Find the Reverse Leaders in Your Midst – Scott Edinger – Harvard Business Review

Find the Reverse Leaders in Your Midst – Scott Edinger – Harvard Business Review.

A good piece on identifying (growing) the leaders from any chair. Some of the elements to be nurtured in employees (who can also be groomed as future leaders) are encouraging those who:

  • Understand that they can influence through good interpersonal skills instead of waiting for a certain position.
  • Are results oriented and display high levels of integrity; and
  • Are well versed in an area important to the business.



Embracing What’s Wrong to Get to What’s Right – Tony Schwartz – Harvard Business Review

Tony Schwartz describes CEOs as Chief Energy Officers and writes here about his experience of re-orienting a meeting where he was feeding the group many new ideas with enthusiasm, and not receiving the warm welcome he had hoped for.  Instead he was hearing about people’s stress and lack of recognition for the work done so far.

My two favourite points in his response:

“Because human beings have a strong “negativity bias,” we pay more attention to our bad feelings than to our good ones. It once clearly served our survival to be vigilant about what might go wrong and that instinct persists. Today, it may serve to buffer us from disappointment, but it also promotes disproportionate and destructive discontent. The simple question “What’s going right?” provides ballast in tough times.”


“The highest skill — whatever your role — is the willingness to embrace opposite feelings without choosing up sides. Acknowledging bad feelings is key to being able to address what’s causing them. Recognizing they’re only one part of the story frees us to notice what we feel good about and grateful for, which helps us to feel positive even in the face of ongoing challenges.”

I’d add a third observation from the first rate materials and training that I have received from the National Managers’ Community in the Government of Canada: Behind every complaint is a commitment.  Whereas in my early days as a manager my instincts might lead me to wonder why people were “just being oppositional” when work needed to get done,  when now I take the space for explorations of the values that people are indirectly expressing when they are  complaining, I have found important information that may provide a jumping off point to a better working relationship. The number one reason that people are complaining:  they want sufficient time and space to submit a good product.

via Embracing What’s Wrong to Get to What’s Right – Tony Schwartz – Harvard Business Review.

Beyond measure – The secret sauce that makes excellent teams


(c) Wayne S. Grazio

(c) Wayne S. Grazio


I’m enjoying the new series of short books (long essays really) put out by the TED group. These are single topic books that you can buy for your kindle for approx $10-$15 Canadian. I’ve enjoyed all that I’ve read including this first one called “Beyond Measure.” The book is a good and easy read but I’d welcome a longer treatment of the topic – it’s an important one.

The thesis on this one is that great teams are made by something difficult to measure and this is a strong work culture. The author calls it the secret sauce of organizational life.  Culture is comprised of small actions and though often beyond our control as managers, it is happily non-linear in its spread.

You can create a strong work culture by building trust in an environment that generates the best ideas.

Unhelpfully. our brains like efficiency and search for matches including in hiring when we tend to hire mirrors of our selves not people who will help us be windows to the outside world. This means we don’t get the best ideas.

To generate a stronger team culture where new ideas are introduced including ones that will run against the grain, we need courageous leadership.  This is a culture that will see people calmly raise issues and concerns. Unanimity is a sign that participation isn’t really whole-hearted. (She uses harrowing examples of plane crashes caused by bad work cultures and lack of communication, to illustrate this point).

She makes a good point there is often more give in most systems than we’d expect for raising new ideas.  The challenge is to solicit discomforting data which will help us elaborate what we’d see if we were wrong.  She uses a great example of US intelligence sniffing out the end of the cold war in her text.  Basically, the top gun had been told that the cold war was in full force but when he stated probing if contrary data was available he found it. (meat being stolen from trains with no state recourse).

Hearteningly, she tells us what it takes to get collective intelligence in a team:  ensuring each person speaks an equal amount of time, getting a group that is socially sensitive (to needs of others, group dynamics) and groups that include more women (this is thought to be linked to the second element).

The higher the social capital of a group, the better it can deal with conflict. The capital is created through a culture of trust and the ability to build on good ideas to make them even better.

