Sep 232010
 

Leverage Strengths, Skills & Savvy To Maximize Assets Present In Any Situation.

 

Change Agents don’t have to look very far or too closely to spot resistance.  Setbacks are commonplace.  Unwanted and unintended circumstances abound and come from many directions…economic issues, internal politics, revenue shortfalls, entrenched legacy systems, etc. Professional and personal disappointments always arise. None of us is exempt.  That’s why Asset-Based Thinking in the face of difficult situations is so important and so useful. With ABT, build your power and influence by uncovering and magnify what’s best in virtually every situation you encounter.

Over 50 years ago, psychologist David McClelland suggested that we measure the value of a given day, month or year in three ways:  results, learnings, and experience.  When you stop to think about it, McClelland’s suggestion is a true ABT practice.  The invitation to examine what is learned and experienced—alongside the results that are achieved—creates three valuable bottom lines for any time frame and situation.

Valuable lessons and life experience are embedded in victories and defeats, in turning points and crossroads.  We may not always get the results we seek, but we are always in line to become a little wiser and a little bit better of a person as a consequence.

Mine The Gold In Any Situation

Expanding What You See – What is happening here?

Remember the children’s magazine picture games? The instructions read: Find 8 items hidden in this (seemingly straightforward) picture. At first, you are stumped…then, suddenly, the more you examine the picture, the more you realize that things are not what they seemed at first glance. You can employ these same skills to spot new opportunities in the way you “picture” a challenging situation.

Take your blinders off and start with a good hard look at the dynamics of the current reality. Analyze what is really going on.  Concentrate on tapping into the nuances.  Identify the real or potentially real gains and benefits associated with the situation.  Dig deeper. What is happening here that I or we can leverage?  Remember that even crises and upheavals have their upsides.  As an Asset-Based Thinker, you see and capitalize on the assets inherent in every situation—especially when they are invisible at first glance.

Maximize the Upside  – What do I want to make happen here?

Given the assets in this situation, how can I use what is happening (whether I like it or not) in order to achieve worthwhile objectives.  Which skills and talents do I or we need to move forward in a positive way? What are the keys to my success? Ask yourself (and others involved) to set specific, worthwhile objectives to be achieved as you engage the challenges and pushback at hand.

The best way to mine the gold in any situation is to find out what is meaningful and worthwhile about the situation, then take action to “milk” the situation for all it’s worth.  Find out how you can use even upsetting moments to inspire great solutions and ensure that everyone involved benefits in the short-term and the long run.

Minimize the Downside – How can I prevent or contain the losses?

In the midst of personal setbacks, business downturns and resistance to change, you may be tempted to look at all the things that are going wrong or could possibly go wrong. That, of course, can be overwhelming. Magnifying what is “worst” can even lead to panic and despair.  Those fear-based thoughts feed a deficit-based downward spiral.  There IS a better way to contain unwanted consequences.

Make desire based outcomes the source of your strength and power. Identify the one or two real or potentially real problems associated with the negative situation, upheaval or resistance.  Then create concrete strategies for minimizing the negative consequences of each problem.  Next, get in action.  Measure your impact.  Revise your strategies if necessary.  Stay the course.

 

A Helpful ABT Tool: Shifting From Threat to Challenge

In any given situation that you see as a problem, disappointment or setback, use this ABT Tool to shift from threat to challenge.  You are far more effective and proactive when you are motivated by the “promises of victory” than you are by the “fears of defeat”.

Step One.  Ask yourself, “What do I fear most about this situation? What are the real or potentially real losses associated with what’s happening?”

Step Two.  Ask, “What can I or we do to eliminate my fear?  What can I or we do to minimize the fear of change or loss?”

Step Three.  Given this situation, what are the possibilities and opportunities for myself, others, team or organization?  How could I/we grow or benefit?  What could I/we learn?

Step Four.  How can I/we put our drive and enthusiasm for achieving these possibilities and seizing those opportunities to work?

One final thought.

“I have always believed and still believe that whatever good or bad fortune may    come our way, we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.”

Hermann Hesse

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May 012010
 

VALUES ARE THE KEY TO BUILDING VALUE

In previous posts I covered highlights from the outstanding line-up of thought leaders who spoke at The World Business Forum, 2009. (An Afternoon Of Concern and Contrast at The World Business Forum) One of the big observations that came out of the conference concerned an enlightened view of profit that encompasses both hard and soft assets.

