Wally is a coach, consultant, and popular speaker to audiences in North America and elsewhere. He focuses on front-line leadership, and brings to his work all that he indelibly learned as a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps—first and foremost that a leader’s job has two parts: accomplish the mission and care for your people.
Wally’s latest book, Ruthless Focus, features..
Over the course of your career, 70 percent of your learning and development will be on the job during normal workflow. Here are some things you can do to make the most of that time.
Seek out assignments, experiences, and jobs that will help you develop the skills you will need for your definition of career and life success. Books and classes are fine, but the big learning is on the job, so find jobs, assignments, and challenges that help you learn what you want to learn.
Weekends are time when things slow down a little. Your weekend shouldn’t be two more regular work days. That’s a sure road to burnout. Take time to refresh yourself. Take time for something different. Take time for some of that reading you can’t find time for during the week.
Here are choice articles on hot leadership topics culled from the business schools, the business press and major consulting firms. This week there are articles about stories, why they’re important and how to use them in business.
“It wasn’t that long ago that we didn’t have much use for probabilities in our daily life, – outside of weather reports, election predictions, baseball and financial markets. But that’s all changed with the growing datafication of the economy and society. Probabilities have been playing an increasing role in our work and personal life given our newfound ability to quantify just about anything. In all kinds of everyday situations, – from medical diagnoses to financial decisions, – we now have to accept the fact that it’s impossible to predict what will actually happen. Instead, we have to get used to living in a complex world of uncertainties and probabilities. We have to learn how to deal with the very messy world of big data, and how to best apply our learning to make good decisions and predictions.”
“WHAT GREAT LEADERS have in common is their ability to communicate and create meaning from their words. Much of that ability speaks to the ability to listen and read between the lines to develop an understanding with those you lead. Great stories begin with great listening. From there you can learn how to connect your perspective to theirs.”
“In my book Let the Story Do the Work, I’ve provided tools, templates and examples to help leaders sharpen their business storytelling skills quickly. The quotes below all played a role in shaping my book and the tools it contains. If you need a crash course in business storytelling, they are a great place to start.”
“Stories and narratives that touch us emotionally have power to transform us. When hearing a moving speech, story or talk, we feel that it is delivered effortlessly but we know it doesn’t happen on its own.”
30-60 percent of all managers don’t do an acceptable job. I didn’t make that up. I read the research by Joyce Hogan, Robert Hogan, and Robert Kaiser. They reviewed a dozen scientific studies of the percentage of management failure.
That’s scary if you want to increase the number of competent leaders in your organization. It’s even scarier if you’re newly promoted. My experience tells me that the transition experience of many managers is the reason they can’t do a good job.
Far too many companies do absolutely nothing to help you. Instead, they expect a new manager to figure it out on their own.
The only training is often what a friend of mine calls “tavern training.” That’s when a bunch of the new boss’s peers take him or her out for a few drinks. They share their wisdom about what works and what doesn’t.
Even if you get trained, you may have to wait a long time. Jack Zenger found that the average supervisors coming to his training programs had already been on the job for almost a decade before receiving any training. That’s a long time to develop bad habits.
Most organizations expect a new manager pick up what she or he needs to know in a month or so at most. My research on transition says that, on average, it takes 18-24 months for a new manager to get the basics of the job down.
The transition itself is very difficult. The work of a team leader differs vastly from the work of any individual contributor. It’s much more like a career change than a job change when you move from individual contributor to boss.
The transition period can be insanely difficult if you must do it all on your own. It will still be difficult if you get training and support. The transition period is a classic example of what Warren Bennis and Robert Thomas call a “crucible.” Here’s how they define the term.
“For the leaders we interviewed, the crucible experience was a trial and a test, a point of deep self-reflection that challenged them to step up and be someone or do something they’d never been or done before.”
Your crucible experience will set the tone for the rest of your career. The challenge is to learn good habits and effective skills.
Transiting the Transition Crucible
During your transition, you can learn lessons that will make you more effective as a leader and person for the rest of your life. Here are some of the things you need to master.
