Thursday, March 19, 2009

What to Avoid When Choosing a Successor

Choosing a great successor is one of the most important accomplishments that a CEO can achieve. It is often presented as a paint-by-numbers process during which executives concern themselves with abstract concepts such as strategic fit, core competencies, and long-term shareholder value. However, the process of evaluating potential successors can often be as influenced by emotions as it is by logic! From a behavioral (or human) perspective, when evaluating potential successors, we should first look at ourselves.

Beware of the following three classic mistakes leaders make when considering potential successors. All three can cloud our objectivity and diminish our ability to evaluate candidates.

1. Why Doesn't He Or She Act Like Me? As a rule, successful human beings tend to "over-weight" their own strengths and "under-weight" their weaknesses when evaluating others. The more successful we become, the more we can fall into the "superstition trap," which, simply stated, is, "I behave this way. I am a successful leader. Therefore, I must be a successful leader because I behave this way."

All successful leaders are successful because of many positive qualities and in spite of some behavior that needs improvement.

As a leader, take a hard look at your own strengths and challenges. Recognize that you will have a natural tendency to forgive even large errors that resemble your weaknesses and to punish even small flaws that occur in your area of strength.

After making a list of your strengths and challenges, list the strengths and challenges of your potential successor. As hard as it may be, try to think like an objective outsider. Challenge yourself to recognize that the behavior that you feel is most important for the company may really be the behavior that is most important for you.

2. What Doesn't He Or She Think Like Me? It is hard for successful leaders not to believe that their strategic thinking is the right strategic thinking. As you proceed in the succession process, you are going to have to let go. It can be very hard to watch your successor make decisions that are different from yours. It is especially tough since, as long as you are still the leader, you have the power to reverse the decisions.

Your successor—not you—will manage your organization in the future. As hard as it may be, you have to let him or her begin to make a bigger and bigger difference in developing strategy.

As long as the organization will be headed in a positive general direction—and achieving results—try to recognize that your successor's different path may actually turn out to be a better path.

3. Why Doesn't He Or She Respect and Appreciate My Friends? We all tend to overvalue input from people that we personally like and respect and undervalue the opinions of people whom we don't love as much. Face it: your successor's personal preferences are probably different than yours. As such, he or she will likely choose other trusted advisors.

Invariably when transition occurs, some of your friends may lose status or power and may end up leaving the company. This can be tough—both for them and for you.

The Bottom Line: Respect your successor enough to let him be himself, follow his own path, and choose his own key advisers.

By Marshall Goldsmith


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Decisions Your Managers Regret

Your manager's biggest regret? Hiring that sleepy cubicle inhabitant across from her office, who wakes up a quarter past every hour to check his Facebook account, Twitter a little, and promptly fall back to sleep. Another regret?  His cubicle neighbor who balances her time between filing her nails and making trips outside to smoke. Needless to say, both of these workers are on their way out. But not soon enough to avoid weighing on their manager's mind. Development Dimensions International (DDI) recently conducted a study about how these duds end up at your company. Here are key findings from "Are You Failing the Interview? 2009 Survey of Global Interviewing Practices and Perceptions":

Some 47 Percent Of Interviewers Spend Less Than 30 Minutes Reviewing a Candidate's Interview Results with others before making a decision. Younger interviewers spend less time deliberating than older interviewers: 70 percent of interviewers under age 25 spend less than 30 minutes, compared to just 36 percent of those over age 50.

A Majority Of Interviewers In France and the UK Hold Formal Discussions With Other Interviewers Before a Decision Is Made, while those in the U.S. are far more independent. Service (33 percent) and retail (30 percent) organizations make quick, independent decisions. Jobs in these industries tend to be entry-level and prone to turnover.

"Informal On-the-Job Training" (48 Percent) Is the Most Common Way Interviewers Have Been Prepared to Conduct Interviews, but "I use my instinct" (44 percent) is not far behind. In the U.S., "instinct" jumps to 56 percent, compared to much lower rates in the UK (32 percent) and France (26 percent). All told, 58 percent of interviewers report having either no interviewer skills training or relying on their instincts.

• Ranking lowest among interviewers' top-rated concerns is the Worry they Are Asking Illegal Or Inappropriate Questions. Only 5 percent of interviewers rank it among their top three concerns. Yet when asked to identify whether certain questions were illegal or inappropriate, many of these same interviewers choose the wrong answers. In each country in the study, questions about marital status, plans to have children, religious persuasion, age, ethnicity, and sexual orientation are illegal. A significant number of interviewers in each country are not aware these questions are illegal to ask in their country.

