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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Got a New Strategy? Don't Forget the Execution Part 08-01

Got a New Strategy? Don't Forget the Execution Part

When it comes to executing strategy, the old saying "the devil is in the details" holds true for many companies, according to Wharton emeritus management professor Lawrence G. Hrebiniak

While executives may readily participate in the development of new strategies, execution tends to get short shrift, because it is often viewed as a lower-level task or concern, he notes. In the following interview, Hrebiniak -- who just published the second edition of his book, Making Strategy Work: Leading Effective Execution and Change -- explains why it's critical for firms to create a "culture of execution" in order to succeed.

An edited version of the conversation appears below.

Knowledge@Wharton: Why do firms tend to focus much more energy on strategy and less on execution?

Lawrence G. Hrebiniak: Strategy execution takes longer, involves more people, demands the consideration and integration of many key variables or activities, and requires an effective feedback or control system to keep a needed focus on the process of execution over time. The strategic planning stage is usually more concentrated and of shorter duration than the execution stage. It often deals with interesting conceptual issues that appeal to many managers.

 The longer execution time horizon results in developments and changes that must be addressed over time -- for example, manager turnover, competitors’ reactions to a company’s strategy, changing economic and competitive conditions, a changing industry structure and forces, etc. -- suggesting the importance and difficulty of organizational adaptation during the execution process.

Keeping managers and functional specialists involved in and committed to the execution requirements over a long time period can be difficult. Some managers simply give up or turn to other developing problems and opportunities, reducing the energy expended on implementation plans and activities. To some managers, execution-related issues aren’t as exciting or conceptual, resulting in less than enthusiastic attention or energy being focused on these activities. These factors, among others, increase the difficulty of strategy execution and cause managers to avoid critical implementation requirements. The key here is management support -- from the top down -- to create a culture of execution and maintain a focus on execution and its benefits.

Knowledge@Wharton: What are some of the biggest mistakes that companies make when it comes to implementing strategy? What are the common pitfalls?

Hrebiniak: There are a number of mistakes I’ve observed over the years. One is that strategy execution or implementation is viewed as a lower-level task or concern. Top managers with this view believe that making strategy work -- the decisions and activities associated with this task -- is somehow “below them,” literally and figuratively. This often creates a “caste” or class system in which upper management feels that it’s done the hard work -- strategic planning -- and that the lower-level people then can do the easier work of execution. 

This is a huge mistake, one that can create cultural rifts and poor communication across organizational levels, leading to ineffective performance and other serious problems.

Another mistake managers make is to assume that execution is a quick, one-shot decision or action, like “Ready-Aim-Execute” -- or even worse, “Ready-Execute-Aim.”

 Implementation or execution simply isn’t a one-shot deal. Strategy execution is a process, with important relationships among key variables, decisions and actions, not a quick fix marked by simple clichés, such as: “Give him the ball and let him run with it." Failure to see and appreciate the interdependence or interaction among key factors -- strategy, structure, incentives, controls, coordination, culture, change, etc. -- is a costly mistake that detracts from strategy execution success. The complexity of the implementation process also results in managers ignoring the execution process, an issue I mentioned earlier.

A mistake I’ve observed occasionally is that a good strategy is seen as sufficient to motivate effective execution. The assumption is that solid execution will come naturally, as people see the benefits and logic of the strategic plan and act accordingly to foster execution success. This assumption rarely, if ever, is founded; execution takes hard work, communication of actions and benefits, and effective incentives to get managers to buy into the execution process. Managers need skin in the game and logical guidance about their roles in the execution scheme to make even a good strategy work.

A related mistake is to assume that a really bad or unsound strategy can be made to work well if “we execute it well.” A bad strategy cannot be saved by working hard at execution. “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” as the saying warns. Good strategy comes first and is essential to sound execution. Skimping on the strategy formulation stage of strategic management can only lead to implementation headaches.

There are additional pitfalls that threaten the strategy execution process in addition to those suggested above. An important one emanates from not having a solid plan of execution or implementation. Every strategic plan requires an implementation or execution component or plan. Every corporate and business plan must be supported by a plan of execution.

The execution plan or component must lay out clearly the key decisions and actions required for making the strategy work. The interdependence or interactions among key factors must be spelled out, and well understood. Responsibility and accountability for decisions and actions must be clear and agreed upon, with areas of overlapping responsibility and need for cooperation laid out and committed to by key personnel. Failure to develop an implementation plan is a problem or pitfall that usually ends in disastrous performance. Again, the assumption seems to be that execution simply happens or unfolds seamlessly, and this is a mistake.

