Leadership on Point

How To Handle A Crisis

April 23, 2015 Barry Wanger - Guest Author


Hardly a day goes by without the leaders of some company or nonprofit organization wondering how to handle the latest crisis. A product recall; an evironmental disaster; a sexual harassment lawsuit; an unexpected scandal. The list goes on and on.

What is shocking to me is how often the crisis is handled ineptly. The most common mistakes:

· Not having a crisis plan in place

· Hoping the media won’t find out about the crisis

· More concerned about potential liability than doing the right thing

· Stonewalling

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Innovate, Don’t Imitate

September 11, 2013 Chip Bell - Guest Author


The concept of best practices has been a mainstay in industry for a long time. Typically it has been a siren’s call for leaders to flock to the feet of a renowned exemplar in search of practices they could duplicate and methods they could replicate.  For the company on the pedestal it was no doubt an ego thrill.  After all, in the words of Charles Colton, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

 

There have been many lessons learned from best practices studies that resulted in improvement.  Some organizations learned what not to do; some learned their own ways were better.  And, some shamelessly copied without logic.  For example, a pianist at a baby grand like the ones in the early Nordstrom stores begin appearing in places a piano seemed out of place.  Customer service did not improve, it just sounded prettier!  These mimics embraced the service symbol and missed the point!

 

There is a dark side to searching for facsimiles.  They bypass the creativity of all employees, especially the insights of those that interface with customers.  Why not innovate instead of imitating?  If employees are given clear direction and free reign, they can be as inventive as Apple and as entrepreneurial as Virgin Air.  If they experience their ideas are valued…even those that do not always work…they will remain on the hunt for novel ways to serve.  Set your employees free and enjoy their gifts!

 

Chip R. Bell is a customer loyalty consultant and the author of several best-selling books.  He can be reached at www.chipbell.com.

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The Power of Pause

August 19, 2013 webmaster

The speaker thanked the MC for the introduction and launched into her presentation. We were still thinking of our lunchtime conversations, shuffling papers, checking cell phones and didn’t pay attention to the introduction or to the speaker’s first few sentences. She seemed unaware of that as she continued.

Only in the middle of her third sentence did most of us in the audience begin listening. Those crucial opening sentences were therefore lost. One can only imagine how much more compelling her presentation would have been had she captured our attention at the very start.

As an audience, we are often on automatic listening mode and need something to help us change gears. For most of us, our ears and brains actually welcome the signals that help us transition. We expect words, so when we get the unexpected, we sit up and notice.

In the theater, as the lights are dimmed, the audience collectively understands that moment to cease talking and focus on the stage. In a meeting, a lack of words can have the same effect.

So, give the audience the unexpected… and … STOP … before starting.

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Are You A Spectator In Your Own Life?

June 21, 2013 John Dowd Jr. - Guest Author

At 50 years old, I got maybe the best gift anyone could ever get… I got fired.

Of course, at the moment it didn’t seem like a gift.  After a wonderful 30-year broadcast career, I found myself at a new chapter in my life with a burning question: What next?

The next logical step that my “mind” told me was to get another radio manager job, which would have been my TENTH.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful to have had a wonderful career.  But, I felt that the meaning in my life was no longer there.  While I did my best to help others, the corporate world had me focused less on people and more on profits.

Should I get a new job and feel like I was a spectator of my life and not living it? Or should I stop and try to finish a book that I had started a few years before, on positive thinking and well-being?  How wonderful to think about this project of slowing down and doing something that brought true meaning into both my life and the lives of others.

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Mentoring As An Act of Freeing

June 4, 2013 Chip Bell - Guest Author

“Do you give the horse his strength or clothe his neck with a flowing mane?  Do you make him leap like a locust, striking terror with his proud snorting?   He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing; he does not shy away from the sword.  In frenzied excitement he eats up the ground; he cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.”

These powerful words from Job: 39 open the movie Secretariat, a film about the greatest horse that ever lived.  Not only did Secretariat (real name: Big Red) win the Triple Crown, he won all the three races in record time that all stand today, almost 40 years later. The storyline of the movie was about owner, Penny Chenery Tweedy, insisting his trainer and jockey let Secretariat run his own race–that is, with minimum supervision.

What if mentoring was all about removing, not about adding?  What if mentors believed their protégé was like a prize “race horse” that only needed the permission, proficiency, and protection to achieve greatness?  What if mentors worked as hard to get out of the way as they did to control and direct?

Had Secretariat trainer Lucien Laurin or jockey Ron Turcotte decided they needed to dictate, direct and domesticate Secretariat we might never have gotten to witness his “frenzied excitement to eat up the ground” as he ran the race he was meant to run.  Set your protégé free and let him or her “learn like the wind.”

 

Chip R. Bell is a customer loyalty consultant and the author of several best-selling books.  His newest book (with best-selling author Marshall Goldsmith) is Managers as Mentors:  Building Partnerships for Learning.  He can be reached at www.chipbell.com.  The book can be ordered http://amzn.to/1aqsUf3.

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Will Yahoo’s Ban on Telecommuting Fix The Problem?

March 1, 2013 Richard Levin

As a vocal proponent of telecommuting throughout my career, I am not so sure that Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer’s decision to ban telecommuting is necessarily a setback for working parents and work/family policies (many of which I helped develop over the years).

