Understand the Inner Life of Your Organization

By John Baldoni
Chair, Leadership Development, N2Growth

The Sopranos, as TV critic David Bianculli puts it, was “one of the first series I can remember watching where what isn’t said is as important as what is. And the characters never show their cards.”

Such an approach, which mirrors the approach that novelists use when exploring character, has been adopted by other television dramas. A good example is the BBC adaptation of Henning Mankell’s novels featuring Swedish police inspector Kurt Wallander. As played by Kenneth Branagh we see the inner life of a deeply conflicted man who seeks justice for victims but struggled to find peace in his own life.

 

Real Full Column on Forbes

A Simple Lesson from the Declaration of Independence

By Brian Layer
Chief Executive Officer, N2Growth

Fifty-six Continental Congressmen signed the Declaration of Independence in July 1776.  With each quill stroke, the men committed treason and placed at risk their lives, fortune, and sacred honor. The act was more than symbolic; it added weight to the cause and tied their personal fate to the Revolution.  There was no denying they had skin in the game.

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4 Pillars of Stable Leadership

By Mike Myatt
Chairman, N2Growth 

*Originally Published on Forbes

One of the qualities I most admire in leaders is stability. The beautiful thing about stable leaders is they provide a stabilizing influence on others.  They are leaders you can trust – they are leaders you can build around. Stable leaders model a level of constancy and consistency that individuals, teams, and organizations so desperately need, but often find missing.

 

Read Full Column on Forbes

Use Your Own Judgment – Really!

By John Baldoni
Chair, Leadership Development, N2Growth

Judgment, writes Schumpeter, the business columnist for The Economist, “is too often missing from leadership studies.” The reason is that it is a topic too hard to quantify with metrics but as the Schumpeter column notes, “[J]udgment is what matters most.” Judgment serves as a kind of equilibrium device that prevents us from getting too carried away with our ideas or ourselves.

 

Read Full Column on Forbes

Staying Complaint as Compliance Moves Out of the Office

By Patricia Lenkov
Chair, Executive Search, N2Growth

Thanks at least in part to the banking scandals over the past few years, Reuters has recently reported that bank compliance teams are increasingly scrutinizing outside the office activities like social outings to bars and the like. In fact, Reuters reported that some banks in Europe are even requiring their employees to take part in behavior coaching sessions that include simulations of pub outings where the talk turns to subjects like office gossip or clients and the “right answer” is to change the subject and change it quickly. So how do employees now, whether they work in banking, on Wall Street or in other industries also under scrutiny, stay compliant when compliance is increasingly moving out of the workplace and into social gatherings or public places? Here are a couple of tips to consider:

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When in Doubt, Rehearse!

By Brian Layer
Chief Executive Officer, N2Growth

Lately I’ve seen several leaders trip over the unexpected outcome of a grand plan. They failed to anticipate the mistakes and mishaps that happen in all organizations.  When I see an outcome surprise a leader, I’m reminded of a lesson I learned years ago from my Dad.

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Drawing: A Life Lesson

By John Baldoni
Chair, Leadership Development, N2Growth

“John, do you understand what’s going on in this class?”

My college art instructor asked me that question nearly 40 years ago and I remember his words as if they were said yesterday.  I was obviously the least “talented” person in his class and he was flummoxed as how to work with me.

 

Read Full Column on Forbes

Leadership and Transitions

5 Transitions Great Leaders Make That Average Leaders Don’t

By Mike Myatt
Chairman, N2growth 

*Originally Publishing on Forbes.com

The secret to leadership is there aren’t any real secrets. The best leaders have simply gone to school on improving their tradecraft. While the capabilities possessed by the best leaders might seem otherworldly to many, they are merely the outcome of hard work, experience, perspective, and yes, a bit of luck. The best leaders have just learned to make certain transitions that less effective leaders curiously remain blind to.

