Anticipate: The Art of Leading by Looking Ahead

Navigating Change

Studies show that the companies that navigate change well last the longest.

Why do some corporate leaders navigate through massive change while others seem oblivious to it?

How do you position your organization ahead of the trends?

Is it possible to learn to anticipate and prepare for the future?

 

Rob-Jan De Jong is a speaker, consultant and faculty member at Wharton’s executive program on Global Strategic Leadership. His new book, Anticipate: The Art of Leading by Looking Ahead, outlines what it takes to become a visionary leader. Sharing examples and principles from his research, Rob-Jan’s mission is to increase your personal visionary capacity.  I recently had the opportunity to ask him about vision and the art of looking ahead.

 

“Anyone can grow their visionary capacity.” –Rob-Jan De Jong

 

3 Keys to Unleashing Vision at All Levels

As a CEO, I just loved this sentence:  “Vision is not an exclusive for those in top ranked positions.”  It’s really something for everyone, not only those with a title.  How do corporate leaders unleash creativity and vision at all levels of the organization?

  1. Empowerment and trust. 

An important success factor is around empowerment and trust.  A directive company culture is detrimental for people’s engagement.  Having a sense of influence is a prerequisite for getting people to become involved in the hard work of engaging with uncertainty and anticipating the future.

 

“Vision is not an exclusive for those in top ranked positions.” –Rob-Jan De Jong

 

  1. Fault Tolerance.

A second critical factor is fault tolerance. This naturally goes with empowerment – people will get it right and every so often they will get it wrong. These are the important moments of truth for you as the leader, as your response will set the standard for the culture that shapes from these moments. People will be on the lookout about how serious you are about empowerment. My simple suggestion is to not focus on what went wrong but to focus on what the person has learned.

 

“Visioning, future engagement, anticipation is a skill set and a mindset.” –Rob-Jan De Jong

 

  1. Enabling Others.

And a third factor that should not be underestimated is that you will also need to enable your people to do this. Visioning, future engagement, anticipation is a skill set and a mindset. And it is often a step aside from the environment people have grown accustomed to, so you will need to enable your people to strengthen themselves in this area.

That might sound like blatant promotion for my work and my book, but I’m absolutely convinced that this has been a gap in management theory.  Despite the widely acknowledged importance of ‘vision’ in leadership, little – if any – systematic support has been provided in terms of developing your visionary side as a leader in a responsible way.  Scholars, business schools and strategy textbooks agree that a vision is one of the most powerful instruments a leader can have.  And how you go about developing this side of your leadership has been met with tremendous silence.

It was my intention to fill part of this gap by offering a comprehensive perspective on the topic, original ideas, a developmental framework, various practices, and many stories and anecdotes to draw lessons from.

 

“Vision, the hallmark of leadership, is less a derivative of spreadsheets and more a product of the mind called imagination.” –Abraham Zaleznik

 

Learning to Be Visionary

Leading Women: Secrets to Leadership, Business and Life

Secrets to Leadership, Business and Life

Do women face a unique relationship with power?

Do successful women pay a “popularity penalty”?

How do women unlock their personal power?

Nancy D. O’Reilly, PsyD, is a clinical psychologist, author, speaker, and an expert in empowering women. She is the founder of Women Connect4Good, Inc., and for seven years she has interviewed influential women for online podcasts available on her website. Her new book Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business and Life is aimed at helping women maximize personal power and improve their self-esteem and business success.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with her about her research and findings about women’s leadership, influence, and power.

 

“I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.” –Helen Keller

 

Now Is the Time

Despite some of the statistics you cite about income and other inequalities, you have a strong optimism about “now” as a wonderful time for women. Why the optimism?

I’ve been working for women empowerment all of my professional life. When I went back to college, and then during my doctoral research, very few people were talking about women empowerment. I felt very lonely.

Now, everywhere I look, people are talking about empowering women: self-help books, networking and mentoring groups, even the media. And why not? Women buy 85% of goods and services; it’s time for our voices to be heard. And as women are getting better at working together, I see a movement in which we claim our power and help one another create a better world.

 

“When we do things even though we are afraid, we grow.” -@DrNancyOReilly

 

“Successful women pay a popularity penalty.” Would you explain that a bit more? What should a successful woman do?

When a woman is successful, she risks denigration by her competitors, the media and other women and men. Studies show the more successful a woman is, the less “likeable” she is perceived to be. Look at a Hillary Clinton, when she was the most popular woman in the world and running for president, she had to deal with comments about her dress, her hair, how old she looked. It constantly undermined her credibility. Lois Phillips, one of my Leading Women co-authors, describes how women can build their credibility at the beginning of a speech, which men rarely have to do. Their credibility is assumed just because they are at the podium.

 

“One woman can change anything; many women can change everything.” –Christine Karumba

 

Think About the Next 15 Minutes

Treating Employees Like Associates

This is a guest post by J.D. “Dave” Power III,
 Founder of J.D. Power and Associates. Dave is the subject of a new book  POWER: How J.D. Power III Became the Auto Industry’s Adviser, Confessor, and Eyewitness to History.

