How to Transform A Sluggish Organization

sluggish organization

Leadership Skills for Breaking Inertia

One of my favorite leadership thinkers is Samuel Bacharach. Not only is he a regular columnist for Inc., an author, and a leadership speaker, but he is also the McKelvey-Grant Professor at Cornell University.

He recently released a book that I found to be an incredible addition to my leadership library. Transforming the Clunky Organization: Pragmatic Leadership Skills for Breaking Inertia is one of those books that will inspire both new and seasoned leaders with its practical advice and unique perspective.

If your organization is stuck and you need to break inertia and foster innovation, I can think of no better place to start than with this book.

 

“One of the great ironies of organizational life is that yesterday’s delivery becomes today’s inertia.” -Samuel Bacharach

 

Advance the Agenda

Why this book on leadership and why now?

In the last number of years there has been massive growth in books about leadership and trainings in leadership, but one fundamental question is not asked: What is it in an organizational context do we want leaders to accomplish?

If we are going to train and educate people in leadership, it has to be for a purpose. In an organizational context, that focus has to be on the capacity of people to come up with ideas, move ideas, implement them, create change and innovation, and get things done. In this context, what is important to me is pragmatic leadership—that is, the simple and clear tasks of execution. Not execution as global promise but as a series of skills that can be followed and achieved for results.

In The Agenda Mover: When Your Good Idea Is Not Enough, I discussed the micro-political skills that leaders at levels need to move their agenda: creating coalitions, overcoming resistance, negotiating, and establishing credibility. These often-ignored political skills were the focus of this volume.

Over the last three years I have been focusing on the question, “What do I want leaders to accomplish?” In my experience of some forty-odd years, I realize that great leaders are those who begin to have the sense of when their organization becomes stuck, sluggish, and trapped by inertia.  Great leaders break inertia. They appreciate the dangers of inertia and do something about it. They also understand that organizations may be sluggish and in the doldrums of inertia, even though they continue functioning. These leaders understand that although inertia may not necessarily lead to immediate failure, inertia may impede their organization’s capacity to reach its potential. Transforming the Clunky Organization focuses on the characteristics of organizations that get trapped by inertia and, in turn, suggests leadership skills and strategies leaders can use to overcome sluggishness and inertia.

 

“Organizations get stuck because of sluggishness and inertia. Great leaders know how to break inertia.” -Samuel Bacharach

 

Why Organizations Become Sluggish

Develop the Leader Habit

Master the Skills to Lead

We generally don’t think of leadership as a habit, but it’s time that we do.  How we get things done at work, and how we manage people, is the result of habits – and those habits can be purposefully changed.

Martin Lanik is an organizational psychologist and the CEO of Pinsight®, a global leadership software-as-service company known for its disruptive HR technology.  His new book, THE LEADER HABIT:  Master the Skills You Need to Lead in Just Minutes a Day, shares the science behind how people develop habits and shows you how to develop key leadership skills through simple, daily exercises.

 

“Any leadership skill starts as a weakness.” -Martin Lanik

 

Why Most Leadership Programs Fail

Why do most leadership development programs fail?

There are two main reasons why most leadership development programs fail. First, they rely mainly on classroom training and workshops that focus on acquisition of knowledge. Not only do we forget 85% of what we learn within one week, but knowledge also doesn’t equal skill. Knowledge doesn’t make us better at actually doing things.  One of the examples I use in THE LEADER HABIT comes from music education: You can take classes on proper piano-playing techniques and watch YouTube videos, but that won’t make you a concert pianist. You must actually touch the keyboard and practice every day. But even more importantly, traditional leadership development fails to take into account the overwhelming influence that habits have on our daily behavior. It assumes that we rationally decide how we behave at work and in life. But research suggests that almost half of our everyday behavior is actually unconscious and automatic. No amount of classroom instruction alone can build effective leadership habits.