A big pitfall or mistake emanates from a poor understanding of organizational structure. Not understanding the costs and benefits of different structures or designs can lead to severe problems. Treating structure as an afterthought or something that changes according to managers’ whims or fancies and not as a response to the demands of strategy represents a major problem or pitfall. Structure has a role to play. It affects many things, including efficiency, effectiveness, getting close to markets and customers, and so on. A lack of understanding of structure’s role in making strategy work usually leads to problems.

Also, a major pitfall with all sorts of related problems is inadequate or inappropriate attention to the management of change. Implementation or execution plans often include the need for change, and handling it poorly can lead to resistance to new execution efforts.

Knowledge@Wharton: What new kinds of problems have emerged since you published the first edition of your book -- that is, what kinds of new challenges are managers facing when it comes to executing strategy in today's business environment?

Hrebiniak: A number of new challenges emerged after publication of the first edition of Making Strategy Work. One might think that the old or consistent, ongoing challenges I noted earlier would be sufficient to keep managers who are interested in execution busy for a long time. Yet, new challenges and ideas were presented to me, adding to the list of execution-related needs. One [new area of concern was] the service sector, including not-for-profit organizations. The question simply was: 

Does the material in Making Strategy Work apply equally well to service organizations? Not-for-profits? Another request was for a deeper coverage of the execution of global strategies. The first edition of the book contained little insight here, and managers told me that they would like to see more about implementation in the global arena.

Quite a few managers raised questions about project management. In fact, I was contacted by someone representing the Project Management Institute who asked [several] questions about the role of project management in the execution process. Additional questions regarding making M&A strategies work also were raised. The new edition [has sections] dealing with service organizations, global strategies and project management, as well as a revised chapter on making M&A strategies work.

Knowledge@Wharton: What can a company do to become more focused on executing successfully?

Hrebiniak: The basic step for a company to follow to become more focused on execution or implementation is to create a culture of execution. How does one create such a culture? Let’s look at some basic facts. First, it’s a fact that culture affects behavior. An organizational culture include values, prescriptions on how to act, how to treat others, how to react to performance shortfalls, how to compete, etc., and these have a profound impact on behavior. 

A related fact, however, also must be kept in mind: Behavior, over time, affects organizational culture. Culture, [in other words], is both an independent, causal factor, and a dependent factor, affected by behavior. How, then, does one create a desired culture? By creating behaviors and performance programs that become an integral part of an organization’s way of doing things. By creating and reinforcing behaviors and performance programs that affect the very essence of how organizations act and compete, i.e. their culture.

A company, then, can [create] a culture of execution by [developing and reinforcing] behaviors that affect culture. It can: lay out key decisions, actions, and capabilities needed for successful execution; support the model and execution plan with effective incentives and controls; create structures and processes that support desired strategic and operating objectives; and manage execution as a change process in which agreement and commitment are sought and rewarded. 

Creating and reinforcing behaviors related to execution will impact culture; culture will reflect the critical execution-related behaviors. It is important to design, reward and otherwise support the right behaviors, those that are vital to making strategy work, in order to create and nurture a culture of execution.

Monday, July 29, 2013

3-Step Approach to Simplifying Your Life 07-29

3-Step Approach to Simplifying Your Life

Feeling overwhelmed by tasks and clutter? Those who have been there generously offer three different approaches to getting back to simple.

You've heard of the wisdom of crowds but, let's be honest, one traffic-clogged commute or toxic online comment thread can start to convince you that groups of humans are not always fonts of wisdom. And then sometimes something reverses your thinking and shows that, given the right platform, people are both full of ingenuity and generous with their good ideas.Relax - Floating in the sea

Take this recent Quora thread for example. The conversation kicks off with someone confessing to a common problem among busy business owners: “Recently, I find myself overwhelmed with work, trivial tasks, clutter and filing. I'd like to simplify my life so that I can get back to more of the things that I enjoy. I'm not even sure where to find the time to begin.”

Given how common an issue this is, you might suspect that most folks would be too busy with their own complicated lives to help one frazzled questioner simplify hers, but you’d be wrong. A mix of wisdom, compassion and practical suggestions poured in, with responses ranging from the uber-practical -- "Whenever I cook anything I make two (if applicable) and freeze one, there is always something tasty and healthy in my freezer" -- to the deeply philosophical.

If simplicity is something you’re personally struggling with, peruse the answers to find ideas that work best for you, but here are a few of the best suggestions to get you started.