Only 25 Percent Of Interviewers Check Sites Such As Facebook and MySpace. As you might expect, the practice becomes more prevalent the younger the interviewer: Only 19 percent of those over age 50 check these sites compared to 46 percent of those under 25. German interviewers are almost twice as likely to conduct these searches as those in any other country. At the other end of the spectrum, only 12 percent of interviewers from the UK rely on site searches.

By Training Magazine


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Employee Enthusiasm

One lesson that I keep learning the hard way is that before I start to do something, I need to stop doing something else in order to make it effective.  Here's what I mean.


If you want to get healthy, it's a good idea to stop eating fatty foods before you start exercising.  If you want to get wealthy, you should stop spending without thinking before you start investing in shares.  If you want to make new friends, it's best to stop being a negative person before you start meeting new people.


Likewise, you don't need to motivate your employees.  You just need to stop de-motivating them.  And you don't need to ignite their enthusiasm either.  You just need to stop taking it away. 

Children are the epitome of enthusiasm.  The world is so new to them.  They get excited about recent discoveries.  They're free from worry.  Their focus is solely on "am I having a good time right now?"  But as we age, things change.  We become conscious of injustice and unfairness.  Worry and pain infiltrate our lives.  We develop deep emotional scars.


The same parallel plays out at work.  Employees are enthusiastic for the first six months in a new role, but then they start to become bitter and cynical as their enthusiasm wanes.  All of the above means that there are two main ways to get your employees to be enthusiastic.


First, identify what you need to stop doing before you start doing.  Figure out the specific enthusiasm-killers prevalent in your team.  These fall into two categories:


  • What Unwanted Activities Are Your Employees Forced to Do?  It might be that bureaucratic processes and archaic procedures are holding your people back.

  • What Are Your Employees Prevented from Doing?  Maybe their talents aren't being utilised; they haven't got enough influence; or their career progression is limited.

Second, inject a childhood mentality into your team - and I'm not talking about "fun and games", which are often more patronising than they are enjoyable.  I'm talking about the most fundamental childhood element of all:  curiosity.  Your team's enthusiasm levels will rise in proportion to the amount of curiosity you're able to arouse. 

Do this by introducing something new and different that creates excitement.  Be bold and fresh in your thinking and initiatives.  See what you can spice up in terms of jobs, meetings, and communication style.  Even if you work in a stifling organisation, nothing stops you from creating this culture within your own team.


A common cliché is that it takes more facial muscles to frown than to smile.  Similarly, it takes more effort to trudge through boredom and apathy than to slowly turn it around.


By James Adonis



Did You Know? A survey of more than 1 million employees has found that those who say they're bored because of too little work have low levels of job satisfaction.  ~~~ Source: Sirota Survey Intelligence



Monday, March 16, 2009

Self-Help Strategies for Bipolar Disorder

There are a variety of methods one can put to use to help yourself with bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression). Individuals should take an active role in their own treatment and self-care — feeling better and getting better is an active, daily process. While medications and psychotherapy are usually recommended to treat bipolar disorder, there are additional steps one can take to improve one's condition.

1. Learn More

Learning more about bipolar disorder is the easiest thing a person can do to help themselves. There is a wealth of information online, but there are also some very good self-help books that provide an in-depth understanding of bipolar disorder and techniques that can be used to improve your daily life.

2. Get Support and Understanding

During a manic phase you may be quite unaware that your actions are distressing or damaging to other people. Later, you may feel guilty and ashamed. It can be especially difficult if those around you seem afraid or hostile. It helps if you provide people with information about bipolar disorder.

After going through a manic depressive episode you may find it difficult to trust others, and may want to cut yourself off. These feelings are to be expected after experiencing such difficulties, but it may be far more helpful to talk through your emotions and experiences with friends, family, careers or a counselor. There are now many support groups — both in the real world and online — where people who have gone through similar problems can come together to support each other.

3. Manage Your Own Condition

Self-management involves finding out about bipolar disorder and developing the skills to recognize and control mood swings early, before they become full blown. It can be very difficult at first to tell whether a bipolar "high" is really the beginning of a manic episode or whether you are just feeling more confident, creative and socially at ease. It can be a strain watching out for symptoms all the time, particularly when you are first learning about the effect bipolar disorder might have on your life.

