The Big Ideas Summit

The Big Ideas Summit

“Knowledge is rarely enough to spark change; it takes emotion to bring knowledge to a boil.”— Chip Heath

I had the extraordinary experience last week of finding myself on “higher ground.”  I had a better view of the value-based consulting I have been doing.  More importantly, from this higher vantage point, I was able to visualize better how I can make more positive impacts in the years to come.

I sought this higher ground by attending Alan Weiss’s Thought Leadership Summit in West Palm Beach, Florida. I was there with the host Alan Weiss (author of over 50 books) and 15 other thought leaders in various fields.  The guest speaker Chip Heath, pictured with me, was very inspiring. Chip is the author of many influential books. 

The discussions we had and the work we did together were challenging and inspirational. 

3 Take-aways from Alan Weiss’s Thought Leadership Summit

Always start and end with a focus on high value for those that you serve. In other words, do not get lost in the methodology. Do not get caught up in the details of planning. Those are important, but they are useless without a complete focus on what you will achieve.

When you start to feel comfortable, it is time to seek higher ground. The stability of the plateau can be very enticing. However, there are cliffs on the edges. When feeling comfortable for too long, it is time to push your envelope to new ideas.

Do not sweat the small losses. They lead to big wins. When working on new ideas, there will be setbacks. There will be people ready and willing to criticize. The losses and the friction are all fodder you can use to build towards creating the best value for those that you lead.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett

Here I am with author and featured speaker, Chip Heath

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Details Make the Big Picture Real

Details Make the Big Picture Real

“Your big picture will never be a masterpiece if you ignore the tiny brushstrokes.”— Andy Andrews

Details, Details, Why Do They Always Want Details?

I recently lead a three-day workshop where the key purpose was to define a new direction for a large organization. By the end of day 2, everyone agreed that a pivot point for the organization was being achieved. The participants were excited about the new direction in which they were heading.

The energy level was high, yet there was something missing.

When we went around the room at the close of the second day we asked two key questions. What was an example “aha moment” of your day? And what is a major wish for what we achieve on the final day?

The aha moments were quite diverse. The wish for the day was common across the majority of people. That wish is summed up with one person’s comment, “Alan, the big picture is great, but we need more details. How do we actually go in this new direction?”

This question is a common one in this type of workshop. These workshops are designed to get everyone engaged and excited about defining their aspirational desired state. By its nature, a vision doesn’t contain the details of what most people really need to move forward. I have attended similar workshops where people leave excited, but on Monday they find they are back in the same job and not clear how to change things to match the new vision.

In contrast, I design this type of workshop to ensure that people walk out with a detailed plan and examples of what they need to do differently. I lead workshop participants through the design and plan of those details. I can and do help with providing some concrete examples. However, it is the participants of these workshops themselves who must execute the new direction. The real details must come from them.

The better they can envision the headwinds they will face in making the changes happen, the abler they will be to adjusting on the spot and keep making headway to the horizon of their choosing.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett
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Caution. Great Help Can Actually Be Anti-Help.

Caution. Great Help Can Actually Be Anti-Help.

“In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”— Maya Angelou

I was once coaching a leader whose team absolutely adored him.

He did a great job leading the team. He worked extra hours to make sure every team member was successful. Whenever a team member seemed to be struggling with a task, the leader just took care of the task himself.

I expect you can see the problem already. Even though the team liked the help their leader gave, he was actually giving the team a very subtle form of anti-help. He was denying the team its opportunities for growth.

The senior executives needed this leader to assume leadership of a number of larger teams and assume broader responsibility. Yet the executives knew that they had a problem. The leader’s current team was a critical part of a high technology project but the leader had not grown the skills of the team. There was no one on the team who could take on the upcoming challenges without his help.

The first step in the transformation of this team leader was difficult. I told him that for his team to grow, he had to allow them the opportunity to fail.

In response, he looked faint. He lowered his head below his knees and took a few minutes of silence. From that position, he said, “How big a failure?”

I told him that the potential failures could start small. After a minute he sat back up. “I can do that.”

He needed some more coaching on how to grow his team’s skills, but the transformation started with his letting go of providing too much help because it had become anti-help to his team’s growth.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett

 

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Be Neither the Giver or Receiver of Anti-help

Be Neither the Giver or Receiver of Anti-help

“Leadership is about vision and responsibility, not power.”
— Seth Berkley

There is a lesson about anti-help I learned early in my career. The project I was leading had some troubles as projects sometimes do. Unfortunately, I was not treating the project with the same level of importance as the executives were. Further, I had done a poor job of communicating my understanding of the problems and I had not made others aware of how I was addressing them. The executive team did not ask if I wanted help, they just sent in five people to “help”. Unfortunately, this led to significant delays in the project. My team had to stop the problem-fixing work we were already engaged in. Bringing these new people up to date on the situation took an inordinate amount of time. The project was eventually delivered and the executives were pleased with the help they provided to the project. However, team morale was lowered and the team members felt deprived of their ownership in the project’s success. Anti-help had been given and I had accepted it. From that experience, I learned how to ward off anti-help. The key is to provide crucial product stakeholders with the answers to these five questions on a regular basis. Do so even if these questions are never asked. Even when others around me were getting plenty of anti-help, my projects were now immune.
  1. What are the biggest problems with your project right now and what are you doing about them?
  2. What are the top risks to quality with your project and what are you doing about them?
  3. What are the top risks to schedule with your project and what are you doing about them?
  4. When is the most likely time your project will finish with high quality – and how do you know?
  5. What help can executives provide that will improve schedule and quality?

