Posted in Challenges, Thumbs Up

6 Habits of True Strategic Thinkers

You’re the boss, but you still spend too much time on the day-to-day. Here’s how to become the strategic leader your company needs. sCharisma In the beginning, there was just you and your partners. You did every job. You coded, you met with investors, you emptied the trash and phoned in the midnight pizza. Now you have others to do all that and it’s time for you to “be strategic.” Whatever that means. If you find yourself resisting “being strategic,” because it sounds like a fast track to irrelevance, or vaguely like an excuse to slack off, you’re not alone. Every leader’s temptation is to deal with what’s directly in front, because it always seems more urgent and concrete.

Unfortunately, if you do that, you put your company at risk. While you concentrate on steering around potholes, you’ll miss windfall opportunities, not to mention any signals that the road you’re on is leading off a cliff. This is a tough job, make no mistake. “We need strategic leaders!” is a pretty constant refrain at every company, large and small. One reason the job is so tough: no one really understands what it entails. It’s hard to be a strategic leader if you don’t know what strategic leaders are supposed to do. After two decades of advising organizations large and small, my colleagues and I have formed a clear idea of what’s required of you in this role.

Adaptive strategic leaders — the kind who thrive in today’s uncertain environment – do six things well:


Most of the focus at most companies is on what’s directly ahead. The leaders lack “peripheral vision.” This can leave your company vulnerable to rivals who detect and act on ambiguous signals.

To anticipate well, you must: Look for game-changing information at the periphery of your industry Search beyond the current boundaries of your business Build wide external networks to help you scan the horizon better

Think Critically

“Conventional wisdom” opens you to fewer raised eyebrows and second guessing. But if you swallow every management fad, herdlike belief, and safe opinion at face value, your company loses all competitive advantage.

Critical thinkers question everything. To master this skill you must force yourself to: Reframe problems to get to the bottom of things, in terms of root causes Challenge current beliefs and mindsets, including your own Uncover hypocrisy, manipulation, and bias in organizational decisions


Ambiguity is unsettling. Faced with it, the temptation is to reach for a fast (and potentially wrongheaded) solution. A good strategic leader holds steady, synthesizing information from many sources before developing a viewpoint. To get good at this, you have to: Seek patterns in multiple sources of data Encourage others to do the same Question prevailing assumptions and test multiple hypotheses simultaneously


Many leaders fall prey to “analysis paralysis.” You have to develop processes and enforce them, so that you arrive at a “good enough” position. To do that well, you have to: Carefully frame the decision to get to the crux of the matter Balance speed, rigor, quality and agility. Leave perfection to higher powers Take a stand even with incomplete information and amid diverse views


Total consensus is rare.

A strategic leader must foster open dialogue, build trust and engage key stakeholders, especially when views diverge. To pull that off, you need to: Understand what drives other people’s agendas, including what remains hidden Bring tough issues to the surface, even when it’s uncomfortable Assess risk tolerance and follow through to build the necessary support


As your company grows, honest feedback is harder and harder to come by. You have to do what you can to keep it coming. This is crucial because success and failure–especially failure–are valuable sources of organizational learning.

Here’s what you need to do: Encourage and exemplify honest, rigorous debriefs to extract lessons Shift course quickly if you realize you’re off track Celebrate both success and (well-intentioned) failures that provide insight

Do you have what it takes?

Obviously, this is a daunting list of tasks, and frankly, no one is born a black belt in all these different skills. But they can be taught and whatever gaps exist in your skill set can be filled in. I’ll cover each of the aspects of strategic leadership in more detail in future columns. But for now, test your own strategic aptitude (or your company’s) with the survey at In the comments below, let me know what you learned from it.

Paul J. H. Schoemaker: Founder and Chairman, Decision Strategies Intl. Speaker, professor, and entrepreneur. Research Director, Mack Ctr for Technological Innovation at Wharton, where he teaches strategic decision-making. Latest book: Brilliant Mistakes

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Posted in Challenges, Need Intervention

The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time

Why is it that between 25% and 50% of people report feeling overwhelmed or burned out at work?

It’s not just the number of hours we’re working, but also the fact that we spend too many continuous hours juggling too many things at the same time.

What we’ve lost, above all, are stopping points, finish lines and boundaries. Technology has blurred them beyond recognition. Wherever we go, our work follows us, on our digital devices, ever insistent and intrusive. It’s like an itch we can’t resist scratching, even though scratching invariably makes it worse.

Tell the truth: Do you answer email during conference calls (and sometimes even during calls with one other person)? Do you bring your laptop to meetings and then pretend you’re taking notes while you surf the net? Do you eat lunch at your desk? Do you make calls while you’re driving, and even send the occasional text, even though you know you shouldn’t?

