Beyond Good Ideas: Collaboration (part one)

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I sat across from a friend who bemoaned the fact that he’d recently, “put on ten pounds and neglected the gym.” As he lamented his condition, he opened up another packet of ketchup for his fries.
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    My friend knows that fries, and his expanding waistline, are connected. He also understands that it would be a good idea to avoid those fries and re-engage the gym. Like all of us though, he experiences a gap between good ideas and daily action. Of course, this “idea-action gap” is not relegated to things like fries and inactivity. It’s something leaders and people in organizations face as well.

Leaders are prone to massage and flirt with good ideas. We enjoy the idea of ideas. Often though, idea-enjoyment doesn’t translate into action. We attend conferences, read books, discuss concepts, and imagine the better world ahead—once the ideas are implemented. All the while, execution lags behind or never occurs. Conferences, books, concepts and imagination are good things, no doubt. Yet, without execution, we’re just shoving the fries right back in our mouths.

    Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan, in their book, Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done (2002) wrote,

Everybody talks about change…But unless you translate big thoughts into concrete steps for action, they’re pointless. Without execution, the breakthrough thinking breaks down…What you get is change for the worse, because failure drains the energy from your organization. Repeated failure destroys it (p.19).

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So....for next week or so, I will occasionally throw in a post about getting beyond ideas and into real collaboration. 

Stay tuned...

Beyond Good Ideas: Collaboration (part one)2007-09-29T20:26:33-04:00

A new low for customer service

I almost didn't believe this story, but here it is. A woman spent hours trapped in a CT scan unit because the technicians forgot she was in the machine and WENT HOME. It took her hours to get out of the machine, and was finally freed from the building at 9 p.m.

Here's a snippet from the story, and here's the whole story.
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When Elvira Tellez came to the conclusion that 25 minutes had definitely gone by, she called out to get someone to help her out of the machine. She got no response.

Soon enough, fear overwhelmed Tellez and she began screaming but still got no response because the office had closed and everyone had left for the night.

“I was going crazy and I was crying to God to get me out,” Tellez said on Thursday. “I was thirsty, I needed to go to the bathroom and I was really scared.”

After hours of working to free her legs from the heavy blanket, Tellez slid out of the machine and nearly fell on the floor but managed to grab a table, she said.

When she walked out of the room she found the office was dark and she was the only person there, she said.

At about 9 p.m., she hysterically called Ariel, who lives in California. He told her to call 911 and at the same time he managed to contact the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.

Deputies arrived and had her unlock the office door to let them in, said Deputy Dawn Hanke, a Pima County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman. The deputies contacted the office manager who was not aware of the situation.
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First, o my gosh.

Second, everything from this point forward (for this medical facility) is determined by their response.

The only way out of this one is to push deeper into it and become (for a while) completely transparent to the public. These types of situations require clear internal changes and over communication of the changes to the public. The tendency would be for the  company to hide and not be available for comment--say ever again. But, that would be their demise.


A new low for customer service2007-09-28T06:57:29-04:00

An MBA in Experience

Last night I was teaching an MBA course (week one) on transformational leadership. One of the student's in the class was transitioning from a 25 year career with a well known canned food company. He was "replaced" through a corporate restructuring. He told the class he was getting an MBA to "ramp" up the second half of his career.

I was impressed that this guy, with tons of real life leadership and managerial experience, was willing to subject, yes subject, himself to an MBA. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of eductaion (if it's real world centric), but after 25 years as a manager "doing" what we talked about last night, I use the word "subject" to describe what he's doing. Hopefully, I can make the class worth his while.

As we made our way through the class, I kept thinking about the fact that this guy (along with others in the class), really already had their MBA's. We should just cut to the chase and grant it to them. Now, I will admit part of that idea makes me cringe. After paying the price to actually get a doctorate, I have this side of me that believes other's need to "pay the price" for a degree. But, then I think: this guy, in my class, is probably thinking the same thing I am, but from the other side of the lake.

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Guy in My Class: Good greif, I've actually gone through the process of DOING what we're TALKING about for 25 years. Shouldn't that count for something?
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Maybe we should give MBA's in experience. I'm not talking about the honorary kind, but the real deal.


Here's another mind blower:

If a person HAS an MBA they may be turned down (for a job) because they don't have any experience. If a person has 25 years of leadership experience, but NO MBA, they may be turned down (for a job) because they lack educational depth. Huh?


An MBA in Experience2007-09-25T13:44:00-04:00

Apple, the iPod nano (video) and great execution

Yesterday I was doing some work with a football game on in the background. All of the sudden, I noticed what appeared to be an Apple commercial. It looks like a new iPod. It's not the iTouch because the shape and texture is wrong. And then, like a magician pulling away the silk sheet (at the end of the commercial), the iPod Nano VIDEO is introduced.

My first thought after the commercial was this:

   Good grief Apple can get stuff done.

Great companies, and people, don't just talk about what should be done, they do it.

At the heart of great strategy is great execution. Apple may lead the way when it comes to executing product launches. Sure, most of Apple's products are iterations of earlier models. Nonetheless, they seem to come out with just the right iteration at just the right time.





