Art’s Writing and Week in Review for January 30, 2016

put it in contextFarewell January! We Won’t Miss You

For the first month of 2016, the weather and the stock market are setting the tone, with wildly varying conditions and tremendous swings in prices, temperatures and precipitation. At least some of that precipitation must have been tears of despair earlier in the month, momentarily giving way to outpourings of joy given Friday’s impressive upturn in the major market indexes. I’m sure I reflect the broader sentiment with, “I can’t wait to see what February brings for the weather and the markets.” 

When we’re not busy digging out from the latest storm or planning how much longer we’ll need to work before we retire, the political scene is keeping many of us enthralled, engaged, amused or horrified depending upon your view. It’s reality TV for the reality TV era.

In the world of business, Xerox has decided to split itself into two in search of renewed relevance, and Microsoft has become interesting again on the heels of a solid quarter based on the firm’s successes in cloud computing. Talking about both of those firms seems so 1990-ish.

For the writing work last week, I covered a wide variety of material, proving once again that I have little ability to govern my enthusiasm for all things management and leadership.

Leadership & Management Writing this Week:

In this week’s Leadership Caffeine post, the focus is on “Leading Your Peers.” This is a topic that is under-covered in the leadership community, and profoundly important if you’re interested in advancing your career and getting things done.  As a complement, consider:  “Why You Cannot Afford to Ignore Office Politics,” from my blog at About.com. 

For those of you interested in the difference between excellence and mediocrity and management and leadership, here’s a reminder on: The 5 Decisions that Make or Break You as a Leader. 

I added the second article in an on-going series focusing on the fundamentals of strategy, entitled: “The Ten Great Habits of Great Strategists.” The post was inspired by a recent and recommended read that I share in the article.

Last and not least, for anyone who has lived through a counter-productive quarterly business review with the team from corporate, I over a bit of catharsis in: Dear Corporate….Why We  Hate Your Business Reviews.” I’m a fan of the productive incarnation of those meetings, but sadly, they are all too rare.

Other News from the World of Leadership Caffeine:

  • Thanks to some great marketing help, I have new and improved Leadership Caffeine Facebook page where I share the articles and a daily helpful (I hope) post or quote. Shameless pitch: please visit and “likes” are always appreciated.
  • The Jump-Start Coaching program is just about filled. I’ve got a few spots open for anyone interested in getting a running start on accelerating their career this year. It’s executive coaching for non-executives at a one-time price! I would love to fill the program this week and get started on the good work of collaborating to help you move forward.
  • WEBINAR on February 4: Level-Up-Accelerate Your Career. It’s complimentary and comes complete with idea prompting content, a nice webinar supplement take-away and 45 minutes of inspiration!
  • Look for the Leadership Caffeine e-news to become a weekly, offering subscriber-only content to help you survive and thrive as a professional and leader!

That’s all for now! Have a great weekend.

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Leadership Caffeine™—Leading Your Peers

image of a foam coffee cup with brown outer sleeveMost of us don’t think about leadership and leading in the context of our peers. After all, by definition, there’s no hierarchical relationship between group members. Conventional thinking suggests our peers are our teammates, our colleagues and our fellow managers or executives, not people we’re supposed to lead.

That thinking is nice, but naïve, if you’re intent on doing more for your firm while bolstering your career prospects.

Consider:

  • Groups of peers are not groups of equals in terms of power, political savviness, capabilities or aggressiveness. They’re a collection of heterogeneous personalities with diverse and often divergent interests.
  • Peer groups are headless. In an effort to remain collegial and respectful, few but the bravest of souls venture into the realm of assuming leadership for these teams. Push too far and too fast and your peers will momentarily unite to push back at you. “Who are you to suggest what WE should do?” On the other hand, these groups are ripe for “benevolent” and issue-focused leadership.
  • Peer groups of managers are typically not highly functional or contributory entities in most organizations. Management “teams” are simply a team in name only. Your fellow managers likely share information and updates at operations reviews and provide input in strategy sessions, but they don’t do much together that creates tangible value.
  • The opportunity for improved collaboration between peers is very real. The potential for these groups to create value around the right issues—strategy execution or problem solving in what I term the “gray-zone” between functions, is incredible. The operative word is, “potential.”

7 Steps to Help You Assert as a Leader with Your Peers:

1. Know that “trust” is your currency in-trade. If you’ve cultivated solid relationships based on showing respect, offering your trust and delivering on commitments, you’re starting from a good position. Friendly advice: if you’ve engendered something other than trust across your relationships, stop reading now and give up on this idea of asserting your leadership with your peers. If you need to strength your currency reserves of trust, focus on number 2, reciprocity.

