15 Ways to Identify Bad Leaders

15 Ways To Identify Bad Leaders

15 Ways to Identify Bad Leaders

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

It’s important to realize that just because someone holds a position of leadership, doesn’t necessarily mean they should. Put another way, not all leaders are created equal. The problem many organizations are suffering from is a recognition problem – they can’t seem to recognize good leaders from bad ones. In today’s column I’ll address how to identify bad leaders by pointing out a few things that should be obvious, but apparently aren’t.

Big Data – Not All Metrics Are Created Equal

Big Data

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

When it works, Big Data can be a beautiful thing – what organization wouldn’t want more actionable information with which to feed better data driven decisions in the quest for a competitive advantage? But in the race to acquire Big Data, leaders can easily wander off course with devastating results. According to EMC (disclosure: client), only about 1/3 of companies are able to effectively use Big Data. In today’s post I’ll examine the pitfalls awaiting those companies in pursuit of Big Data.

Clearly some organizations (Amazon, Google, The Federal Government, etc.) are better positioned to exploit the opportunities afforded by Big Data than others. Here’s the thing – not every corporation has access to, much less the ability to collect, assess, and operationalize data in exabytes (about 1 Billion gigabytes). The amount of infrastructure and staff it takes to integrate data from disparate, yet ubiquitous inputs is staggering. The harsh reality is that for every one company able to harness Big Data, hundreds will fail in their attempt to do so.

MBO’s, KPI’s, segmentation, analytics, and now Big Data. All leaders measure things – the question is are they measuring the right things, for the right reasons, and at the right times? While I don’t dispute the value of Big Data, I would rather see organizations realistically focus their efforts on operationalizing knowledge at whatever volume or velocity they can currently handle and then worry about scale. Let me be clear – metrics are at best useless, and quite possibly harmful, if the wrong things are being measured, and especially where quantity is valued over quality. In a previous column on Forbes I caution leaders about relying too heavily on “data” by explaining not all data is good data (this is worth reading).

If you read the Forbes piece, and understand the difference between data and knowledge, we can turn our attention to which metrics you should be interested in to begin with. While there are virtually endless amounts of financial and non-financial metrics that can be assessed, I believe that most measurements can be broken down into the following 5 categories:

  1. Static Historical Measurements;
  2. Quantitative Return Measurements;
  3. Qualitative Return Measurements;
  4. Quantitative Performance Measurements, and;
  5. Qualitative Performance Measurements.

It has been my experience that most businesses at least attempt to measure items 1 and 4, but often times fail to measure the other 3 categories, which also happen to be the most meaningful measurements. The best managed companies measure all 5 categories (as well as various subsets) with their focus being on items 3 and 5.

Let’s begin by stating what should be the obvious – all businesses need to monitor the basic static financial measurements of revenue, expenses, break-even, earnings and cash flow. While analyzing these drivers will give you some basic operating information, they are also somewhat myopic. The reason I say this is while historical analysis is important, it is taking the next step of using these historical measurements as baselines to calculate forward looking return drivers that will help you fine tune your business. While the following overview is not by any means exhaustive, it provides a great jumping-off point to fuel productive thought and conversation.

Quantitative Return Drivers:
Metrics such as Return on Assets (ROA), Return on Equity (ROE), Return on Investment (ROI), Return on Cash (cash-on-cash), and Return on Human Capital (ROHC) will give you more useful information than the static calculations mentioned above. The great thing about return analysis is that each area can be broken down into several more refined qualitative return calculations.

Qualitative Return Drivers:
A great example of qualitative return analysis would be contribution margin (CM), which is a qualitative measure of segment, team, or individual performance on profit. Another example would be Return on Innovation which would be the qualitative measure of the impact on new initiatives. These types of qualitative return drivers allow you to make forward looking investment decisions that can have immediate impact to the business.

Quantitative Performance Drivers:
Measurements in this category would be items like revenue hurdles, billable time, utilization, production hurdles and service levels. These are the metrics of how an organization performs against its benchmarks.

Qualitative Performance Drivers:
Measurements in this category are where an organization truly becomes productive with analytics. These sets of metrics focus on the measurements surrounding things that generate influence, improve culture, develop talent, create engagement, build teams, manage the consumer experience, improve customer satisfaction and increase brand equity. Getting to the qualitative level of performance measurement is difficult in that it is often necessary to overcome a set of traditional leadership behaviors and beliefs.

Ask yourself this question…do you measure the metrics that are critically important, or just the ones that are obvious and easy to measure? If company leadership can make the attitudinal adjustments necessary to create accountability and focus on qualitative performance metrics, they will find it’s these measurements that help to catalyze growth, enable execution and create dynamic organizations.

