Tag Archives: Leaders

Arguments, Discussions & What Bad Bosses Do…

“Any argument has two sides, and they’re usually married to each other.”

There are three basic ways to resolve differences among people; argue, discuss or declare. It’s likely that you’ve had experiences with each and every favor (sometimes unknowingly) one approach over another. What method you choose and when and where you choose to apply it speaks volumes about who you are and the nature of your personal relationships.

While most people outwardly view showing and telling as a high-risk, low-reward approach; few of us consciously choose to argue out our differences. Typically, an emotional response with little forethought, our ability to avoid arguments in favor of discussion, is a strong indicator of emotional maturity.

Being right doesn’t mean much, if you are the only one that thinks so ”.

Many of us prefer to view ourselves in the well-balanced light of the listener-learner that harnesses the power of the discussion to drive performance and enhance social bonds. However, just as emotions can move use into an argumentative danger zone, lack of consideration may cause us to overlook opportunities for productive discussion.

The big no-no for leaders comes with the short-fused use of declarations. At home, out of frustration, exhaustion and the sheer desire to make-it-stop, parents resort to declarations as means to summarily dismiss younger children. The approach loses much of its effectiveness on pre-teens, is entirely ineffective with teens and is a cautionary tale when applied to a spouse (DON’T DO IT).

So, why do some leaders feel they have the right to summarily dismiss the opinions of employees by declaring how it’s going to be? Sure, there are some cases where snap judgments need to be made and made now. But for those leaders that believe their hierarchical role, paygrade or other anointed power gives them the right to treat employees’ opinions with less respect than we would grade school-aged children, is simple unacceptable.

The bigger question is… why do we let leaders behave badly?

As always, I invite you to share your comments and experiences directly at jeff@jeffkaplan.com

Until next time. Stay connected.


Now What? (…From the Vault)

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the privilege to conduct as series of interviews with four amazing leaders. One woman and three men, each the senior-most executives of their respective organizations, offered honest appraisals of their lives, careers and the businesses they’ve built. Although the organizations they lead differ by industry, geography and size, they shared one common concern:

What made us successful in the past, will not make us successful in the future.

Now, what?

Across the board, these leaders saw the level of product and service value that once drove the economic engines of their organizations, steadily and irreversibly decline; resulting in everything from a reimagining of their product and service offerings, to increased reliance on inorganic growth and in one case, an exodus of the industry they’d served for a generation.

As I write this, my desk is overflowing with interview transcripts, the margins of each page filled with a scrawl of handwritten notes and questions. From those pages it has become abundantly clear that there is a new leadership challenge emerging; a concept that defies tradition, embraces the deeply human elements of business activity and holds the promise of great opportunity for those willing to embrace it.

The new leadership challenge seeks to answer the question, Now What?

Tomorrow’s leaders must be capable of sensing, absorbing and transforming oncoming change in a way that creates competitive advantage for the organization.

Bold vision and practical and tactical ideas, big and small, are fast becoming the currency of organizational and career success. The leaders I’ve interviewed agree: venturing into an uncertain future will require more leaders than ever before; but individuals hoping to fill these roles will be largely responsible for their own leadership development, which means doing the hard work of defining who you are, what you value and what you are capable of accomplishing.

In short, before your ideas will be considered, before you can effectively lead others, you must demonstrate both an understanding and control of yourself.

Next week, we’ll examine what you can do to prepare yourself to take advantage of these new leadership opportunities and springboard your career to the next level.

Until then, I’m reaching out to you to see what you think is important for leaders to consider and what skills you feel will be critical in the next generation of business leadership. As always, I welcome your comments at: jeff@jeffkaplan.com.


*Originally posted on October 23, 2015

You Know You Want It…

(The 3 Things Employees Value Most)

The social contract that once bound employees to organizations for entire careers is no more. Single-job careers of 40+ years have become an endangered species. Free agency now dominates the workplace and the term workforce has become a verb.

With career-long employment off the table and career mobility picking up speed, employers should be asking the question, what do employees want and value?

The results of our latest survey shed light on what workers are looking for from the organizations that employ them. When asked, here’s what we found:

  1. Pay me! Not surprisingly, compensation lead the list of top-ranked incentives.
  2. Protect me! By far the most often ranked as a top 5 incentive, benefits remain a critical factor among incentive options.
  3. Play me! Second in top-ranking and second in overall number of top-5 mentions, personal development rounds out the dominate incentives leaving other options far behind.