You must learn mental models of good leadership. If you don’t know what good leadership looks like, it will be almost impossible for you become a good leader yourself.
You need to identify role models. Role models are men and women whom you can emulate. Some might be general purpose role models, while others are role models for a specific challenge.
You must identify sources of learning and insight. That includes formal learning resources, like courses. It also includes resources for self-directed learning, like books, videos, and podcasts. And it includes mentors, coaches, and others you can call on for insight when you face a challenge.
You must also learn the basics of the leadership tasks you will have to perform from now on in your career. Google’s research suggests that the most important skills are coaching skills.
The Transition Bonus
There’s one skill you should master during your transition that will serve you well for the rest of your life. You must learn how to learn from experience.
Use the transition period to develop the habits of observation, reflection, and change that allow you to squeeze the maximum value from any experience.
The transition from individual contributor to boss is an important crucible where you can either develop bad habits that will affect your performance or good habits you can use for a lifetime. Expect the transition to take a year and a half to two years. Learn what good leadership looks like and identify role models you can emulate and sources of information and insight. Master the skills of learning from experience that will help you for as long as you live.
Independent business blogs are blogs that aren’t supported by an organization like a magazine, newspaper, company, or business school. Those people provide lots of great content, but they don’t need any additional exposure. In this post, every week, I bring you posts of quality from excellent bloggers that don’t get as much publicity.
This week, I’m pointing you to posts by Alli Polin, Mary Jo Asmus, Julie Winkle Giulioni, Art Petty, and Scott Eblin.
“I learned to manage my anxiety by using a question after they told their story that is so flexible and useful that I still use it, or a variation today. And it’s a question you can use as well. So without any further hesitation, this amazingly simple question is…..”
“Too frequently, people believe that career development needs to be punctuated with meetings, moves, promotions, and other formal and seemingly consequential events. But the truth is that leaders who’ve built up the career development habit do nothing more than mine the most mundane of circumstances for an excuse to demonstrate interest, probe a bit further, encourage reflection and spark insights.”
“Newsflash, there are no shortcuts to great leadership. Much like the failure to change nature’s principles in search of longevity or turning lead into gold, one’s ability lead develops slowly over time and with much strain”
“I’ve been thinking about triage lately as I’ve been working with my executive coaching clients. Just about every leader I work with is operating in an environment where they and their teams have more to accomplish than the time available to do it all. So, they spend a lot of effort prioritizing their work. I’ve concluded, though, that what a lot of them are doing is not really prioritizing but triaging. Here’s the difference between the two.”
That’s it for this week’s selections from independent business blogs. If you liked this piece you may enjoy my curation posts on this blog. Every Tuesday, “Leaders and Strategies in Real Life” helps you learn about leadership by studying what real leaders do. On Fridays you can wrap up your week with “Weekend Leadership Reading” consisting of choice articles on hot leadership topics culled from the business schools, the business press and major consulting firms.
How I Select Posts for this Midweek Review
The five posts I select to share in my Midweek Review of the Independent Business Blogs are picked from a regular review of about sixty blogs I check daily and an additional twenty-five or so that I check occasionally. Here’s how I select the posts you see in this review.
They must be published within the previous week.
They must support the purpose of the blog: to help leaders at all levels do a better job and lead a better life.
They must be from an independent business blog.
As a general rule, I only select posts that stand on their own, no selections from a series.
Also as a general rule, I do not select posts that are either a book review or a book report.
I reserve the right to make exceptions to the above.
Here, on Three Star Leadership, I post things that will help a boss at any level do a better job and live a better life. At the The 360 Degree Feedback blog, I join other bloggers with posts on leadership development. And, at Wally Bock’s Writing Edge, I share tools and insights to help you write better.
Instead of studying leadership, why not spend some time studying leaders and strategies in the wild? You can learn a lot from leadership experts, but you always see the leader and what he or she does through the expert’s personal lens. Supplement that learning with studying real leaders in real life situations and draw your own conclusions. The posts in this series will help you.
Every week I’ll point you to articles by and about real leaders in real situations and to articles about how real companies are faring in the marketplace. Read them. Think about them. Draw your own lessons and conclusions from them. Then try to apply those lessons in your own real life.
