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Friday, May 11, 2018

Getting the Right People on the Bus

One of my favorite authors and speakers is Jim Collins.  His research and the perspectives on leadership have certainly resonated with me and perhaps no more so than the concept of Level 5 Leader - a leader who is ambitious for the success of the team/organization and not just for themselves.

One of his other perspectives that has hit home for me in the past several weeks is that of "getting the right people on the bus" and/or also helping others off of the bus.  The bus metaphor is further captured by the phrase "First Who, Then What".  In this own words:
 
You are a bus driver. The bus, your company, is at a standstill, and it’s your job to get it going. You have to decide where you’re going, how you’re going to get there, and who’s going with you.

Most people assume that great bus drivers (read: business leaders) immediately start the journey by announcing to the people on the bus where they’re going—by setting a new direction or by articulating a fresh corporate vision.

In fact, leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with “where” but with “who.” They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. And they stick with that discipline—first the people, then the direction—no matter how dire the circumstances.

What I have been struck by is how many "errors" continue to be made by organizations and leaders in getting the right people on the bus and in making sure that the right people are in the right seats. My recent experience has seen this happen at all levels of an organization - with Board's selecting their next CEO, CEO's looking for C-Suite candidates, all the way down to first-line management personnel. Over and over again - in each circumstance - I'm struck with how simplistic some of the selection processes can be.  Over and over again, too many selection processes fall prey to the power of powerful/likeable personalities or a plethora of credentials.  Unfortunately then, the chances of success for the candidate and the organization are akin to a roll of the dice - which would be a lot less expensive than many traditional selection processes.

The recent examples that I can relate and their costs are stark.  Senior Executives let go with as little as 4 months on the job experience.  A leader terminated within a year of hire but not before creating a an environment so toxic that several team members quit, organizational credibility was significantly damaged, and organizational performance stalled.  Leaders kept in roles not suited to their skills or leadership capacity - because others couldn't or wouldn't face hard realities, provide effective feedback, or make hard choices.  The consequences of poor selection processes, inadequate identification of performance expectations, and lack of oversight and real feedback all combine to throw the proverbial bus to the ditch.


And yet, to me, the fix seems simple.  Spend REAL time and effort up front understanding your own organization, its unique challenges and opportunities.  Get CRYSTAL CLEAR on the leadership qualities you need for the role, for the direction you are headed as an organization in the next 5 to 10 years, and what a leader needs to bring as a person to your team.  If you believe you are going to have to change the culture of your organization - to be more innovative, creative, flexible - then hire with those criteria in mind. If you are going to require more stability hire accordingly.

This all happens before the posting goes up, the candidates for interview are selected, and choices are faced.  Create the IDEAL CANDIDATE PROFILE and don't settle!  Better to try again than make a mistake which could cost you far more than a vacant chair.  Be honest and courageous in understanding lessons from past selection and performance failures. If your past processes have failed you, CHANGE THEM!! 



Hiring leaders and team members can be among the most strategic decisions you ever make.  Leaders are critical points of leverage for success of all other staff.  And your staff are critical points of leverage in your relationships with your customers and in pursuit of your organizational goals.  Leaders can be a force multiplier for both good and bad.,

______________________________

Greg Hadubiak, MHSA, FACHE, CEC, PCC
Executive Coach/Consultant
BreakPoint Solutions
gregh@breakpoint.solutions
780-250-2543

Helping leaders realize their strengths and enabling organizations to achieve their potential through the application of my leadership experience and coaching skills. I act as a point of leverage for my clients. I AM their Force Multiplier.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

On The Pursuit of Loyalty

The Trump Presidency has passed its first anniversary date and for a variety of circumstances I've written relatively little that relates to Donald Trump's style of leadership.  Certainly it's not because there has been a lack of material to draw from.  More truthfully, its probably been reflective of my general level of busyness and perhaps even an inability to settle on one topic or issue raised by Donald Trump's actions.  No doubt, as many of you who read my posts might rightly conclude there is a particular disconnect between Donald Trump's style and what I believe constitutes good leadership.


One subject that has had my attention for some time, albeit belatedly in the context of the past year, is the concept of loyalty. Perhaps most famously in this presidency we have had the public specter of Donald Trump allegedly demanding/expecting loyalty of then FBI director James Comey.  The issue continues to wend its way through due process, caught up in the Russia probe, and a host of other tweets and crises since first being reported.

Donald Trump, however, is not unique in the realm of "leaders" demanding loyalty from their subordinates.  I have been subjected to two powerful examples that mirror similar demands of "loyalty" from past leaders.  In one circumstance, my "leader" went so far as to demand a written/signed commitment of loyalty.  Some followers acquiesced.  Others did not.  Those that didn't inevitably found themselves isolated or "reintroduced to the marketplace".  I made a decision at that time to move on to greener pastures. I did, however, utilize this experience to positive benefit, being able to demonstrate, in contrary fashion, to my new team how I was not going to lead.  The prospect of looking for a written oath of loyalty astounded them.  That being said I'm sure many of them would have signed on to such a declaration if I had presented it.  They didn't know who I was and what values I worked by.  The power differential between them and I, and the desire for job security, likely would have made them swallow hard and sign.

