Category Archives: Management


Here’s how Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships, and a Stronger Bottom Line.


  • Among all the attributes of the greatest leaders of our time, one stands above the rest: They are all highly trusted. You can have a compelling vision, rock-solid strategy, excellent communication skills, innovative insight, and a skilled team, but if people don’t trust you, you will never get the results you want. Leaders who inspire trust garner better output, morale, retention, innovation, loyalty, and revenue, while mistrust fosters scepticism, frustration, low productivity, lost sales, and turnover. Trust affects a leader’s impact and the company’s bottom line more than any other single thing. One of the biggest mistakes a leader can make is to assume that others trust him simply by virtue of his title. Trust is not a benefit that comes packaged with the nameplate on your door. It must be earned, and it takes time. As a leader, you are trusted only to the degree that people believe in your ability, consistency, integrity, and commitment to deliver. The good news is that you can earn trust over time, by building and maintaining eight key strengths:
  • CLARITY: People trust the clear and mistrust or distrust the ambiguous. Be clear about your mission, purpose, expectations, and daily activities. When a leader is clear about expectations, she will likely get what she wants. When we are clear about priorities on a daily basis, we become productive and effective.
  • COMPASSION: People put faith in those who care beyond themselves. Think beyond yourself, and never underestimate the power of sincerely caring about another person. People are often sceptical about whether someone really has their best interests in mind. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not just an old saying. It is a bottom-line truth. Follow it, and you will build trust.
  • CHARACTER: People notice those who do what is right ahead of what is easy. Leaders who have built this pillar consistently do what needs to be done when it needs to be done, whether they feet like doing it or not. It is the work of life to do what is right rather than what is easy.
  • CONTRIBUTION: Few things build trust quicker than actual results. At the end of the day, people need to see outcomes. You can have compassion and character, but without the results you promised, people won’t trust you. Be a contributor who delivers real results.
  • COMPETENCY: People have confidence in those who stay fresh, relevant, and capable. The humble and teachable person keeps learning new ways of doing things and stays current on ideas and trends. According to one study, the key competency of a successful new MBA is not a specific skill but rather the ability to learn amid chaos. Arrogance and a “been there done that” attitude prevent you from growing, and they compromise others’ confidence in you. There is always more to learn, so make a habit of reading, learning, and listening to fresh information.
  • CONNECTION: People want to follow, buy from, and be around friends—and having friends is all about building connections. Trust is all about relationships, and relationships are Page 8 best built by establishing genuine connection. Ask questions, listen, and above all, show gratitude—it’s the primary trait of truly talented connectors. Grateful people are not entitled, they do not complain, and they do not gossip. Develop the trait of gratitude, and you will be a magnet.
  • COMMITMENT: People believe in those who stand through adversity. People trusted Jesus, General Patton, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mohandas Gandhi, and George Washington because they saw commitment and sacrifice for the greater good. Commitment builds trust.
  • CONSISTENCY: In every area of life, it’s the little things—done consistently— that make the big difference. If I am overweight, it is because I have eaten too many calories over time, not because I ate too much yesterday. It is the same in business. The little things done consistently make for a higher level of trust and better results. The great leaders consistently do the small but most important things first. They make that call and write that thank you note. Do the little things, consistently. Trust can’t be built overnight. It requires time, effort, diligence, and character. Inspiring trust is not slick or easy to fake. Trust is like a forest. It takes a long time to grow and can burn down with a just touch of carelessness. But if you focus on these eight components with every action, you will foster trusted relationships—whether with employees, customers, suppliers, or fellow leaders—that will drive results and the bottom line.

This article is by David Horsager, author of The Trust Edge

Company Runs Without Managers

Fascinating article by Inc’s David Burkus. Holocracy, Does it work in practice? (read more at

managers meeting

To most business professionals, the idea of  firing your managers sounds insane. However some of the most successful companies do in fact run manager-less, while others have found ways to push some of the management function down to the level of those who are being managed. In either case, more and more leaders are discovering that employees are most productive and engaged when they control their own destiny.

Employees at Valve Software don’t have to take orders from ‘the boss.’ That’s because, at the Bellevue, Washington-based company, there are no bosses to give orders.

As I write about in Under New Management, Valve is a company with no managers. They don’t believe in managers, or job descriptions. When new people join the company, they rotate around on various projects, talk to lots of people, and then decide which project (or projects) to jump into full-time.

Valve isn’t just a small handful of programmers working in a garage either. The company was founded in 1996 by Mike Harrington and Gabe Newell. The company grew organically and quickly based on the success of its critically acclaimed game series Half-Life. The company has grown dramatically from the original partnership to more than 400 people.

