process results in a highly usable infrastructure being adopted across the enterprise because it is effective for staff, and provides visibility and accountability for management, all of which increase the certainty of execution. Good process across all areas of the enterprise will result in elimination of redundancy and inefficiency, better engagement and collaboration, shortening of cycle times, better knowledge management and business intelligence, increased customer satisfaction, and increased margins.

I encourage you to not let apathy, negative experience based upon results of bad process or flawed implementations, or the fear of the unknown keep you from benefiting from the numerous advantages created by good process engineering. I would also strongly encourage you to evaluate all of your current processes so you can discard or re-engineer (simplify) bad process and improve upon good process, striving for excellence in process design. Now go to work and unleash some goodness of process…

Thoughts?

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