Thoughts? I’d also be interested in hearing from you with regard to any measurements/metrics which have been particularly beneficial to you.

The #1 Reason CEO Successions Fail

Why CEO Succession Fails

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

With all eyeballs on Marissa Mayer at Yahoo and Tim Cook at Apple, CEO succession is a hot topic these days – and rightly so. Few things adversely impact corporate culture, shareholder value, or brand equity like a failed CEO. In today’s column I’ll share the most common reason for failed CEO successions.

Game Changer

6 Steps for Creating a Game Changer

Game Changer

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

At one time or another all great leaders experience something so big and so impactful it literally changes the landscape – it’s what I call a “Game Changer.” A game changer is that ah-ha moment where you see something others don’t. It’s the transformational magic that takes organizations from ordinary to exceptional. In today’s column I’ll provide you with a blue print for manufacturing ah-ha moments. I hope this piece is a game changer for you…

Leadership, Influence & Relationships

Leadership, Influence & Relationships

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Have you ever wondered why some people have more influence than others? It’s because they invest more “in” others. Those with influence have built into others through some form of consistent direct or indirect contribution. Those with the greatest amount of influence almost always have the strongest relationships. My hypothesis is a rather simple one: If true leadership is about influence, then influence is about relationships, and relationships are about the investments made into people. In today’s post I’ll examine the ties between leadership, influence and relationships…

You cannot be an effective leader without influence. Let me make this as simple as I can – if you’re a leader, influence needs to be a competency. The key to developing influence is understanding contacts and relationships are not synonymous. Don’t confuse a database with a sphere of influence. A database consists of information records, and a sphere of influence consists of meaningful relationships built upon a foundation of trust – a point of distinction lost upon many. Spammers and info-product sales people add contacts to a database, while savvy professionals interested in creating influence invest into people for the purpose of creating and sustaining high value relationships.

As business people nothing is more valuable than the quality of your relationships. Whether you realize it or not, your success in business (and in life) will largely be dependant upon your ability to not only establish key relationships, but in your ability to influence and add value to your relationships. We have all known professionals that have been smarter, more affable, better looking, possess a better CV, or are more talented than their peers, yet they never seem to rise to the top. These professionals who seem to have the whole package yet fail to grab the brass ring simply don’t understand the power of relationships – they’ve failed to invest in people.  Again, leadership isn’t about any single person, but rather a complex ecosystem of meaningful relationships.

Lest you think I’m overly mercenary in my approach, and only view people as pawns in a chess game, let me introduce you to Myatt’s golden rule of building relationships: ”Give, give, give some more, give until it hurts, and then when you have nothing left to give, you guessed it…give even more.” The best relationships are not built on the backs of others, but rather they are built by helping others succeed. It is by building into others and through assisting others in reaching their goals and objectives that you will find success. Reflect back upon your own experience and contrast the responses you’ve received when you ask for help from someone that you’ve previously provided assistance to, versus asking the same favor from a casual acquaintance that you’ve never lifted a finger to help.

When you closely examine the core characteristics of what really makes for great leadership, it’s not power, title, authority or even technical competency that distinguishes truly great leaders. Rather it’s the ability to both earn and keep the loyalty and trust of those whom they lead that sets them apart. Put simply, Leadership is about relationships, and the trust, stewardship, care, concern, service, humility and understanding that need to occur in order to create and nurture them. If you build into those you lead, if you make them better, if you add value to their lives then you will have earned their trust and loyalty. This is the type of bond that will span positional and philosophical gaps, survive mistakes, challenges, downturns and other obstacles that will inevitably occur.

You don’t change mindsets by being right, you do it by showing you care. Logic and reason have their place, but they rarely will overcome a strong emotional or philosophical position. Trying to cram your positional logic down the throat of others will simply leave a very bad taste in their mouths. This is a very tough lesson for many to learn, but a critical one if you take your duties, obligations and responsibilities as a leader seriously. The best leaders are capable of aligning and unifying opposing interests for a greater good. You won’t ever become a truly successful leader until you understand a person’s need to be heard and understood is much more important than satisfying your need to impart wisdom I’m going to make this as simple as I can…leadership is all about relationships. It’s the people – nothing more & nothing less.

Being right isn’t the goal – accomplishing the mission is. If you can only lead those who agree with you then you will have a very small sphere of influence. Stop and think about this for a moment – history is littered with powerful leaders who have fallen, failed, or who have been replaced, usurped or betrayed. Fear doesn’t engender loyalty, respect or trust – it breeds resentment and malcontent. A leader not first and foremost accountable to their people will eventually be held accountable by their people.

