Eeny Meeny Miny Moe. Pick a Cover. Let Me Know.

“What is written beneath this heavy handsome book cover will count, so sayeth this cover.” – Anne Rice

There’s a pretty old idiom that says, “you can’t judge a book by its cover”. In the ordinary sense, it means you can’t really know everything about people simply by looking at them. However, in the literary sense, we do indeed judge a book by its cover at least enough to decide whether we want to take it off a shelf and explore its contents. I suspect the cover has a little something to do with the decision to actually buy a book too.

Currently I’m at a point in my book-writing journey when Boni and John at Ingenium Books are asking me to choose a book cover. It’s a big deal and a decision not to be taken lightly. So I’m asking you to help me decide. Are you up for it?

First, it seems only fair that I should give you some context because the cover of the book is meant to give you a hint about what’s inside. So here goes.

The book is entitled, IN THE THICK OF IT: Mastering the Art of Leading From the Middle.

It is primarily written for mid-career professionals in middle management. This is the place where there is an abundance of people who, to get things done, must foster relationships with not only those who follow them but also with their peers and upper management too. They are not novices at this leadership thing but they may be at a place where they’re wondering if what they’ve achieved so far is all there’s going to be. It’s a kind of angst that could be described as midlife crisis but, in my experience, mid-career-ness, although not technically a word, is more accurate. After all, changes we contemplate and those we make aren’t all going to create the intensity that a crisis suggests. We hope not anyway.

In general, these people work for medium to large traditional organizations where the pressure to achieve greater flexibility and keep up with customer demand for instant results, is relentless. Being in the middle of it all is a stressful undertaking to say the least. However, one of the main themes in my book is the proposition that leading from the middle can be a place of opportunity and strength as well.

It will attempt to shift existing perspectives away from the notion of being “stuck” in the middle toward the idea that the middle can be a starting place for new ideas and conversations leading to positive change.

Of course, while ideas are good things to float, to be of use they must be grounded in something real. With this in mind, my book will also offer some practical strategies for becoming a better, more effective boss and colleague as well as a respected influencer to those positioned higher in the organization.

So, that’s the general idea of the book.   With this context in mind, I would like to ask you to look at three possible book covers. Then, in the comments below, tell me which one appeals to you most. Please also tell me why you chose this one over that one.  What is it about the one you chose that would make you take the book from the shelf for further examination?

Here they are, presented in any particular order.

Candidate #1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Candidate #2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, Candidate #3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for your help.  It means a lot.

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Filed under Book writing, Ingenium Books, Leadership, Reading

Picking Up The Pen

Writing-and-Publishing-A-Book-Intro.jpgIt’s been a while since I was here, three years to be precise. I thought my writing days were over. I thought I’d said all I had to say about leadership and people and workplaces. It appears I was wrong about that.

It has taken me three years to think about what might come after “You’re Not the Boss of Me”. I’m kind of slow that way. But, here I am again to tell you this. I’m writing a book. Of course it’s about leadership, but it’s also about the zoo that is life.

One of the reasons it took so long for me to make up my mind is there are so many books about leadership I saw little point in adding to the mix. I didn’t want to do it simply to feed my ego. I wanted to do it with a more, well, useful purpose in mind.

And then it occurred to me.

There are people who write leadership books for executives because there’s a lot of leverage there. If you can influence executives, help them become better leaders, it has a positive impact on those who follow them. Not only that, but good executive leaders are thought to make a greater impact on economies and create stability in the marketplace. It’s also where the money is.

There are people who write for the new generation of leaders. These are the newly minted, the young and inexperienced who have great ideas and even greater ambitions. The world is waiting for them to blossom and people who write books for them are there to help them do it. This is where the future is and for some, where the hope lies.

I hazard to say, fewer people write for the ones in the middle, the ones who reach middle management in middle age and wonder if that’s all there is. I’m writing for them, the ones who are looking for renewal in some way because their potential for greater contribution and greater fulfillment should not be discounted.

I’m writing for these leaders because frankly being in “the middle” career-wise, age-wise and a few other “wises” is not for the faint of heart.   This is often a time when we come to a cross roads of some sort, the kind that demands we either fish or cut bait.   Often the decisions we make at this time of life shape what happens over the course of the rest of it.

My book will be designed to help these mid-career leaders expand their ideas about leadership; increase self-awareness and reflect on their own lives and leadership; plan for change and learn some practical responses to everyday leadership challenges.