There are various guides to self-managing bipolar disorder. They may feature checklists and exercises to help you recognize and control mood swings, like mood diaries, tips on self-medication, and practical tips for dealing with depression and mania. Self management is by no means instant, and can take some time to use effectively. However, you may find you need to rely less on professionals, and have more control over mood swings. This can lead to greater self-confidence and lessens relapse. The easiest thing you can do today to begin better managing your own condition is by keeping a daily journal of your moods in the morning, afternoon, and evening. Write it down on a piece of paper, day after day. There are even tools like our depression quiz and our mania quiz that can you track these moods online.

4. Get Routine in Your Day-to-day Life

Routine is important, as well as good diet, enough sleep, exercise and enough vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. Gentle stress free activities also help, like yoga or swimming. You could also try complementary therapies, such as reflexology and massage. People sometimes underestimate the importance of a daily routine. They feel, "What's the use?" The use is that it keeps your body active, which in turn helps you feel better emotionally. The mind and body are interconnected — ignoring one will have an effect on the other.

5. Keep Work Life at Bay

While work is important to many of us, if for no other reason than it helps to pay our rent and food bills, it also needs to be placed into proper perspective with regards to your health and well being. When we are emotionally out of balance, it can affect our work performance (as well as many other areas in our lives, such as relationships with our significant other, family and friends).

It's important to take things slowly and avoid stressful situations. If you already have a job, you might want to find out if you can return on a part-time basis to start with. If you are a student, most colleges and universities will offer good support and advice. Give yourself time and space to get back into the full world of job stresses and such.


Bipolar disorder need not be chronic and it can be possible to recover. There is a growing recovery movement among bipolar disorder survivors. Developing countries have a far higher non-relapse rate than industrialized countries. Great recovery tools are hope, love, support and work.


By Steve Bressert, Ph.D.



A Math Puzzle!

1.  Grab a calculator. (you won't be able to do this one in your head)
2.  Key in the first three digits of your phone number (NOT the area code)
3.  Multiply by 80
4.  Add 1
5.  Multiply by 250
6.  Add the last 4 digits of your phone number
7.  Add the last 4 digits of your phone number again.
8.  Subtract 250
9.  Divide number by 2
Do You Recognize the Answer?


Weakness Or Greatest Strength?

Sometimes your biggest weakness can become your greatest strength. Take, for example, the story of one 10-year-old boy who decided to study judo despite the fact that he had lost his left arm in a devastating car accident.

The boy began lessons with an old Japanese judo master. The boy was doing well, so he couldn't understand why, after three months of training the master had taught him only one move.

"Sensei," the boy finally said, "Shouldn't I be learning more moves?"

"This is the only move you know, but this is the only move you'll ever need to know," the sensei replied. Not quite understanding, but believing in his teacher, the boy kept training.

Several months later, the sensei took the boy to his first tournament. Surprising himself, the boy easily won his first two matches. The third match proved to be more difficult, but after some time, his opponent became impatient and charged; the boy deftly used his one move to win the match. Still amazed by his success, the boy was now in the finals.

This time, his opponent was bigger, stronger, and more experienced. For a while, the boy appeared to be overmatched. Concerned that the boy might get hurt, the referee called a time-out. He was about to stop the match when the sensei intervened.

"No," the sensei insisted, "Let him continue."

Soon after the match resumed, his opponent made a critical mistake: he dropped his guard. Instantly, the boy used his move to pin him. The boy had won the match and the tournament. He was the champion.

On the way home, the boy and sensei reviewed every move in each and every match. Then the boy summoned the courage to ask what was really on his mind.

"Sensei, how did I win the tournament with only one move?"

"You won for two reasons," the sensei answered. "First, you've almost mastered one of the most difficult throws in all of judo. And second, the only known defense for that move is for your opponent to grasp your left arm."

The boy's biggest weakness had become his biggest strength.

"I will look for and see my weaknesses, but as I hold them in my mind's eye, I will see them for what they truly are - my greatest strengths."
By Mary Rau-Foster


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Writing Reports

Using the Business Report Format

Imagine this scenario: You're a busy, upper-level manager, and you supervise several junior managers. Every quarter, each member of your managerial team has to give you a written report on his or her department's progress. This report details profits, costs, productivity, and recommendations for the next quarter.