This week I’m pointing you to articles about Apple.
“LAST SUMMER the market value of Apple passed $1trn, a first for any publicly traded Western company. It did not stay there for long. In November it passed the $1trn mark again, travelling in the other direction. Last week Tim Cook, the smartphone maker’s boss, cut revenue forecasts for the first time in over a decade. Apple’s shares plunged a further 10% on the news, dragging the world’s jittery stockmarkets down with them.”
“Now stick with me here, because what’s happening across what are considered fast-forward industries like cannabis and tech is worrisome. Where is the next great boom of innovation going to come from, when even the strongest brands and products might not be sure things anymore?”
“Apple’s biggest problem isn’t a slow-down in the Chinese economy or the US-China trade war, which has been blamed for a big downward revision in sales. Its biggest problem is taking consumers for granted at home and abroad.”
What images leap into your mind when I say, “high-tech startup?” For many people, it’s Silicon Valley, lots of stress, free laundry service and meals (because you’re spending 18 hours a day at work), and Dave Filo sleeping under his desk. It’s Mark Cuban talking about the great sacrifices you must make and the hours you must put in before he thinks you’re worthy of his investment. Well, that’s one version of a high-tech startup.
There’s another one, too. It’s Basecamp. Basecamp isn’t in Silicon Valley. It’s in Chicago and the people who work at Basecamp toil in over 25 cities. There aren’t any gourmet meals or laundry service, either. There are other benefits, like paid vacation. I don’t mean that the company pays for the time you spend on vacation, though Basecamp does that. Basecamp also pays for the vacation.
If you buy the prevailing mythology, there’s no way that Basecamp can be profitable. It’s not in Silicon Valley, it’s not venture-funded, and it’s not crazy at work. But they’ve been in business for almost two decades, and they’ve been profitable every year.
Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson are founders of Basecamp and the authors of It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work. Their book is about creating a profitable business fit for human habitation.
In the book, they contrast Basecamp and the way they do business with most companies, high-tech and otherwise. Again and again, they come back to the theme of a calm workplace versus a crazy workplace. Early in the book, they tell you why they think so many workplaces are crazy.
“There are two primary reasons: (1) The workday is being sliced into tiny, fleeting work moments by an onslaught of physical and virtual distractions. And (2) an unhealthy obsession with growth at any cost sets towering, unrealistic expectations that stress people out.”
This is a great book to read if what you want is an idea of what the future workplace should look like. Like many of the other workplace models, such as W. L. Gore or Netflix, Basecamp strives to be people-friendly. Like most of those workplaces that have been around a while, Basecamp didn’t plan a great workplace and then execute. Instead, they tried stuff. They kept what worked. They ditched what didn’t. After 20 years, they’ve got a model you can learn from.
This is a book about common sense and tested solutions to real workplace challenges. Read it to get ideas about things you can try and to learn how cultures develop.
This is a great book. It’s common-sensical, real-world, and it’s easy to read. That’s great.
The problem comes with whether you can implement the things you see here. I divide that into three buckets.
If you are a solopreneur or individual contributor, then you’ll get ideas here that will help you be more productive. Some ideas aren’t about individual work, but about how to make teams more effective. If you’re a team leader, no matter what your title, you’ll find plenty of good ideas here that you can use. But some things must be company-wide. If you’re a founder, CEO, or top executive, you may put these things into practice. Otherwise, you need to store them in your “someday” file.
If profanity in a book is a problem for you, pass on reading this one. The “f word” is there in all its glory, and the full written-out version of “BS.”
What’s the fastest way to learn the big ideas from a great business book? Book summaries. Check out summaries from The Business Source, where you can watch, read, or listen to the big ideas from a great book in under 20 minutes.
If you’re worried about having good conversations with your team members, here’s the most important thing you should know. The best way to have good conversations with anyone is to have lots of conversations with him or her, some about work, most about other things, some about both.
The trick is to have real conversations. Listen to your team member. Share your thoughts and feelings, too. Don’t worry about “winning.”