The Three-Step Approach

Lawyer turned writer Cristina Hartmann confirms what you probably already noticed, noting that "simplicity isn't easy," before offering her own home-baked three-step solution. Her method boils down to:
  • Develop a life philosophy. Before you make any major (or even minor) changes, you need to know why you're changing your life. You need a purpose. You need a prioritization system. You need a life philosophy, a distilled set of principles that reflect your values.

  • Divide up your tasks into must-dos and want-dos, and eliminate everything else. You have to do some things even if it doesn't fit into your life philosophy, like pay taxes, eat and sleep. These are necessary things that you can't avoid (without suffering horrible consequences, at least). On the other hand, you have your want-dos, the things that you love doing when you're not paying your taxes, calling your mom, and fixing the garbage disposal. This is the fun stuff that advance your life philosophy. Everything else? Junk them.

  • Reduce clutter, both physical and mental. Clutter is more than untidiness. It's superfluity. It's excess. With unnecessary things piling up in our homes, offices and minds, simplicity becomes impossible.
Does this program seem like something that’s right up your alley, check out the thread for a much more detailed explanation of the steps.

List and Destroy

If you’re less of the life philosophy type and more likely to face nagging worry about day-to-day things, Will Newton has a suggestion. "When overwhelmed, quickly write a point form list entitled ‘Things Bothering Me’ and then process each item in the list,” he writes, adding, “this will reduce your feelings of being overwhelmed and give you a clearer sense of what you need to do."

Include "things to do, things people said, things you don't like," he instructs, offering examples from nasty comments that rubbed you wrong to the stain on the rug or that thing you keep meaning to schedule. Once you’ve made this quick inventory of stressors, "go through the list and make decisions about what you have to do about each thing. Focus on just one of the items at a time and ask yourself, 'what is the very next thing I should do about this item?'" It’s a super effective five-minute way to bust that feeling of being overwhelmed, he claims.

Back to the Present

Some people’s sense of clutter and confusion won’t be remedied by trip to The Container Store of calling the dentist to finally schedule that filling, web developer and entrepreneur Gabriel Harper suggests. According to him, the last thing simplicity seekers need is more programs or tips. Instead they need to learn satisfaction with the present.

"Everyone simplifies by trying to change their past. Throw things away, organize your belongings, donate some clothes, ditch some friends, voilá. I'm not sure about that. I hold on to what I have, and don't allow myself to be controlled by that constant need for newness," he writes.

"Chances are, your life is over-complicated by all the years spent trying to fill a non-existent hole in your life. We all seek out new things - they feel good. It's especially appealing when you're feeling down or overwhelmed by life. It's new and different, clean and untainted; eventually though, it's just part of the mess like everything else," he continues, concluding, "instead of seeking more lists and more plans, new clothes and new friends, perhaps look around and consider that you probably already have all the things that you really care about. Cherish the friends you have and wear your favorite shirt to tatters."

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Leadership And The Periodic Table Of The Elements 07-28

Leadership And The Periodic Table Of The Elements

English: periodic table of the elements França...

