7/22/12: Leadership Reading to Start Your Week

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Here are five choice articles from the business schools, the business press and major consulting firms to start off your work week. I'm pointing you to articles about doing your own strategy, figuring out which decisions are likely to work, increasing self-awareness, not fooling yourself, and why people choose companies and why they stay.

From Cynthia Montgomery via HBS Working Knowledge: Are You a Strategist?
"Corporate strategy has become the bailiwick of consultants and business analysts, so much so that it is no longer a top-of-mind responsibility for many senior executives. Professor Cynthia A. Montgomery says it's time for CEOs to again become strategists."

Wally's Comment: CEOs should certainly be strategists, but that doesn't mean doing away with consultants. They can help manage the process by keeping it honest, disciplined, and thorough. Cynthia Montgomery has many good thoughts here, including her four questions that make up strategy. Tom Hall and I identified two. "What's distinctive about us?" "How will we make money from that?"

For some background, read "Strategy vs. Culture - Which One is Your Money on?" by Simon Mitchell, as well as Marco Iansiti's ideas on "Aligning Planning and Execution" and "Putting Strategy into Practice " from Strategy + Business.

From Chief Executive: How Do We Know Which Decisions and Policies Will Work?
"In 1999, Jim Manzi started a software company called Applied Predictive Technologies (APT) that pioneered the development of experimental methods now used by dozens of companies to set prices, offer different products, and identify and market to customers. Capital One founders Rich Fairbank and Nigel Morris, for example, used the analytic-intensive approach to experiment with widely differing credit offers in building Capital One into a giant business. Rather than debate which offers were best for which segments, the company tested a wide variety of solicitations in randomly selected households, the measured the relative profitability of resulting customer relationships. The key insight was making relentless experimentation the core methodology for understanding consumer response, which directly contradicted the existing industry paradigm of focusing on pattern-finding models, and using testing as a secondary method."

Wally's Comment : Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, said, "The whole art of war consists of guessing at what is on the other side of the hill." He would send patrols to find out. You can test your ideas to determine what works.

For some perspective on forecasting, read "Cleaning the Crystal Ball" from Strategy + Business and "Forecasts Are Always Wrong, but They Can Be a Lot Less Wrong " from Industry Week. And remember Peter Drucker's observation that we only know two things about the future: it cannot be known and it will be different from today.

From Anthony K. Tjan via HBR: How Leaders Become Self-Aware
"In my experience — and in the research my co-authors and I did for our new book, Heart, Smarts, Guts, and Luck — there is one quality that trumps all, evident in virtually every great entrepreneur, manager, and leader. That quality is self-awareness. The best thing leaders can to improve their effectiveness is to become more aware of what motivates them and their decision-making."

Wally's Comment: Self-awareness is one of the most potent traits that a leader can have. To get at that inner self, you need to reflect. That's where you turn experience into insight. Of course, you need to shut off your various pieces of gear to do it well. That's what Henry Mintzberg and Peter Todd suggest in their article "The Offline Executive." You may also enjoy my post "Use Solitude to Make Yourself a Better Leader."

From Shelley Dubois at Fortune: Cheating business minds: How to break the cycle
"It's no cakewalk, but there are several ways to curtail the spread of unethical corporate culture. Here's how it works."

Wally's Comment: We human beings are really good at self-deception. Shelley Dubois discusses the ways we rationalize decisions that might not otherwise match up with what we claim to value. You should also read Susan Tardanico's Forbes article, "Self-Sabotage: The 20 Ways You Believe Your Own Excuses" and you may enjoy my post titled "Statistical silliness ."

From Blanchard Leaderchat: Top five reasons why employees join and stay with organizations
"A new Towers Watson research paper is shedding some light on what attracts employees to an organization (and what keeps them there after they’ve joined.)  The 2012 Global Workforce Study includes responses from 32,000 employees in 29 markets around the world."

Wally's Comment: This great piece by David Witt offers a summary of and insights on the Towers Watson 2012 Global Workforce Study. You can visit the Towers Watson site to download a summary of the study and view an infographic titled "Sustainable Employee Engagement at a Glance."

Carnivals, Lists, and Such

TED talk by John Graham-Cumming: "The greatest machine that never was "

Studying individual leaders is a great way to learn about leadership. That's why my weekly post points you to posts by or about individual leaders. Last week I pointed you to posts by and about Frank Vettese, Ed Kushins, Paul Mascarenas, Cathy Choi, Steve Girsky, and Louis Audet. Plus three articles Marissa Mayer, Yahoo's new CEO.

If you enjoyed this post, you may want to check back on Wednesday when I select five excellent posts from the week's independent business blogs. Last week I highlighted posts on remembering who you are, creating a validating culture, a letter to a young leader, how to identify your team's purpose, and a bias toward action.

"Remembrances of Stephen R. Covey," "You might be a great boss" (homage to Jeff Foxworthy), and "Spitfire Innovation " were popular posts on my blog last week.

If you want to get a book done, improve your blog posts, or make your web copy more productive, please check out my blog about business writing. My coaching calendar for authors and blog writers currently has time open. Please contact me if you're interested.

If you're a boss, you should check out my Working Supervisor's Support Kit.

Wally's Working Supervisor's Support Kit is a collection of information and tools to help working supervisors do a better job. It's based on what Wally's learned in over twenty years of supervisory skills training. Click here to check it out.



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