The biggest cost — assuming you don’t crash — is to your productivity. In part, that’s a simple consequence of splitting your attention, so that you’re partially engaged in multiple activities but rarely fully engaged in any one. In part, it’s because when you switch away from a primary task to do something else, you’re increasing the time it takes to finish that task by an average of 25 per cent.

But most insidiously, it’s because if you’re always doing something, you’re relentlessly burning down your available reservoir of energy over the course of every day, so you have less available with every passing hour.

I know this from my own experience. I get two to three times as much writing accomplished when I focus without interruption for a designated period of time and then take a real break, away from my desk. The best way for an organization to fuel higher productivity and more innovative thinking is to strongly encourage finite periods of absorbed focus, as well as shorter periods of real renewal.

If you’re a manager, here are three policies worth promoting:

1. Maintain meeting discipline. Schedule meetings for 45 minutes, rather than an hour or longer, so participants can stay focused, take time afterward to reflect on what’s been discussed, and recover before the next obligation. Start all meetings at a precise time, end at a precise time, and insist that all digital devices be turned off throughout the meeting.

2. Stop demanding or expecting instant responsiveness at every moment of the day. It forces your people into reactive mode, fractures their attention, and makes it difficult for them to sustain attention on their priorities. Let them turn off their email at certain times. If it’s urgent, you can call them — but that won’t happen very often.

3. Encourage renewal. Create at least one time during the day when you encourage your people to stop working and take a break. Offer a midafternoon class in yoga, or meditation, organize a group walk or workout, or consider creating a renewal room where people can relax, or take a nap.

It’s also up to individuals to set their own boundaries. Consider these three behaviors for yourself:

1. Do the most important thing first in the morning, preferably without interruption, for 60 to 90 minutes, with a clear start and stop time. If possible, work in a private space during this period, or with sound-reducing earphones. Finally, resist every impulse to distraction, knowing that you have a designated stopping point. The more absorbed you can get, the more productive you’ll be. When you’re done, take at least a few minutes to renew.

2. Establish regular, scheduled times to think more long term, creatively, or strategically. If you don’t, you’ll constantly succumb to the tyranny of the urgent. Also, find a different environment in which to do this activity — preferably one that’s relaxed and conducive to open-ended thinking.

3. Take real and regular vacations. Real means that when you’re off, you’re truly disconnecting from work. Regular means several times a year if possible, even if some are only two or three days added to a weekend. The research strongly suggests that you’ll be far healthier if you take all of your vacation time, and more productive overall.

A single principle lies at the heart of all these suggestions. When you’re engaged at work, fully engage, for defined periods of time. When you’re renewing, truly renew. Make waves. Stop living your life in the gray zone.



courtesy of:

Tony Schwartz

Tony Schwartz is the president and CEO of The Energy Project and the author of Be Excellent at Anything. Become a fan of The Energy Project on Facebook and connect with Tony at and

Posted in Thumbs Up

Tullow Makes Kenya’s First Oil Find in ‘Major Breakthrough’

Tullow Oil Plc (TLW), the U.K. explorer that unlocked billions of barrels from Uganda to French Guiana, reported Kenya’s first discovery that’s been described as a “major breakthrough” by the country’s president.

Tullow found 20 meters (66 feet) of oil in the Ngamia-1 exploration well with Canadian partnerAfrica Oil Corp. (AOI), according to a statement by the London-based company today. The well, in Block 10BB of the Turkana County, has been drilled to about a third of its target depth.


Enlarge image

Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki said in a statement, “This is the first time Kenya has made such a discovery and it is very good news for our country.” Photographer: Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

“This is the first time Kenya has made such a discovery and it is very good news for our country,” President Mwai Kibaki said in a statement e-mailed by the presidency in Nairobi. “It is however the beginning of a long road to make our country an oil producer.”

The results open up a new basin in East Africa as Tullow embarks upon a multi-well drilling campaign that will also encompass Ethiopia. It’s aiming for at least 300 million barrels of oil with its first two sites in Kenya and Ethiopia.

“This oil has similar properties to the light waxy crude discovered in Uganda,” Tullow said. “Following this discovery the outlook for further success has been significantly improved.”

Nine Years

Tullow rose 7 percent to 1,570 pence in London in its biggest gain since Sept. 9. Africa Oil jumped as much as 59 percent, the biggest gain in more than nine years, to C$3.72 in Toronto.

“I guarantee that Tullow will accelerate its efforts and investments” in Kenya, said Vice-President for Africa Tim O’Hanlon. “We are really pinching ourselves with these results.”

Kenya has no proven oil reserves. Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. found gas in the Anza Basin in 1976. Tanzania to the south produces gas from two offshore deposits for domestic power generation, and neighboring South Sudan is sub-Saharan Africa’s third-biggest oil producer, after Angola and Nigeria.