More and more of today’s CEO’s now see a three tiered metric of profit as essential to building a strong and sustainable company. Dollar profit for fiscal sustainability. Emotional Profit of company stakeholders for a sustainable corporate culture and ethos. Greater Good Profit that extends benefits beyond the company for sustainable connected communities.

Now there is a study that seems to confirm that this enlightened profit perspective may do a lot more than just make a company CEO feel good. Valuing and building soft assets can actually be the key to delivering even better financial results and a healthier, stronger company. Recent research shows that CEOs who make it their business to place a higher priority on stakeholders’ interests and well-being rather than a relentless pursuit of  delivering dollar profit come out on top.

The research,entitled Unrequited Profit: How Stakeholder and Economic Values Relate To Subordinates’ Perceptions of Leadership and Firm Performance was conducted by some top people in the their field: Mary Sully de Luque, of Thunderbird School of Global Management; David A. Waldman, of Arizona State University West; and Robert J. House, of the University of Pennsylvania. Their findings are based on survey data gathered from 520 business organizations in 17 countries, including emerging markets. Here’s how the authors summed up their study.

We were testing the hypothesis that if a CEO’s primary focus is on profit maximization, employees develop negative feelings toward the organization. They tend to perceive the CEO as autocratic and focused on the short term, and they report being somewhat less willing to sacrifice for the company. Corporate performance is poorer as a result.

It turns out that this reordering of priorities and balanced perspective generate greater workforce engagement and extra effort that in turn yield significantly better operations and superior financial results. There also appears to be some risk to a CEO’s leadership effectiveness associated with a “profit above all else attitude”… the mantra of many a “hard driving” CEO. The exclusively profit driven CEO is seen as an autocratic leader and is less likely to garner employee commitment.

The values driven CEO is seen as a visionary, a motivator and is more likely to positively influence loyalty and inspire “extra effort”. He or she is viewed as a kinder, more empathetic breed of CEO superhero. This wholistic view being embraced by CEOs is Asset-Based Thinking at its best. It builds upon core asset-based leadership communication skills we call S.O.S. Leading with Substance. Sizzle. Soul. The hard assets of performance and skills are the substance…costs of entry. Sizzle is the personal style and presentation that gets attention. Soul is “why” it is personally important and meaningful….the secret ingredient that makes it all work.

I recently read a New York Times article about new values based organizations and business cultures and this bit of sage Asset-Based Thinking advice from Brandon Busteed, co-founder of Outside the Classroom really resonated with me. “Run like a business, act like a nonprofit, care to be better.”

Simple, smart, savvy advice for any business, non-profit or anyone just involved in the business of life.

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Oct 112009
 

A potpourri of international CEOs, a Nobel prize winner, management visionary and Bill Clinton.

The bloggers hub got off to a slow start the morning of day 2 due in part to a tasty and lively bloggers dinner the night before. Nevertheless, we were treated to another action packed day capped off by an address by Bill Clinton.

Globalization 2.0 – An Interdependent Economic and Ecological Geo-System

The first part of the day lived up to its billing…International Insights. The morning was rich with non-stop presentations, perspectives and insights from a wonderful cross section of top executives from some of the biggest and best global powerhouse companies.

Among them:

  • Roger Agnelli – CEO of Vale, Brazil
  • Morris Chang – CEO of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing
  • Peter Voser – CEO of Shell,
  • Dennis Nally – CEO of Price Waterhouse Coopers

These guys are good! And, one blindingly obvious observation. They were all guys. Irene Rosenfeld, the CEO of Kraft who would present in the afternoon, was the sole female featured corporate executive addressing the Forum. The glass ceiling endures. (More about that in a future article)

These common themes permeated their presentations:

  • Unprecedented Inter-connectedness and Co-dependence
  • Glimmers of Improvement and Movement
  • A Permanently Changed (for the better) Financial Game
  • China Rising, Rising and Rising
  • Emerging Markets As “Lead Markets”
  • The Environment – We’re all in this together.

In the afternoon, Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize Winning Economist, helped put all of this into an overall economic context with his view of what the future holds for the global economy. Even I understood most of what he presented.

Gary Hamel and Management Innovation

Like most people, when I hear the word Management my energy level drops and I brace myself for a pretty flat, buzz word filled, old school lecture about management principles.

Wow! Was I wrong. Gary Hamel delivered a riveting, energetic, forward thinking talk with an inspiring vision of the future of management. One of the best, thought provoking, aspirational wake-up calls I’ve ever experienced.