2. Grow your accounts receivable balance for reciprocity. Reciprocity is second in value only to trust. The essence of reciprocity in an organization setting is: If I help you, you have an unspoken obligation to help me at some time. Give first to get later.

3. Focus your peer-group leadership efforts on gray-zone issues. The problems in the gray-zone are those process inefficiencies or bottlenecks that no one department or function owns. They exist between functions. Identify one of those items and build the case for cross group collaboration to solve it.

4. Create heroes out of your group members. Keep the spotlight on the contributions of your peers and their teams, even if you were the one to organize the problem-solving effort. Remember, you’re playing the long-game and you will benefit from shining the light brightly on others.

5. Practice shuttle diplomacy. Most of us interact with peers more by exception than design. Make certain to build time into your schedule to check-in, share ideas or offer your help.

6. After some victories solving gray-zone issues, raise the stakes by focusing on strategy execution. The gap in most firms between the ideas of strategy and the coordination of strategy execution is Grand Canyon-esque. This is a great place to direct the energy and gray-matter of a peer group that has recently cultivated a track-record for solving problems together…with your guidance and yes, your leadership. Focus the group on the issues of coordination and communication essential to implement new programs and monitor results.

7. Assert as a peace broker for border skirmishes. Armed with ample trust and a strong accounts receivable balance of reciprocity, pay attention to and help your team members navigate differences. By your de facto leadership of the group around key business initiatives, you’ve created the basis for shared interests between members. Appealing to and leveraging those interests is a powerful tactic for resolving differences of opinion or approach.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

For anyone waiting for the guidance on the “Frank Underwood” (House of Cards) power-play in this post, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Leading your peers isn’t about collecting power to feed your ego. Rather, it’s about tapping into the potential of your colleagues to solve problems and move the performance measures in the right direction. After all, the best leaders have something larger in mind than their own personal interests. And yes, get this right and you will be noticed and you will benefit.

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See more posts in the Leadership Caffeine™ series.

Read More of Art’s Motivational Writing on Leadership and Management at About.com!

Art Petty serves senior executives and management teams as a performance coach and strategy facilitator. Art is a popular keynote speaker focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.

book cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

New Coaching and Webinar Offerings from Art Petty

webinarpromoFBLinkpostThere’s something particularly logical about creating offerings that people ask for. During the past few months, I’ve received a number of inquiries that neatly fit into two key themes:

  • Coaching services for individuals below the executive or soon-to-be executive ranks. A good number of you reached out and asked whether I would extend my executive coaching capabilities outside of the C-Suite. The resounding answer is “Yes!” and it comes in the form of my new individualized ACCELERATE program. For the next few weeks or until enrollment is filled, I’m taking on new non-executive clients at a one-time rate for individualized coaching services focusing on helping you move further faster in your career.
  • Coaching services for those focused on reinventing themselves in their careers. Similar to ACCELERATE, this new individualized program, REINVENT is available for a limited time at a great price to help you jump-start your own career reinvention. (Note: this is not a job search program.)

I expect to close enrollment in early February, 2016 and would love to work with you. Check out the program page and information or feel free to drop me a note with your questions.

Last and not least, I’m excited to kick off my 2016 webinar series with, “Level-Up and Accelerate Your Career,” on February 4, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. CST. The webinar is complimentary. I’ll share my perspectives on the impact of change in our global environment on our careers, and I’ll offer some very real case studies on approaches and ideas to help you level-up in your career while helping your organization navigate change. I’ve attended enough stuffy webinars, so this one will be conversational and include some live q/a time. I hope you join me.

That’s all for now. Thanks for your readership and support! Whether it’s through the blogs, the webinars or the programs, I’m honored to help you achieve your professional goals!

Yours in great career health,

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Art’s Leadership & Management Writing for the Week Ending 1/23/16

Toolbox with the words Leadership ToolsAs 2016 navigates its way through the first month, it’s proving to be cruel to rock and roll musicians and fans, stock market investors and as of this writing, anyone attempting air travel in the eastern portion of the U.S.

For this week, my leadership and management writing focused on sharing ideas on re-energizing, improving performance, navigating difficult moments and management insights gained in the role of product manager.

Enjoy the ideas. Use them in good health. And in the words of the recently late Glenn Frey of Eagles fame, “Take it Easy” this weekend.