“The result is reminiscent of the early discoveries in Uganda,” said Oswald Clint, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in London.

Tullow is pressing ahead with Total SA (FP) and Cnooc Ltd. (883) in developing an oilfield in Uganda after selling stakes in the project to the new partners for $2.9 billion last month.

Tullow and Africa Oil hired China’s BGP Inc. to survey the South Omo Block in the Omo River Delta in Ethiopia, the area where Richard Leakey and a team of paleontologists discovered in 1967 the oldest remains of Homo sapiens known to science.

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Posted in Challenges, Thumbs Up

How to Network Well: It’s Not all About You

By Ellen Keiley, K&L Gates

Networking!.JPGWhat makes a person a successful networker?

Is it an outgoing, charismatic personality or maybe it’s experience or practicing proper networking etiquette. While those aspects are all helpful, the key to being a successful networker is understanding that networking is mutual and not a one-way exchange.

According to Rita B. Allen, Career Management Consultant and President ofRita B. Allen Associates, networking is all about building meaningful and long lasting relationships and what you do with those business cards. Fewer and deep is better than a database of contacts you don’t keep up with. Allen describes networking like planting seeds in the garden, nurturing it, and seeing it blossom. Many see networking as insincere, so the focus should be on building a mutually beneficial relationship and not just collecting as many business cards as possible. Allen suggests “be real and do what works for you.”

Linda Moraski, President/CEO of PeopleSERVE, Inc., stated there?s numerous benefits to networking, whether it is for business, finding a vendor or service provider, or finding a job. As Allen mentioned, it’s not about who you know but who knows you. Having a good network is critical in business.

Being active in social media is important but getting out there and meeting people face-to-face is equally important. Writing, speaking, and teaching are other ways to broaden one’s network. Going to an event and networking can be intimidating for some, but the more you do it, the more comfortable you will get with working a room.

For those that are new to networking, practice your message about who you are and what you have to offer.

Allen stated that those new to networking are not always clear about their brand. Develop a strategic plan on how you will build your network and start attending events. When meeting someone for the first time, look to identify similarities and interests. Make notes about the person on the back of their business card, and then follow up with a personal note. A hand written note makes a lasting impression but email is also appropriate.

Good places to start networking include chambers of commerce, business associations, support groups such as women’s groups, professional associations, alumni associations, and charitable events. Rebecca Sullivan, PR Consultant and Principal of Rebecca Sullivan Public Relations, likes to diversify the events she attends and said “if you only attend events in your own industry, you may end up only meeting the same people over and over again.” Also, get involved in various organizations to the extent your schedule permits. Joining a committee is a great way to get to know others and for others to get to know you.

And don’t forget about internal networking within one’s workplace and other referral sources. That is very important, as people often refer business to those they know and trust. Even the competition can be a referral source, especially if they have a different niche than you. The more involved you are with your network, the likelihood of learning about new business opportunities increases; and if you refer business to others, they may reciprocate.

Staying connected with your network is very important and there are various ways to do so. If you come across an article that you know would be of interest to someone, send it to them. Perhaps there is an event that may be of interest – send a personal invitation. If you learn of a contact’s accomplishment, congratulate them. Be genuine, always be willing to help others, and go the extra mile. Others will appreciate it and may return the favor someday, but that should not drive your motivation to help others. Sullivan, Allen, and Moraski all credit referrals from their networks as an important contributing factor to their businesses being so successful.

Tips for Attending Events:

  1. Eat before the event – it is difficult to speak to someone if you are chewing food.
  2. Dress appropriately for the event – first impressions are very important.
  3. Don’t go asking for business – that’s a major turnoff. Instead, go to meet people and build the relationship.
  4. Go with a friend or colleague if you are uncomfortable by yourself, and plan to meet 3 new people.
  5. If two or more people are engaged in a deep conversation, don’t interrupt.
  6. Don’t overwhelm yourself and try to attend too many events.
  7. Don’t forget to follow up with a personal note.
  8. As Moraski stated “practice, practice, practice and don’t give up!”

Follow-up Tips:

  1. Be genuine in your intentions.
  2. If you follow up with someone via LinkedIn, add a personal note – don’t just use the standard language,
  3. It should be clear that there is a mutual reason to stay in touch.
  4. Know when to quit, don’t be a stalker, and don’t wear out one’s welcome.

Ellen Keiley is a Boston World Partnerships Connector and a member of the Business Development Department at K&L Gates in Boston. She can be contacted at ellen.keiley@ klgates. com 

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Posted in Challenges, Thumbs Up

The 5 Qualities of Remarkable Bosses

Consistently do these five things and the results you want from your employees–and your business–will follow.

Remarkable bosses aren’t great on paper. Great bosses are remarkable based on their actions.

Results are everything—but not the results you might think.

