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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Management 2

Q: So here we are again talking about “Management”, and you owe us an explanation about your use of quotation marks around such terms from last week.

A: You're right. My intent was to indicate a general use of the terms, covering a wide spectrum of meanings, until we have a chance in this discussion to be more precise.

Q: What's this concern with being precise?

A: It's more like an obsession about communication. Clear communication is tough enough when we speak the same language and have similar interests. It's even more challenging when we aren't careful about our choice of words and that leads to mis-understanding. So my goal is to be as precise as I can about words, critical ones at least, that are important to the point. Let's call them key words.

Q: And there isn't enough precision?

A: Generally no. For example: we talk about leading a group of people, supervising a group, managing a group, etc. often interchangeably. That's OK when it doesn't change the point of the message – the understanding. It's fine when we are being general and don't need to make a distinction.
But it hinders us when we are trying to be clear about differences, getting at specifics, or looking for improvement opportunities. In these instances, the words are important otherwise our resulting learning and actions are inappropriate, and we end up with a mess.

Q: Alright; I guess I am OK with that. Now, can we get on with it?

A: You're asking the questions. :)

Q: Fine. Let's jump into the deep end. We've all worked for “Managers” who seemed to be bozos who couldn't lead their way out of a paper bag and spent all their time playing office politics. What's that all about? What use are they?

A: Well, first of all, thanks for using quotation marks to make your question general and applicable to a large number of situations. Nevertheless, I am going to ask you for more precision: What is your problem with that situation?

Q: You can't be serious! Clearly that's a problem – they are incompetent.

A: Perhaps they are, but we don't have that data yet. Let me ask you a question: As someone working for that kind of Manager how did you do?

Q: Well, I was fine. I mean: I knew my job, I knew my objectives, I knew my boundaries, I knew how to get things done and I did them. But what if I was a new employee or new to the group, then what?

A: OK; then as far as you getting the right results there wasn't a problem, right? So, if I were to judge your Manager on that basis I would say he did the job required; i.e. your Manager had you produce the right results.

Q: Come on! The guy was a bozo and had nothing to do with me getting the results I did – I did everything for myself.

A: Then it sounds like you were the ideal employee and your Manager let you get on with being successful. And so the problem is...?

Q: OK. So, first you try to flatter me, and then you ignore the other part to my question, and now you are trying to make me look silly.

A: And perhaps you are getting just a tiny bit emotional. That's good; humans are supposed to be emotional even at work. If I may, I want to talk more about the data here first, and deal with the emotion later.

Q: No way! Now you are being condescending and I'm getting angry. And being emotional at work is unprofessional and unproductive, everyone knows that!!

A: Alright. I understand that you feel like I was trying to flatter you, and I sounded condescending. I did indeed bypass part of your concern relating to new employees. I'm sorry my approach is annoying you.
I absolutely agree that it is commonly accepted that emotions in the workplace are unprofessional. Would it be alright if I explained myself a little before we continue?

Q: Hmmm... I think I need a break.

A: We can do that; and reconvene next week?

Q: OK.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Management 1

First of all:
My thanks go out to Luke Schubert of Adelaide, Southern Australia for commenting on this blog with his examples of great leadership. If you have been paying attention to international news you know that Australia has been going through an extensive drought, leading to huge wildfires. It's been hotter than, well... Australia... in the summer time - which is 40+ Celsius right now.
Luke and his family, including two youngsters, haven't been able to sleep properly in the heat. Nevertheless, he has been making time to participate in the on-line BootCamp / ResultsCamp that is underway, doing his regular day job, his dad stuff, and passed on his examples in the Comments to last week's blog. Thanks Luke – Beauty mate!

My intent is to collect such stories and add them to the leadership articles in the near future.

I was alerted last week via Twitter ( of a blog by “RandsinRepose” ( on management (“A Disclosure”). Specifically it is about the situation of successful “specialist” being asked to lead his team and become their manager. It was very interesting reading about the dilemmas, anomalies, and other upsets in the work life of a new “manager”. (The quotation marks will be explained in a moment.)

And that got my sweetheart Vickie and I into another great discussion, this time about “Management”.

Since she is a business coach (, as well as my consulting and training partner, and focuses on the Generation Y (also known as Millennials) cohort moving into management assignments, and has her own experiences dealing with Boomer Generation managers, we just had the best time exploring the whole “management” thing.

Once we had solved world hunger in that discussion, we agreed that it seemed that the “Great Forgetting”, that Daniel Quinn describes in “Ishmael” and his other books on the nature of our Taker culture, has happened with respect to the general understanding, or the lack of understanding, on “Management”. It appears that the basics of “Management” aren't taught, heard, or absorbed in organizations these days, and in our consulting lives, Vickie and I run into examples of this regularly.

Further; the distinctions between leadership and management are unclear, so why not jump into the “Management” water as well as talk about leadership in this blog?

So at the risk of sounding like the Four Yorkshiremen “dreamin' of living in a corridor” (luxury!) who believe the youngsters these days don't appreciate how good they have it, I thought some fun with “Management” might be in order. (Thanks Monty Python)

Question: So, Mr. Reeves, I take it that you feel there is a gap in understanding in what “Management” is all about?