It will also be a work book of sorts because in the end, I hope readers will be inspired to actions that will help them take considered risks; achieve their intended goals and move closer to the attainment of their ideal future.

I know. It sounds rather lofty doesn’t it? The thing is, I believe it possible for all of us to do more than we feel capable of. It’s hard, but possible. I just want to help.

What do you think? Is there a place for a book written for leaders who are in the middle of it all?

 

 

 

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You Gotta Know When to Fold ’em…

Troop_ship_farewell_(000304-01)

Dear Readers,

I’ve attempted to write this post a number of times but somehow always became stuck. Perhaps I wasn’t ready then. I think I am now.

I have been writing this blog since 2009. It started because I had something to say about organizations and how they are led. I wanted to make some kind of contribution toward making not-so-good workplaces somehow better for people. And, I believe good workplaces always start with good leadership, the kind that puts value on the potential of people’s willingness to do their best work in environments of trust and mutual respect.

I surprised myself by having quite a lot to say on the subject, certainly between 2009 and 2013. In 2014, I mostly repeated myself, (a habit, I’m told that comes with age). Nonetheless, you managed to see something worth reading, something worth discussing and also passing along. That kind of surprised me too, but only in the best of ways. I am both grateful and delighted by your response to something that started out as this woman’s somewhat hesitant voice in the Cosmos.

But, here’s the thing. Just about everything has a beginning and an end. And “You’re Not the Boss of Me” has reached its end place. I‘m a bit sad about that. But I also believe that once you have said what you have to say, the best strategy is to simply shut up and listen to somebody else.

I have learned much from so many of you. I have come to know that there is a multitude of fine people who share my view of what is needed to build an effective, satisfying and profitable workplace in the 21st Century. These are leaders who are in the thick of it, leaders who see a vision for the future that includes all kinds of people; a vision that excites them, challenges them and rewards them generously for their efforts.

Leadership in organizations is not a spectator sport. It is, after all, not what we say but what we do that matters. And so, simply writing about it is not enough.   I have been out of the workforce for some time now and in the years I have been writing this blog, have drawn on my past experience, on my own stories and other peoples’ and on current events. However, without actually being in the fray, there comes a time when one simply runs out of useful things to say.

It’s been fun. It has allowed me to make acquaintance with some really remarkable people whose passion for good leadership is unmatched.

You may be familiar with some of these very accomplished and dedicated people but just in case you aren’t, I’d like to point you in the direction of some of my favourites. Please follow them, read them, and learn from them. I have, and have become more enlightened because of it.

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Mary Jo Asmus is a highly successful executive coach, writer and consultant with (at least in my observation) a kind of spidy sense when it comes to accurately assessing human behaviour. She and I have often written about very similar things and shared our ideas with each other on more than one occasion. I have always benefitted from these exchanges. Given the opportunity, so would you.

More about Mary Jo here: http://www.aspire-cs.com/who_we_are

Follow Mary Jo onTwitter: @mjasmus

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Wally Bock: If you want to really understand what it takes to lead others, reading Wally’s blog is a must. His writing is refreshingly honest and full of lessons he learned himself, sometimes painfully. And if you want to learn to be a better writer, Wally can help you with that too.

More about Wally here: http://www.threestarleadership.com/about-wally

And here: http://writingabookwithwally.com/

Follow Wally onTwitter: @WallyBock

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Dorothy Dalton is an impressive woman to say the least. She is an International talent management strategist and coach. She is also CEO of 3PlusInternational, an online company she founded together with Dr Anne Perschel in 2010.

More about Dorothy and 3Plus International here: http://3plusinternational.com/team/

Follow Dorothy on Twitter: @DorothyDalton

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Lolly Daskal is Founder and President of “Lead From Within”. She teaches us the importance of bringing all of ourselves to leadership… to lead from the heart, and is a particularly successful coach, consultant, facilitator and author

More about Lolly here: http://www.lollydaskal.com/

Follow Lolly onTwitter: @LollyDaskal

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Karen Hurt is Founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders. In my observation, Karin’s common sense approach to leadership and her practical leadership experience in business earns her well-deserved attention. If you appreciate a ‘no BS ‘approach to leadership, you won’t go wrong by becoming a regular reader of her blog.