Finally she cites “Project Oxygen” the study Google did on what makes a good manager. Subject matter expertise was found at the bottom of the list which was a surprise to many. At the top, good managers were ones who believe in and care about their staff and take an interest in their lives and allow employees to sort things out by asking them questions instead of giving direction.


A whiteboard video on persuasion summarizing many years of study on the the psychology of persuasion.  Also the key components from a book that is on my “to read” list.

The key shortcuts to persuasion are:

– reciprocity
– scarcity
– authority
– consistency
– liking
– consensus

Though it’s useful to have shortcuts that can be used ethically to influence, I have likely benefited more from reading about how to communicate with people in a way that is compelling  (like the Heath brothers’ work, Made to Stick).

How to Disagree with Your Boss


An excellent article from the Harvard Business Review.

They discuss strategies for disagreeing with your boss that range from contracting upfront to disagree (when emotions are at neutral) and then later on, asking for and getting permission to disagree.

Most helpful to me was the nugget taken from the negotiation discipline to discuss intent and shared purpose in the context of a perceived disagreement:

“Discuss intent before content. When the boss gets defensive, it’s for one of two reasons. The first is because she believes your dissent is a threat to her goals. Defenses are far less often provoked by actual content than they are by perceived intent. You can be far more candid about your view if you frame it in the context of a mutual purpose that the boss already cares about. If you fail to do this, the boss may believe your disagreement signals a lack of commitment to her interests.”

via How to Disagree with Your Boss.

The Latest Executive Dustups Prove Relationships, Not Skills, Determine Success – Businessweek

(c) James bond


A good article from a couple of months back discussing the importance of maintaining relationships. As wiser folks than me have pointed out, always best to do this in advance of needing to lean on them.

The article highlights the need for your humility in this process and putting aside personal dislikes.  Though they focus on the relationship with your boss, I think I’d be more keen to engage in a 360 degree strategy.

“…[I]dentify the most critical relationships, those individuals crucial to both your success and the success of the business, and nurture those relationships. This entails asking people’s opinions, even if you don’t think their views are likely to be helpful. It means telling people what you are doing and why—sharing information with them so they never feel left out. Serving relationships means going to visit people in their offices, not yours, and in countless other ways showing others that you value them, their experience, and their expertise.”

via The Latest Executive Dustups Prove Relationships, Not Skills, Determine Success – Businessweek.

Debunking The Myth That Jerk Bosses Get Results | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

Great article on an discussion oft had in the public service about whether you can be a great boss by accomplishing great things but also leaving bodies in the road.  The riff on procrastination is particularly valuable  – why wouldn’t you avoid sharing your work till the last possible minute to avoid the blow back? Makes sense to me…

“When you motivate with fear, you run the risk of completely paralyzing your workers, or worse scaring them away. And those that do choose to stick around are more likely to make mistakes.

What’s more, fear of failure is one of the greatest reasons people procrastinate. When people are afraid their work may bring about derision and retribution, they are more likely to delay completing it.”

via Debunking The Myth That Jerk Bosses Get Results | Fast Company | Business + Innovation.

Managing Volunteers – A chat with Dan Dubeau



As I have written about before on the blog, I am always keen on learning more about the field of volunteer management.  For the moment I am a keen volunteer and very appreciative of the respectful way I am treated as a volunteer.

Realizing that the strategies to supervise volunteers are a bit different than those for supervising paid employees, I was pleased to get connected to Dan Dubeau earlier this year to talk about the skills to manage volunteers.

Dan is the Program Manager for the Community Cup Program at the Catholic Centre for Immigrants. For over 10 years, Dan has been dedicated to helping newcomers integrate and settle into Ottawa. Dan is also the chair of the Ottawa Administrators for Volunteer Resources (OAVR) and believes strongly that a good volunteer experience can open up many doors for individuals and the community.

He generously agreed to be interviewed for the blog.

The interview appears in multiple parts.  The first part is about Dan’s affiliation with the OAVR.