Last May we added two new elements, Livermorium and Flerovium, to the periodic table after being first synthesized over a decade ago. Adding new elements to the periodic table is rare, not that we have discovered all there is to discover (certainly we will add more in time,) but because the table represents the constants, or all those known in the universe.
 So it is already quite comprehensive. And while there are alternative representations and grouping methods of the periodic table, for the most part it is laid out in the same way. I am not a physicist, but I would point out similarly, that we do the same thing with leadership competencies.
The ongoing study of leadership occasionally yields a new discovery and there are experts in the field that contribute greatly to that effort. However, too many organizations, in trying to take on leadership improvement more resemble an exercise in renaming the elements of the periodic table, than making new discoveries. For instance,
 I worked with an organization a few years ago in an effort to design a competency model for the business, and prior to engaging with them, they had spent hours, no—days, going back and forth over whether or not the competency listed in their model was going to be Character, Integrity, or Honesty. They were talking about the very same things related to trustworthiness but were very hung up on the labels.
My counsel: Stop getting caught up in the minutia of renaming or relabeling competencies and focus instead on capturing the essence of the most desired behaviors for leaders.
Having worked with dozens of organizations to develop custom competency models, and reviewing the data on tens of thousands of assessments, the following are the constants that I see in what amounts to the core of the leadership periodic table—kind of like the eight elements that make up 98% of the earths mass. 
  •  Character. Like I said above, call it what you want, integrity, honesty, being an exemplar of behavior, but it is oxygen for leaders because its absence undermines any effort to lead.
  • Inspiring/Motivating. In the book I coauthored, The Inspiring Leader, in a study of 20,000 this was the one thing that subordinates wanted most from them. To be inspired.
  • Results Orientation. Leadership is a means to an end, in that, without an objective of some kind, it is not critical. Leaders need to be mindful of those objectives and stay focused on them.
  • Communication Skills. When I’ve conducted interviews or reviewed the written comments on thousands of 360 degree feedback evaluations the most common issue I see highlighted for improvement is communication. Who does it too well or too often?
  • Strategic Focus. Creating vision and strategy is the crux of leadership. and asJohn Kotter has written about on this site, is one of the key differences between leadership and management.
  • Professional and Functional Expertise. Leaders have to understand how to do the basics like solve problems, analyze issues, and demonstrate knowledge of the organization. This includes functional expertise in a discipline like finance, manufacturing, sales, and marketing.
  • Interpersonal Skills. No matter how strategic or how much of an expert a leader is, if you can’t relate to others it won’t matter. Leadership is largely a relational skill.
  • Leading Change. Not much leadership is required to maintain the status quo, but great leaders prepare their organizations to adapt to the future.
You could certainly debate groupings and subsets with the above list (and I suspect you will,) but there is little doubt about the criticality of each of these.
There are bound to be new discoveries of competencies that have a substantial impact and certainly there is more to learn. Additionally, there are some environments where competencies that are more specialized would be quite useful. For instance, Safety Leadership is likely unimportant in professional services firms or in a technology distribution company, but it was critical when I worked with an oil refinery.
Yet these represent the core of great leadership, albeit not the entire universe of leadership traits. As an aside, we could spend days coming up with leadership competencies, and none of them would be wrong. In my last firm we did a study of hundreds of leadership competencies and all were positively correlated to success at some level. 
No leadership competency is bad in and of itself. Further, most additional work on leadership behaviors either combines the components of these characteristics or to look at the minute particles that make them up. So take these leadership competencies and embed them in your models. Use them to develop great leaders. And where it is appropriate, feel free to add an element to your organizations periodic table.

4 Secrets of Great Critical Thinkers 07-28

4 Secrets of Great Critical Thinkers

The best problem solvers see a complex problem through multiple lenses. Here's how to become a better strategic thinker and leader yourself.

Critical Thinkers Lens Reframe

In 2009, J D Wetherspoon, a chain of more than 800 pubs in the UK, was facing declining sales. Demand for beer had been down for five years. In addition, pricing pressure from super market chains was intense, and higher alcohol taxes further squeezed its already tight margins.

What would you say is the company's real business problem?

Most people see it as a sales problem and recommend better marketing and promotion. But this reflex may be wrong. In Wetherspoon’s case, the company examined the problem more deeply, looked at data, and framed the situation from multiple angles. In the end, they found the real problem: A subtle but profound shift in consumer preferences. 

 As a result, the chain responded with much bolder actions, transforming all its pubs into family friendly cafes during day hours. 

The strategy worked. Wetherspoon saw its earnings per share jump by 7.1 percent in the first year. Two years after this frame shift (2011), it has maintained its earnings per share and, with the investment in this new strategy, its free cash flow is up 12.9 percent. Exploring multiple problem framings, by zooming out rather than in, gets you to the root of issues and more creative solutions. 
If you fail to do this, you risk solving the wrong problem.

Ironically, the more experience you have, the harder it will to break from conventional mindsets. Leading companies often get stuck in old business models. Kodak engineers developed an early version of the digital camera, while the rest of the company remained focused on chemical film processing. Microsoft executives doubted the value of online search as a revenue model. Barnes and Noble seemed convinced that people would always want a physical book in their hand.

In his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman attributes shallow framing to people substituting easy questions for hard ones. We often miss the crux of the issue by drawing imaginary connections between what we see and what we expect to see. As our own book Winning Decisions explains, the essence of critical thinking is to slow down this process, learn how to reframe problems, see beyond the familiar and focus on what is unique in any important decision situation. Here are four ways to hone these critical thinking skills:

1. Slow down.  Insist on multiple problem definitions before moving towards a choice. This doesn't need to be a time consuming process – just ask yourself or the group, “How else might we define this problem – what’s the core issue here?” This should become a standard part of every project scoping conversation you have, especially when the issue is new or complex.

