Thursday, November 26, 2015

Reasons your Focus is or isn’t going to Work

If a man does not know to what port he is steering, no wind is favorable to him” by Seneca.

Yes, we have to focus!

Y generationThe so-called Y (or better interrupt) generation has big difficulties to handle it what I see daily in my classroom.

Focus is the thinking skill that allows people to begin a task without procrastination and then maintain their attention and efforts until the task is complete. Attention is a mental muscle and like any other muscle, it can be strengthened through the right kind of exercise.
During my university years I spent many hours practicing ballroom dancing on the competition level. Vienna waltz was our warm up procedure but not just one round, but ten or more in a raw. I have learned that the secret to not get disoriented is to focus on a point far in the distance and visually always following the spot (or your partner’s face) extracts the entire surrounding environment. The same goes if you lead a company: you must find a beacon and drive your organization passionately in that direction.

Organizations and countries need people with strong focus on (important) goals. They all need a talent to continually learn how to do things better or best. Without such high-innovative performers there is no innovation, productivity and change.

Therefore, focus is the state or quality of having or producing a clear visual definition – a center of interest or activity we do. So, being focused means thinking about one thing while filtering out distractions. It is an important tool that can and will shape your life. In a longitudinal study tracking the fates of all 1,037 children born during a single year in the 1970’s in the New Zealand city of Dunedin particularly compelling results came out (Source: The Focused Leader, by Daniel Goleman, 2013):
For several years during childhood the children were given a battery of tests of willpower, including the psychologist Walter Mischel’s legendary “marshmallow test”—a choice between eating one marshmallow right away and getting two by waiting 15 minutes. In Mischel’s experiments, roughly a third of children grab the marshmallow on the spot, another third hold out for a while longer, and a third manage to make it through the entire quarter hour.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Steps to Turn Control into Delegation

ControlIn my blog ‘Can Obedience nurture Trust?’ my thoughts were about shifting from blind obedience to trust. Control and delegation are a part of the same story. Let’s challenge them here now.

Control is the act or power of controlling or regulating people's behavior … or to exercise restraint or direction over; to dominate. All responsibility is with a control-holder.

History has repeatedly shown how problematic is to effectively restrain power from someone once it has been granted to if a strong system of control, checks and balances is in place. People tend to – when given control or power – exercise them far beyond the legal, actually given, authority. Such anomalies are not excluded in business.

What is Delegation?

To delegate means to give to another person a task or duty or activity meanwhile retaining responsibility for the outcome. The latter is the key since while delegating, you are still responsible for the outcome!

So, where lays the difference between the two if responsibility still remains in the same hands?

Well, control, as we have seen, can be misused when delegate hardly.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Best Practices describe why Punctuality matters

In martial arts “punctuality” is the key. Why?
Why I think so, I’ll explain later, let’s see how punctuality is defined in Wikipedia: the characteristic of being able to complete a required task or fulfill an obligation before or at a previously designated time. "Punctual" is often used synonymously with "on time". It is a common misconception that punctual can also, when talking about grammar, mean "to be accurate".

In business world punctuality means organizing your time effectively; to be more productive as you start or get on time; in some countries to be respectful to your hosts and well, yes – also disrespectful in others; in short, punctuality affects the individual just as much as it affects the workplace to operate more smoothly as a whole. Punctuality reduces stress as well as stress leads to poor workplace performance.

Does then being punctual strengthens and reveals your integrity?
George Washington
It is said that when George Washington’s secretary arrived late to a meeting and blamed his watch for his tardiness, Washington quietly replied ‘Then you must get another watch, or I another secretary.’

When you make others wait, you rob minutes from those that came early or on time.

I recall leading a project group in a government environment: we had meetings in a place where most of attendants had their offices. The reason was not to spend time of most participants on commuting. I usually arrived few minutes earlier. Once, after several attempts of asking people to be on time, I have written on the big wall table names and numbers. Everybody seemed a bit wary while watching me. When the last person finally arrived I summed up the numbers and multiplied with average hour salary for our group. We lost almost an average monthly salary while waiting.