Ordinarily, that type of growth would require a fairly rigid hierarchy to manage everyone and keep them working in the right direction. But Harrington and Newell chose to ignore the traditional structure and to build something that would allow innovative and talented people to thrive.

In fact, what Valve employees work on changes so much each day that every employee’s desk is equipped with wheels and organized such that only two cords need to be unplugged before it can be rolled to wherever it’s needed in the shop.

There are lots of people, however, to tell them what they could do. Since Valve has no managers, all projects are started by an individual employee or a group pitching an idea and then recruiting a team. If enough people join the group, the project starts. Sometimes an individual employee is referred to as the ‘leader’ for a project, but everyone knows that this simply means that this person is keeping track of all of the information and organizing what’s being done — not giving orders.

There are also lots of people to tell employees how they’re doing. Valve may not have managers, but it does have a performance management system in place. A designated set of employees interview everyone in the company and ask who they’ve worked with since the last peer review session. They ask about their experiences working with each person. That feedback is collected and anonymized, and then every employee is given a report on their peers’ experiences working with them.

Valve also empowers all of its employees to make hiring decisions, which it describes as “the most important thing in the universe.” Valve attributes the success of its organizational design to hiring the smartest, most innovative, and most talented people it can find. The company’s handbook reminds employees, “Any time you interview a potential hire, you need to ask yourself not only if they’re talented or collaborative but also if they’re capable of literally running this company, because they will be.”

The leaders of companies like Valve have discovered something that researchers have known for decades: when individuals feel free to determine what they’re working on or how they work, they’re more motivated, more loyal and more productive. While Valve’s almost free-form structure may not be ideal for every company, the lessons learned here about improved productivity and engagement are of use to all.



Nearly every CEO reports that their companies are not developing skills fast enough or leaders deeply enough. That’s a big problem for companies. According to the MIT Sloan Management Review:

Develop better leaders faster

“Many managers think they can create better products just by improving the development process or adding new tools. But it’s skilled people, not processes, that create great products.”

In a time when continued success requires more innovation, creativity, and cross-cultural collaboration, companies are struggling to find people with those very skills. According to MIT:

Until organizations view people as central (and leaders act accordingly), the risk that development process improvement efforts will not improve anything is frighteningly high.

The Harvard Business Review takes this concept one step farther in the article The Best Leaders Are Constant Learners.

Reinvention and relevance in the 21st century instead draw on our ability to adjust our way of thinking, learning, doing and being. Leaders must get comfortable with living in a state of continually becoming, a perpetual beta mode. Leaders that stay on top of society’s changes do so by being receptive and able to learn. In a time where the half-life of any skill is about five years, leaders bear a responsibility to renew their perspective in order to secure the relevance of their organizations.

So how do companies develop better leaders? They have to develop better learners, first.

As the Harvard Business Review shares, the best leaders are constant learners: “There is no other way to address the difficult problems facing us. If work is learning and learning is the work, then leadership should be all about enabling learning.”

Being a better learner not only helps people become better leaders, but it helps them be more innovative, to – Steve Jobs is a great example of that. From a great article in The Daily Muse, 5 ways successful people become more innovative every day. The best innovators are also some of the biggest learners, and not just about fields directly related to their work. They follow passions and interests that might not make sense. They dive into topic areas they know nothing about.

Steve Jobs is not alone. As John Shook, CEO of the Lean Enterprise Institute, explained in his book,Managing to Learn, “The most important accomplishment of [Toyota] is simply that it has learned to learn.” Warby Parker CEO Neil Blumenthal agrees: “Learning naturally leads to cross-pollination and ideation. Ideation can lead to action. Action is how innovation comes to life.”

Companies must encourage that their people learn a wide variety of skills.

According to HBR, “a massive transformation from institutions designed for scalable efficiency to institutions designed for scalable learning” is under way. But companies can’t just get their people to learn about leadership, a specific industry, or a specific concept. As CEO and biographer Walter Isaacson writes in his book about Steve Jobs:

He connected the humanities to the sciences, creativity to technology, arts to engineering… no one else in our era could better fire-wire together poetry and processors in a way that jolted innovation.

In other words, people cannot learn all they need to learn within the hallowed halls of their employer. They must look beyond the corporate campus, university campus, and beyond their computer screens. They must learn through action learning: the act of real people working through real problems, and then reflecting on the process to learn from it. There is endless research showing that people learn through experience, and McKinsey & Company explains that the lack of experiential learning programs is why most leadership development programs fail.