A demand for loyalty doesn't have to come about in so blatant a fashion.  A second circumstance I experienced was as a consequence of being part of a 360 evaluation for one of my other "leaders".  There were at least seven of us subordinates at the senior executive table and we were asked to respond to a Board-managed, anonymous, evaluation process for our boss.  A pretty standard process.  As events would prove out, my senior executive colleagues and I operated from a similar belief system - namely that no one is perfect, no one warrants perfect scores, and there is always room for improvement.  Our CEO's actions upon receiving the results proved that they were operating from a different set of parameters and expectations.  Immediately upon receiving the evaluation results we were collectively subjected to one of the most resounding tongue lashings we had ever been on the receiving end of in recent memory.  The message was clear - similar responses and perspectives into the future, shared with the Board, would be met with swift, significant and unpleasant consequences on our part.  Our loyalty to the CEO was never to be in question again.  The evaluation process for the CEO was substantially altered thereafter - to chilling and inauthentic effect in future years.


In both circumstances - and for Donald Trump - the demand and push for loyalty ultimately engendered nothing of the sort.  While I can appreciate the expectation and desire for loyalty, demanding it and utilizing various forms of coercion (positive or negative) does not beget true loyalty, commitment or engagement.  At best they establish deference and compliance.  Or a "partnership" with one's leader that is more akin to a deal with the devil. How far can this leader advance my personal agenda?  At worst this power play, this coercive approach starts to foster group think - don't challenge the leaders perspective or facts.  You do so at your personal peril.  Best efforts are diminished and huge amounts of potential that could have come from fostering and leveraging the strength and diversity of a team are lost.

What's also clear, I hope, from these examples is that each of these leaders was not looking for loyalty or commitment to a bigger and broader cause.  They were looking for personal loyalty.  Again nothing wrong in hoping and working towards such a goal.  Great rewards can come from that type of relationship.  However, I'm suggesting that this kind of commitment only comes from a much deeper and more trusting relationship, based on common understanding and similarity of values, which also, more than likely arises from shared experience, where values and congruency with actions can be evaluated in both good and challenging times.

True loyalty is ultimately EARNED by the leader, not given or received via coercion.  The former approach results in lasting commitment and powerful opportunity.  The latter approach conjures up a mirage that is only visible to the leader demanding it.

Act with integrity, demonstrate a commitment to values that transcend personal gain, hold true to your commitments, speak and act in service of the truth, treat others fairly, and above all treat others with as much or more respect as you would expect or hope to be given to you.  I'm suggesting that this is a more constructive, rewarding and lasting path to creating the kind of loyalty you might crave as a leader.  Be an authentic leader and loyalty may be yours.  Play the role of tyrant and keep watch over your shoulder for displays of disloyalty.

The choice is yours.  It's all about leadership.
______________________________

Greg Hadubiak, MHSA, FACHE, CEC, PCC
Executive Coach/Consultant
BreakPoint Solutions
gregh@breakpoint.solutions
780-250-2543

Helping leaders realize their strengths and enabling organizations to achieve their potential through the application of my leadership experience and coaching skills. I act as a point of leverage for my clients. I AM their Force Multiplier.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

On Being Flexible - On Being Human

In my last blog post, I set the stage for undertaking a personal challenge and equating it to how one could approach any number of leadership challenges.  The conclusion and update to that post reads something along the lines of we came, we ran, we finished.  The direction that this journey took, however, reads nothing like what the plan envisioned.  Aside from the typical things that might have expected to confound a race of this nature (e.g., cold weather, thousands of people, falls, cuts and bruises) the journey to and through the Dopey Challenge also reinforced the critical importance of knowing one's values/priorities and being flexible in the face of radically changing circumstances.


Our adjusted adventure began early on our flight from Toronto to Orlando.  Within the first half hour a medical emergency was announced through the frantic calls of the wife of a stricken passenger.  My wife, aside from being an executive coach/consultant, jumped into care mode as the registered nurse she remains.  Working in partnership with a couple of other nurses and fellow passengers she proceeded to work under less than ideal circumstances to support and maintain the distressed male passenger.  This went on for at least 2 hours.  I had a similar opportunity to take care of and entertain the 5-year old daughter of the couple.  Other passengers were also at pains to try to help support wife and daughter through this stressful event.  We quickly learned that the family of three was on their way to enjoy a week in Disney World.  Quite the start to a relaxing and entertaining vacation!