 

“What cannot habit accomplish?” -Herman Melville

 

Tell us more about the latest science on learning and the development of the Leader Habit Formula.

Leadership, at its core, is a set of habits. How we interact with coworkers, customers, how we answer the phone, make decisions, plan and delegate work, or empower our employees are all to some degree influenced by habits. Positive habits make us better leaders, while negative habits hinder our performance.  In the research we did for THE LEADER HABIT and for our online leadership training platform, we identified the 22 core leadership skills and the underlying micro-behaviors that effective leaders possess. By associating each micro-behavior with a natural cue and then deliberately practicing this pairing every day for 66 days, anyone can turn these effective leadership behaviors into habits. Once the new habits take root, people perform these effective leadership behaviors automatically, without having to rely on reminders, or even thinking about them. They just happen as seamlessly as making your bed in the morning.

 

“Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” -Vince Lombardi

 

What are some ways to incorporate this science into today’s training programs?

Training professionals should think about what happens after the class or workshop. What will happen with the concepts? How can you help learners turn these concepts into habits, so that they stick? The Leader Habit Formula tells us to distill the main concepts into specific actions or thoughts, associate them with a cue, and then ask learners to practice the pairing once per day for 66 days. For example, if you are teaching leaders how to delegate better, distill the knowledge about effective delegation into one actionable behavior. For example, we found that effective leaders tell employees what to do but not how to do it when they delegate projects and tasks (otherwise it’s micromanagement). Then associate the action with a specific cue, such as when the learner decides to delegate a project or task. And there you have a Leader Habit exercise that anyone can practice: After deciding to delegate a project or task, describe what needs to be accomplished but let the employee figure out how to do it. If the learners practice this exercise for 66 days, they form a new habit and become better at delegating. It’s that simple.

 

“Habit is stronger than reason.” -George Santayana

 

22 Core Skills of Successful Leaders

Asking for Help is a Sign of Strength

Leadership Skill: Asking for Help

I don’t even recall how the argument started.

Somehow a simple text message morphed from a few sentences to an arrow that found its mark, spearing into an area that was still inflamed from other hits.

You know how that happens. A few words conjure up deeply-held emotions, past hurts, yet unspoken pain.

We worked it out, my friend and I, and our friendship survived and deepened because of it.

At the end of one difficult conversation, he said something that stuck with me: “Skip, you may think you’re fully transparent, and I guess in some ways you are. But,” his voice trailed off.

I waited, wondering what the next words would be.

“But, you’re not really good at asking for help.”

For many years, I’ve told the people who work for me that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

There is truth to Richard Bach’s quote, “We teach best what we most need to learn.”

 

“We teach best what we most need to learn.” -Richard Bach

 

My Request for Help

Keep reading to see my personal request for help. I can’t tell you how appreciative I am for the assistance.

 

Learn to Ask for Help

I prefer to give—to be someone who serves. When I was a teenager, I worked in a restaurant and just felt better when I was the one pouring a drink rather than sitting there getting served. It just makes me comfortable. I’d rather host a party than attend one.

Pride can stop us from asking others. But so can humility. Pride says, “I have no need of anyone because I can do anything.” Humility says, “My needs are not worthy enough to bother anyone.”

So you can’t judge the “why” behind someone not asking.

Learning to ask for help just seems harder for some people than for others. When others ask in a polite manner for something, I’m in awe. It impresses me. I guess because it’s hard for me to do. And it’s a crucially important leadership skill.

Keep reading to the bottom and see what I’m asking.

 

Asking for help:

Shows vulnerability.

Brene Brown teaches the power of vulnerability. She says that, “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”

 

Increases our connectedness.

Nadeem Aslam writes, “Pull a thread here and you’ll find it’s attached to the rest of the world.” As I ask you to help me, I’m increasing that attachment to you and to others.