Consistently do these five things and everything else follows. You and your business benefit greatly.

More importantly, so do your employees.

1. Develop every employee. Sure, you can put your primary focus on reaching targets, achieving results, and accomplishing concrete goals—but do that and you put your leadership cart before your achievement horse.

Without great employees, no amount of focus on goals and targets will ever pay off. Employees can only achieve what they are capable of achieving, so it’s your job to help all your employees be more capable so they—and your business—can achieve more.

It’s your job to provide the training, mentoring, and opportunities your employees need and deserve. When you do, you transform the relatively boring process of reviewing results and tracking performance into something a lot more meaningful for your employees: Progress, improvement, and personal achievement.

So don’t worry about reaching performance goals. Spend the bulk of your time developing the skills of your employees and achieving goals will be a natural outcome.

Plus it’s a lot more fun.

2. Deal with problems immediately. Nothing kills team morale more quickly than problems that don’t get addressed. Interpersonal squabbles, performance issues, feuds between departments… all negatively impact employee motivation and enthusiasm.

And they’re distracting, because small problems never go away. Small problems always fester and grow into bigger problems. Plus, when you ignore a problem your employees immediately lose respect for you, and without respect, you can’t lead.

Never hope a problem will magically go away, or that someone else will deal with it. Deal with every issue head-on, no matter how small.

3. Rescue your worst employee. Almost every business has at least one employee who has fallen out of grace: Publicly failed to complete a task, lost his cool in a meeting, or just can’t seem to keep up. Over time that employee comes to be seen by his peers—and by you—as a weak link.

While that employee may desperately want to “rehabilitate” himself, it’s almost impossible. The weight of team disapproval is too heavy for one person to move.

But it’s not too heavy for you.

Before you remove your weak link from the chain, put your full effort into trying to rescue that person instead. Say, “John, I know you’ve been struggling but I also know you’re trying. Let’s find ways together that can get you where you need to be.” Express confidence. Be reassuring. Most of all, tell him you’ll be there every step of the way.

Don’t relax your standards. Just step up the mentoring and coaching you provide.

If that seems like too much work for too little potential outcome, think of it this way. Your remarkable employees don’t need a lot of your time; they’re remarkable because they already have these qualities. If you’re lucky, you can get a few percentage points of extra performance from them. But a struggling employee has tons of upside; rescue him and you make a tremendous difference.

Granted, sometimes it won’t work out. When it doesn’t, don’t worry about it.  The effort is its own reward.

And occasionally an employee will succeed—and you will have made a tremendous difference in a person’s professional and personal life.

Can’t beat that.

4. Serve others, not yourself. You can get away with being selfish or self-serving once or twice… but that’s it.

Never say or do anything that in any way puts you in the spotlight, however briefly. Never congratulate employees and digress for a few moments to discuss what you did.

If it should go without saying, don’t say it. Your glory should always be reflected, never direct.

When employees excel, you and your business excel. When your team succeeds, you and your business succeed. When you rescue a struggling employee and they become remarkable, remember they should be congratulated, not you.

You were just doing your job the way a remarkable boss should.

When you consistently act as if you are less important than your employees—and when you never ask employees to do something you don’t do—everyone knows how important you really are.

5. Always remember where you came from. See an autograph seeker blown off by a famous athlete and you might think, “If I was in a similar position I would never do that.”

Oops. Actually, you do. To some of your employees, especially new employees, you are at least slightly famous. You’re in charge. You’re the boss.

That’s why an employee who wants to talk about something that seems inconsequential may just want to spend a few moments with you.

When that happens, you have a choice. You can blow the employee off… or you cansee the moment for its true importance: A chance to inspire, reassure, motivate, and even give someone hope for greater things in their life. The higher you rise the greater the impact you can make—and the greater your responsibility to make that impact.

In the eyes of his or her employees, a remarkable boss is a star.

Remember where you came from, and be gracious with your stardom.

By Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up fromghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.

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Posted in Challenges, Need Intervention, Thumbs Up

Arrest Cancer in time-visit your Doc regularly


On Sunday, 5th February, 2012 afternoon at about 4.00 p.m, I was resting with my family at home. I started feeling some discomfort around my stomach and a general body malaise. I also felt weak and so dehydrated. After a while, I decided to call a doctor friend who accepted my request and came home so I could share with him my experience. Fortunately, after a short examination, he established that I was very sick and there was urgent need to see a doctor on the same day i.e. 5th February 2012.

What warranted the doctor friend to recommend that I need to visit a doctor, was informed by the oral observation that:

(a) the swelling across my stomach was abnormal;

(b) the level of dehydration

(c) pale eyes; and

(d) the general body malaise.

