Looking Ahead: Changes at the Management Excellence Blog in 2014

what is your mission?Fresh off the heels of running my annual post on the need for leaders to eschew annual resolutions in favor of a continuous refresh, I’m contradicting myself just a bit with my “blogging resolutions” for the year.

I like the idea of making the goals public. Nothing like visibility to promote accountability!

A Bit of Context:

Much like the fatigue I imagine a distance runner feels at times, constructing 943 posts in a few years takes its toll and requires one to find ways to refuel and push forward. While the runner and the writer both have the option of quitting to make the fatigue go away, there’s something deep inside both individuals that pushes them quietly forward towards a mostly personal goal.

I would just as soon quit breathing as cease writing about management, leadership and career development. Odd, but true I genuinely love supporting the pursuit of developing great firms, great management teams and great careers!

OK, with that out of the way, here’s how I intend to strengthen the blog and deliver more value to you in the upcoming period.

Art’s 5 “Management Excellence” Blogging Resolutions (In no particular order):

1. Refocus on the Core Purpose. I said it above. The focus is on promoting the development of great management teams, great leaders and great careers. Every post must support this lofty but achievable mission. The guidance must be fresh, practical and actionable.

2. Deeper Focus for Specific Audiences. The content is applicable for professionals at all levels, however, my own coaching/teaching/writing focus is on the following three audiences:

  • The “Level Up” audience of mid-career professionals striving for or just embarking upon  their first role with a seat at the executive table. While a promotion to the executive team is a success milestone, the reality is that many professionals struggle and some fail to make the transition. I want to help improve your odds of success.
  • The Management Team striving for high performance. Every member of senior management plays a role in the group developing as an effective team. The content here will focus on challenging CEOs and executives to uncover their core priorities when they are “at the table” and to push them to develop as a functioning team directly supporting improved organizational performance and health.
  • The First-Time Manager/Front-Line Leader. Organizations are often at their worst when it comes to cultivating these critical front-line leaders and the cost to the firm in reduced performance, poor customer satisfaction and loss of leadership bench strength is nearly catastrophic. I’m on a mission to help strengthen the world one effective new leader at a time.

3. Just the Right Number of Unique Voices.  Some bloggers lapse into a routine that incorporates an endless stream of guest posts…in part to take the pressure off the obligation to come up with fresh content and in part to drive traffic. While neither of those are inherently wrong, this is a mission focused blog, not a newspaper. I will bring fresh voices to the blog that address the issues of the core audiences.

4. A Splash of Fiction. Much like Goldratt, Lencioni and  Blanchard do such a great job with the story or fable approach to leadership content (they embed valuable leadership and management lessons inside a fictional story narrative), I intend on adding a story-line to our material. My first stab at this inside Practical Lessons in Leadership (with Rich Petro) received positive feedback and it’s time for this frustrated fiction writer to blend the genres. Look for the upcoming Saturday Serial. (OK, it’s a play on words but I like the sound of an on-going Saturday story that tackles the tough topics of management and leadership in a unique way.)

5. New Media. This may be the hardest resolution to live up to. I loved the earlier podcasting work with the Leadership Caffeine podcast and want to revitalize it as well as add video blogging to the content. Both take time and dedication and I found ways to quit making time for the podcasting in spite of the popularity of the series. Some people like to read, others view or listen, and I want to find as many ways as possible to deliver on the mission of the blog and support your success.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

I’ll report back on progress and results and I appreciate your feedback and ideas along the way. Thanks for your readership and your support. It’s great to be on a journey together in pursuit of management excellence.

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

Don’t miss the next Leadership Caffeine-Newsletter! Register here

For more ideas on professional development-one sound bite at a time, check out Art’s latest book: Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development.

Order one or both books for your team. Contact Art.

New to leading or responsible for first time leaders on your team? Subscribe to Art’s New Leader’s e-News.




Management Inanities, Annoyances and Other Observations

image of a dump truck leaving behind a pile of manure

Manure Delivery

-Sirius/XM Satellite pricing games. These geniuses consistently offer the service for next to nothing for 6 months and indicate in the fine print that after the promotion period, you will have to call to cancel the service or regular rates will apply. Face it, your pricing model is the promotional price and you incur excessive overhead and you tick off good customers who have to navigate your customer service agents, multiple departments and several sales pitches every six months. You’ve created a game that destroys credibility around your brand.

-Everything about queuing up at airline gates. From the poorly designed and managed processes to the lousy speaker systems that guarantee that no one can hear the announcement to the lines that block access to the ticket counters and finally, people who can’t follow simple directions, it’s a symphony of base human behavior, poor management and miserable customer service. Let those who need help through the line. Get out of the way of our people in uniform. Learn and grok the number on your boarding pass that indicates your boarding priority and stay out of the way!