People Tech. He sees Management as technology that moves people to get things made and done while driving efficiency and efficacy. Mr. Hamel believes that innovations in management have enabled the great leaps forward in business. Unfortunately, the management innovations and advances that have served us so well in the past are just “table stakes” for the future. A quantum leap in management innovation is urgent and essential for future progress.

This is being driven by a shift from a knowledge economy to a creative economy that demands challenges to current dogmas. He laid out an impressive array of possible innovations, visions and scenarios that could serve as future models . It’s impossible to do justice to all the great concepts Mr. Hamel discussed in this short article. These are a few of his big shift concepts for management technology that can “up the ante” on the current table stakes. They are all fundamentally rooted in Asset-Based Thinking.

  1. Unleash the creative content of every job through employee passion. Obedience, diligence, intellect, expertise are now commodities and costs of entry. Move beyond initiative to creativity.
  2. Create a work climate and organization that fosters a sense of purpose and inspires people to bring their individual passions to work every day. These are “gifts” that cannot be commanded or demanded.
  3. A new mental mindset that redefines and re-frames control and authority…manage from the fringe not the center. Management should ask itself “how would I get things done if I had no positional authority and sanctions?”. The answer. Authority comes from adding value…not position.
  4. Stop Testing. Start Experimenting. Experiments liberate people. Building portfolios of radical experiments will help build organizational firepower.

Mr. Hamel closed with question that he asked us to think about. “Isn’t it It’s weird that our organizations are less human, adaptable, resilient and engaging than we are as individuals?” Mr. Hamel believes that’s because we impose an overlay of management 1.0 technology. To be fit for the future companies must be fit for human beings. That’s Management 2.0.

If you can buy only one video lecture from the World Business Forum, this is it.

Irene Rosenfeld and Leading Transformational Change

As the only female CEO delivering a featured address Irene Rosenfeld stood out. More importantly she stepped up and stood out as a CEO on mission of leading change that is transforming one of the World’s largest consumer products companies.
Confident, cool and comfortable in her role as change agent, Ms. Rosenfeld took us on her now almost three year journey of turnaround and change at Kraft that started with listening.

These were her Rules of the Road that guided the changes at Kraft.

First. Get the right people on the bus. Raise the performance bar, identify those that can reach it and build an optimistic team.

Next. Give everyone a clear picture of the destination and the rewards that await them.

Then. Give people a roadmap to help them get there.

The Roadmap encompassed these strategies that are based on classic Asset-Based Thinking principles.

  • Engage peoples’ hearts and minds around aspirations. Shift from cutting cost to growth. Create a sense of higher purpose with shared hopes and dreams. Their new mantra. “Make Life Delicious”
  • Move Quickly. Tell the truth fast, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable. In hindsight you wish you would have moved sooner.
  • Communicate frequently, consistently and honestly.
  • Celebrate success publicly and often. More about triumphs than trials

As with most transformations, they seem simple in hindsight but very difficult at the time of execution.

Bill Clinton and Being A Committed Global Private Citizen

clinton bookThere is only one Bill Clinton. He owns the room and connects and lands on everyone in the audience. Mr. Clinton covered a wide range of topics and is in total command of each subject he touches. I could never do justice to Mr. Clinton’s remarks and observations so I thought it best to provide a perspective on some of his more personal commentary and advice that hit home with me.

One is immediately struck by how very comfortable Mr. Clinton is with his place in the world as a private citizen working on things that are both important to him and the world. He takes pride in his work and is thoroughly enjoying it. Mr. Clinton’s simple message…each and every one of us, in our own way, could feel the same sense of fulfillment and pride by doing what we believe in, giving back and taking action. He echoed a similar Asset-Based Thinking message that permeated the Day 1 sessions. Find your “Mighty Cause” and give it your personal brand of attention and action.

He recounted that government and public service primarily focused on answering two questions…what are you going to do and how much are you going to spend on it. But the more important third question is ignored or given short shrift. How will what you do benefit peoples’ lives…one by one, group by group, community by community.

Answering and addressing this “How” question is where he is placing virtually all of his attention, getting the most results and deriving his greatest satisfaction.

At the end of his talk when Mr. Clinton was asked what advice he would give future leaders he said this. “Leaders have to understand people, not just policy. They must be empowered–not paralyzed–by this understanding,”

Now that’s some Presidential advice worth leading by.

Then the lights went down, the hall was emptied and the stage was being set for something even better. The Rockettes.

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