2. Break from the pack. Actively work to buck conventional wisdom when facing new challenges or slowly deteriorating situations. Don’t settle for incremental thinking. Design ways to test deep held assumptions about your market. Of course, different is not always better so seek to understand the wisdom inherent in conventional wisdom as well as its blind spots.

3. Encourage disagreement. Debate can foster insight, provided the conflict is among ideas and not among people.  Increasingly, we live in a world where people can choose to interact only with those who agree with them, through Facebook friends, favorite news sources, or our social cliques. To escape from these cocoons and echo chambers, approach alternative views with an open mind. Don’t become a prisoner of your own myopic mental model.

4. Engage with mavericks. Find credible mavericks, those lonely voices in the wilderness who many dismiss, and then engage with them. It is not enough to simply be comfortable with disagreement when it happens to occur.  Critical thinkers seek out those who truly see the world differently and try hard to understand why. Often you will still disagree with these mavericks, but at times they will reframe your own thinking for the better.

How and Why to Be a Leader (Not a Wannabe) 07-28

How and Why to Be a Leader (Not a Wannabe)

We're in the midst of a Great Dereliction — a historic failure of leadership, precisely when we need it most. Hence it's difficult, looking around, to even remember what leadership is. We're surrounded by people who are expert at winning — elections, deals, titles, bonuses, bailouts, profit. And often, we're told: they're the ones we should look up to — because it's the spoils and loot that really matter.
But you know and I know: mere winners are not true leaders — not just because gaming broken systems is nothing but an empty charade of living; but because life is not a game. It isn't about what you have, and how much — but what you do, and why — if you're to live a life that matters.
Leadership — true leadership —is a lost art. Leaders lead us not to a place — but to a different kind of destination: to our better, truer selves. It is an act of love in the face of an uncertain world.
Perhaps, then, that's why there's so little leadership around: because we're afraid to even say the word love — let alone to feel it, weigh it, measure it, allow it, admit it, believe it, and so be transformed by it.
Wannabes — who I'll contrast leaders with in this essay — are literally just that: wannabes. They want to be who leaders are, but cannot: they want the benefits of leadership, without the price; they want the respect, dignity, and title of leadership, without leading people to lives that matter; they want the love leaders earn, act by painful act, without, in return, having the courage, humility, and wisdom to love.
When you think about chiefs, presidents, and prime ministers that way, I'd suggest that most of our so-called leaders are wannabes: those who want to be seen as leaders, without leading us anywhere but into stagnation, decline, fracture, fear, apathy, and comfortable, cheap pleasures that numb us to it all. Leaders — true leaders, those worthy of the word — do the very opposite: they lead us to truth, worth, nobility, wonder, imagination, joy, heartbreak, challenge, rebellion, meaning. Through love, they lead us to lives that matter. Wannabes impoverish us. Leaders enrich us.
So here are my six ways to start being a (real) leader — and stop being just another wannabe.
Obey — or revolt? Are you responding to incentives — or reshaping them? Here's the simplest difference between leaders and wannabes. Wannabes respond dully, predictably, neatly, to "incentives," like good little rational robots. They do it for the money and end up stifled by the very lives they choose. Leaders play a very different role. They don't just dully, robotically "respond" to "incentives" — their job is a tiny bit of revolution. And so they must reshape incentives, instead of merely responding to them. They have principles they hold dearer than next year's bonus — and so they think bigger and truer than merely about what they're "incentivized" to do. If you're easily bought off from what you really hold dear with a slightly bigger bonus, here's the plain fact: you're not a true leader.
Conform — or rebel? Are you breaking the rules or following them? The rules are there for a reason: to stifle deviation, preserve the status quo, and bring the outliers right back down to the average. That's a wonderful idea if you're running a factory churning out widgets — but it's a terrible notion if you're trying to do anything else. And so leaders must shatter the status quo by breaking the rules, leading by example,= so that followers know the rules not just can, but must be broken. If you're nail-bitingly following the rules, here's the score: you're not a true leader.
