Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Are you fit to lead?

Phys Ed for Managers

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& filed under Business, careers, health, leadership, management, managing yourself, Personal Development.
By Theodore Kinni
Theodore Kinni has written, ghosted, or edited more than 20 business books. He was book review editor for strategy+business for 7 years.
“In order for man to succeed in life, God provided him with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together.” Plato wrote that about 400 years before the birth of Christ. I have no idea if the Greek philosopher pursued physical fitness, but it’s said that  he died peacefully in his bed at the age of 81—which I assume was considered a ripe old age in those days.

It’s not a bad life span these days either. After all, the average life expectancy in the U.S. is just under 79 years. The only problem, according the founder of The Leadership Academy of Barcelona, executive coach, and b-school professor Steven P. MacGregor, is that a career in business is not exactly conducive to a long life. “As we advance through a career, we tend to increasingly live our lives on a purely mental level, with all of our emails and strategies and meetings and metrics, forgetting we have a body until something goes wrong with it!” he explains in the opening chapter of his book, Sustaining Executive Performance: How the New Self-Management Drives Innovation, Leadership, and a More Resilient World (Pearson FT Press, 2014).
Happily, MacGregor has a solution—a program designed specifically to help business people become physically as well as mentally fit. Its five elements are Move, Recover, Focus, Fuel, and the rest here

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How companies kill innovation

My new book post on Safari is up:

Why So Few Innovation Efforts Pay Off and What You Can Do About It

By Theodore Kinni
Theodore Kinni has written, ghosted, or edited more than 20 business books. He was book review editor for strategy+business for 7 years.
Companies spend a lot of money on innovation. According to an annual study by PwC Strategy&, the top 1000 corporate R&D spenders invested $647 billion in their quest for innovation in 2014. That’s more than the individual GDPs of all but the 30 most prosperous countries in the world.
Given this level of spending, I assumed that these companies—the so-called Global Innovation
1000—were getting a pretty hefty return on their investment. But I was wrong about that: Year after year, Strategy& reports that there is “no statistically significant relationship between sustained financial performance and R&D spending” among these enterprises.

That didn’t make a lot of sense to me, until I realized that the lack of correlation probably wasn’t between innovation spending and corporate success as much as it was between innovation spending and innovation success. Unless your R&D spending actually generates some kind of commercially viable innovation, it’s not going to translate into financial performance, is it?

To see why companies might not be getting much of a bang for the big bucks that they spend pursuing innovation, it’s well worth taking a look at Creative People Must Be Stopped: 6 Ways We Kill Innovation (Without Even Trying) (Jossey-Bass, 2012), by David A. Owens. In the book, Owens, a professor at Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management and consultant, points out that corporations often provide surprisingly unfertile fields for innovation because of six different and increasingly challenging kinds of constraints: individual, group, organizational, industry, societal, and technological. (As if the six constraints aren’t enough, there are multiple pitfalls within each category.)

Any one of the six constraints can kill innovation efforts dead, so you should get to know all of them (and you can take this survey to find out which ones you or your company might be particularly vulnerable to). But the first two—individual and group—are particularly relevant for frontline and middle managers who are trying improve the innovation results of their the rest here

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Jeff Bezos way

Leadership Lessons from Jeff Bezos and Amazon
Posted May 12, 2015 by & filed under Amazon, Business, Content - Highlights and Reviews, culture, leadership, management, strategy.
By Theodore Kinni
Theodore Kinni has written, ghosted, or edited more than 20 business books. He was book review editor for strategy+business for 7 years.
I’ve been waiting for Amazon—with its annual sales of almost $90 billion in 2014—to crash and burn for a long time. There was no way that a public company could continue to operate almost entirely without profit year after year—Amazon lost $241 million in 2014. I was positive that a reckoning was just around the corner. Now, 20 years down the road, and before Jeff Bezos dispatches a fleet of delivery drones to bombard me with the company’s ubiquitous shipping cartons, I hereby publicly and unconditionally surrender. Never again will I mutter—even under my breath—about the company’s prospects.

No matter what you think of Amazon, it is clear that it is a juggernaut of a company—and that its leaders play a big role in its ability to generate topline growth. That’s why it’s worth reading The Amazon Way: 14 Leadership Principles Behind the World’s Most Disruptive Company by John Rossman. Rossman, who was formerly Amazon’s director of enterprise services and now serves as managing director of professional services firm Alvarez & Marsal, says that the principles he describes in the book were embedded in the corporate culture by founder Bezos and remain the “core tenets on which company leaders are rigorously rated during their annual performance reviews and self-evaluations.” Here are a few that are especially notable—not so much for their commonsensical nature, but for the diligence with which the company pursues them:
Obsess Over the Customer: Not surprisingly from a company that rewrote the book on retailing (driving myriad competitors in segments such as books and music out of business altogether), Amazon’s first leadership tenet dictates an intense focus on the customer. Rossman writes that Bezos has always maintained that the “best customer service is no customer service.” This koan-like statement means that Amazon seeks to always give its customers exactly what they want the first time around, which eliminates a whole bunch of problems—and costs—from the get go. That’s why the company instituted policies like the then-innovative free shipping on orders over $100 program, “Look Inside the Book” previews, and Amazon Prime, which has become a major revenue generator in its own the rest here

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Goleman's contributions to the literature of leadership

Why You Should Read Daniel Goleman

Posted by & filed under Business, Content - Highlights and Reviews, emotional intelligence, leadership, management, managing people, managing yourself.