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Art Petty serves senior executives and management teams as a performance coach and strategy facilitator. Art is a popular keynote speaker focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.

Leadership Caffeine™—Refueling as a Leader

image of a foam coffee cup with brown outer sleeveThis would be easy if it weren’t for the people. -from my first book with Rich Petro, Practical Lessons in Leadership.

From about the six-month mark out of college and for all but eighteen months of the next twenty-two years, I supervised, managed and cultivated my leadership skills in a variety of different technology and software firms. While I loved and still do love the challenge and responsibility for guiding and developing others, the work (including the actual running of the business) was and is demanding and draining. I learned over time that I could only be at my best for others if I took care of my own refueling needs first.

Leaders might eat last, but care and feeding of the leader’s spirit must come first or everyone suffers.

9 Ideas to Help You Refuel Your Leadership Spirit:

1. Tune-in to the real purpose of your role. Like the radios I grew up listening to, the signal on why we lead occasionally drifts. In my case, it took a long time to gain any real clarity around my actual purpose in the role. As it was described, I was like an automaton, watching, pushing, driving and likely annoying everyone in my wake. I suspect I was the classic “Type A” manager with a hint of the micro-manager mixed in for bad measure. I was also exhausting myself and I am sure, everyone around me. Once I refocused on just three items: talent, professional development and working environment, I found more energy and interestingly, so did everyone else. And you never forget when your boss says, “It’s great to show everyone that you’re not just a machine.”

2. Develop a daily refueling habit. Mine is reading for 15-minutes before things kick into gear. Every single morning, I learn one item or generate one new idea because of the reading. I keep a log in Evernote and draw upon the ideas as needed. Today’s buzzword is mindfulness, which seems an awful like focus and meditation. If it works for you, the label doesn’t matter. Whatever you have to do, find a way to give yourself a daily jolt of context about what’s really important.

3. Improve your physical fitness. The mind and body are inextricably linked. Too many of us sacrifice our physical conditioning and development on the altar of work. Fortunately, many organizations are starting to recognize the hard and soft benefits of a fit workforce and helping out with this challenge. The mental dividends from physical exertion are priceless, and you’ll look great too!

4. Attend a course. As I advanced in my career, I started to hang out in Executive Education programs at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. I’ve never left a short or long program without my brain boiling over with ideas and inspiration and my energy level for my work as a leader and manager locked on high. Find your equivalent education refueling station, whether it’s an online course, something at the community college or a professional development program that interests you. Rinse and repeat.

5. Pursue a hobby. There’s some great feedback on the benefits of immersing yourself in something completely unrelated to your work. The shift in focus gives your brain a chance to recover and open up new connections in the process.

6. Spend more time with your team members. I learned over time that the one-on-one or group time was energizing. From development and coaching discussions to participating in idea generation and problem-solving, this very real work stimulates the gray matter and turbocharges the spirit. Of course, there can be complications from the boss diving in with the team, so be careful.

7. Connect disparate networks in your life. Develop as a network broker. Long before the studies on social networks began emerging, I had learned the potential benefits of connecting different people from different groups in pursuit of generating ideas or solving problems. I became a defacto network broker, and the benefits of connecting smart people from different spheres of business and life paid tremendous dividends in the form of innovation and creative problem-solving.

8. Ask your team how you’re doing. Better yet, ask them, “At the end of my time with you, what will you say that I did?” While this might best be handled in a way to insure anonymity, the feedback will either exhilarate you to do more of the same or encourage you to refocus your efforts.

9. Take an extended leadership break. Navigate your way into a role that emphasizes your individual contributions. If you love the freedom and solo focus of your daily work, great, make it permanent. If you’re like me, you’ll recognize how much you truly love leading, not for the glory (there is none), but for the psychic rewards of helping others achieve their goals.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

During the twenty-some years I served as a manager and executive, I took one 18-month leadership break and served as a staff member to the CEO of a big industrial firm. While the environment and work were great, I was miserable. That little break served as rocket fuel for what became the most productive and exhilarating part of my leadership life. Nonetheless, I had to take care of myself first before I could focus on the good work of guiding and developing others.

How’s your energy level for the work ahead? Is it time for you to refuel?

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See more posts in the Leadership Caffeine™ series.

Read More of Art’s Motivational Writing on Leadership and Management at About.com!

Art Petty serves senior executives and management teams as a performance coach and strategy facilitator. Art is a popular keynote speaker focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.