Value — or values? Why do people follow true leaders? Because leaders promise to take them on worthwhile journeys. The wannabe creates "value" for shareholders, for clients, for "consumers". But the leader creates what's more true, more enduring, more resonant: lives of real human worth. And they must do so by evoking in people values that matter, not merely "value" which is worthless. Which would you choose? In a heartbeat, most people choose the latter, because value without values is what reality TV is to a great book: empty, vacant, narrow, arid. If you're creating value — without setting values — you're not a leader: you're just a wannabe.
Vision — or truth? The wannabe sets a vision. With grandiloquent gesture and magnificent panorama, the vision glitters. The leader has a harder task: to tell the truth, as plain as day, as obvious as dawn, as sure as sunrise, as inescapable as midnight. Vision is nice, and many think that a Grand Vision is what inspires people. They're wrong. If you really want to inspire people, tell them the truth: there's nothing that sets people free like the truth. The leader tells the truth because his fundamental task is that of elevation: to bring forth in people their better selves. And while we can climb towards a Grand Vision, it's also true that the very act of perpetually climbing may be what imprisons us in lives we don't really want (hi, Madison Ave, Wall St, and Silicon Valley). Truth is what elevates us; what opens us up to possibility; what produces in us the sense that we must become who were meant to be if we are to live worthy lives — and one of the surest tests of whether you're a true leader is whether you're merely (yawn, shrug, eyeroll) slickly selling a Grand Vision, or, instead, helping bring people a little closer to the truth. And if you have to ask what "truth" is (newsflash: climate change is real, the global economy is still borked, greed isn't good, bankers shouldn't earn a billion times what teachers do, CEOs shouldn't get private jets for life for running companies into the ground, the sky really is blue) — guess what? You're definitely not a leader.
Archery — or architecture? Wannabes are something like metric-maximizing robots. Given a set of numbers they must "hit," they beaver away trying to hit them. The leader knows their job is very different: not merely to maximize existing metrics, which are often part of the problem (hi, GDP, shareholder value), but to reimagine them. The leader's job is, fundamentally, not merely to "hit a target" — but to redesign the playing field. It's architecture, not mere archery. If you're hitting a target, you're not a leader. You're just another performer, in an increasingly meaningless game.
love — or Love. Many of us, it's true, choose jobs we "love" over those we don't, readily sacrificing a few bucks here and there in the process. But this isn't love as much as it is enjoyment. Love — true love, the real thing, big-L Love — is every bit as much painful as it is pleasant. It transforms us. And that is the surest hallmark of a true leader. They have a thirst not merely for love — but to love; a thirst that cannot be slaked merely through accomplishments, prizes, or honors. It can only, only be slaked through transformation; and that is why true leaders must, despite the price, through the pain, into the heart of very heartbreak itself, lead.
And yet.
We're afraid, you and I, of this word: love. Afraid of love because love is the most dangerously explosive substance the world has ever known, will ever know, and can ever know. Love is what frees the enslaved and enslaves the free. Because love, finally, is all: all we have, when we face our final moments, and come to know that life, at last, must have been greater than us if we are to feel as if it has mattered.
The old men say: children, you must never, ever believe in love. Love is heresy. Believe in our machines. Believe in operation and calculation. Place your faith in being their instruments. Our perfect machines will bring you perfection.
I believe lives as cold as steel will only yield a world as cruel as ice. I believe cool rationality and perfect calculation can take us only a tiny distance towards the heart of what is good, true, and timelessly noble about life. Because there is no calculus of love. There is no equation for greatness. There is no algorithm for imagination, virtue, and purpose.
Even a perfect machine is just a machine.
If we are to lead one another, we will need the heresy of love. We must shout at yesterday in the language of love if we are to lead one another. Not just to tomorrow, but to a worthier destination: that which we find in one another.
It's often said that leaders "inspire". But that's only half the story. Leaders inspire us because they bring out the best in us. They evoke in us our fuller, better, truer, nobler selves. And that is why we love them — not merely because they paint portraits of a better lives, but because they impel us to be the creators of our own.
Reproduced from Harvard Business Review