By Theodore Kinni
Theodore Kinni has written, ghosted, or edited more than 20 business books. He was book review editor for strategy+business for 7 years.

It’s hard to imagine anyone who has influenced the discipline of leadership to a greater degree over the past 20 years than psychologist, consultant, and author Daniel Goleman. Goleman is best known for popularizing the concept of emotional intelligence (EI) with his book of the same name, which was published in 1995. Since then he’s been exploring a set of learnable capabilities relating to “how well we manage ourselves and our relationships” that can be developed to enhance personal and organizational performance.

There is no better place to get an introduction or refresher course in Goleman’s oeuvre than What Makes a Leader: Why Emotional Intelligence Matters (More Than Sound, 2013). It is a collection of seven of his most important and relevant articles, originally published in Harvard Business Review and elsewhere, each with a new postscript by the author. The result is a useful combination of the theoretical and practical, all packaged into one quick read that offers aspiring leaders a great return on their time.

The collection is bookended by Goleman’s most important concepts. It starts with the HBR article in which Goleman introduced EI to business leaders. In it, he explained that while above-average intelligence and relevant technical skills were “entry-level requirements for executive positions,” research showed that the four components of EI were what makes or breaks a leader.

Self-awareness, which “shows itself as candor and an ability to assess oneself realistically,” is the first component. Goleman says that self-aware leaders are able to “speak accurately and openly…about their emotions and the impact they have on their work.” For instance, self-aware leaders realize how deadlines affect them and are able to communicate that information to their teams to ensure positive results.

Self-management—the ability to control your own moods, feelings, and emotions by acknowledging and channeling them productively—is the second component of EI. Unsurprisingly, thoughtful reflection and a passion for success turn out to be more productive for leaders than temper tantrums and sulking.

Empathy, that is, “thoughtfully considering employees’ feelings—along with other factors—in the process of making intelligent decisions,” is the third component. Goleman identifies this quality as most critical in today’s highly diverse and global business environment. And you don’t have to look much further than the headlines, which are filled with news of lawsuits between employers and employees, to see that it isn’t as common a trait as it should be.

Social skill, “friendliness with a purpose: moving people in the direction you desire,” is the fourth and final trait of EI. Leaders who cultivate this skill are good schmoozers, and while that may sound like a less-than-critical capability, Goleman finds that it is what enables us to put EI to work, making social skill “the culmination of other dimensions of emotional intelligence.” the rest here

Monday, May 4, 2015

Favorite books from the brand builder behind The North Face

Hap Klopp’s Required Reading

In 1968, a newly minted Stanford School of Business MBA named Kenneth (Hap) Klopp bought a two-year-old outdoors store in the San Francisco Bay area named The North Face. Over the next two decades, he vertically integrated the business — expanding into the manufacturing and wholesaling of high-quality outdoor apparel and gear — and laid the foundation for a brand that generated US$2.3 billion in revenues in 2014.

Klopp sold The North Face in 1989 and embarked on a new career as a consultant, teacher, and writer. Today, he serves on the boards of several high-tech companies, including data visualization firm Obscura Digital and nanotechnology materials firms Cocona and Mission Athletecare. He is also a professor of marketing at Hult International University and the author of two decidedly irreverent business books, The Adventure of Leadership: An Unorthodox Business Guide by the Man who Conquered “The North Face (with Brian Tarcy, Longmeadow Press, 1991) and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Business Management (with Brian Tarcy, Alpha Books, 1998).

I asked Klopp how he chooses business books, and he explained that he looks for books that relate to three themes: changing social values and trends; the disruptive effects of technology; and the preservation of entrepreneurial energy in mature companies — the last a challenge that he labels “turning the arrow back.” He recommended the following four books.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Why King Charles lost his head

Saumitra Jha: How Financial Innovation Helped Start the English Civil War (and Why That’s Important Today)

A Stanford scholar explains why financial mechanisms could be useful to align diverse interests.

Four chess lessons for leaders

It’s easy to see the top of the corporate ladder but successfully making the climb is an increasingly challenging undertaking. After years of rightsizing and delayering, steps leading to the top of ladder are fewer and farther apart than ever. And when you get a chance to stand on them, you better make the most of it—there are plenty of people climbing the ladder behind you.

How can you do that? Mark Miller, who since 1977 has climbed the corporate ladder from hourly team member to vice president of leadership development at Chick-fil-A, the $5 billion fast serve restaurant chain, says you have to raise your game.

“Most of us began our leadership journey utilizing an approach with striking similarities to the game of checkers, a fun, highly reactionary game often played at a frantic pace. Any strategies we employed in this style of leadership were limited, if not rudimentary,” he explains. “The opportunities in our world for leaders to play checkers and be successful are dwindling. The development game today for most leaders can better be compared to chess—a game in which strategy matters; a game in which individual pieces have unique abilities that drive unique contributions; a game in which heightened focus and a deeper level of thinking are required to win.”

In his new book, a fast-reading and accessible business novel titled Chess, Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game (Berrett-Koehler, 2015), Miller describes chess-level leadership strategies—four moves that you can use to make the most of opportunities to climb the career ladder when they present the rest here