But our experience in leadership development shows that experience have to be authentic. They have to be real. As wrote about in HBR, there is a shortage of learning opportunities for people within their companies, and paying a lot of money to create simulations or create learning practice is expensive and limiting. And at the end of the day, all that designing of experiences if for not. People need to find REAL experiences.

However, companies struggle to develop learners and leaders simply because they don’t have enough authentic experiences within their own halls – which is why innovative companies are transforming to turn learning into a self-driven pursuit. In tandem, employees “are demanding access to dynamic learning opportunities that fit their individual needs and schedules”.

The Best Leaders Allow Themselves to Be Persuaded

A very insightful article in Inc. by Al Pittampalli, author of Persuadable: How Great Leaders Change Their Minds to Change the World (HarperBusiness, 2016).

The Transformational Leadership Style of Elon Musk

Elon Musk of Tesla Motors

When we think of great leaders, certain characteristics come to mind: They have confidence in their abilities and conviction in their beliefs. They “trust their gut,” “stay the course,” and “prove others wrong.” They aren’t “pushovers,” and they certainly don’t “flip-flop.” But this archetype is terribly outdated. Having spent three years studying many of the world’s most successful leaders for my new book, Persuadable, I’ve learned one surprising thing they have in common: a willingness to be persuaded.

Alan Mulally, the vaunted CEO who saved Ford Motor Company, is, for example, exceptionally sceptical of his own opinions. Ray Dalio, one of the world’s most successful hedge fund managers, insists that his team ruthlessly second-guess his thinking. Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, seeks out information that might disprove her beliefs about the world and herself. In our increasingly complex world, these leaders have realized that the ability to consider emerging evidence and change their minds accordingly provides extraordinary advantages.

One of the benefits of being persuadable is improved accuracy in forecasting the future. When University of Pennsylvania professor Philip Tetlock famously conducted a comprehensive study on this issue, tracking 82,361 predictions from over 284 experts, he found that accuracy has more to do with how forecasters think than with what they know. The winners didn’t abide by grand theories of the world, so they were more willing to listen to new information and adjust their predictions accordingly.

Another benefit is accelerated growth. When Swedish psychologist K. Anders Ericsson studied what separates the masters from the mediocre in a wide range of cognitively complex skills (from chess to violin), he discovered that the quality of practice determined performance. Masters were obsessive about identifying and improving on their weaknesses; that means they were able to overcome the natural human bias toward illusory superiority (i.e., the tendency to overestimate our strengths and overlook our faults) by staying open to critical feedback from others. As Cornell psychologist David Dunning says, “The road to self-insight runs through other people.”

Of course, leaders shouldn’t be persuadable on every issue. At some point, you have to stop considering new information and opinions, make a decision, and move forward. When time is scarce or the matter at hand isn’t very consequential, it’s often okay to trust your gut and independently choose a course based on previous convictions. But for higher-stakes decisions, it’s important to adopt a more persuadable mindset. How can you do this, particularly on issues where you are far from objective?

Recall a moment of opacity. Everyone knows what a moment of clarity is: the experience of finally understanding a situation and knowing just what to do. A moment of opacity is the opposite: it’s when you can’t see a situation clearly, or when something you were so sure was right turned out to be wrong. Can you remember such a time? Persuadable leaders make sure they do. Whenever they’re feeling a little too confident or certain, they remind themselves about past moments of opacity, which motivates them to seek outside counsel and consider other points of view even when they don’t feel naturally inclined to do so.

Keep your hand on the dial, not on the gun. There is no better way to edge closer to the truth than to argue with people who disagree with you. But usually, when we engage in this way, we focus on defending our positions. It’s as if we’re skeet shooting and our counterparts’ points are the clay targets we’re trying to shoot down. We do this because we’re prone to black-and-white thinking: positions and decisions are either 100% right or 100% wrong, and if one can’t be perfectly defended, it must be the latter. But arguments don’t have to be winner-take-all; in fact, the best ones often end in compromise. So instead of imagining your hand on a shotgun, envision it turning a dial that represents the confidence you have in your opinion: all the way to the right means absolute certainty, and all the way to the left signifies none. When your debating partner makes a good point, turn the dial slightly to the left. When evidence that supports your position surfaces, turn the dial a bit to the right.

Kill your darlings. Once you’ve opened the door to feedback and debate, you may find that the evidence is piling up against your previously held view. The next step is to actually be willing to change your mind. That can be difficult when it comes to beliefs to which we’ve become attached, whether it’s a new project idea, an opinion on a long time vendor, or the assumption that you’re a succinct communicator. Writers know a lot about this fear of letting go. We have this terrible habit of falling in love with our own work and picking fights with editors who try to change our words. That’s why writers are advised to “kill their darlings” before anyone else has a chance to. The same applies to leaders. The quicker you recognize and acknowledge that an idea (even a beloved one) is unworkable, the quicker you can move on to the right course of action.