Reading all of these reports takes days, but what's even more frustrating is that they're all completely different. Some of your managers put the data and statistics right at the beginning, while others use appendices at the end. Some don't include an executive summary, or a section with details about recommendations for the next quarter. This means you have to spend extra time trawling through each report to find the information you really need.

How can you reduce the time you spend looking through all of these reports for important information? And how can you make sure that the reports you submit are read, digested, and understood? After all, readers will probably find what they need in half the time if everyone followed the same format.

This is why a standard format - often called the Business Report Format - has been developed over the years. In this article, we discuss why it's helpful to use this standard format, and then we'll outline what the format is.

Why the Format Is Important

One of the most important reasons to follow a standard Business Report Format is that people reading your report don't usually have a lot of time. Very few, if any, will read every word of your report from start to finish. However, using a clear, standard format allows readers to find the information they need quickly and easily - and skip what they don't need.

Following a standard format also helps you organize all the relevant information. The content of a report can be overwhelming, especially when you have a lot of data. This format ensures that your information follows logical steps that readers will be able to follow and understand easily. You're less likely to forget anything either, because the format gives you the structure you need to argue your case coherently.

The Business Report Format

Here are the main components of this standard format:

  1. Title Page (or Title Section)
    Include the report name, author name, and date. If your report is quite long, your title section could also include a table of contents.

  2. Executive Summary
    Keep this to a maximum of one page. Summarize the problem you're trying to solve, list the most important information or results, and detail any action steps that you recommend.

    For many people, this is the only page they'll have time to read. It's therefore a good idea to write it so that it argues your case in a standalone way. Use bullets and numbered lists to highlight important points.

  3. Methodology
    Describe the methods you used in your research to reach your conclusions. For example, did you talk with focus groups, conduct interviews, search the company archives, or use outside resources like consulting or research firms? Include the details of your research process, and explain why you used the sources you did.

  4. Introduction
    Tell readers why they need to read this report, and give a very brief overview of what you're going to cover in the main body of the report.

  5. Main Body
    This is the 'heart' of your report. Present your research and make your case - and remember to put the most important information first.

  6. Conclusion
    Analyze the results of your research, and bring everything together. Many people will read this section, so keep it short and simple.

  7. Recommendations
    List the actions you think readers - or the company - should take to solve the problem you're addressing. Ideally, use bullets or numbered points for this list.

    This is another highly read section, so be very clear about your opinion. You've done the research, so tell people what needs to happen next. If you suggest major changes, then create a strategy to implement these larger changes on a step-by-step basis.

  8. Appendix
    Include all of your sources and research information in detail. Few people read the appendix carefully, but this is the information that supports your arguments, so it must be included.

Report Tips

Here are some additional suggestions for writing effective, well-organized reports:

  • Understand your objectives: Before you begin researching or writing, make sure you clearly understand why you're writing the report - and who will read it.

  • Use a relaxed style: If possible, keep your writing style simple and easy to read. Be professional, but always keep your readers in mind. If you write the way you speak, they'll probably have an easier time understanding what you're trying to tell them.

  • Keep it concise: Remember, people typically don't have much time. Aim to keep your sentences short and clear.

  • Use sources and data: Use statistics, and quote sources whenever you can. People tend to trust numbers more than opinions.

  • Organize your text with clear headings: Break up your text with headings and subheadings. This makes reading easier, and it allows people to find the information that's most relevant to them.

  • Start with the most important information: In every section of your report, put the most important information first. Again, remember that most people don't have lots of time. Tell them what they need to know as quickly as possible.

  • Keep 'backup' information: Once you've done your initial research, you'll probably have a lot more information than you really need. This means that you'll have to go through all that data to determine what needs to go in your report. Be careful not to 'cherry-pick' data: don't choose just what you like, or what supports your objective. Keep records of every piece of information you include (and what you don't include), just in case you're asked to defend your findings.

  • Do at least two drafts: You can marshal your arguments in the first draft. In the second draft, you can refine and polish the way you've expressed them.

Key Points

Following a standard Business Report Format makes it easier for the people reading your report to find what they need quickly. They'll know which sections will answer their questions, and they'll clearly see your recommendations. For people who are in a hurry, this is an absolute necessity.

Thanks to James Manktelow