Answer: Very perceptive! I keep running into confusion, mis-understanding, and general belly-aching about it.

Q: And you are just the Saviour to lead us all out of this wilderness?

A: Of course.

Q: How modest!

A: Think nothing of it. Just show up again next week after I have compiled my extensive knowledge and experience into a few thousand pages of notes.

Q: Wait a second – you haven't explained your use of quotation marks above around “manager and “Management”.

A: You're right.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Leadership 7

A quick update on the inaugural event of Friends of Deep Griha, Canada, held at Central United Church, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia last week:
  • about twice as many attendees at the pot-luck lunch as expected (nothing like food to get people's attention)
  • a lot more money collected than imagined, with the result that
  • 270 toddlers will have nutritional supplements of eggs and milk for a whole month in Deep Griha's care!
It is astonishing how a little goes a long way, and how directly one can make a difference not just in one child's life but in a lot of lives.

Thanks to all who attended, and the even larger number who contributed!

And now back to our sponsor.... :)
Please comment with your stories about leaders you have experienced, as suggested in Leadership Article 6.
If you have had trouble getting through the security screens, infrared sensors, and bulky, imposing guards to post a comment, please try again. Thanks!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Leadership 6

So what's left to talk about regarding Leadership?

Only tons...

But why don't we take a pause to hear about your stories.

Let me know by Comment on this blog the answer to “Who do you perceive as a leader and why?”.

Share with us all your stories about leadership, and I will collect them and post them in future blogs.

As Jimmy Durante? used to say: “Keep those cards and letters comin'!”


Sunday, February 8th. is the inaugural fund raiser by the Friends of Deep Griha Canada with an awareness pot-luck Indian lunch at Central United Church in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

Help support the leadership actions taken by the Deep Griha Society in Pune, India.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Leadership 5

Let's summarize the concepts we have accumulated so far in this series on Leadership:
  • a vision
  • the best idea moving toward that vision
  • a leader proposing that idea
  • a cohesive group wanting to follow that idea
Some of a leader's attributes: Inspiration, Courage, Patience, Respect, Decisiveness, Firmness, and Connection with the individuals in their group.

A test for leadership:
  • Followers = Leadership happening
  • No followers = no Leadership happening.
Characteristics of a group and it's leader:
  • a symbiotic relationship, mutual influence, agency
  • a cohesive group – a social identity – ideally using tested and proven interpersonal tools to share information, make decisions, resolve conflict, etc.
  • a transformational process creating the group, determining its identity, developing these individual and group visions
  • again ideally, the opportunity for any individual at any point in time take leadership of a team by means of the team's acceptance of that individual's idea for moving the team forward - that leadership possibly being momentary or lasting as long as it takes for the team to achieve their vision
Finally; a modification of the definition of leader to: one who has willing followers.

Which leads us to some other notions to address, such as authority vs. power.

If one of the “proofs” of seeing leadership is to also see followers, what about situations where people are forced to follow?

We see lots of projects in the software industry become “forced marches” and some so dire they become “death marches”. Usually no programmers die, thankfully, no matter how poor their programming or teamwork, although some project managers contemplate homicide followed by harakiri.

In these cases, are we seeing leadership?

Hence the more precise way of describing followers by adding the adjective “willing”. If the person heading up a group has to resort to coercion or some other form of power – typically fear – then should we say that person is demonstrating leadership? I believe a consensus would say no. People forced to follow the person in charge in any situation would not be considered willing followers and hence the person in charge would not be considered leading.

Can we then make a distinction between power and the use of power in the sense of force, and authority?

If, as we see regularly in our teamwork retreats called BootCamp or ResultsCamp, the team (our cohesive social group above) willingly follows the current “best idea”, and in effect the proposer of that idea, then we can say the team confers authority of leadership upon that proposer. On the strength of that idea, and the team's understanding that to continue to progress toward their vision they need to act on the current “best idea”, authority to lead automatically flows to the proposer of that idea. Or even more accurately, leadership authority flows to those who begin action on that idea.

What we see then in our Camps is the following proven scenario:
  • the team members develop their individual visions of their futures
  • this impetus leads to the team readily developing a team vision
  • the agreed and accepted stance of the team becomes a bias toward action to enact that vision
  • this bias for action leads to the development of, and proposals to, the team, of ideas to move toward that vision – the elements of enactment
  • the act of proposing an idea, and the team's acceptance of it, causes emergent leadership by the proposer, and then by those who act with authority to make that idea so
The results are:
  • leadership emerging from any team member at any moment
  • the team conferring authority on these emergent leaders to move forward decisively based on action towards results
  • this leadership lasting as long as progress is made, results are achieved, and the next “best idea” appears
None of this contradicts what we have learned so far. And it does make a very exciting and promising experience. Because exactly what we need right now is leaders like President Obama of the United States to not only propose ideas, but to seek out those of us who will act. Clearly no one individual can accomplish all the change needed, nor do they necessarily know what the current “best idea” is. But together we can all find ideas, and act on them – locally, municipally, provincially, and nationally - as emergent leaders.