These were purely drawn from oral observation and a few interrogations. Observations further showed general lack of appetite, in the lower parts of the lungs, stomach and swollen lymph nodes along both sides of the neck. These were of major concerns to the friend doctor.

On the basis of these, we did indeed visit Nairobi Hospital and after doing the normal procedure, I was admitted. Indeed the lead doctor observed no variations between the friend doctor and what he found. Consequently, three distinct lines of action were identified for execution the same evening.

First, I was put on IV drip immediately and eventually consumed 15 bottles to regain my water level and kidney functions to manage the high dehydration. The second action was to mobilise a team of doctors to support the process to run special lines of tests relevant to their areas as identified by the lead doctor. This was key due to support needed in these circumstances. Third action was to run a series of diagnostics tests on 6th February, 2012.

Therefore, I dedicated 24 hours for this essential service which covered a chest X-ray, lower abdomen scan; Biopsy of the neck gland; the endoscopy; bone marrow test and others including a series of blood tests.

These three actions were executed simultaneously on the 6th, 7th and 8th February, 2012. In the evening of 8th February 2012, and indeed in a total of 24 hours of going through the tests, all tests were done/completed except the biopsy and bone marrow. With most diagnostic tests ready on the 8th February 2012, the doctors concluded that action required to be taken.

Perhaps when public doctors go on strike and demand for better services, they have a point to make. A look at our public hospitals and we should appreciate that much has been done, but the ongoing tension in the public sector, points to the fact that we must sort out the sector. They need laboratory technicians with tools of work, nurses with facilities to perform: this may have not been achieved with some degree of efficiency but with commitment and dedication to the Bill of Rights in the Constitution, these are commitments we have made and should assure the public that we are duty bound to address them with resource limitations.

Back to the diagnostic story, it emerged that they captured similar tests on the allergy and more. On 8th February, treatment started after counseling and necessary consultations concluded between the family and the doctors. The result of the tests revealed that I had “Hodgkin Limforma” an early stage of cancer.

At this stage, expecting to hear more results on “allergy”, and hearing this, I gave Dr. Nyikal a straight look into his eyes without a question – but inside, I was like, “you brought me here to be told that I have cancer?” Quickly, he understood the unstated question but the deep look and his reply was “David, It is manageable”. Indeed he clarified that given all forms of cancer, I will comfortably choose “Hogkin Limforma” because it is manageable and it can be treated. Then I got a sigh of relief. I also learnt that there are several stages of cancer, and we can live with any stage but each must be timely identified, diagnosed and managed.

This is why Kenya needs cancer facilities like yesterday. I challenge our Parliament, the Treasury and Revenue Allocation Committee to view this as a priority for every county if possible or a group of counties clustered together. Between 5th February and 5th March, 2012 the Doctor did not only succeed to run a set of critical diagnostics, but they also did a set of four chemotherapy successfully and the most challenging was the fact that I had to go through chemotherapy treatment when I had not known before and secondly to accept the word “cancer” in my life.
In life, there are several stages of cancer, there are many patients at different stages and can have lived with the disease for many years.

But what is the moral of this story? First many of us do not accept our disease condition, so we live in denial and do not seek medical attention in good time. At times, the access to medical services may simply not be available especially the public Medicare. But even when we do, the diagnostics may not be in time leading to inaccurate or suboptimal results with suboptimal treatment.

This does not help the patient, and the disease may advance, become complex and lead to early death. Many cases of cancer, diabetes etc fall in this category many of which we are victims. Alternatively, the diagnostics may just be narrow and is not broadened enough to capture other potential ailments that need to be captured in the diagnostics – here treatment becomes impossible.

Finally diagnostics can be accurate, broad, including oral and laboratory, the right team and materials and equipment, and hence possibility of accuracy is high thus timely, leading to the accurate treatment and prolongation of life.
When I became ill and got hospitalized in Nairobi Hospital between 5th February and 5th March 2012, little did I know that this would be my experience. I truly learnt that when in doubt of your disease, counseling helps. In the case of the latter, I have learnt that diseases can be identified, diagnosed and treated.

I was also able to meet more than 10 patients of “Hodgkin Limforma” and other forms of advanced cancer who came to give me support in various forms. These people were a major source of inspiration and energy in addition to the doctors. In this context, I thank Prof. Peter Nyong’o, Prof. Ntiba, Mrs. Mary Onyango and Jerry Okungu, at least the few that permitted me to share their own experiences. These people are going about their business as usual but most important they advocate on awareness on cancer. They need all the support and that is why I add my voice to the process.

I advise that it is critical to seek medical attention at the earliest opportunity. Avoid fear to overcome the challenge and move on. Above all, have faith, determination and believe that fear is not meant to stop you from moving on but to enable reorganise your strategies.

I highly congratulate the following team at Nairobi Hospital; Dr. Elly Ogutu; Dr. James Nyikal; Surgeon Baraza; All the Angels (Nurses) and the overall staff.