5 Ways to Manifest Your Inner Leader

inner leader
Maurice De Castro is the Founder of Mindful Presenter. Maurice is a former corporate executive of some of the UK’s most successful brands. Maurice believes that the route to success in any organization lies squarely in its ability to really connect with people. That’s why he left the boardroom to create a business helping leaders to do exactly that. Learn more.

 

Your Inner Leader

Everyone knows that leadership skills are essential in the modern workplace. These skills are not just reserved for CEOs like Richard Branson and Marissa Mayer. Everyone has the potential to become a leader, but a lack of confidence or uncertainty often holds them back. Learning to manifest your inner leader will have countless benefits for your career and self-development, even if your badge or position never says the word “Manager.”

 

1. Fail Every Day

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.” – Confucius

 

Failure is an essential part of growing into a great leader. You learned to ride a bike. You fell over a few times, scuffed your knees. But you got up and learned how to do it. Through that failure you learned how to keep your balance. Now riding a bike is second nature.

Failure is only what you perceive it to be. So go out and fail at something every day. Then learn from it. Embrace the new experiences many little failures bring. You’ll be more humble and open to learning than you’ve ever been.

Whether it’s writing an email, using the wrong tone of voice in a sales call, or messing up a presentation to the board, no one is perfect, and you can throw the old adage that “great leaders are born” in the bin, too.

Reflect, review, learn.

Grow.

 

2. Lean into Your Fears

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

 

The world’s a scary place. Your boss is scary. Delivering a presentation to the board is terrifying. If something doesn’t scare you, then you probably won’t learn from it. All great leaders have had to face their fears at some point in their lives.

To start manifesting your inner leader today, lean into your fears. Start with a task that scares you a little bit. This might be something as simple as picking up the phone to speak to a manager about your idea. See your fear as a challenge you need to overcome.

Got some bigger fears you need to overcome? Get guidance and support. You’re not on your own with facing your fears. Tap into your network, and you’ll be seeing how much you can achieve when you step outside of your comfort zone.

A good leader knows their fears, but doesn’t shy away from confronting and developing them.

 

3. Think. Speak. Inspire Like a leader.

5 New Leadership Literacies to Prepare for the Future

How Leaders Thrive in a Future of Extreme Disruption

If you want to get ready for the future, you need new leadership literacies. That’s what noted futurist Bob Johansen teaches those who aspire to lead well into the future. If you’re a rising star and want to prepare for what’s ahead, this book outlines future trends and skills you need in the decades to come.

Bob Johansen is a distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future in Silicon Valley. He has worked with global organizations from P&G to Disney. He’s the author or co-author of ten books. His newest is The New Leadership Literacies: Thriving in a Future of Extreme Disruption and Distributed Everything.

 

“Leaders will be very good at seeding hope for others.” -Bob Johansen

 

Warning: Disruptions Ahead

Share a few current trends that will disrupt everything in the next ten years.

I distinguish between trends (patterns of change you can extrapolate with confidence) and disruptions (breaks in the patterns of change). The next ten years will be a VUCA World—Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous—and it will get worse over the next decade. On the other hand, it will be possible to succeed, make the world a better place, and even thrive in the VUCA World. These new literacies will allow you to thrive, not just survive.

We think we are connected today, but the next 10 years will be a period of explosive connectivity and asymmetric upheaval. In this future world of dramatically amplified digital connectivity, anything that can be distributed will be distributed.

 

“Leaders will perform best at the edge of their competence.”-Bob Johansen

 

Master Distributed Leadership

You say that, “Leadership will be much less centralized and more distributed,” which seems to be happening today and accelerating more tomorrow. How will this impact us? How will organizational structures change in the future?

Shape-shifting organizations have no center, and they can’t be controlled. Hierarchies will come and go as they are needed. Hierarchies will become less common since they are more rigid.

Anything that can be distributed will be distributed.

 

“Leadership will be much less centralized and more distributed in the future.”-Bob Johansen

 

Copyright Bob Johansen; Used by Permission

 

“Leaders will have to practice foresight, insight, and action.”-Bob Johansen