Upon arriving in Orlando, my wife engaged with emergency medical personnel on the ground to provide information to facilitate handover and offer further assistance to the wife and daughter in getting to the hospital or in providing other support as required.  What was interesting to me at this time was how the conclusion of the flight had changed the dynamic of support we had seen on the plane.  Of the myriad of people who had been around the stricken passenger precious few seemed prepared to extend their efforts and compassion beyond the arrivals lounge.  To my cynical and jaded eyes it appeared that not many were prepared to sacrifice their vacations for a stranger they had just met no matter how compelling the story.

We made an effort to remain in touch with the family in the next 24 hours.  We had made plans to visit various theme parks at times in and around our races and offered to act as guide and chaperone to the 5-year old girl.  Having young children of our own we felt comfortable in believing that we would have been in our element.  The offer was acknowledged but not taken up immediately.  No surprise - we were after all relative strangers to the family and updates indicated that the father might be discharged form hospital within a couple of days.

Within less than 48 hours of our arrival things would take a turn for the worse.  We had completed our 5k run early on Thursday and had been visiting Universal Studios when we got a text around midday asking if we could in fact take care of the 5-year old daughter.  The father had been admitted to ICU and was struggling.  We didn't hesitate and for the rest of the day proceeded to entertain, as best we could, our new found charge.  We were overwhelmed by the courtesy, manners, lightness of spirit and overall capacity emanating from this beautiful little girl.  In a very short period of time she won over our hearts.  At this time we also started to have serious discussions about whether we would shelve the rest of our races to support the family as they dealt with their unexpected challenge.  Our conclusion - despite months of training and anticipation - was yes.  Our values suggested a rewrite of our priorities.  However, as the day progressed, we learned that other family support was arriving and we could expect to relinquish our "parental" duties sometime in the evening.

Upon arrival at our place we learned from family members that the father had in fact died.  We now had to say goodbye to our new found little friend, trying to hold our emotions in check, knowing that in a few short minutes she would be seeing her mother and learn the devastating news. The experience was more than surreal.  Later that night, and in the days to come, both my wife and myself found ourselves breaking down in tears, truly unable to come to terms with what had transpired.

For the next few days we probably operated in autopilot mode.  We ran our races, followed our routine as best we could, but found ourselves truly unfocused and off our centre.  As we read Facebook posts from friends and family of the deceased we found ourselves lamenting this loss even more.  He seemed to have cut a wide and positive swath in the lives of others despite his relatively young age of 42. His interests spanned many genres covering off my own love of astronomy.  He was a musician.  Some called him a renaissance man.

Why this long convoluted story and what does any of this have to do with leadership?  First, I believe this is a story that has to be hold if only to honor the memory of a fellow human being that has passed.  Second to acknowledge the profound impact that comes to any of us from opening up our hearts and homes in the service of others.  My lost fellow traveler clearly had impact on those around him.  In many respects he acted as a role model, cheerleader and, yes, as a leader.  You can see it in the variety of messages that have come since his passing.

I've always been an advocate for and lived a lot of my life focused on goals and developing plans.  However, experience has also taught me the power of being flexible within the context of my values.  Our values were put to the test and clarified through this experience.  The months of effort, preparation and cost would have been cast aside in an instance - and in some ways were - in order to be of service to others.  However, it was also these values, and the ability to respond in the circumstances, that opened us up to the gift that we received from being with a 5-year old girl and her mother we had only met and hardly got to know.  They helped reinforce and further develop the power and value of compassion and vulnerability.


Words truly seem inadequate to convey this story and the feelings we have gone through, much less those of family and friends much more intimately and directly impacted.  In leadership lessons, I come back to making sure you know your personal values, assess your actions in a conscious way against those values, and remain flexible to circumstances as you pursue your goals within the context of your values.

Be prepared to be flexible, compassionate and even vulnerable.  I have seen and felt again the power of being in service to others, appreciate the impact on them, but even more so appreciating the impact on me and who I can yet become.

I continue to lament for the friend I never got to make and keep a wife and daughter in my thoughts and prayers.

Sometimes its not just about leadership.  Sometimes its just about being human.
______________________________

Greg Hadubiak, MHSA, FACHE, CEC, PCC
Executive Coach/Consultant
BreakPoint Solutions
gregh@breakpoint.solutions
780-250-2543

Helping leaders realize their strengths and enabling organizations to achieve their potential through the application of my leadership experience and coaching skills. I act as a point of leverage for my clients. I AM their Force Multiplier.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Expectations, Goals, Preparation and Reset

A year ago, my wife and I attempted to complete the Dopey Challenge at Disney World in Orlando Florida.  For those unfamiliar with the Dopey Challenge it amounts to a 5k, 10k, half-marathon and marathon held on successive days through various Disney theme parks.  Last year our potential best efforts were thwarted with the strong intervention of Mother Nature that resulted in the cancellation of the half-marathon on the Saturday.  As I sit here at Pearson International Airport in Toronto we look to be similarly challenged by weather in Florida with several days projected to start with near freezing temperatures.  Florida and Mother Nature seem bound and determined to challenge us again!