Empower Others

In 1982, Tom Peters and Bob Waterman profiled a number of successful companies in their book In Search of Excellence. One section profiled two companies that had done well by valuing employees: Hewlett Packard, founded in 1939, and Walmart, founded in 1962.

My company, J.D. Power and Associates, was more than a dozen years old by the time the book came out, but I remember thinking how similar my approach to managing people was to that of Sam Walton, Bill Hewlett, and Dave Packard. Like Walton, I called my employees “associates” — something I was so committed to that I included them in the company name alongside my own.  And like Hewlett and Packard, I saw the empowerment of individuals as the best way for the whole organization to achieve success.

 

The empowerment of individuals is the best way for the organization to achieve success. –JD Power

 

Peters and Waterman tracked down the sources of HP and Walmart’s management philosophies: Sam Walton had learned about working with people at J.C. Penney and modeled many of his company’s core values on that culture. For Hewlett and Packard, it was lessons learned by working with government offices and for other electronics companies that taught them what not to do.

Treat Employees Like Associates

For me, the foundation of my philosophy for how to treat people — central to my management style — came from observations of what to do and not to do, and those observations started early.

I have always been a student of why people behave the way they do. This goes back to my family, my dad and his explanations to me, and to school. I think I learned a lot in grade school and college about why people do what they do and to have a respect for what they’re doing.

My father, a high school English teacher, was always giving me advice that proved invaluable in running a company. The path he took in his life was the furthest thing from business, but he had a keen sense of the way the world worked and very intelligent insights about people. While I was still in school he told me, “When you’re in charge of people, don’t ask them to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself.”

My first opportunity to put this advice to use was in the Coast Guard.  As an officer stationed on an icebreaker, I was in a position to manage crewmembers from every state in the union and of different races and economic backgrounds.  Many of these men, working as enginemen or boatswains or in the officer mess deck, were just out of high school or were crusty career enlisted men with little patience for young officers.  I made it a point to treat them all with respect and, above all, to talk with and listen to them.  I felt that some other officers, especially the ring-knockers who had come out of the academy, relied far too much on the number of stripes they had to bolster their authority — and I also saw the pitfalls of doing so.  The officers who did not listen to the crew often found it difficult to achieve their goals.  And examples of this behavior went all the way to the top, to the captain in place when I began my first deployment.

This captain created conditions for the crew to misbehave and then came down hard on these young men when they took advantage of the opportunity.  But his gravest mistake, in my view, was an unwillingness to listen to the thoughts of the people who were subordinate to him.

The Outs and Ins of Employee Loyalty

What’s In and What’s Out?

The era of employees signing up to work at a single company for their entire adult lives has long been over.  The importance of differentiating and branding yourself has never been more important.  The best employees have options. They are always on a recruiter’s radar. They often have a resume ready. If your best hope of retaining them is a counteroffer, then you have already lost the war. Consider these ideas if you want to increase your employee retention.

OUT

Helping employees only with their jobs and specific skills to improve productivity.

IN

Helping employees with their lives, which recognizes them as individuals who have needs outside of work.

OUT

Keeping employees at arm’s length and in a strict business relationship. Getting too close clouds your judgment.

IN

Taking the time to know them. Ignore the old advice and become friends. Employees are more likely to be loyal to someone considered a friend.

OUT

Telling employees that promotions are rare, that Jane is never going to retire and to “forget it,” that they will be blocked from transferring elsewhere.

IN

Brainstorming various ways to boost earnings, potential and career options to move within a company.

OUT

Employees nodding their heads like parrots at everything the boss says.

IN

Constructive disagreement, polite dissent, and compromise.

Employee Loyalty

OUT

The rulebook. Everything has a strict procedure and no room for individual deviations or decisions.

7 Facts of Business Success

Photo by melanie_hughes on flickr.

 

After over forty years of owning businesses, Bill McBean shares the success factors that propelled his ventures to new heights. Whether turning around underperforming auto dealerships or forming new investing and administrative services companies, Bill has seen what works and what doesn’t. He recently wrote The Facts of Business Life: What Every Successful Business Owner Knows that You Don’t, and I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his formula for business success.

Why do most businesses not achieve the level of success that they should?

It’s usually a combination of reasons versus one specific reason. These reasons are, in no particular order: 1) an opportunity with little potential for gross profit and net profit; 2) a lack of knowledge of the important elements, or basic fundamentals which create success; 3) a lack of leadership knowledge of how to move a business “from here to there”; 4) a lack of knowledge of how to compete; 5) a lack of overall business knowledge (not to be confused with industry knowledge).9781118094969 cover.indd

This is not a comprehensive list, but in my opinion from what I have seen they make up the vast majority of business failure or lack of success — and it’s rarely just one of these reasons. Instead it is a combination that can kill or seriously hinder the success of a business.

Your book outlines seven “facts” that successful business owners understand and utilize. We don’t have time to go into all of them, but how did you develop and choose these seven?

 

It probably wouldn’t surprise you if I told you these ‘facts’ chose me rather than me choosing them. By this I mean in all my years of business ownership these 7 facts were the ones which cost me the most money — either in not optimizing an opportunity or by not paying enough attention to a particular fact that ended up taking a big bite out of my wallet.