The importance of being punctual is not universal and varies from country to country, even within country and from culture to culture. In some places like south Europe, Latin America or Pacific Islands, life moves at a different pace than in northern hemisphere and meeting times are meant to be more incoherent.

Does then being punctual build up and reveal the extent of control a leader has?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Things nobody tells you about Soft vs. Hard

“Soft can beat hard” is a saying in martial arts. It is hard to understand that one can be soft in martial arts and still win, isn’t it?
Let me explain a bit further. When talking about martial arts people mostly split them into two main categories:  Yin styles and Yang styles, named by China Yin and Yang concept (see: Dualism vs. Yin-Yang). If we transform this naming to western concepts then Yin styles could be referred to as soft or internal, while Yang as hard or external. Behind this naming and division is basically the way how we perform them. Like in Tai Chi which is predominantly practiced with slow nature and gracious movements and consequently labeled as Soft - Internal. In contrast, Yang as hard and external refers to the development of combative skill, brute strength, power and stimulating workout. For the latter Karate or Wing Chun could be examples.

But, if we, over the years, observe how one practices martial arts we note how everything changes due to experiences. Most Shaolin animal styles like White Crane for example, many Tibetan styles and/or Okinawan Karate are trained especially ‘hard’ early in one's life. Later on those styles soften as the master grows old and at the time knows the ‘ideas’ behind. Finally, at the top level the knowledge of any martial artist starts to resemble more to Tai Chi than e.g. stereotypical Karate. Majority of my older teachers converted their style to softer variation.

Is aging the only reason behind softening of martial arts’ styles? Normally the masters are still very vital, full of power and speed that dominates any novice with even higher speed and more force?

There definitely has to be another reason.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Cross-Culture Will Radically Change Your Leadership

All of you have probably visited places where you sensed that “things” are different than those at your home place?

Paradoxically, we set our knowledge and belief as a reference / universal point when judging other cultures. We compare what we know or believe to new and different views sometimes curiously wondering how wrong they are. You are basically trapped in stability issue of which I have written in Leadership and stability, such stability that you have fallibly perceived as security due familiarity with your ‘not changing’ home place culture.

Unfortunately, in this you are wrong. There is nothing stable in this Universe. Changes and differences are all around us, also when meeting other people, cultures or leadership styles.
Differences are the outcome of Gerhard Hofstede project when asked to unify IBM corporate culture across the globe. The study was conducted within IBM between 1967 and 1973 and covered more than 70 countries. Hofstede built a methodology of different countries and cultures and how they interact based on six different categories of cultural dimensions:

    Hofstede China-US
  • Power Distance that expresses the degree to which the less powerful members of a society accept and expect that power is distributed unequally. 
  • Individualism vs. Collectivism which focuses on the questions about whether people prefer a close knit network of people or prefer to be left alone to fend for themselves. 
  • Masculinity vs. Femininity where masculinity represents a preference in society for achievement, heroism, assertiveness and material reward for success; and femininity, stands for a preference for cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak and quality of life. 
  • Uncertainty Avoidance that expresses the degree to which the member of a society feels uncomfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity. 
  • Long-term vs. Short-term Orientation where Long-term orientation dimension can be interpreted as dealing with society's search for virtue and are careful how they shape today not to distort tomorrow.
  • Indulgence vs. Restraint that identifies the extent to which a society allows ‘relatively free gratification of basic and natural human desires related to enjoying life and having fun’.

Commonly used and cited methodology unfortunately is a perfect “Descartes model of dualism” so appreciated in Western hemisphere way of thinking (see: Dualism vs. Yin-Yang). With different dimensions it brings some diversity but does not allow or imply the changes within cultures.

Is there a solution that may contribute and add change to cultural dimensions methodology?