3 Ways to Excel at Work 07-28

3 Ways to Excel at Work

Imagine this. You're having a great day. You're checking things off the to do list.

Then boom! You hit a wall worse than a marathoner bonking at mile 20.
You want to crawl under your desk for the next hour. When you finally recover, you've lost an hour that you some how have to make up for. Most people either stay late or work from home at night.
This is just one of many examples of how we survive at work instead of excel. Unfortunately, just surviving seems widespread since some 74 percent of people wouldn't mind a new job according to Forbes.
So how do you excel at work?
Most of us think we have to go the extra mile. Work harder. Take more on.
The real secret to excelling at work is learning to better fuel your body and soul. In this case, we're talking about learning how to thrive. The following three easy steps will help you excel at work with more productivity and engagement.
Feed Your Brain
With the decrease in manufacturing jobs, we have become an intellectual economy. Whether services or products, most employees are hired for their brain not their brawn. Even retail, customer care and sales people must use their brains if they want to excel, thrive and earn bigger commissions.
Most people, however, are feeding their brains on survival mode. A 2004 study showed that ¾ of all restaurant meals were from fast food. Despite the success of the Food Network and cooking shows, we are eating most meals from the Standard American Diet playbook -- sodas, energy drinks, sugar, fried foods and refined and processed foods. The truth is, we can do all the Sudoku we want to improve our brain function, but it's of little benefit if we aren't providing our brain the nutrients it needs to create more neurons for better thinking.
To excel, you must start eating brain foods. Specifically eat a diet rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats like nuts, avocados, cold-water fish, deep green vegetables like spinach and kale and pumpkins seeds. Antioxidants are another great brain food and can be found in berries, high quality chocolate and cruciferous vegetables (e.g. kale, broccoli and cauliflower).
Excel Tip: For managers looking to get more brain power out of their employees, work with your facilities and human resources managers to ditch the soda and snacks machines and stock the kitchen with brain healthy foods. Some examples are: walnuts, pumpkin seeds, fruit especially berries, fruit smoothies, guacamole, snack bars with nuts, dates and flaxseeds.
Sleep Is Not For Slackers
At a National Association of Women Business Owner panel I attended several months ago, I listened in horror as each CEO of a multi-million dollar company was proudly sharing how she was sleep deprived. They wore their sleep deprivation like a badge of honor.
Sadly, these successful women were teaching that to create a growing, thriving business you must give up sleep. But sleep deprivation puts us in survival mode once we get to work, where we are constantly seeking out sugar and caffeine to make it through the day.
I asked myself, what if they hadn't given up on sleep? What if they had drawn a line and insisted on eight hours sleep? Might their company be even more successful?
The research certainly supports that notion. We see the amount of sleep college students get affecting grades by as much as a whole letter grade for each hour of additional sleep.
Lack of sleep reduces productivity. The April edition of the Harvard Business Reviewreported on a study at Singapore Management University about sleep deprivation and productivity. The study showed that for every hour of sleep that was interrupted, the participants spent 20 percent more time "cyberloafing" (i.e., personal email and checking social networking sites instead of working. Not exactly excelling.
Excel Tip: Make 8-hours sleep a daily non-negotiable. If you think that will be the kiss of death at work (like I did), take this data to your boss and suggest changing your work hours, or working from home so you can skip your commute.
Practice Giving
A giving work place culture translates into a high energy, thriving work culture. Specifically, giving yields higher-profitability, productivity, efficiency and customer satisfaction, according to research by Nathan Podsakoff of the University of Arizona. Giving also translates to lower costs and turnover rates.
As an employee looking to excel, giving can be your secret weapon.
When you are in survival mode, you feel pressed for time, huddled at your computer, typing away, just trying to get it all done, not making waves and hoping the next round of budget cuts doesn't land you in the unemployment line. Giving is not something you're thinking of when you're just surviving and that can be holding you back.
Giving makes us feels good and that is the key to excelling at work or any endeavor. Giving also releases endorphins that make us happy. I suspect this happiness leads to more creativity and engagement and thus the business results found by Podsakoff.
Excel Tip: A couple of times a day, get up and visit a co-worker for a few minutes. Find out what they are working on and how you might be able to help. Even if you can only offer them a different perspective on the problem they are working on you will have served, you increase your value to the company and you feel good.
Sometimes it's the small changes we make in our behavior that have the most profound results. Excelling at work doesn't have to be complicated. Sure continual learning and skills acquisition is important, but these simple steps can yield big results.