Having visited the Bay Area several times over the past year, it appears to me that despite Silicon Valley’s reputation as the hub of telecommuting, many Bay Area workers spend part of their workweek IN the office.  But here is the key:  Bay Area companies seem to utilize flex time more than telecommuting – workers frequently come to work “late” (after 9 or 10) and leave “early” (before 4 or 5), checking in frequently from home, cars, or trains when they are not in the office.  So the real story here is not necessarily Yahoo’s ban on telecommuting, but whether the company will still encourage flexible hours and avoid the useless metric of facetime, the policy of being in an office for a set number of hours, regardless of your output.

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Presentations Skills Training is not enough!

February 15, 2013 Bob Glover

 

We all accept the fact that the ability to communicate effectively is an important leadership skill.  We look to Presentation Skills training to help us become better communicators, but is presentation skills training enough?  The number of people who deliver bland, boring, and irrelevant presentations who say, “I’ve had presentation skills training.” is frightening.

In the standard presentation skills training, we learn how to create pictures with gestures and how to use space to bring our message to our audience.  We practice eye contact to engage our audience and begin to modulate our voice to convey our passion and commitment.  These techniques make us better presenters, not communicators.  What about the message?  Presentation Skills training is not an end in itself.

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The Point Of No Return

February 1, 2013 Richard Levin

We have reached the point of no return.  On phone calls and e-mails, I mean.  We have reached a point where so many of us are so busy that we don’t have time to respond to a phone message or e-mail.  We often have the best intention to reply, and we flag the message for later action.  But later becomes later, as work and the-rest-of-life get in the way.

Maybe it is embarrassment or maybe we really have nothing to say in reply, but a lot of us put off responding to a message until we “have something to say”.  Maybe you are calling someone about a decision that is supposed to be made about a business proposal, or you want to know what action was taken on something that was promised.  Rather than report that nothing has happened yet, we wait until there is actual news to report.  Which, more often than not, brings the other person to presume the news is not good and we don’t have the courage to say so.

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“Children And Stress”: A Guide To Helping Children Through Uncertain Times

December 14, 2012 Meghan Vincent

Eleven years ago, during the tragic events of September 11th, Dr. Richard Levin wrote a paper focusing on victims who struggled to understand and comprehend the horror that they had witnessed: the children.  The goal was to provide a resource for parents and caretakers who were tasked with helping these children through such an incredibly difficult time.

 

It is with extreme sadness that I re-introduce this document.  My hope is that the families and children affected by the horrific events that occurred today at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT can find the support they need to endure such a frightening experience.  The paper explores the possible reactions that children might demonstrate and how to help, focusing on five age groups (ranging from under three through adolescence).

 

I encourage parents and caretakers to download this paper (a downloadable version can be found here: Children and Stress or on our website, here: http://www.richardlevinassociates.com/publications.html) and use it as a guide when navigating such a horrendous situation.

 

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of Newtown, CT.

 

 

Written by RLA Associate Meghan Vincent. For more information, Meghan can be contacted at: mvincent@richardlevinassociates.com

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Since When Is Executive Coaching A Bad Thing?

November 14, 2012 Meghan Vincent

While reading Boston.com this past weekend, I came across the article, “New T Manager Underwent Professional Counseling in Atlanta” and was a bit surprised by the tone of both the article itself and – even more so – the reader-added comments that followed.  It seems to me that one of the larger issues (from my subjective perspective, at least) is the general lack of understanding of what executive coaching is – and what it can do for the leader of an organization.

Concern has been expressed over the fact that the newly selected director of the MBTA, Beverly Scott, received “individual coaching and consultation” while serving as the head of Atlanta’s transit system (MARTA). While we don’t personally know Scott or the consulting firm that was hired to work with her, we are familiar with some of the drivers behind the decision to hire a coach (information and quotes taken directly from the article):

  • Scott’s relationship with her board of directors in Atlanta had grown strained
  • “She has so much energy and that for some people can be complicated”
  • “She demands a lot of people.”
  • Scott was a “change agent, and that is often difficult and not always appreciated in an entrenched organization.”

 

Speaking from experience, none of these bullet points raise a red flag in my mind.  In fact, they are quite common.  The relationship between boards and senior management is often a harried one, many times requiring outside help to manage the conflict(s) that develop as a result.  Furthermore, leaders are frequently hired or promoted based on technical abilities and business acumen, with little regard for the “soft skills” that make a leader effective.

The job of an executive coach in this situation is to work with a leader to refine those aforementioned ‘soft skills’ (self-awareness, presentation skills, active listening, stress management, change management, communication skills and messaging, to name a few).  The end result is the development of a true leader – not in the sense of his or her title but rather in action, someone who can inspire and lead his or her organization towards growth and success.

The part of this article that I found most shocking was the quote provided by Mike Jacobs, a state representative in Georgia who heads the legislative committee that oversees MARTA.  He stated, “it’s cause for concern when a consultant is hired for this sort of purpose to address a major leadership position.”  I cannot possible emphasize how much I disagree with this statement.  A cause for concern would be someone who refused coaching and/or refused to acknowledge that he or she had any weaknesses that needed to be addressed.  No one is perfect – and no one should be faulted for trying to address those areas in which there is opportunity for growth and development.

I wonder what Mike Jacobs would think if he knew how many great leaders – in the corporate, government and non-profit sectors – have worked with an executive coach?

 

Written by RLA Associate Meghan Vincent. For follow up, Meghan can be contacted at: mvincent@richardlevinassociates.com

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