Apple, the iPod nano (video) and great execution2007-09-24T06:24:28-04:00

IBM and Symphony Software

An article in the Wall street journal relayed that IBM is moving into the open source world by creating a suite of products to rival Microsoft's Office. The smart move is that IBM has decided to partner with openoffice.org. Though these new web-centric products have not yet "caught on" (in comparison to Microsoft's office), it's clearly just a matter of time before more and more of our software applications become web applications. Google's in the game, now IBM. Microsoft, where are you? Apple, where are you?
Oh, I know Microsoft and Apple are "in" but they sure don't act like it.

The bad news for IBM is that I went on their website to see some really cool presentation of "Symphony" (the new product) and I couldn't find anything. Why isn't this plastered on the front page? This is where Apple just crushes its competition. It actually talks "out loud" about its cool stuff. And, people actually listen.

IBM you're onto something with Symphony, why not talk about it, a lot! 

IBM and Symphony Software2007-09-18T07:20:00-04:00

There’s always two sides to every issue (even global warming)

OK, this guy is hilarious. I'm a big fan of Ken Wilber, a philosopher who may be one of the most brilliant minds on the planet. I found this guy through one of Wilber's websites.

Check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8JqXQ-FG3k

Warning: This guy is sometimes a bit "out there." He rates his videos. This one's PG, but other's are not. But, he drives home some really powerful points.

This video is one of the best examples of the fact that there are always to ways to look at any issue.

There’s always two sides to every issue (even global warming)2007-09-14T13:01:16-04:00

Green (and I don’t mean naive) leaders, with good footprints

We're all well aware of the need, as people, to be green (conserve energy) and watch what kind of carbon footprint we're leaving behind. The same is true for leaders. Great leaders understand how to sustain and increase energy. They also leave great "energy-prints" behind them.

This is the topic of the upcoming tele-seminar.

The Topic: Renewable Energy: Sustaining and increasing your energy as a leader
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This tele-seminar will explore the role of energy in the life of a leader and strategies we can use to restore and increase this precious gift. You may be surprised by the strategies.

Joining the Conversation: Simply send me an email at dave@davefleming.org that says, "Count Me In for September 17th." I will send you the participation number and code. 

Invite a friend to join you.

Green (and I don’t mean naive) leaders, with good footprints2007-09-13T10:06:05-04:00

If you’re a leader, your body may be one of your better coaches

This past week I was introduced to a person I may be coaching. It's not necessarily something he's really thrilled about. I can't understand why he's not chomping at the bit to spend quality time with me; but hey, I'll get over it. His superiors seem to think we would hit it off famously.

I knew he was less than thrilled NOT because of his words, but because of his body. Immediately after our introduction, his body went rigid, his face grew tight and he became physically uncomfortable with his surroundings. The message was twofold (and I editorialize here):

1) O crap, this is really going to happen

2) How do I get out of here?

In the past few weeks, as I've met with clients, I've been struck again about how much I can learn from a leader's body. In fact, if you know how to listen to your body, you can learn a lot about your leadership style, your emotional make-up in any given situation and how you are coming across to those around you.

Now, I would never want to draw major conclusions on body language alone. Sometimes it's wrong. But, the body language that matters to you as a leader is the the type that you repeat. If you're in a meeting and your jaw tightens every time someone challenges you, it might be time to ask this question:

What is my jaw trying to tell me about my leadership, in this moment, and why do I seem to get angry when challenged?

The beauty of our bodies is that they give us real-time feedback, if we know how to listen. What might your body be telling you today that could make you a better leader--a better person?  

If you’re a leader, your body may be one of your better coaches2007-09-11T10:49:21-04:00

Continuous improvement matters

We've known for a long time that continuous improvement matters in
organizations. But, the graph below drives the point home in a big way.

The iPod, and the amazingly cool iPhone, appealed to Wall Street because
the products kept (keep) getting better. This reminds us of an important
point:

Products (and services) that make a difference are the ones that become
better over time. No matter what your business is, this concept means
you need to keep working, refining, innovating, the good stuff you are
already doing (or have), so that over time more and more
people take notice.

The point: If you're looking to increase your exposure, do it by making
what's already great, even better.

Don't settle!

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The iPod was unveiled in 2001, but it took time for sales to reach
a level that impressed Wall Street. Here's a look at major iPod releases,
along with starting prices.

Continuous improvement matters2007-09-09T13:46:16-04:00

Do what you say, or just don’t say it

Recently I was sitting with a group of undergraduate business majors, talking about ways to enhance team performance. One of the student's relayed the fact that her supervisor chooses a day every week for the team to eat together and talk about how to make their workplace processes more effective.

Dave: OK, that's a good idea. Do you think the meeting helps the team work better together?

Student (eye rolls): We don't do it

Dave: You don't have the meeting?

Student: No, we meet; but all we do is eat. We never talk about anything that could make the team more effective--because by the time we're done talking about nothing, it's time to get to work.

The Point: Eating together is good. Talking about process improvement is good. Eating together and talking about process improvement is good. Telling the team they are going to eat together and talk about process improvement is good --UNLESS you don't do it. Then it's  a detriment to the team and the leader. 

A lack of follow through is killing the credibility of this leader and her breakfast club.

Solution: 1) Do what you say you are going to do

                            Actually eat and talk about process improvement   OR,

                2) Just don't say that the meeting is for process improvement. Instead, just eat, laugh and have fun. That way, you win either way.

The problem is when, as leaders, we make a big point to tell our teams we are going to do something and then never do it.

Do what you say, or just don’t say it2007-09-06T15:17:12-04:00

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Written by Dave Fleming