Empower people and unlock productivity

Empowering people is such a key to unlocking productivity, yet so few do it well. Bill George of Harvard asks the question for Huffington Post.Rowing eights

 “Where is the spiritual value in rowing? It is in losing of self entirely to the cooperative effort of the crew.” — George Yeoman Pocock, boat builder, 1936 Olympic gold medal winner

Stepping into a Zappos Call Center is like walking into a circus. Phones ring, voices rise, and laughter bounces around the room. If you closed your eyes, you’d think you’d entered a loud family reunion, not a billion dollar company.

Zappos employees work in a fiercely proud culture. Only 16 years after founding Zappos, CEO Tony Hsieh has made the online shoe-retailer into one of best places to work in the world. Zappos employees not only love their work, they care deeply about others in the community.

How did Hsieh do it? He did it by empowering his employees to lead. In Eyewitness to Power, David Gergen writes, “At the heart of leadership is the leader’s relationship with followers. People will entrust their hopes and dreams to another person only if they think the other is a reliable vessel.”

There was a time when leaders thought their role was to exert power over others. No longer, today’s best leaders — people like Ford’s Alan Mulally, General Motors’ Mary Barra, and Google’s Larry Page — recognize their leadership is most effective when they empower others to step up and lead. That’s exactly what the new generation of Gen X and Millennials expect from their leaders, and they respond with great performance.

Tony Hsieh focuses on relationships first and business second. In good times and bad, Hsieh’s communications are authentic, funny, and informal. He speaks directly and personally to his colleagues. As Hsieh says, “if you get the culture right, most of the other stuff…will just happen naturally.”

Hsieh reflects traits of an “empowering leader.” These leaders have discovered that helping people find purpose delivers superior results than forcing subordinates to be loyal followers. By giving others the latitude to lead, they expand their own potential impact.

So, how can you empower others? In Discover Your True North, I profile five things great leaders do.

  1. Treat Others as Equals: We respect people who treat us as equals. Warren Buffett, for example, gives equal attention to every person he meets. He has the same sandwich and Cherry Coke combination with a group of wide-eyed students as he does with his close friend Bill Gates. Buffett does not rely upon his image to make people feel he is important or powerful. He genuinely respects others, and they respect him as much for those qualities as for his investment prowess. By being authentic in his interactions, Buffett empowers people to lead in their own authentic way.
  2. Listen Actively: We are grateful when people genuinely listen to us. Active listening is one of the most important abilities of empowering leaders, because people sense such individuals are genuinely interested in them and not just trying to get something. The leadership scholar Warren Bennis was an example of a world-class listener. He patiently listened as you explained your ideas and then thoughtfully contributed astute observations that came from a deep well of wisdom and experience.
  3. Learn from People: We feel respected when others believe they can learn from us or ask for our advice. The best advice I ever got about teaching came from my Harvard Business School (HBS) colleague Paul Marshall, who was one of HBS’s greatest teachers. He told me, “Bill, don’t ever set foot in an HBS classroom unless you genuinely want to learn from the students.” I have taken his advice into every class I have taught for the past 12 years, telling MBA students and executives, “I feel certain I will learn a lot more from you than you do from me.” The students find that hard to believe at first, but they soon see how their feedback helps me understand how today’s leaders and MBA students think.
  4. Share Life Stories: When leaders are willing to be open and share their personal stories and vulnerabilities, people feel empowered to share their own stories and uncertainties in return. On Thanksgiving eve in 1996, I sent an e-mail to all Medtronic employees, expressing my gratitude for the support Penny and I received following her ordeal with breast cancer and chemotherapy. We were overwhelmed by the number of people who spontaneously shared their stories with us.
  5. Align around the Mission: The most empowering condition of all is when the entire organization aligns with its mission, and people’s passions and purpose synchronize with each other. It is not easy to get to this position, especially if the organization has a significant number of cynics or disgruntled people. Nonetheless, it is worth whatever effort it takes to create an aligned environment, including removal of those who don’t support the mission.

Leaders of every organization have an important responsibility to articulate how their company contributes to humankind. At Medtronic, our mission was to restore people to full health and wellness. At Disney, it’s to make people happy. Even at the most “boring” business-to-business company, the business can play a powerful role in improving the lives of its stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, and community.

With leadership comes responsibility. As Clayton Christensen wrote, “No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility and be recognized for achievement.”

It’s time to lead authentically. You can do so by focusing on empowering others.

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