Friday, December 31, 2010

Accepting fear will allow you to move foward in your business

My father was visiting over the holidays and reminiscing about his days as a Navy pilot. Being eighty eight years old and a WWII veteran, he is part of a small and shrinking group of men and women who came of age during a time of war.

As a carrier pilot in the Pacific theater, my father had to learn how to manage his fear. He describes his first carrier landing as the most terrifying experience of his life; one he recalls vividly today. There are no heroic images in his recollection, only feelings of paralyzing fear and disbelief. Is it really possible to land a plane on what appeared to be a “matchbook bobbing and weaving" on the surface of the ocean?

When his wheels first hit the deck and the arresting wires grabbed the tail hook, he realized it was possible; he had made it. His fear transformed into belief and the elation of accomplishment took over.  He said: “Once I admitted to myself that I was terrified, a sense of relief overcame me and I believed I could do it.”

Many executives don’t like to admit they are afraid. Instead of managing their fear, they pretend it doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, this denial prevents them from taking important and decisive action; they never “land the plane!"

Not landing the plane includes among other things: sticking with a strategy that is successful today, when all indications point to it failing tomorrow, keeping quiet on a point of principle to avoid “ruffling feathers,” waiting too long to admit to a mistake, and delaying action on popular yet poor performing executives. Any of these mistakes can cause your leadership to “crash into the ocean.”
Admit to yourself that you are afraid. Even better, admit to someone else you trust and respect. Accepting fear is managing fear. It allows you to make the tough calls, move your business forward, and bring the plane in safely.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Career Ladder

My latest article in Supply Chain Quarterly Magazine. Cick on one of the icons above or go to my profile to print/download or share. Enjoy!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Accept Reality---and do something about it....

In Dickens’ famous story, A Christmas Carol, Scrooge must face his past, present, and future.  As he travels through his life, we experience a story of scornful failure followed by undeniable redemption.  We see early on that Scrooge has lost touch with what really matters; because he has accepted a cynical world view, he is left old, alone, and bitter.

During his time with the Spirit of Christmas Present, Scrooge is confronted by two of the most intense characters in the story.  When the Spirit opens up his cloak, sitting at his feet are two dirty and frightened children; the boy’s name is Ignorance and the girl’s is Want.  When queried by Scrooge, the Spirit provides some clear direction: “Beware of them both and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.  Deny it!”

While up to interpretation, it appears that from the Spirit's viewpoint ignorance and denial are two sides of the same coin.  If you deny reality and claim ignorance, suffering is a certainty.  For anyone in business, this advice should resonate loudly.  

The business world is strewn with the bodies of leaders who chose to deny reality and paid the price.  We all want to hear good news. We don’t like the trouble and emotional angst that comes with problems.  However, not facing reality can cost you dearly.  Competitors that are underestimated will eat your lunch; under-performing executives left in place hurt morale; questionable ethics that aren’t challenged have painful consequences.

However, even Scrooge found redemption! By facing the impact of his denial and ignorance, his spirit rose from the ashes.  It is never too late to ask the tough question and to challenge your own actions.  This is what great business leaders do and their companies thrive.  

The good news is we can all learn from Scrooge. 

By accepting reality and doing something about it we can achieve great things.  

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Common Sense---a (business) notion that has been around for a long time...

Ben Franklin often spoke of common sense with such notable quotes as "If you would be wealthy, think about saving as well as getting” and “Creditors have better memories than debtors." 

Ben’s practical approach to life was admired by many and certainly has much to teach us about executive leadership.

In business, complexity is the enemy of common sense. When business ideas are allowed to flourish in the form of highly complicated and confusing concepts, common sense is often a casualty. Complexity hides basic truths and we don’t have to look very far to find examples

Senior executives must constantly be on guard for ideas that are too hard to explain, are expressed with emotion rather than logic, and are pitched with certainty, often by individuals convinced of their superior intellect.  “Trust me on this one, I completely understand the issues.”   To ensure common sense prevails you should:
o     Ask pointed questions and listen carefully.  Questions are almost always more useful than statements.  Poor listening is behind many bad decisions.

o     Encourage aggressive debate and give your team permission to engage in conflict when considering important decisions.  Let them know it is okay to “get into it”, notwithstanding personal attacks.

o    Seek input from diverse sources both within and external to your organization. Check out your thinking with those you trust to tell you the unvarnished truth. 

o    Recognize the natural role your emotions play in decision making. Emotions can override judgment; learn to question your emotions.

In business, common sense is an important litmus test for good decision making.  By asking questions like, “Does the idea pass the reasonableness test?"  

Would I do this with my own money?  
Can the idea be expressed simply?  
Is it supported by facts? 

These are the kind of questions Ben would likely ask.  

We would all do well to heed his wisdom; it is as relevant today as it was 250 years ago.