Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Forget being PC - Results Count!

If you look through history for examples of great leaders they all have 1 thing in common. They have achieved amazing results. I cannot find one person who has achieved nothing or little who is considered a great leader. BAsed on this it seems reasonable to assume that the ultimate measure of leadership is the results that are achieved. Maybe the correlation is not perfect but it is there and it is strong.

To me this is remarkably uncontroversial however as I have talked to others about this many people are horrified at the idea that results are the ultimate measure of leadership. For them the way the result is achieved is just as important if not more important than the results themselves. Generally you can summarise their view as being the means are more important than the ends and the ends do not always justify the means.

This is a moral dilemma and clearly there are cases where the ends do not justify the means. This is particularly true where the freedom to choose is not present or is significantly diminished. Examples of this would include living within a dictatorial or repressive regime or in relationship, especially an abusive relationship, where one party seeks and achieves complete dominance over another. However where there is freedom to choice I wonder about the practical impact of this moral dilemma. If there is freedom people cannot be compelled they must agree to participate.

In a business context which is my primary interest for now no one can be compelled. If they do not like the “means”, the way results are achieved they can and do vote with their feet and leave. If we can accept then a pretext of freedom to choose then ultimately leadership must be judged by the results that are achieved. If this is true then the ultimate leadership question is….

"Is there a recipe or formula that can be used to guarantee, or at least enhance, the chances of achieving the results they desire and therefore leadership success?”

I think there is such a formula. Based on my study to date (which I will admit is somewhat random) here is a starter for 10 on what I think it takes to be a successful leader:

1. Lead yourself. If you are not capable of effectively and constructively leading yourself how can you lead others? The best exposition of this that I have read is Stephen Covey's 7 Habits.

2. Articulate your purpose or mission (why you exist) and your values (what's important to you).

3. Get clear on what you want to achieve (vision and goals) and on how you will know if you are successful (measures).

4. Work out what needs to be done to get you from where you are today to achieving your goals (strategy). Monitor progress using the measures and adjust your actions as required.

5. Enrol others to join you on the journey and to contribute everything they can to ensure the success of the journey. Two great books on this that I have read lately are:
The 4 Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive by Patrick Lencioni
Intrinsic Motivation at Work by Kenneth Thomas.

6. Don't give up until you succeed. Stay true to the vision but adjust your actions based on your results until you get there.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Living Inside Out

Over the last 12 months or so I have been lucky enough to complete a number of "personal development" programs and events. Each of these was different and I played very different roles fro participant to coach to leader of the team. One of concepts that has really stayed with me and changed my outlook on life has been the concept of "be, do have" as a driving force for how to live life. It is not the first time that I have been exposed to this concept (one of the best is Stephen Covey's 7 Habits) but it really stuck with me. This happened when I was at StepUp and at once I understood that I had been living my life the wrong way round. I have subsequently built on this understanding so that for the first time I now believe I understand the power of identity to shape my experience in life.

What exactly do I mean by living my life the wrong way round? Well I spend large parts of my life focusing on what I what to have. As I reflect on this I think this is a reflection of my and societies focus on goals and achieving goals. Focusing on goals isn't bad but actually if all you do is focus on the goal this doesn't actually help you to achieve the goal. An example. Those who know me probably privately wonder why I never address the issue of my excessive weight. The reality of my life is I think about this all the time and over the years I have created many very detailed goals and images of how I would like my body to look. As I look back some of these goals or images are quite funny and embarrassing. At one stage the six million dollar man loomed large because why wouldn't you want to be able to run at 60 miles per hour!!! One thing you can be certain of is none of these images had excess body fat!! . As I get older and thought I knew more about goal setting this process became quite sophisticated. You could guarantee I had SMART goals!! (SMART - specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time bound). But here I am not the trim bloke of my visions!!

So why didn't I achieve my goal. The answer probably seems obvious - I didn't actually do anything!!! Or to be more precise I didn't do anything different than I had been doing previously or if I did I didn't keep it up or do it well enough!! So focusing on what you want to have is useless unless it translates into consistent action to achieve. No let's reconsider. Focusing on your goals is worse than useless unless it leads to action. Worse than useless because as you focus on what you want to have, you come to inescapable conclusion that your life is not what it should be or that you want it to be!!! If this sense of lacking is a consistent experience it's depressing. Ever noticed that when you are depressed or in my case perhaps more realistically "a little down" the last thing you think about doing is taking serious action to achieve something. As time goes by and the goal doesn't happen you begin to realise you're unlikely to ever have it and you give up. What a BUMMER that feeling is!!

So focusing on what you want to have is great but getting it requires that you do something. Actually it requires that you do whatever it takes to achieve the goal!! So how do you get yourself to do something?? Knowledge is not enough. I know what I need to do to loose weight and create the body and energy levels I want. Indeed we all know. Eat less (and more healthily) and exercise more. It's a basic law of the universe - energy in minus energy out equals’ weight gain or weight loss.

So how do I get myself to act? Perhaps more precisely who would I need to be in order to do things that need to be done to have the result? I pondered this problem for quite some time with no real success. Then it hit me!! The insanely simple truth is I would have to be the type of person who exercised more and ate less!! So what's stopping me?? This answer came quickly. I am not the sort of person who exercises quickly and who wants to eat good nutritious food!! It is not how I see myself. Yes I have just discovered the power of identify. Who you believe you are governs who you are!!

This raises two big questions. Who do I actually believe I am? How do I change who I think I am (and do I really want to)? This is too much for one little story and I am not sure I actually know the answer!!! For now however I have a breakthrough - live life from the inside out - BE-DO-HAVE.