 

Read Full Column on Forbes

Succession Planning: Not Just for Older Leaders

Michael Dell 2

By Patricia Lenkov, Chair, Executive Search, N2growth

Dell Computer and the story of its potentially going private have occupied many a news column of late. In the most recent turn of events, Blackstone Group withdrew its bid for the company after making the determination that Dell’s future and the PC industry looks bleak. Throughout all this I cannot help but ask what seems to be a fundamental underlying question about this company, and that is, who should lead Dell going forward?

Yes, Michael Dell is an icon of the stature of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. He is highly intelligent and incredibly successful with a net worth of $15.3 billion as of March 2013 (per Forbes Magazine.) But he has been leading Dell Computer (save for three years when Kevin Rollins was at the helm) for the past 29 years, since he started the company while at College at the age of 19. No matter whom the talent, anyone in the same position for several decades is bound to become temperate, or perhaps even myopic. It is essentially impossible not to and this is particularly true in the ever-changing and evolving technology industry.

According to The Conference Board, CEO tenure has decreased to an average of 8.4 years as of 2011 from 10 years in 2000. This should come as no surprise given the increasing independence of corporate boards and the pressure to take decisive action when the company is stagnating. There is also ample evidence that there is a lifecycle of effectiveness for any business leader (perhaps this holds true for leader in any field, even politicians!) In fact, in research reported in the Strategic Management Journal (February 2006), Henderson, Miller and Hambrick found “in the dynamic computer industry, CEOs were at their best when they started their jobs, and firm performance declined steadily across their tenures, presumably as their paradigms grew obsolete more quickly than they could learn.”

This presents an interesting dilemma. It is clear once again that planned CEO succession is necessary. Appropriate and carefully selected and strategic change at the top can do much to resuscitate an organization. It is also evident that even the best leaders have a “shelf-life.” However Michael Dell is in fact only 48 and he is also Dell’s largest shareholder. The usual best practices may be hard to apply.

But apply they must! In all of the news and speculation surrounding this story there is rarely a mention of who should lead Dell going forward and whether Michael Dell remains the best candidate for the job. We know the PC market is in a free fall and we know the financials of the company ad nauseum, but what about the brainpower, ingenuity and creativity that is needed to steer this behemoth in the right direction? Some guidance and information along these lines is becoming unavoidable.

Thoughts?

A Leadership Trait that Saved America

Saved America 2

By Brian Layer, Chair, Organizational Development, N2growth

Today the U.S. Army celebrates its 238th birthday.  Looking back, its growth into comfortable old age seems inevitable but in its youth that outcome was far from certain. In 1783 on the Ides of March, the inseparable fates of our Army and Republic were very much in doubt; disgruntled officers of the fledgling Army were gathered in a secret meeting in Newburgh, New York to discuss insurrection.  Concerned that a broke, unpredictable Congress might end financial support to the effort and fail on debt to the officers, a gang of leaders gathered to discuss their options.  If not for the courageous intervention of George Washington, the dream of independence could have ended that night.

General Washington, having been warned of the secret meeting, made a surprise visit and rose to make his case.  History records that his speech was ineffective despite appeals to discipline, duty, and honor.  With the dream of independence weighing in the balance, he called for faith in his word to deliver Congressional support.  After finishing his prepared words, he turned to a letter from a member of Congress and began to read to the skeptical crowd.  Squinting at the small print and struggling to capture the words, he paused.  The audience was frozen as the great general fought to will words from the writing.  Washington then broke the awkward silence by reaching to his pocket and delivering this apology:

“Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country.”

The humble acclamation of personal sacrifice turned the tide of the meeting, the war, and the course of history.  Washington finished the letter through thick lenses and quietly walked out of the church assured that he had held the Army together.

Washington did what many leaders will not—he personally addressed the elephant in the room.  He knew that circumstance called for action that only he could take and he took it.  He accepted responsibility for the issue at hand and restored order in the Army.  In the end, it was Washington’s presence and very human example rather than his argument that saved the day.  It’s been said, that, “People don’t care what you know until they know you care.”  George Washington traveled to Newburgh to prove he cared and by doing so breathed new life into an Army and resurrected a Republic.

Thoughts?

Follow me on Twitter @BrainLayer

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