What is the Ottawa Administrators for Volunteer Resources (OAVR)?

The mandate of the group is to:

  • To promote professionalism in volunteer resources management
  • To support our members in the pursuit of their goals as managers of volunteers
  • To provide a forum to share information and resources
  • To network with peers

Who can join the organization?

  • Individuals whose work (paid or unpaid) includes managing/coordinating volunteer resources
  • Managers/coordinators of volunteer resources not currently working in the field
  • Students in a degree or certificate program in management of volunteer resources

Why should mangers of volunteers join the OAVR?

First, the membership fee is modest – only $30 a year – for the benefits that you get from membership.   Members can network and participate in professional development.  Prospective members should also know that there is a bursary available to further professional development or research related to volunteer management or volunteerism.

The group functions as a community of practice which is great as the professional recognition of the profession increases.   We can discuss thorny issues such as the difficult matter of asking a volunteer to discontinue their involvement in an organization.

There is also definite strength in numbers – for instance, we were able to lobby the Ottawa Police to invest in bringing down the processing wait times  for police checks for the vulnerable sectors.

What are some recent developments of interest to Managers of volunteer resources?

In 2012, the National Occupational Standards for Managers of Volunteer Resources were published by the HR council for the Non-profit sector.

These standards show that  this specialization has grown into more of a profession  in the past decade.  The standards list out the main task categories and the expected tasks for each.  These range from developing volunteer services and recruitment to maintaining records, managing performance and recognizing contribution.  They also include the need for volunteer managers to look after their own professional development.

With your work in the OAVR coming to a close, what would you consider your accomplishments over the past few years?

I’ve worked to promote the existence of the network and to grow the membership.  We’ve expanded the range of volunteer managers involved in the group including making stronger links to sports-related areas. I’ve also supported the group to expand the use of technology and social media.


The Progress Principle

(c) david ingram

This interview is a good summary that will serve as my overdue nod to a book I found on the Globe and Mail list of the top ten business books of the year in 2011. The Progress Principle is the result of the analysis of thousands of work diaries to figure out what makes employees feel empowered at work – it’s making progress on meaningful work.  The definition of meaning has to make sense for each person and the amount of progress can be small. Managers can support through finding catalysts (clear goals and resources) and nourishments (respect and emotional support) to progress versus creating inhibitors (micro-managing) and toxins (being disrespectful). What I wish the authors had elaborated on was the difficult rub of a collective making progress on meaningful work with liberal amounts of inhibitors and toxins thrown into the mix.  To my mind, the framing of the thesis can miss the mark because the definition of progress can work for some and not for others.

Behind every complaint…

(c) findyoursearch

Behind many complaints there is a request or a commitment.

I was reviewing some materials produced by the National Managers’ Community for a course I was hoping to take before I was felled by a bad cold.  No matter, as preparation, I got a chance to revisit some coaching techniques that I have learned before to bring them back to front of mind.  I realized that there is a certain magic to remembering that we have the power to reframe behaviours we find difficult in the workplace.  Taken from the guide available to all Coaching Practices for Managers, we can listen for both requests and commitments that are obscured behind complaints.

For example:

A complaint that someone has too many different files or doesn’t want to work on a certain file, may be a commitment to being a credible expert on the material.  It may also be a request to reframe expectations around handling multiple files.

A complaint that insufficient numbers of documents are getting vetted by key partners may be a request for commitment to adequate consultation.  It may also just be a request for an update on what consults were done and why.

A complaint against late meeting starts or rambling updates may be a commitment to protecting people’s time and ensuring that key agenda items get the air time they need.

More generally, this practice helped me remember that I can always ask “what else is going on here?” faced by a situation that I find challenging.  Instead of making assumptions about why something is occurring, I can ask “What is the unmet need that is prompting this request?” or  when I feel that my requests to my team/boss are going unmet, I can ask “What need of my own have I have failed to express to my team?”

The Coaching Practices booklet contains a few other practices which are worth a look as well.