I wish in a special way to thank the following for their inspirational support and encouragement during the process:
i. Dr. James Nyikal;
ii. Dr. Kioko – Kidney Specialist;
iii. Dr. Elly Ogutu;
iv. Prof. Habinya;
v. Dr. Gikonyo;
vi. Dr./Surgeon/pathologist Baraza;
vii. Dr. Minus (Anesthetist);
viii. Dr. Suni, and;
ix. Bone Marrow Specialist

The 15 Nurses under their Matron and the continuous improvement teams also deserve special mention.
Finally, it was amazing to be always woken up at 4.00 p.m. by laboratory technicians drawing blood for tests to monitor how I was doing medically and clinically.

In addition, I give special thanks to my colleagues for the moral support, wise counseling, spiritual support and material assistance. Finally, was the powerful spiritual network driven by network of faithful friends that unleashed a new life of hope in me. If you have gone through an experience in life, like the biblical Job (Ayub), and you have nothing to share with others, then you learnt nothing. I learnt something special and I have chosen to share it.

(Mr Nalo is the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of East African Community)

Posted in Challenges, Technology, Thumbs Up

10 Leadership Lesson s from the IBM Executive School

But failure was not an option for Mobley, and after many a dark night of the soul he hit upon the answer that turned IBM into the fastest growing and most admired corporation in the world…

In 1955 IBM’s legendary CEO, Tom Watson Jr., gave my mentor, Louis R. Mobley, a blank check and carte blanche to create The IBM Executive School. Fresh from successfully implementing IBM’s first supervisor and middle management training programs, Mobley confidently set about churning out executives as well.

The first thing he did, in conjunction with GE and DuPont, was hire the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the same company that still does the SATs, to identify the skills that make great leaders great. Once these intellectual skills were identified, Mobley and his colleagues at GE and DuPont assumed that spitting out executives would simply mean “training to the test.”

ETS dutifully rounded up a bunch of proven leaders and tested them every which way from Sunday looking for their common skills. The results were astounding and more than a little disturbing. As Mobley put it, “No matter what bell shaped curve we drew, successful leaders fell on the extreme edges. The only thing they seemed to have in common was having nothing in common. ETS was so frustrated that they offered us our money back.”

But failure wasn’t an option for Mobley, and after many a dark night of the soul he finally hit upon the answer. Unlike supervisors and middle managers, what successful executives shared were not skills and knowledge but values and attitudes. And over time Mobley identified the values and attitudes that great leaders share.

1) Great Leaders Thrive on Ambiguity. While most of us like black and white decisions, successful leaders are comfortable with what Mobley called, “shades of gray.” Great leaders are able to hold apparent contradictions in tension. They use the tension these paradoxes produce to come up with innovative ideas.

2)   Great Leaders Love Blank Sheets of Paper. Supervisors and middle managers use a framework of policies and procedures to guide them to the proper decision. They want a plan that reduces their job to filling in the blanks or what Mobley called “following the bouncing ball.” By contrast, leaders create the blanks that managers fill in. Like some business Einstein intent on reinventing the universe, every great leader relishes the opportunity to “think things through” from scratch.

3)   Great Leaders are Secure People. Successful executives thrive on differences of opinion. They surround themselves with the best people they can find: people strong enough to hold a contrary opinion and argue vociferously for it. Great leaders crave challenges, and this means hiring the most challenging people they can find with no regard for whether today’s challenger might be tomorrow’s rival.

4)   Great Leaders Want Options. Long before it became fashionable,Mobley was a huge proponent of diversity. However his definition meant a diversity of opinion rather than the kind we usually associate with political correctness. Mobley’s great leader constantly demands diverse options from his team, and uses these options to produce creative decisions.

5)   Great Leaders are Tough Enough to Face Facts. At heart Mobley was a spiritual man who valued the Truth for the Truth’s sake. Successful executives face facts, and this means being open to the truth even when it is not what we want to hear. One of the most successful executives I know offers cash rewards to anyone in his company who can prove him wrong. Great leaders have a nose for B.S and abhor it.

6)   Great Leaders Stick Their Necks Out. It is a natural human trait to fear being evaluated. We crave wiggle room so we can deflect blame and get off the hook when things go wrong. In business what is often passed off as a collaborative effort is actually just an attempt to avoid individual accountability. Great leaders want to be measured and evaluated. They continually look for ways to measure things that may seem immeasurable, and they cheerfully accept the blame when they are wrong or fail to deliver. The old adage that success has a 1000 fathers while failure is an orphan does not apply to great leadership.

