24 August 2008

Leadership and more success

Okay, so success is just a case of choosing the right definition. And success as a leader is the first of its kind. Because most leaders define their success at the start, by telling us at which points they want to succeed. It is just a pity that their success is just a number, and most often it is even a percentage of a previous success.
"Dear Sirs, the board plans make the companies business grow with 10% in comparison to last year, which should result in a 5% raise in profit. We think it is possible to achieve these goals, by selling more products in new markets like ..."

But why do I call this a pity? Because I do not call this success. I would call this freshman calculus. Real success would be defined like:
"People we want 50% more satisfied customers this year (50% of course is only possible if you had less than 66% satisfied customers last year.) And we want our employees to go home with a 10% salary raise, compared to last year. We will try to achieve these goals, by listening to our customers and employees. We will use this information to create products, that fit the wishes of our customers. We expect that by creating more satisfied customers, they will buy more products, so we can pay our employees more. If by some fluke it will be impossible to pay 10% more than last year, the board will take a 50% cute in salary, so to enable our employees to go home with a nice bonus.

As you can see, the chosen definition of success, makes clear that most people who are in a leading position are more often managers than leaders.

22 August 2008

Leadership and success

Success a real nice and vague term. It is completely dependable on the definition used. Success is in no way comparable to a law of nature. As water is fluid between 273 to 373 degrees Kelvin. Or masses attract each other. Or a ball can only fly so far at has been thrown through air.

But success is completely defined on the basis of a norm. If my norm is money. Those with the most of it are successful according to me. If my norm is speed. Those who are the fastest over 100 meters are successful. So success can not be measured the same way as when there is air or not.

But one way or another, we live by certain definitions of success. If someone reaches the age on which his entitled to a pension, and he has ten million dollars, we call him a successful person. Even if there are three other persons with three billion dollars each at that moment. However if that same person would retire with only a state sponsored pension and fifty years work for the same employer, we would find him pitiful and even would call him a looser.
We would not look at we the person had done in those fifty years. We would let ourselves be seduced by our definition of success so much, that we forget to take anything else into account.
Because what if the person who earned a ten million dollar pension did that by firing 10.000 men personnel? Or even worse, he sold enough guns to kill a million humans? Whereas this person that only has a state pension helped 10.000 persons and saved them from a death by hunger? Who would we call successful now?

Our inclination is to use a small definition for success, and more often then not an useless definition. We do not define success on terms of most happiness to most people. But we take a definition which carries in it the chance that the success of the one person is based on the misery of many others.

But maybe that is exactly the reason why we find ourselves so successful as a species?

19 August 2008

Leadership and feelings of guilt

Is it useful for a leader to feel guilty over what one has done? Would it be useful for anyone to feel guilty about something done? I would say: NO. Guilt and feelings of guilt will not solve the problem, for which we create those feelings. The danger is even, that people will seek ways to escape the feelings. The best known actions to escape feelings of guilt are blaming others. "If they had done that, then I would have done the right thing." Another method of escape would be avoiding the situation, in which the problem was created or is being created. "Sorry, but do not have time now, to get busy with that." Or "What did you say, you want me to do that? Sorry, but they are much better at doing that, and you want the best result, not? Besides I do not have the time for it, I still need to do this and that?"

So guilt and feelings of guilt are for only a few persons useful motivators. Persons who do not get bogged down by guilt, but are motivated by it to go out and search for a solution.

The art of leadership in situations where guilt is created, is to show that guilt should not depress, but motivate. Which means that you can not take your responsibility by resigning, because that is admitting that you can not solve the problem you created. Leadership is shown by creating an atmosphere in which guilt does not lead to fear and flight, but bravery and a fighting spirit. Because in the end, it is not about the guilt when it comes to problems, but the solutions created.

13 August 2008

Leadership and guilt

It is clear that assigning blame most of the time does not create a solution. There is even a bigger chance that a similar future situation will have the same result. First of all because the person who made the mistake the first time, is not allowed to do it a second time. And so has no chance to practice what he learned from the first time. Secondly, because the person who did it wrong the first time, is afraid to make a mistake again and so makes new mistakes.

The first situation is only solved by giving the maker of the mistake another try. That needs trust on both sides that this time around everything will go right. To create that trust, you could have a good talk about how the job will be done. The danger of a good talk however is, that the plan will be that of the one who has the greatest need for trust. And most often that is the client, who was disappointed the first time. Such a plan however is not trust, but control. So the art of these good talks is to find the middleground. Trust in the plan is created, without the plan becoming a way of control.

In the second situation the goal will be to prevent or take away any fear of making mistakes. Preventing should not be that difficult. That is often no more then not finding blame, but looking for solutions. The only two things that need to be done to achieve that is not talking about someone, but talking about what should be achieved. So not a person should be the topic of the talk, but the activity. The point is, that blaming does not bring or create a solution. But talking over possible solutions does. An additional advantage of a talk about solutions, is that the producer of the mistake will get a chance to reflect on what went wrong and what can be done to do it right.

You will have a real problem, when the person who is going to do the job, is afraid to make mistakes. It can be a result of the reaction of the judge. But it can also be the result of past experiences. In that case however, the only person who can do anything about it, is the person who is afraid.

12 August 2008

Leadership and blame

In leadership and blame you find three kinds. First there is the guilt of the leader, default part of his position. The guilt as part of his responsibility as highest in rank. Second there is the guilt of the leader as part of the outcome of his decisions. The leader who makes a choice that can or endangers his fellow group members. Third there is the guilt of the groupmember. The blame as part of the group members responsibility for his behavior.

The first guilt comes from the third kind. The leader is also guilty, as he is also responsible for what others in his group do.

The second guilt is not so interesting. A leader is human and wil make mistakes. It can only be hoped for, that he will learn from his mistakes. And that these lessons will result in better choices in the future. But this guilt is no different from the guilt of an employee, responsible for his actions. The only difference is that a leader has no one above him to assign blame.

And that is what it is all about when it comes to guilt. Of what use is blaming someone? In most cases blaming, leads to flight behavior. The blamed person tries to find external reasons to proof his innocence. The famous excuse: "The dog ate my homework." A pity you do not have a dog. Or the person blamed, will try to spread the blame thin. "I was not the only one, who did this job." Or "I was giving the wrong information by him and him." Or "The client constantly changed his goals and wishes." Or even better: "It was not me, they would do that and so I could not do this." The "Everybody, somebody, anybody, nobody" story is very recognizable.

But is it useful to assign blame, if everybody tries to find an excuse?

11 August 2008

Leadership and judging, a thought

Would the past change, if we judged it?

Why then, do we condemn others, based on their past?

And why do we condemn ourselves, based on our past?