The circumstances we are likely to face present both a physical and mental challenge to our goals for the races.  Even leading up to the race event I would say that I feel less prepared for racing the distances than I did last year through a combination of illness in November, general life busyness, and the closer proximity of Christmas (and Ukrainian home cooking) to the races than was the case last year. 

I would suggest that the experience of goal setting, preparation, expectations and beliefs is quite similar to anything else I could compare it to in my business and leadership world.  I suspect that very many of you will relate to the similar experiences.  In my personal experience - both as entrepreneur and as an executive coach - there are usually no shortage of expectations.  What I have come to appreciate from the breadth of my experiences is that success in meeting or exceeding those expectations comes from more than just declaring a dream or vision.  A number of supporting elements must be in place to deliver on one's own expectations.

First, expectations are important.  Even more important, however, is the quality and specificity of those expectations.  One of the most powerful tactics that I believe I have employed with myself and for my clients is to drive specificity, detail, targets and timelines in respect of this future state of affairs.  In addition, I have tried to establish a multi-year perspective on where I would like to be along with an annual set of goals that become even more specific and detailed.  This "visioning" exercise and template is updated at least annually and assessed for progress on at least a monthly basis.  I use the same tool - as warranted - with my clients.  Without exception, they have all indicated that this has been one of the most powerful tools in our work together. The key here is that none of us lack for dreams and expectations.  What we too often lack is a level of detail that helps to hold us accountable to a specific set of actions and milestones. 

Second - dreams, visions and accountability are all for nought if we are not prepared to take substantive preparation and action towards those stated goals.  Again, it is absolutely not enough to declare a positive personal, leadership or organizational vision for the future without being prepared to put in the preparation, work and effort to succeed or to even have a chance at success.  So within the context of the Dopey Challenge, the goals for finishing time for each race has been set and has then driven a training regimen that positions me for the opportunity of achieving my goals.  As an aside, I also get a lot of value in comparing notes with other athletes, coaches and leaders on their goals - benchmarking if you will.  Each of us must often seek some means to challenge our own limiting beliefs and assumptions about what is possible.  So, I believe - both in business and athletics - that despite a perceived late start in both streams that I have the ability to continue to set personal bests. 

Third, as last year's weather for the Dopey proved out and this year's weather threatens to provide a repeat performance, the best laid plans never proceed as developed.  So aside from all of the preparation and effort that must go into any endeavor we must develop the mental fortitude and strength of commitment to our targeted goals.  Accountability to self and to others comes from an ability to respond to adversity - both anticipated and completely unanticipated - to continue along a path that allows us to continue to succeed rather than give up at the first sign of difficulty.  This is not simply a "rose-coloured glasses" mentality at work. It's not blind optimism.  However, it is surely beyond a woe is me/victim mentality as well.  I recognize that there are some events that can be so dramatic as to be beyond our control in pursuit of our goals (e.g., complete cancellation of a race).  This is where power, strength and detail of goals, expectations and visions becomes critically important.  If the vision is powerful enough I am convinced we will find a way forward even if that means changing tactics and timing to get there.  We remain committed to success despite setbacks.

Finally, there are definitely going to be times when we fall short in terms of our commitment and effort, where we don't follow through in terms of stated strategies or tactics.  As I have often said, this becomes the time to use our plan as a tool to reevaluate - not punish.  In my estimation the former approach leads to an opportunity to reset and recommit (e.g., change race strategy, change business strategy) to a preferred set of goals.  The latter approach of chastisement too often leads to despair, victimization and demotivation (e.g., I'm not hitting my race times in practice so I eat a bag of chips to console myself).

And remember - every year, the vision can get updated, new goals set, new improvement targets set.  After this week's Dopey Challenge I move on to preparing for the Berlin Marathon in September 2018.  After the end of this fiscal year in my business, I reset the goals and strategies to pursue the next level of performance.  The power of expectations, goals, committed preparation and constant evaluation lead to greater levels of possibility. 

What can you say about your expectations and commitment?  What is possible for you.  As Henry Ford is purported to have said, whether you believe you can or believe you can't you are right. 

On that note, I've recently updated my personal plan to support my next level of professional development and getting back on the track to improve my performance for the 2018 Berlin Marathon.

It's all about leadership and in this case its leadership for and about yourself.  The pot of gold awaits those prepared to truly set the goals, make the effort and recommit through challenges.