Generally speaking there are two types of spheres of influence…those that just evolve over time by default, and those that are strategically engineered. While contacts are rarely purpose driven, relationships are highly intentional. People who are influential have spent years developing relationships spanning geographies, industries, and practice areas. They have invested both time and money developing these relationships to a high level of mutual benefit.

So why is it that most people aren’t as influential as they would like to be? The answer is that most professionals, even if they intellectually understand the benefits of what I’m espousing, just don’t do the work it takes to build an influential network. Great relationships take great amounts of effort, energy and commitment. Think of the most successful people you’ve ever known and they will always seem to know the right person to call on in any given situation to influence or decision the needed outcome. This type of influence doesn’t just happen, rather it has taken years of painstaking effort. If you want to create a powerful sphere of influence start by taking the following ten steps:

  1. Create a Vision: Take pause and examine where you are currently in your professional career as contrasted with where you want to go. Think about the people who could help you reach your destination more quickly and efficiently. Don’t put any artificial ceilings on your thinking – remember that almost anyone on the planet is only a few degrees of separation away from you. Be sure that your vision is based first and foremost on adding value to the lives and careers of others. Building a great relationship has little to do with what you get out of it, but everything to do with what you put into it…
  2. Take an Inventory: Once you have a clear vision of where you want to go, take a personal inventory of your contacts and relationships. See who it is that you know, but also pay attention to who they know. Review in detail each and every relationship in your network and rank them on a scale from 1 to 5 with 5 being the contacts perceived to be of the greatest value to you. Make a detailed relationship plan for each of the people that rank 3 or higher. Take a personal interest in rekindling those relationships and finding out how you can help them succeed.
  3. Participate in the Dialogue: Develop a strong core competency, and then give freely of your time and knowledge. Be visible and accessible, and don’t approach business solely based on a “what’s in it for me” attitude. Don’t be a joiner unless you can be a contributor. I belong to a number of organizations I will likely never see a paying client from, but it is through these groups I build relationships that will help me serve my clients. These relationships are only built because of the time I invest in them. Relationships don’t get built overnight, and are not built without active participation.
  4. Value Your Network: It is critical you develop a keen understanding of the following point – your network is your business. The core value of your business is not actually steeped in the conventional thinking imparted to you in business school. The reality is the true intrinsic value of a business is in your network, which adds value to your products, services, brand, stakeholders etc. A strong network = sustainability.  It’s your network that will provide you much needed resources, influence and leverage in both good times and bad.
  5. Focus on the Positive: Don’t waste time with those who only see problems and flaws, but cannot ever seem to create solutions. The world is full of bitter people, small thinkers, naysayers and those who just get their kicks out of sniping from a safe distance. Remove these people from your network. Associate with energy gainers and not energy drainers. People do business with people they like, and avoid doing business with people they don’t like – it’s just that simple. Are you approachable, positive, affable, trustworthy, a person of character and integrity, or are you someone who is standoffish, pessimistic and generally not to be trusted? Those who fall into the camp of the former as opposed to the latter will find themselves having more influence and success.  The key take away here is that being a jerk doesn’t lead to the creation of influence.
  6. Quantity and Quality Both Matter: Successful networking requires an understanding there needs to be a balance between quantity and quality. Well built spheres of influence are both inclusive and exclusive, and while the emphasis should always error on the side of quality, this assumes you have sufficient numbers to create leverage and scale to your networking efforts. You want to avoid at all costs the appearance of simply being in it solely for the numbers, but it is also important not to be viewed as a networking snob who doesn’t reciprocate.
  7. Influence is built upon a foundation of trust: If a person is not trusted there is a firm limit on their ability to create and use influence. People will rarely make a leap of faith for someone who hasn’t earned their trust. However most people will gladly take a blind leap of faith for someone whom they have come to trust. Trust matters.
  8. Influence is built upon making others successful: This is often times referred to as the law of reciprocity. The theory is that if you invest yourself in making someone else successful, then they in turn will likely be predisposed to helping you become successful. While this principle will not always pan out, in my experience it has held true across the overwhelming majority of my interactions through the years. True influence is rarely built upon the backs of others, but rather by helping others achieve their goals.
  9. Influence is most often possessed by those with authority: It is important to realize that there is a reason for the statement “the highest authority is that which is given, and rarely that which is taken.” Authority is most often given to those who display honesty, competency, empathy, expertise and wisdom. With authority comes credibility, and with credibility comes influence. While influence can be wielded by those without authority, it will be limited in both scope and scale. Those with the most authority will always have the most influence.
  10. Value and scarcity drive influence: Understanding the value of your position, brand, authority, resources, access to people or knowledge and any number of other items as it relates to fulfilling the needs and desires of others creates influence. To the extent anything under your direct or indirect control is scarce or proprietary your ability to create influence will increase significantly.