The profound Journey of Compassion 07-28

The Profound Journey of Compassion

A human child is born, and for quite a long time is a consumer. It cannot be consciously a contributor. It is helpless. It doesn't know how to survive, even though it is endowed with an instinct to survive. It needs the help of mother, or a foster mother, to survive. It can't afford to doubt the person who tends the child. It has to totally surrender, as one surrenders to an anesthesiologist.
It has to totally surrender. That implies a lot of trust. That implies the trusted person won't violate the trust. As the child grows, it begins to discover that the person trusted is violating the trust. It doesn't know even the word "violation." Therefore, it has to blame itself, a wordless blame, which is more difficult to really resolve -- the wordless self-blame.
As the child grows to become an adult: so far, it has been a consumer, but the growth of a human being lies in his or her capacity to contribute, to be a contributor. One cannot contribute unless one feels secure, one feels big, one feels: I have enough.
To be compassionate is not a joke. It's not that simple. One has to discover a certain bigness in oneself. That bigness should be centered on oneself, not in terms of money, not in terms of power you wield, not in terms of any status that you can command in the society, but it should be centered on oneself. The self: you are self-aware. On that self, it should be centered -- a bigness, a wholeness. Otherwise, compassion is just a word and a dream.
You can be compassionate occasionally, more moved by empathy than by compassion.Thank God we are empathetic. When somebody's in pain, we pick up the pain.
In a Wimbledon final match, these two guys fight it out. Each one has got two games. It can be anybody's game. What they have sweated so far has no meaning. One person wins. The tennis etiquette is, both the players have to come to the net and shake hands. The winner boxes the air and kisses the ground, throws his shirt as though somebody is waiting for it.(Laughter) And this guy has to come to the net. When he comes to the net, you see, his whole face changes. It looks as though he's wishing that he didn't win. Why? Empathy.
That's human heart. No human heart is denied of that empathy. No religion can demolish that by indoctrination. No culture, no nation and nationalism -- nothing can touch it because it is empathy. And that capacity to empathize is the window through which you reach out to people, you do something that makes a difference in somebody's life -- even words, even time.
Compassion is not defined in one form. There's no Indian compassion. There's no American compassion. It transcends nation, the gender, the age. Why? Because it is there in everybody. It's experienced by people occasionally.
Then this occasional compassion, we are not talking about -- it will never remain occasional.By mandate, you cannot make a person compassionate. You can't say, "Please love me."Love is something you discover. It's not an action, but in the English language, it is also an action. I will come to it later.
So one has got to discover a certain wholeness. I am going to cite the possibility of being whole, which is within our experience, everybody's experience. In spite of a very tragic life,one is happy in moments which are very few and far between. And the one who is happy,even for a slapstick joke, accepts himself and also the scheme of things in which one finds oneself.
That means the whole universe, known things and unknown things. All of them are totally accepted because you discover your wholeness in yourself. The subject -- "me" -- and the object -- the scheme of things -- fuse into oneness, an experience nobody can say, "I am denied of," an experience common to all and sundry.
That experience confirms that, in spite of all your limitations -- all your wants, desires, unfulfilled, and the credit cards and layoffs and, finally, baldness -- you can be happy. But the extension of the logic is that you don't need to fulfill your desire to be happy. You are the very happiness, the wholeness that you want to be.
There's no choice in this: that only confirms the reality that the wholeness cannot be different from you, cannot be minus you. It has got to be you. You cannot be a part of wholeness and still be whole. Your moment of happiness reveals that reality, that realization, that recognition: "Maybe I am the whole. Maybe the swami is right.
Maybe the swami is right." You start your new life. Then everything becomes meaningful. I have no more reason to blame myself. If one has to blame oneself, one has a million reasons plus many. But if I say, in spite of my body being limited -- if it is black it is not white, if it is white it is not black: body is limited any which way you look at it. Limited.
Your knowledge is limited, health is limited, and power is therefore limited, and the cheerfulness is going to be limited. Compassion is going to be limited. Everything is going to be limitless. You cannot command compassion unless you become limitless, and nobody can become limitless, either you are or you are not. Period. And there is no way of your being not limitless too.
Your own experience reveals, in spite of all limitations, you are the whole. And the wholeness is the reality of you when you relate to the world. It is love first. When you relate to the world, the dynamic manifestation of the wholeness is, what we say, love. And itself becomes compassion if the object that you relate to evokes that emotion. Then that again transforms into giving, into sharing. You express yourself because you have compassion.
To discover compassion, you need to be compassionate. To discover the capacity to give and share, you need to be giving and sharing. There is no shortcut: it is like swimming by swimming. You learn swimming by swimming. You cannot learn swimming on a foam mattress and enter into water. (Laughter) You learn swimming by swimming. You learn cycling by cycling. You learn cooking by cooking, having some sympathetic people around you to eat what you cook. (Laughter)
And, therefore, what I say, you have to fake it and make it. (Laughter) You need to. My predecessor meant that. You have to act it out. You have to act compassionately.
There is no verb for compassion, but you have an adverb for compassion. That's interesting to me. You act compassionately. But then, how to act compassionately if you don't have compassion? That is where you fake. You fake it and make it. This is the mantra of the United States of America. (Laughter)
You fake it and make it. You act compassionately as though you have compassion: grind your teeth, take all the support system. If you know how to pray, pray. Ask for compassion.Let me act compassionately. Do it. You'll discover compassion and also slowly a relative compassion, and slowly, perhaps if you get the right teaching, you'll discover compassion is a dynamic manifestation of the reality of yourself, which is oneness, wholeness, and that's what you are.