More About Karin Here: ~ http://letsgrowleaders.com/about/

Follow Karin on Twitter: @Letsgrowleaders

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Susan Mazza was the first person to engage with me on this blog. Her words were encouraging and her ideas are always insightful. Susan not only has tons of business and leadership experience but a deep intuition about human beings and what makes us tick. I think that’s a powerful combination.

More about Susan here: http://randomactsofleadership.com/about-the-author

Follow Susan on Twitter: @SusanMazza

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Tanveer Naseer is a fellow Canuck. He is also a scientist, writer, and consultant who can expertly examine complex human and business situations and make sense of them. I’d say we could all use the kind of insights he shares regularly on his blog.

More about Tanveer Here: http://www.tanveernaseer.com/about/

Follow Tanveer on Twitter: @TanveerNaseer

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Jane Perdue: ~ There are many reasons you should consider reading what Jane has to say. If you’re looking for just one thing though, here it is. She believes in leading big and in challenging stereotypes and the status quo. If we are going to effect change in the way we lead, we need all the Jane Perdues we can get.

More about Jane here: http://braithwaiteinnovationgroup.com/leadbig/

Follow Jane on Twitter: @thehrgoddess

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Anne Perschel: ~ I have to declare that Anne is a particular favourite of mine, both as a highly accomplished leadership and organizational psychologist and as a person. She is passionate about helping executives create workplaces that meet the needs of a 21st Century global marketplace. And, she is an especially strong advocate for women, co-founding 3Plus International with Dorothy Dalton.

More about Anne here: http://germaneconsulting.com/about/principle-consultants/

Follow Anne on Twitter: @bizshrink

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Art Petty is a very classy guy. He was also one of the first people to give this blog, and me, some encouragement when I first started writing. He is an author, a teacher and a highly skilled executive coach. And, he is a gentleman of the first order.

More About Art here: http://artpetty.com/about/

Follow Art on Twitter: @artpetty

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Jesse Lyn Stoner appears last on this list only as an unfortunate outcome of being further along in the alphabet than anyone else here. In all other ways, she gets an “A” from me. Jesse is a leadership consultant and best-selling author who champions the power that comes from developing organizational vision and collaborating with those affected by it in building effective, practical and actionable strategies.

More about Jesse here: http://seapointcenter.com/

Follow Jesse on Twitter: @JesseLynStoner

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If this list leaves you wanting more, there is a wealth of knowledge at the Leadchange Group  Site founded by Mike Henry Sr. (@mikehenrysr) and now under the capable leadership of Becky Robinson (@beckyrbnsn) as a division of her company, Weaving Influence.

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As for me, I still plan to show up on Twitter and perhaps, from time to time, someone will allow me the privilege of writing as a guest on his or her blog.   You never know, I might not be as “done” as I think I am.  In fact, I may begin a whole new blog on an entirely different subject. Who knows?

Thank you so much for spending time here with me. It has meant a lot. Oh, and keep up the great work. The World needs you.

Sincerely,

Gwyn
handwaving

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Arrogance…Something to Leave Behind

arrogantI’ve come to understand that each time we say ‘yes’ to something, we are saying ‘no’ to something else. It’s the way things get balanced out, I suppose. This kind of balancing act almost always comes up at the beginning of a New Year when so many of us make promises to ourselves about what we want to change. Usually the promises are about personal things, habits or attitudes we’d like to leave behind in favour of something new, better and more progressive.

But, organizations would do well to take this kind of inventory from time to time too.   After all, it is attitude and habit that dictates, if not what gets done, certainly how it’s carried out. So a kind of organizational culture check every so often would not go amiss, if only to keep an eye on values alignment.   Values “drift” can happen easily in the busyness of the day and give way to less useful behaviours.

In particular, I’m thinking about arrogance… the great time waster.

We are all guilty of taking positions of arrogance. It does not discriminate. When it shows up, it has a way of impeding real progress; of serving only the few at the expense of the many; and of making fools of those who put their own importance ahead of everything else.

Witness this exchange.

*It is an actual radio conversation between a U.S. naval ship and Canadian authorities, off the coast of Newfoundland in October 1995.

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Americans: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision

Canadians: Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision

Americans: This is the Captain of a U.S. Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.

Canadians: No. I say again. You divert YOUR course.