______________________________

Greg Hadubiak, MHSA, FACHE, CEC, PCC
Executive Coach/Consultant
BreakPoint Solutions
gregh@breakpoint.solutions
780-250-2543

Helping leaders realize their strengths and enabling organizations to achieve their potential through the application of my leadership experience and coaching skills. I act as a point of leverage for my clients. I AM their Force Multiplier.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Plant the Seeds - Reap the Harvest

I come from a semi-rural background.  What I mean by that is while I didn't live or grow up on a farm I had strong ties to and history with farming through both sets of grandparents.  I spent many summer days and nights on these small family farms that went back to the very origins of my family in Canada.  Some of the memories from that time remain vividly etched in my mind and none more so than those related to spring seeding and the fall harvest.

Without a doubt, these two times of the year were times of extraordinary effort and anxiety. In the spring time, the work commenced as soon as field conditions permitted and there was always an eye towards the sky and weather forecasts.  There were prayers that machinery would hold out against unexpected and unwanted repair.  So too with harvest.  Go hard and make hay while the sun - or moon - shines.


I find some parallels in the kind of work I do now and, indeed, the kind of work that any of us do. I suspect that at the start of any venture or the start of each business or calendar year, we begin with a sense of anxiety and guarded optimism.  Whatever transpired from last year's "crops" provides no guarantee of what the next effort will bring or require.  Perhaps last year's events have set a stronger or weaker foundation to start from.  I believe the farming experience and metaphor of planting seeds and harvesting crops suggests some powerful lessons for how to approach other endeavors.

Planting our proverbial seeds does, just like farming, take preparation and thought. If we are to have a chance at a successful year we must properly prepare the ground, utilize the best tools possible, stay focused, and plant the right seeds, in the right place, at the right time.  In the case of my own coaching and consulting practice, this has meant networking with purpose, being active in certain activities, partnering with others that can complement and supplement my skills, and investing in my own skills and abilities on an ongoing basis.

A commitment to developing one's own business, like farming, also takes the right mix of optimism and realism.  The stats on startups and new businesses typically tell a rather grim story with a far greater chance of failure than success in the first year or two. I tend to think of the reasons for such failures falling into two broad categories - Lack of (significant preparation) and over-optimistic projections of how successful one can expect to be in the short-term. Successful farmers similarly leave nothing to chance.  They put in the extra planning, maintenance of equipment, and time to compensate for unanticipated and undesirable events.  No one controls the weather - or the economy.  I suspect, however, that just like farmers lamenting or worrying about the weather, all of us have an anxiety about business factors that are well beyond our control to influence. We can't control the weather but we can be ready with the umbrella or rubber boots.


Successful business people, like good farmers, are also prepared to learn from the past and from others to reap a better harvest.  This requires some rigor in understanding what did or did not work in the past and why.  Failure to truly learn from past successes and failures causes us to attribute one to our skill and the other to the foibles of the gods.  In either case successful strategies or solutions have not been discerned to inform the next effort. In respect of learning from others, I can't even begin to identify all the leaders, coaches and consultants who have informed my journey over the past 30 years. Their experiences - good and bad - have helped me develop new skills, approaches and models along the way.  Just like farming, however, there has to be a sense of adapting - not blindly adopting - tools and techniques that suit your particular field of work.

I also believe there is further advantage and opportunity to be gained by failing well.  That's right - failing well.  Now I'll admit that this may not seem to draw quite as strong a parallel to farming as other lessons noted above.  But I believe it goes back to being prepared to learn lessons.  I have personally had success in trying to reengage with prospective clients when a proposal I have submitted for consideration has been rejected. The nature of my response to rejection I believe has been a key to my recovery and subsequent success.  A sincere and genuine interest in trying to discover how I could have presented or engaged differently on an RFP response has directly related to multiple different opportunities.  How you fail, and how you respond to failure, is just as important as how you succeed.


One final note and look back to farming as a benchmark for business success.  I believe all who have grown up in rural communities would attest to an underlying spirit of support and cooperation  If somebody needed help it was often available to them especially in times of distress.  For those of us with roots in rural and farming communities I'm sure we have more than one story of community collaboration.  Its a bit of that spirit that I hope I bring into my coaching and consulting practice and what I value in some of my most trusted associates - offer help, guidance, time and tools when asked without expectation of return.  A spirit of pay it forward that plants seeds for future collaboration, support and engagement.

So plant seeds.  Prepare well.  Look for opportunities and connections.  Look for synergies and like-minded "farmers" to work with.  Listen, learn, adapt and apply.  Offer help and support. Fail well.

Reap the harvest.

Do it again.

______________________________

Greg Hadubiak, MHSA, FACHE, CEC, PCC
President & Co-Founder
BreakPoint Solutions
gregh@breakpoint.solutions
780-250-2543

Helping leaders realize their strengths and enabling organizations to achieve their potential through the application of my leadership experience and coaching skills. I act as a point of leverage for my clients. I AM their Force Multiplier.