7)   Great Leaders Believe in Themselves. While great leaders crave advice, options, and strong colleagues, they all share a profound belief in themselves and their judgment. Mobley described great leaders as “people stubbornly following their star who don’t know how to quit.” Holding this stubbornness in tension with a willingness to be wrong is perhaps the greatest trick that every great leader must perform.

8)   Great Leaders are Deep Thinkers. Managers get things done. Executives must decide on the things worth doing in the first place. Though very difficult to quantify, great leaders are deep thinkers. They constantly dive below surface “facts” searching for new ways to knit those facts together. Great leaders are generalists not specialists driven by an omnivorous curiosity. They know that the answers they are seeking will probably emerge from outside business and from disciplines that may seem utterly unrelated.

9)   Great Leaders are Ruthlessly Honest with Themselves. Self-knowledge is perhaps the most critical trait that all great leaders share. Leaders question assumptions and disrupt complacency by relentlessly asking the question: “What is the business of the business?” This exercise develops and refines the organization’s mission and purpose, and it is little more than the age old question “Who am I?” applied collectively. If you are not clear about the purpose of your own life how can you provide a sense of organizational purpose for others?

10) Great Leaders are Passionate. They may be loudly charismatic or quietly intense, but all great leaders care deeply about what they are doing and why they are doing it. Perhaps most importantly they care about people. Every business is a people business, and passionately caring about people whether they are employees, customers, vendors or stockholders is an essential leadership value.

Once Mobley compiled his list, he was faced with another even more difficult problem: How do you instill values and transform attitudes? He discovered that unlike supervisors and middle managers, executives shared another trait: They were constitutionally untrainable and reacted with hostility to any effort to “brainwash” them with “training.” Worse, Mobley discovered that values and attitudes are not only impervious to typical training techniques, but hectoring people to change often had the unintended consequence of hardening existing attitudes instead.

As the result some deep thinking of his own, Mobley eventually realized that what was needed was “a revolution in consciousness” rather than the kind of step by step curriculum that leads to a single “right answer.” Taking a leap of faith, he decided that the values and attitudes he was looking for could only be brought about as a side benefit or unintended consequence of what almost might be termed “spiritual work.” Rather than converging on a super set of skills, the IBM Executive School fostered the divergence that values uniqueness and individual authenticity.

The risk of failure was real, but if Mobley was going to produce people willing to stick out their necks he had to stick out his own first. He abandoned lectures and books in favor of games, simulations and other experiential techniques designed, not to “train,” but to “blow people’s minds.”

As for the personal accountability and measuring results, Mobley’s record speaks for itself. He ran the IBM Executive School from 1956-1966. It was his students that turned IBM into the fastest growing and most admired corporation in the world in the 1960s and 70s…

By August Turak

Courtesy of:


Posted in Challenges, Thumbs Up

8 Qualities of Remarkable Employees

Forget good to great. Here’s what makes a great employee remarkable.

Great employees are reliable, dependable, proactive, diligent, great leaders and great followers… they possess a wide range of easily-defined—but hard to find—qualities. A few hit the next level. Some employees are remarkable, possessing qualities that may not appear on performance appraisals but nonetheless make a major impact on performance.

Here are eight qualities of remarkable employees:

1. They ignore job descriptions. The smaller the company, the more important it is that employees can think on their feet, adapt quickly to shifting priorities, and do whatever it takes, regardless of role or position, to get things done. When a key customer’s project is in jeopardy, remarkable employees know without being told there’s a problem and jump in without being asked—even if it’s not their job.

2. They’re eccentric… The best employees are often a little different: quirky, sometimes irreverent, even delighted to be unusual. They seem slightly odd, but in a really good way. Unusual personalities shake things up, make work more fun, and transform a plain-vanilla group into a team with flair and flavor. People who aren’t afraid to be different naturally stretch boundaries and challenge the status quo, and they often come up with the best ideas.

3. But they know when to dial it back. An unusual personality is a lot of fun… until it isn’t. When a major challenge pops up or a situation gets stressful, the best employees stop expressing their individuality and fit seamlessly into the team. Remarkable employees know when to play and when to be serious; when to be irreverent and when to conform; and when to challenge and when to back off. It’s a tough balance to strike, but a rare few can walk that fine line with ease.

4. They publicly praise… Praise from a boss feels good. Praise from a peer feels awesome, especially when you look up to that person. Remarkable employees recognize the contributions of others, especially in group settings where the impact of their words is even greater.

5. And they privately complain. We all want employees to bring issues forward, but some problems are better handled in private. Great employees often get more latitude to bring up controversial subjects in a group setting because their performance allows greater freedom. Remarkable employees come to you before or after a meeting to discuss a sensitive issue, knowing that bringing it up in a group setting could set off a firestorm.