Americans: THIS IS THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS LINCOLN, THE SECOND LARGEST SHIP IN THE UNITED STATES’ ATLANTIC FLEET. WE ARE ACCOMPANIED BY THREE DESTROYERS, THREE CRUISERS AND NUMEROUS SUPPORT VESSELS. I DEMAND THAT YOU CHANGE YOUR COURSE 15 DEGREES NORTH, THAT’S ONE FIVE DEGREES NORTH, OR COUNTER MEASURES WILL BE UNDERTAKEN TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OF THIS SHIP. 

Canadians: This is a Lighthouse. It’s your call.

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There you have it folks, a prime example of arrogance at work.

So, as we approach another new year, my wish for organizations and people everywhere, including me, is that we strive to leave behind our arrogance to make room for more productive values and perhaps a more peaceful existence.

It couldn’t hurt. What say you?

 

*Radio conversation released by the Chief of Naval Operations, 10/10/95

 

 

 

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Filed under Leadership, Leadership Values, organizational culture, Organizational Effectiveness

Giving at the Office…A Leader’s Best Gifts

christmasgiftboxGot your Christmas shopping done yet? That’s a common question at this time of year and one that usually causes my eyes to roll up in my head because procrastination is my middle name. Actually my middle name is Mary but you know what I mean. Anyway, the Christmas shopping question tends to push my “get moving” button before I’m actually ready to er, get moving.

Nonetheless, once in gear, I manage to rise to the occasion long enough to consider things that might delight my loved ones and please my friends. After all, it is not the gift itself that is the reward. It is the happiness element that comes with it that makes gift -giving so much fun.

I like the idea of happiness being the real gift and I think it translates well too, when it comes to exchanging gifts at work. Of course, it is always a little more challenging to give meaningful gifts to people at work, but here are a few ideas to consider. They cost nothing. They can have lasting effects. And, to the best of my knowledge, they aren’t fattening.

The Gift of Attention

Give a few minutes of your undivided attention to each of the people you lead, each day.

That means spending the time listening, being curious about their interests, thoughts and opinions and suspending judgment long enough to learn something about them that you might otherwise miss.

The Gift of Inclusion

Take a little time to remind those you lead, why you come to work everyday. Give them the big picture (even if you’ve done it before) and show them how they fit into it as individuals. Yes, I know, it’s the old vision thing again. But, believe me, when people can see where they are going and that there is a place for them on the proverbial bus, that creates some happiness.

The Gift of Challenge

Consider those you lead and give each a challenge for the New Year that will allow them to stretch, grow, and learn more about themselves and what they can do.

I hazard to say that everyone likes a challenge. It gets the juices flowing and allows us to test our boundaries. Giving the gift of challenge suggests faith in each person’s capability and potential. And, its value is that much greater at times when the individual doubts or fears his or her own possibilities.

The Gift of Encouragement

Of course challenge on its own can become onerous if not accompanied by encouragement and the support that goes with it. So, with each gift of challenge, include whatever each person might need to accomplish it, including resources, education, training or a friendly ear. That will ensure, I think, the highest possible opportunity for success and resulting happiness.

The Gift of Truth

Find ways to convey to those you lead that you will always be straight with them no matter what the circumstances. And then make sure you follow through.

Leaders who are truthful, both in good times and bad also give the gift of useful information. Useful information allows people to make good decisions for themselves. Being Truthful with them acknowledges their capability to respond as adults. It is respectful. And, even if the news is not good, it gives them their best opportunity to work through it and find satisfying resolutions.

This of course is not an exhaustive list. They are only the gifts that first come to mind for me. What gifts do you have in mind for those you lead? Please feel free to add to the list!

 

Note: Originally published in December 2009

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Filed under Building Relationships, communication, Leadership, Leadership Development, Leadership Values

Creating Stability in the Midst of Uncertainty

cairn-468185_640As we near the end of 2014, my mind wanders to the inevitable predictions that come with a new year. The seers and prophesiers among us will be at the ready to let us know what we can expect in 2015 and beyond. Some forecasts will be based on reasonable analyses of the World landscape and some will be rubbish. As always, it will be up to each of us to choose what to believe, what to throw away and how much it’s going to matter to us.

Having said that, there is value in taking time to reflect on what might be coming next. After all, there is always something happening, changing, interfering with, or otherwise upsetting our equilibrium.  In fact, we have come to know that just at the moment we begin to feel steady, things are going to change. It’s the way of the world.

To me, all this suggests that a leader’s job, (at least one of them), is to create a platform for stability, often where none exists, because in a world of constant change and increased complexity, people need to feel anchored to something they can count on.