Wednesday, October 4, 2017

I Can't Fail!

The phrase "I can't fail" has been one that has been a part of several discussions I've been in over the past few months.  In addition, it has been rattling around in my own brain as I action a new, exciting and challenging venture in the next phase of my personal reinvention.

In most of these circumstances the fear of failure that has been articulated has represented a lament and an expression of trepidation.  Likely this perspective resonates with all of us or at the very least we can remember a time where fear and anxiety surrounding change took hold of us.  In my recent engagements, this has happened at both an organizational and individual level.  There are a number of forms that this fear has taken from the (perceived) risk to organizational reputation to the potential (negative) impact to individual security and stability.
Example one:  Some months ago I was working with an organization going through substantial (and externally driven) change in its mandate which stemmed from a substantial change in economic realities.  Perhaps even more fundamentally, there was also a perspective at play that was calling into question the overall utility and effectiveness of the organization.  In these kinds of circumstances we can often be paralyzed - we perceive that one (more) wrong move might in fact put that final nail in our proverbial coffin.  It was within this context of needing to redefine mandate that the notion of not being in a position to fail came up.  From one perspective, the reality being faced by the organization, and the external skepticism that permeated the debate, suggested that any misstep in plan and execution, no matter how well designed or intentioned, would cement perspectives on irrelevance or incompetence.  In this light, however, I questioned whether by not being more assertive, bold and visionary was the organization was in fact holding itself back from its potential.  More critically, was there a risk that they were living up to their own self-fulfilling prophecy.  The desire to avoid failure can often lead to limited or no success.  No risk, no reward.  No risk, no success.  No risk, no impact.

In my coaching practice I've certainly seen this same mentality play out in a number of circumstances.  The need for quick wins, the concern about aggressively going after that next role, or as an entrepreneur or small-business owner anxious about taking that first or next big step in business development.  Essentially playing not to lose rather than playing to win.  This first plays into how most of us view failure - we don't see it as a learning opportunity, but rather as a fundamental comment on our skills, abilities and character.  Often this accompanied by an overwhelming anxiety that the vision established is too big to get our heads around and the steps to get there are not detailed enough to guarantee success.


It's also often the case that some of us actually fear success as much as we fear failure.  What if we start succeeding and the expectations that we have for ourselves and from others actually grow?  What's the next level of performance expected of us?  In many cases as leaders, entrepreneurs and business owners we have a number of others that look up to us and even rely on us for their success as well.

Associated with either of these fears - failure and success - are any number of detailed questions that give further context for the challenge we believe we are facing.  Do I have the right plan in place for the circumstances?  Do I really have the skills to pull this off?  Have I thought of every contingency?  Do I have enough or the right resources in place to make this happen?  What's the impact to me personally (or my family, or my staff) if I can't pull this off or if success takes longer than anticipated?

Alternatively, having a very inspirational but ungrounded view epitomized by an "I can't fail" mantra can in fact lead disaster and disappointment.  This is a vision that fails to challenge or appreciate reality, lacks for real planning and lacks for conscious thought and execution.  I sometimes call this the "Facebook" declaration.  This is the belief that by merely stating for oneself - and sometimes in front of the "world" - my powerful vision that success will arrive on schedule and with expected impact.  Unfortunately, this is much more akin to asking for three wishes from the proverbial genie or buying lottery tickets and spending the winnings before the draw date.

Unfortunately, there are also going to be naysayers in our midst as well.  Now it's great if we can rely upon some sober second thoughts from our trusted advisers or supporters.  However, as with my own personal experience, we must guard against the imposition of standards and agendas not our own.  Too often we may hear "you're making a mistake" and allow those comments to generate or amplify our own self-doubt.  The "ducks start quacking" in our head and may prevent us from standing in our own opportunities and strengths.  Balance all the available information, don't enter into a business or personal venture with rose-colored glasses, but consider the merits of the opportunity ahead.  Perhaps not everyone has the courage to pursue the vision you have or their perspective may be colored by their biases that do not serve you.


I do believe there is a balance to be found.  And I've tried to find it in my own venture.  I've been exploring what I'm really good at.  I've been testing my theories and hypotheses with past and former clients.  I've been trying to evaluate as objectively as possible what the financial requirements and implications of delays or shortfalls might be.  I'm taking considered risk, motivated by the reality of a tangible and achievable outcome, appreciating potential challenges and preparing contingencies for them, and placing future plans within the context of past challenges, growth, and success.  My vision is inspiring to me, grounded in reality, and planned to an appropriate degree.

Is my plan 100% perfect?  No, because I can never anticipate every reality or issue that will crop up.  Is it sufficient to take confident action?  Yes.  Will I execute with 100% effectiveness?  Unlikely.  I can anticipate that I may falter or become distracted and that my fear of failure (and even success) will give me pause.  Ultimately leadership is about creating and actioning a powerful vision.  Nothing great has ever come from playing it safe.