 -When management teams confuse the work of strategy with budgeting or tactical planning. Strategy is about the hard questions surrounding what to do and what not to do in pursuit of serving an audience and creating some form of advantages versus competitors. There’s little that’s comfortable or predictable about the work of strategy. Senior teams often start down this path and then course-correct when the going gets tough. That course correction is almost always wrong.

 -Microsoft. That was a lot of razzle dazzle for an operating system that is about as interesting as watching corn grow here in the Midwest. How much money does it take to become relevant again? (The answer may be…that it doesn’t matter because it’s not possible.)

-Alleged professionals who don’t know you and send LinkedIn invitations and don’t take the time to tailor the default greeting. No context for how they know you. No stated reason for connecting. Seriously. Decline.

 “Around the table” update meetings. These earn my nomination for the biggest, most painful time-wasters in a world all-too-filled with painful and wasteful meetings. It’s fine to pull groups together periodically, just focus on having people bring something of relevance…a critical update…an ask for another group, versus sharing what everyone has been up to since the last meeting.

-Blackberry (Research in Motion). From world-changer to capitulation to irrelevance.

-Business books that offer a solid premise but end up as uninteresting as watching Microsoft’s latest release or watching corn grow here in the Midwest. Most business books should stick with the introduction (usually the most important part), the first chapter or two and the conclusion.

Blog posts that outlive their usefulness… .

Enjoy your week wherever your travels take you.

Leadership Caffeine-Of Crucibles and Leadership Character

image of a coffee cup“…the crucible experience was a trial and a test, a point of deep self-reflection that forced them to question who they were and what mattered to them. It required them to examine their values, questions their assumptions, hone their judgment.”  -Warren Bennis and Robert Thomas in Crucibles of Leadership (subscription may be required).

Two job candidates walk into a coffee shop. One has a spotless record of achievement and accomplishments and a career that runs upward like a steep staircase from early career until now. His life reads like a storybook we can all smile about and wish ourselves to be so fortunate. This is a solid professional.

The other candidate’s record is good, however, there are several points in time when things went wrong. A start-up failure is the first warning flag. A few years of seeming under-employment after the start-up raises another flag. However, even under-employed, there’s visible growth into a leadership role. And then there’s a gap in the work history of 18 months followed by more underemployment. Still, there’s a quick quick progression to a level of significant responsibility. It turns out that this time spent outside the workforce was time she spent caring for a loved one struggling with a terminal disease.

The first candidate is compelling, but the second candidate is likely my choice. And it’s not because I have a soft spot for hiring people who have encountered hardship during their lives. It’s because I want to field the absolute best talent to help our people grow and our organization survive and succeed. The individual who has fought through hardship and displayed signs of survival and success brings a level of personal and leadership depth far beyond that of our more traditional and successful candidate.

I know that at some point we’ll face a crisis we didn’t see coming…something that threatens our business and even our continued existence. This is beyond the quarterly sales shortfall or the delayed product launch date. It’s a crucible moment in the life of a business and we either rethink and change or we risk becoming corporate road kill. 

It’s at this point in time…the seemingly dark moments, that I want leaders who understand what it takes to walk into the fire and emerge out the other side changed and stronger.  It’s their leadership and resolve that will see us through the dark hours towards survival and strengthening.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Your struggles and even your failures are important elements of who you are as a leader.  A track-record of chronic failures is different than having encountered and survived a profound setback. It’s the setbacks, the unexpected crises and your approach to surviving and persevering through these crucible moments that forge your character as a leader. Learn, live and lead. And as a hiring manager responsible for building your team’s and your organization’s leadership future, open your eyes to people who understand what it means to struggle and then win.

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

Don’t miss the next Leadership Caffeine-Newsletter! Register here

For more ideas on professional development-one sound bite at a time, check out Art’s latest book: Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development.

New to leading or responsible for first time leader’s on your team? Subscribe to Art’s New Leader’s e-News.

An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.

Peace and Joy

Peace and Joy this Holiday Season! Merry Christmas!

Words are Insufficient

Much like everyone else, I am struggling to process the tragedy in Newtown last Friday. Words are insufficient and I won’t try to make sense of this senseless nightmare. The loss of a single child is incomprehensible and inconsolable. The loss of many children is overwhelming. One can feel the collective sense of simultaneous shock, anger and profound sadness.

While the details are fuzzy at this moment, there’s no doubt in my mind that the teachers who perished gave their lives attempting to shield or save their children. Like our soldiers and firefighters and law enforcement officials who place themselves in harms way every day, one can’t truly understand what leadership and courage are, until called upon to act selflessly to help others.

For the families so tragically and needlessly impacted, may the thoughts and prayers of a nation…and much of the world provide the strength to carry on, one slow step at a time.