The question is, how might this be accomplished? The answer is…well I’m not sure.  But I have some ideas and here they are:

  1. Be Purposeful

Knowing our organizational purpose is a great beginning to creating stability. After all, while change affects the way we go about fulfilling the purpose, the purpose itself, more often than not remains the same.

  1. Extend the purpose beyond the confines of organizational boundaries.

Most organizations support charities or causes of some kind.  Just as the causes can vary, so can the motivation for supporting them. To me though, doing good works that align with the organizational purpose helps the company grow roots and contribute to the creation of stable communities, both inside and outside corporate boundaries.

  1. Keep Learning

Broadening our knowledge base creates a more stable environment.  In other words, the more we know and understand the less there is to fear.  So giving true value and support to learning, not just training, will build a company of people who are confident, resilient and eager to see and experience what comes around the corner

  1. Be Guided by a set of strongly held values

World events, economic instability and a constant feed of both useful and useless information contribute to a dizzying existence for most people.  Sometimes we just need to stop and remember what’s important and what we stand for.   It’s kind of like being out in rough seas.  When we can’t see the shore and the boat is tossing us around mercilessly, our values serve as the lighthouse beacon that gives us the promise of solid ground.

  1. Take Blame out of the Equation

When things go wrong, and they do, it’s easy to panic.  When we panic we look to place blame.  Blame is the enemy of stability.  It rattles people and often for the wrong reasons.  Blame is not about accountability it is about passing a hot potato and making sure it lands in someone else’s lap.

Taking blame out of the organizational culture and replacing it with a more solution oriented demeanor allows more people the confidence to participate in solving problems as they arise rather than spending time looking for ways to take cover.

That’s what I think anyway. What do you think?

 

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Knowing & Becoming Known…A Challenge for the New Boss

new_boss_tshirt-p235578270226180427qj9t_152It’s never comfortable being the newcomer. This is especially true when we start a new job, and even more so if that job involves leading an organization or taking charge of an already established team.

Three words come to mind when I think about this: Culture, Trust and Change. These are big issues and huge, if you happen to be a new boss. How you address them will often make the difference between a reasonably smooth leadership transition and a very shaky one.

For instance, inserting oneself into an already established culture requires some delicacy and some time spent in learning how people think; what they value; and the assumptions they operate from.

As well, most organizations work from a platform of earned trust rather than assumed trust. As such, if you are an unknown commodity, there will be skepticism about your motives, and the effect your presence will have on the status quo. While we like to think people will readily embrace change, we know that it just isn’t that easy. But, the reality is that change comes with every new leader and the immediate challenge is to find ways to send the message that this is a good thing…or at least, the right thing.

All this needs time and work. The point is, in this world of speed and technology, we have to find ways of accomplishing things faster. That includes expediting the process of knowing and becoming known. The question is, how?

Well, it’s a tricky one…but like most things, not impossible

There is, for instance, the New Manager Assimilation Process, which is a structured way of speeding up your collective orientation. Specifically, it is designed to help new managers quickly establish positive working relationships with their direct reports while also building a solid foundation for the future.

But, whether you decide to use this kind of formal process or a less informal one, know that the first few days, weeks and months as leader, will lay the foundation for how you will work and be perceived in the future.

When I think about inserting myself, as leader, into an established group, these are some things that come up:

Listen

People like to know they are being heard. As a new manager this is particularly important. There will be things they will want me to know about them. There will be other things they will want me to know as well, like what they are proud of, or what worries them. And, they will have ideas to share that will help shape how we move forward together.

Respect what went before

As the new one in town, there will be things that were established before I arrived that will have a lot of value. Rather than take a ‘new broom sweeps clean’ approach to my new role, I would take some time to learn what is good about the way things are.

Be clear about my vision and purpose

As an unknown, people will be curious (and possibly anxious) about what I see as my role; what I want to accomplish and; how my personal beliefs and values align with their own. In short, they will want to be able to see themselves in the picture I create. The more often and consistently I communicate these things, the quicker I will become known.

Be accessible

This is not just about keeping my office door open. It’s also about making myself emotionally available and showing my humanness. I would want to give people an opportunity to know me as a person as well as a boss.

Ask for help

It doesn’t matter what I bring to the new organization, there will always be things I’m simply not going to know. Asking for help gives me the opportunity to learn… and others the chance to show me what they know.

That’s what I think anyway.  What do you think?

 

Note: This post was originally published in November, 2011

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