The takeaway - the fear of failure can be paralyzing and self-limiting and on the other hand it be highly motivational (stay hungry, don't get complacent).  As with most things in life it appears to me that the magic sits in the middle of these two extremes.

At the end of the day if you can't fail maybe its because you didn't try.  If you can't fail you may not succeed either.

______________________________

Greg Hadubiak, MHSA, FACHE, CEC, PCC
President & Co-Founder
BreakPoint Solutions
gregh@breakpoint.solutions
780-250-2543

Helping leaders realize their strengths and enabling organizations to achieve their potential through the application of my leadership experience and coaching skills. I act as a point of leverage for my clients. I AM their Force Multiplier.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Leadership - A Popularity Contest?

Several years ago, in perhaps a misdirected and naive venture into government service, I was attending a leadership development seminar attended by staff from across the public sector.  During the course of this seminar I ended up in a debate with another public servant which in its essence boiled down to the nature of leadership in a democracy.

While I have largely forgotten what caused us to go down this particular path, I recall putting forward the concept that I what personally looked for in a leader and how I expected them to lead thereafter was based on the power of their personal convictions. From my perspective, I expected them to lead and even shape the perspectives of the city, province, or country they led.  Ultimately, I wanted them to show me the courage of their convictions.


My "adversary", if that is what one could call him, had a relatively strong reaction to my position and suggested that such an approach could be construed as flying in the face of foundational democratic principles of modern Western society.  From his standpoint it was, and is, up to a democratically-elected leader to implement the wishes of the populace that elected him or her to power.  Extending this perspective, one might be inclined to suggest that opinion polls provide a mechanism for keeping a leader informed and directed during the course of their elected term.

As you can no doubt tell from the title to this blog post, I continue to have a decided bias against running any organization or business on the basis of opinion polls, engagement surveys or similar instruments.  But this position does place me in a bit of a quandary.  After all, as many of you who know me would come to understand, I'm very much a proponent of models that equate with the concept of servant leadership and engagement of staff.  So wouldn't, by definition, mechanisms like opinion polls be the very foundation of such a leadership commitment?

What gave further impetus for me to consider this issue of leadership and stakeholder direction were a couple of articles focused on opinion polls on provincial and national issues.  Within my own province of Alberta there is certainly a lot of gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair in the midst of the most significant economic downturn in recent memory coupled with leadership by the New Democratic Party (NDP).  The NDP has a decidedly different philosophy and approach to leadership than the Conservative dynasty of 40+ years tenure which they replaced.  In this particular time and place an opinion poll of the populace noted that the #1 priority of Albertans was to reduce taxes closely followed by a desire to see reduced spending, a lower provincial deficit, while at the same time maintaining services such as health and education.  As the author of the news article that focused on these results said "It's a contradictory bag of responses."


So in the absence of committed leadership, founded at least on one's own developed principles, what wind should blow you what direction?

In a national article that came out on the same day as the provincial issue noted above, an assessment was delivered which noted how out of sync people's perspectives were with the facts on the ground.  In this case, the particular issue was the feeling of a "majority" of Canadians (or at least those responding to the poll) that the middle class dream most of us aspire to was slipping away.  This despite the fact that median household incomes have steadily risen over the past 20 years.  So how then could we end up with such a discrepancy of feelings versus fact?  And how we might then expect our leaders to respond?

Without a doubt one of the major factors in the usefulness or believablity (credibility?) of such polls comes in how the questions are framed or asked.  In all too many cases opinion polls and public consultations are simply crafted to give leaders the answers they are looking for.  On the other hand, we might also just need to be clear about what such opinion polls are actually telling us - or not.  In one respect, opinion polls are probably telling us and leaders what people are actually thinking and feeling.  However, and back to the potential basis of my dispute with my government colleague - is what the public (or any other stakeholder group) thinking where we should be leading them?  Are they truly informed on the issue at hand?  Feelings, assumptions, and "alternative facts" should not, in my opinion, form the basis for significant initiatives, policy directions, and strategic directions.

In this case, "That's how you feel because that's how you feel", comes across as a very dangerous position to lead from.  This can lead, and has led, to very reactionary changes in direction by business leaders, organizations and whole countries - pick your favorite example.


So while we all collectively are quite capable of believing in a whole range of things that are not true, I believe it is up to principled and courageous leaders to stand for something.  While you might run the risk of being mistaken or being on the wrong side of any given issue, I would rather see leadership based on values and facts than one based on the latest opinion poll or engagement survey.  No good change came easy.  Leadership is neither easy nor for the faint of heart.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost
______________________________

Greg Hadubiak, MHSA, FACHE, CEC, PCC
Executive Coach/Senior Consultant
hadubiak@wmc.ca

Helping leaders realize their strengths and enabling organizations to achieve their potential through the application of my leadership experience and coaching skills. I act as a point of leverage for my clients. I AM their Force Multiplier.
 



Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Power of Vision, Commitment and Legacy



Over this past week I was privileged to find myself in Warsaw, Poland, representing the Edmonton Charter Chapter of the International Coach Federation at the annual Global Leadership Forum.  Coaching leadership from over 68 countries collaborating to support the growth of the coaching profession, our chapters and our clients.  More on that later in future posts!

What the trip also afforded me, albeit in a very limited fashion, was the ability to get to know the history of Warsaw and Poland to a greater degree than what I previously possessed. I’m an avid history buff so that was perhaps saying something.  Most particularly I had a chance to visit the Warsaw Uprising Museum and the Royal Castle.  In both cases, I had the opportunity to fully appreciate the utter and complete devastation that Warsaw experienced as a result of World War II and the challenges it faced under Nazi, Soviet and Communist rule.  Warsaw – a thriving and artistic metropolis of over 1 million people reduced to a pile of rubble occupied by no more than a few thousand at war’s end.

The journey back for Warsaw actually started at the commencement of hostilities in September 1939 and in some respects continues to this day.  When Nazi planes started bombing the city, many of its cultural icons and buildings were immediately put at risk with the Royal Palace being severely damaged at the outset.  Many brave Poles began the effort to save the artifacts within the building even to the point of losing their lives doing so.  Throughout those early days of desperation and ultimate defeat they continued the effort to preserve as much of the art and even the architecture of their buildings. They showed as much determination in terms of preserving their heritage as the Nazi’s did in destroying and looting it. 

No reprieve came to the residents of Warsaw and Poland as the war drew to a close.  Quite the contrary.  As Nazi Germany went through its death throes, Hitler and his cronies were more determined than ever to destroy what they could not own or control while at the same time making Warsaw a devastating battleground with the Soviet war machine.  The result was that literally all of Warsaw was laid waste and the Royal Castle purposely destroyed by the Nazi’s before withdrawing from the area.


As might be imagined, the Soviet Union and its Communist-installed regime were in no rush to support reconstruction of glories of the past or anything that might detract from unswerving allegiance to a new world order.  As a result reconstruction of the Royal Castle was not started until 1971 – fully 25 years after the end of World War II – and was not fully restored until 1988.

What does any of have this to with my usual focus on leadership?  Simply this – consider the vision and the commitment to preserving a cultural heritage taken up by a few key leaders and likely hundreds if not thousands of other ordinary citizens from 1939 through to 1988. As I noted earlier, those who took steps to preserve the arts and architecture of the Royal Castle at the start and for the duration of World War II often paid for that effort with their lives.  This meant not only removing art and furnishings from the Royal Castle.  As I learned it also sometimes entailed removing pieces of the building itself – frescoes, statues, decorative paneling – all to be carried away and hidden until the war was over. 

Regardless of whether these same individuals survived the war or not, many of them must have realized that they likely were not going to be around for the restoration of the Royal Palace or any other edifice in Warsaw.  And yet they not only undertook the immediate effort and risk, but persevered in their commitment for the two plus decades that followed. They had to have known that their vision would not be realized in their lifetime.  They faced a multitude of challenges including barriers put in place by authorities of the day and the very real issues facing a rebuilding nation and economy. But they persevered and sacrificed in support of their vision anyway.

Just as importantly, these visionaries were able to convince the populace of Warsaw, Poland and others to contribute to the rebuilding and restoration of the Royal Castle.  By 1975 over $500 million zloty had been raised through voluntary contribution including from Polish citizens who in many ways had so little to give at the time as they continued to work to restore the basic necessities of life.  Art and artifacts hidden during the war were recovered and returned for inclusion in the new structure.  And new significant pieces of art were donated from other countries around the world. 


How many of us struggle to create a vision for ourselves or the businesses we lead that goes much beyond two to three years?

How many of us aspire to create and sustain a vision with the power to impact well beyond ourselves operating with the realization that its achievement will be beyond our physical ability to see realized?

In today’s world how many of us would even entertain such prospects if there were not something of immediate gain in such a venture for us?

I hope you can take from this short post a sense of the inspiration and awe I felt for those with the commitment to build for more than just themselves.  To be inspired by the selfless sacrifices that others were prepared to make for future generations and that we have seen in other similar circumstances - in business, in charitable causes, and in nation-building - and to challenge ourselves to a higher level of performance and goal setting. 
______________________________

Greg Hadubiak, MHSA, FACHE, CEC, PCC
Executive Coach/Senior Consultant
hadubiak@wmc.ca

Helping leaders realize their strengths and enabling organizations to achieve their potential through the application of my leadership experience and coaching skills. I act as a point of leverage for my clients. I AM their Force Multiplier.