Keep in mind the purpose of developing influence is not to manipulate for personal gain, but rather to facilitate for mutual benefit. Take a sincere interest in the success of others, work on your likability factor, become adept at gaining commitment, develop your authority, secure access to things of value and/or scarcity, and your influence with others will increase.

Bottom line – engineer a relationship development plan built upon service, trust, giving and adding value – then work the plan. Before you whine about how much time this will take, consider if you will the potential rewards at stake and ask yourself this question: Can I afford not to do this?

If you have any additional tips or advice to add to what you’ve just read, I’d love to have your feedback and input in the comments section below…

Leadership and Order of Operations

Successful Leadership Requires The Right Order Of Operation

Leadership and Order of Operations

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Ever heard the following statement? “Focus on the what, not the how.” While this may appear to be sage advice, it’s actually quite the opposite. I find it troubling at two levels: Firstly, it’s a horribly incorrect and incomplete message. Secondly, far too many people in leadership positions seem perfectly content to follow this bad advice. In today’s column I’ll share the reasons underpinning my strong disagreement with using what as a leadership driver.

Why Your Leadership Is Overrated

Your Leadership is Overrated

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth 

How are your leadership skills? Likely not as good as you think. There’s no shortage of independent empirical data generated over the years supporting the fact most people tend to overrate their leadership ability. The best leaders the world has ever known had room for improvement – so do you. I’ve always said leaders need to get over themselves and get on to the practice of leadership. In today’s post, I’ll offer 8 things every leader should evaluate with regard to their capabilities.

People arrive at a position of leadership in many different ways – some individuals openly and aggressively seek out positions of leadership, while leadership is thrust upon others. Whether leaders are elected, appointed, anointed, or self-proclaimed, and regardless of whether it’s by design or default, once in a position of leadership they all carry the burden and responsibilities associated with being a leader. The question is, do most leaders live up to their responsibilities?

Leader Beware – ignorant bliss, no matter how enjoyable, is still ignorant. If you’re in a position of leadership and don’t feel you have any blind spots, you’re either very naïve or very arrogant. All leaders have blind spots – the question is what are they doing about them? The reality is most leaders invest so much time assessing the cultural and functional dynamics of their organizations they often forget the importance of critically assessing themselves – big mistake.

It has consistently been my experience, leaders who are not growing are simply incapable of leading growing organizations. Moreover, leaders who fail to continue developing will always be replaced by those who do. A leader who fails to understand the value of self-awareness fails to understand their own true potential as a leader.

It’s at the C-suite level an executive must be on top of his/her game as they have the broadest sphere of influence, the largest ability to impact a business, and they also now have the most at risk. It is at this place the leader should make the heaviest investment in refining their leadership ability, because increased performance will pay the biggest dividends. Let me be as clear as I can – the more responsibility a leader has, the bigger their obligation to be on the forward edge of learning, growth and development.

Think about this – YOU are the single biggest threat to your role as a leader. This means YOU are also the single biggest risk to those whom you lead, your employees, your family, and to your friends. If you are in a position of leadership, you will lead – you will either lead people toward the right things or lead them astray, but you will lead.

The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates had a few guiding principles that today’s leaders would do well to adopt: Socrates said, “Know Thyself” and “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Those leaders who actively pursue gaining a better understanding of themselves will not only reduce their number of blind spots, but they’ll also find developing a sense of awareness is the key to increasing emotional intelligence. The better you know yourself the more effective you’ll be, and the better you’ll relate to others.

Following are 8 things I suggest you reflect upon should you desire to continue to develop as a leader:

  1. Never Stop Learning: I’ve never understood leaders who make heavy investments in personal and professional development early in their careers, who then go on to make only minimal investments in learning once they have reached the C-suite. Learning and development are lifelong endeavors. The learning journey doesn’t come to an end just because you reach a certain station in life – or at least it shouldn’t.
  2. Context Matters: Just as life is not static, neither is the environment you work in. Leadership isn’t a one-size-fits-all endeavor. The best leaders apply their craft contextually based upon the needs of those whom they serve. If you don’t know how to nuance your leadership skills you will simply miss opportunities others won’t.
  3. Be Kind: People go out of their way to help those whom they like. Likewise most people won’t lift a finger to help those they don’t care for. Smart leaders are purposed to build into those they lead. They understand leadership success is found by ensuring those they lead are better off for being led by them. Self-serving, arrogant, or belittling behavior may feed your ego, but it doesn’t serve your best interests as a leader.
  4. Surrender: A leader simply operates at their best when they understand their ability to influence is much more fruitful than their attempt to control. Here’s the thing – the purpose of leadership is not to shine the spotlight on yourself, but to unlock the potential of others so they can in turn shine the spotlight on countless more. Control is about power – not leadership. Surrender allows a leader to get out of their own way and focus on adding value to those they serve. Forget span of control and think span of influence.
  5. Begin the Process of Unlearning: Just as important as learning is shedding the emotional and intellectual baggage trapping you in the past. Human nature causes most of us to hold onto wrong, unhealthy, or outdated ideas, concepts, thoughts, feelings or practices. The fastest way to become a better leader is to challenge your own logic. If you’re really serious about finding the flaws in your thinking, ask others to help you identify gaps or faults, and then listen very carefully to what they share with you.
  6. Likeability Matters: While becoming a great leader shouldn’t be reduced to a popularity contest, the fact is most great leaders are both well liked and respected. They have the full faith and trust of their stakeholders, and possess strong positive relationships across constituencies. What do you reflect, and what do people see in you? If you are not well liked and respected then you will have consistent, self-imposed obstacles placed in your path that inhibit your ability to be an effective leader. Ask yourself this question – If an election for CEO were held today, would your stakeholders re-elect you in a landslide victory? If not, why not?
  7. Attract Don’t Repel: If people see you coming and quickly run the other way, you have a leadership problem. If people shy away from you versus clamor for your attention, you need to work on your leadership.The simple truth is people strongly desire to work with and for great leaders. Great CEOs are talent magnets…people want to be led by those who have much to offer. If you struggle with recruiting, team building, and leadership development your leadership skills are in need of improvement.
  8. Results: Great leaders produce great outcomes. If you have vision, strategy, talent, culture, or performance problems you have a leadership problem. Remember, businesses don’t fail – leaders do.

Becoming a better leader isn’t difficult, but it does take effort. It requires you to place humility above hubris, and to place a higher value on truth than you do on your ability to rationalize and justify your thinking. It means placing more emphasis on the right outcome than being right. I’d encourage you to view yourself as a lifelong student of leadership more than a master of leadership – it will serve you and those you lead well.

Thoughts?

Courage and Leadership

Every Great Leader Has This Quality – Do Yo?

Courage and Leadership

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Courage is a trait possessed by all great leaders. So much so, that leadership absent courage is nothing short of a farce. Let me be very clear – I’m not advocating for bravado, arrogance, or an overabundance of hubris, but rather the courage necessary to stay the course and to do the right things. I believe it was Aristotle who referred to courage as the first virtue, because it makes all of the other virtues possible. Many leaders think they have courage – few actually do.

Leadership Isn’t About Checking Boxes

Leadership Isn’t About Checking Boxes

Leadership Isn’t About Checking Boxes

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth 

Today’s post is a short rant, but one every leader should take to heart – STOP CHECKING BOXES. To believe leadership can be reduced to task management is simply flawed thinking. Here’s the thing – you can manage to a list, but you certainly cannot lead to a list.  A check the box approach to leadership accomplishes only one thing – it limits your ability to lead.

Leadership isn’t about checking boxes. Great leadership thrives beyond typical borders and constraints – it lives outside the norm. Leadership requires more than just going through the motions. Real leaders reshape, reinvent, or remove boxes, but they refuse to simply check them.

True leadership doesn’t reveal itself by meeting expectations; it shows itself by exceeding them. Leadership looks past the obvious, beyond the optics, and it embraces the challenge of seeking the extraordinary.  Leadership is demonstrated by having the courage to do more than just go through the motions.

Think about it like this – do you want to be a leader who simply does what’s expected, or do you want to be a leader who makes what if a reality? Let me say this as simply as I can: Leaders don’t settle – they move forward. They innately stretch themselves, as well as those they lead. The best leaders don’t have a maintenance mindset. They focus their efforts on discovery, creation, improvement, disruption, and growth.

Think of the best leader you know; now think of the best leaders throughout history – did any of the leaders who came to mind make an impact by just checking the box? The next time you’re tempted to check a box, consider asking yourself the following questions: Is this the best I can do? Am I leading or am I settling? Are those whom I lead better off as a result of this decision? Checking a box is an easy thing to do, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do – it doesn’t make you a leader.

Thoughts?

Twitter

Smart leaders don’t criticize and complain – they collaborate and create. #Leadership

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