The take-away…
Since there is only so much payroll to go around and so many benefits you can offer, the real opportunity lay with bolstering employee self-realization. Organizational leaders, especially HR and L&D professionals would be well served to package and promote their developmental opportunities, and take steps to ensure employees know they exist and encourage their participation. With annual investment topping $150B a year, employee development is serious business. Unlike salary or traditional benefits, L&D activities are the most financially controllable incentives in your attraction and retention arsenal.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and questions at jeff@jeffkaplan.com

Until next week, STAY CONNECTED!


Earning a Seat at the Cool Kid’s Table

In many ways, business is simply high school on steroids, where fitting in means playing it cool. Want a seat at the cool kid’s table? Get a point-of-view that allows for the fact that you do not, cannot and never will know everything.

The executive team had flown in from Europe. The meeting was a big deal. One of our top two global partners was going to announce a major shift in strategy that would not only change the market dynamics, but in some cases place us in direct competition. The executive briefing lasted almost 9 hours. It was death by PowerPoint with so many new TLAs (three-letter acronyms) sprinkled in that no one in the audience had a clear understanding of either what was said or its implications.

Remarkably, no one raised a hand to say, “What the heck are you talking about?” As the meeting ended and we flowed out into the halls, the anxiety was clear. One executive leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Did you understand any of that?”

Working in Asia, I learned that the Q&A interplay we take for granted here in the West is considered impolite to the presenter. During one of my presentations, I spurred the audience to share their perspectives and one young man summoned the nerve to raise his hand. From his comment, it was clear that’s he’d misunderstood one small part of the content and my response clarified the concept for him. After that, there wasn’t a single question, comment or raised hand. Culturally, the young man had taken a big risk in questioning me and when I corrected him, I’d unknowingly shamed him publically.

The two experiences have much in common, chief of which is that there is an unwritten rule in business that it’s better to keep quiet than to admit you don’t know or understand. It’s unlikely this rule will change anytime soon, but here are two things you can do to increase your understanding and keep your reputation in tact.

#1. Build a personal business dictionary.  Make a quick list of the 10 or 20 buzzwords floating around your organization (leadership, management, strategy, you name it) and write out what each one means to you. You don’t have to be correct or perfect as you can always adjust your thinking as you work with the concepts.

#2. Clarify by offering meaning.  Leaders are makers of meaning, so instead of asking what a concept means, offer your understanding of the concept and ask for confirmation. This is where your personal business dictionary comes in. The approach positions you as someone with a point-of-view and places you at the center of a conversation that may provide high-value clarification for others in the room.

Soon, you’ll be sitting at the cool kid’s table where you belong!

Change, Managers, Leaders & the $3.56M iPhone…

Alvin Toffler’s 1970 book Future Shock, warned the world that change was coming and that the pace of change was about to change everything!

Toffler’s 800th Lifetime Theory divided the last 50,000 years of human history into generations of 62 years each = 800 lifetimes,

  • 1-650: Humans lived in caves,
  • 720: Birth of the written word, allowing us to communicate from one generation to another,
  • 794: The average person sees the written word in his/her lifetime,
  • 796: Measure time with precision,
  • 798: Use of the electric motor.

In short, the vast majority of the tools and technology we take for granted everyday, has been developed within the last generation.

Connecting Change to Managers & Leaders

While there are as many definitions of leadership as there are leaders, only one definition captures the essence of Toffler’s warning a half-century ago:

Managers deal with complexity through the application of process.

Leaders deal with change through the alignment of resources.

Nowhere else are the mindboggling effects of change better reflected than the shift in emphasis from managerial know-how to leader-led empowerment. This shift changed the way we operate companies, how we view and lead employees, redefined our relationships with customers, heightened the importance of alliances and partnerships and fundamentally shifted our view to the future.

Yesterday, Dallas-based sales-exec Eric Wortmann sent me an email. Eric participated in a multi-day training session I conducted a few years ago and in his note he shared that of all the content we’d covered, the leader-manager distinction was most important. Eric – thank you. I completely agree!

Having trouble taking it all in… consider that if you wanted to purchase the technology in a $200 iPhone back in 1991, it would have cost you about $3,560,000.00!

Keep your head up and your eyes on the future!