6. They speak when others won’t. Some employees are hesitant to speak up in meetings. Some are even hesitant to speak up privately. An employee once asked me a question about potential layoffs. After the meeting I said to him, “Why did you ask about that? You already know what’s going on.” He said, “I do, but a lot of other people don’t, and they’re afraid to ask. I thought it would help if they heard the answer from you.” Remarkable employees have an innate feel for the issues and concerns of those around them, and step up to ask questions or raise important issues when others hesitate.

7. They like to prove others wrong. Self-motivation often springs from a desire to show that doubters are wrong. The kid without a college degree or the woman who was told she didn’t have leadership potential often possess a burning desire to prove other people wrong. Education, intelligence, talent, and skill are important, but drive is critical. Remarkable employees are driven by something deeper and more personal than just the desire to do a good job.

8. They’re always fiddling. Some people are rarely satisfied (I mean that in a good way) and are constantly tinkering with something: Reworking a timeline, adjusting a process, tweaking a workflow. Great employees follow processes. Remarkable employees find ways to make those processes even better, not only because they are expected to… but because they just can’t help it.

By Jeff Haden courtesy of

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business. @jeff_haden

Posted in Need Intervention, Technology, Thumbs Up


We are all aware of the fact that the world economy has become so deranged and taken a downhill dive that has seen many businesses struggling to maintain a healthy profit margin. Most companies have already put cost cutting measures in place and some are still trying to find solutions to the economic meltdown to ensure business survival.
Profitability and survival are the key purposes for all functions in an organization and here I will highlight a few ways that the HRM function and work on cost cutting while ensuring that both the employer and the employee share the burden and both still survive in this tough times.
  •  Reduction in Salaries
We all agree it is better to have ‘some’ income than to have ‘none at all’. Therefore, most people will agree to a cut in their pay than loss of the job. This has to be done within the legal set up of the country in which you practice bearing in mind some countries do not allow reduction in the basic salary so you might have to work on the allowances.
Also, this has to be clearly communicated to the employee and if possible it is better to give a time frame until which the salary will be revised again.
If your organization has a Union, you have to inform the Unions and get their input in the revisions too.
  • Eliminate or Reduce Leisure Benefits
Some companies spend hefty amounts of money on employee leisure benefits, e.g. club memberships, Sponsoring trips and activities for its employees.These are things the company can tone down on or ultimately eliminate from its expenses. If it is absolutely necessary to have the benefits then it will be better for both the employer and employer to share the cost at agreed on percentages. Another way is that the company could come up with a way for finding discounts on leisure activities and inform the employees or decide to go only for the discounted ones.
  • Increase/Introduce employees contribution to health plans
Good health is a cornerstone of efficiency and optimum productivity and it somehow has to be taken care of.
If the employees already contribute to their health plans, increasing their contribution will reduce the costs footed by the organization. However if the organization bears the full cost of insurance it is a viable cost cutting idea to introduce employee contributions.
  •  Reduce working hours
Employees working hours/ days can be reduced and the employee agrees to be paid for the hours/ days worked.
This should be done within the legal system of the country in which you practice because some countries do have laws against such practices.
  • Proper work plans to reduce overtime
Scheduling of work should be done to fully optimize the manpower within the official work hours and reduce/ eliminate cases of the employees doing overtime unless it us after all, overtime is extra pay that is calculated at a higher rate and that is costly.
  • Give compensatory leaves
In cases where working extra hours is absolutely necessary, the employees could accumulate the overtime hours and take as compensatory leave instead of being paid overtime.
  • Compulsory Unpaid leaves
During low production seasons, employees can be sent on compulsory unpaid leave and recalled as soon there is work for them
  • Paid Volunteer programs
In this case employer taps into the employees’ special skills, spare time (with which the employees need to make extra money) and the need for employees to develop.
 For example: Instead of outsourcing a trainer, a willing and qualified employee can give training as per the organizations need and be paid for it.
Employees with time to spare after work and are willing can be paid to do data entry for the company instead of hiring another person with a full salary and benefits.
The condition for employees being let on to the paid voluntary programs is that their regular jobs must be done efficiently and so should the tasks they volunteer to do so that you still maintain the best quality.
  • Employee lending
Have you watched the European Football games and you hear of Players being ‘on loan’ in other clubs when they are not needed by their clubs for a season? Even organizations can try that.
Considering the Laws of the land and the Union agreements; an organization can lend its employees to other organizations when there is no work for them to do. This might actually be a moneymaking venture for the organization and the employees gain new experiences and work practices that can help improve the firm and also develop the employee.
The bottom line here is to ensure that we reduce lay-offs but still cut costs. It is clear that in some cases, the number of employees has to be reduced first then the other softer measures are put in place. However I believe that any HR practitioner would like to explore other options before cutting the source of income for any employee.
Ultimately being a HR Practitioner makes you an employee who has to think like an employer and find a pivot point that works for both the employees and employer.