If you answer these questions well, you will have warded off anti-help.

As an executive, ask these questions.  Do not assume that help is not needed simply because you have heard no requests for help. If someone cannot answer these questions well, their immediate need is the help in finding the answers to the questions. When they do answer them well, you will know how to give the support the project needs.  

You will not be firing the anti-help torpedos. Your projects will thank you.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett

Sunrise in a city very near Death Valley in California

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If Delegation isn’t Working, Consider Newton’s Laws

If Delegation isn’t Working, Consider Newton’s Laws

“Once momentum is lost, great power is needed to change that trend.”— Satoru Iwata

One of my clients was struggling with delegation to her team while another client was struggling with delegation to management above him.

Remember that delegation is the act of transferring the momentum of work you are trying to accomplish to someone else.

Thus, whatever direction you are delegating, it is important to consider Newton’s Laws of Motion. In this context, the laws have been translated into “Alan’s laws of delegation.”

  • 1st law: A body at rest stays at rest. And similarly, if it is already moving in a direction, there it goes.
  • 2nd law: Bigger objects are harder to move. Faster objects are harder to alter if they moving in a different direction than you want. Big and fast is harder yet.
  • 3rd law: When you apply force to something, it has to react. So there is hope to successful delegation!

Considering the three laws of delegation, here are three key steps to successful delegation.

  1. Define the direction.  Clearly define the goal and the directions towards that goal. Before doing delegation, you must be clear to yourself what you want to be delegated, why you want it delegated, and how important success is to you. When delegating, transfer that clarity and that importance to your delegate. 
  2. Provide the proper force. Understand the current state of the momentum of those to whom you wish to delegate. If they are already in motion towards your goal it is easier to successfully delegate.  If they are heading towards different goals, help change the forces acting upon them.  You may need to remove obstacles. You may need to change their priorities.
  3. Get Commitment.  Ask your delegates to be clear what they will accomplish by when. Ask them about how they will accomplish the mission. The answers to your questions are ensuring that the momentum of the action has been transferred from you to them.

One extra step – follow up.  We do not work in a frictionless vacuum. There will be gale-force winds that act upon those to whom we have delegated. There will be friction.  Get things moving with your powerful delegation, and ensure success by periodic monitoring of the speed and direction toward the goal.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett
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Do You Need a Win?

A client wrote to me recently with a note that said simply “I need a win.” Have you been there, where it feels like you have faced a sudden losing streak and quite simply there is a need for a win? I have. I expect Elon Musk is looking for one with Tesla.

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The exceptional leaders are voracious consumers of information. They listen to audio books, they read books, they seek out others to hear their stories. The things they read spans multiple genres, time periods, and cultures.

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"Even though it is not always easy… being a planetary scientist is one of the coolest jobs on the planet!" — Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle   Imagine exploring Titan! And to be clear, I am not referring to the planet Titan of Thanos (Avengers), I am referring to a...

Making the Leap

Paradigm leaps take need, courage, and sweat. You will notice a different look and feel to the newsletter this week. Earlier this year, I became unsatisfied with a few key things and decided to make some changes.

Enjoy a Wealth of Learning Opportunities

Enjoy a Wealth of Learning Opportunities

“Tired of being led instead of leading? Then it’s time to take charge, take the lead and be the leader you deserve.”— Nora Gonzalez

One of the surprising delights that came with publishing my first book (Leading the Unleadable) was being invited to speak in many different forums.

Recently, I had the delightful opportunity to be interviewed by Nora Gonzalez on her new series entitled “Ignite The Leader In You: Go From Passive Employee To Promoted And In Charge.”

If you sign up for Nora’s free series, you will have the opportunity to hear 20 interesting interviews with leaders from around the world, including one with me.

Nora said I could share the following:

Nora’s series will cover:

  • How to turn your challenges into joy
  • How you can be an exceptional leader in any work environment
  • The best way to increase your emotional intelligence and have your team fall in love with you
  • How to give feedback that inspires and encourages your team members
  • The major pitfalls of productivity and burnout
  • And so much more

The great news is you don’t even have to leave your house to attend. The “Ignite The Leader In You: Go From Passive Employee To Promoted And In Charge” event is free and virtual.

All you need to do is to register to attend, and every day you will receive an email with training that is less than an hour long.

Nora told me she wishes she had opportunities like this when she started her career.  I do agree with that.  And I have to add, these opportunities are also valuable when you are more advanced in your career.  I find that almost every interview with experts I listen to, I can pick up a least one valuable idea that helps me get better myself.

Check out the full details and sign up right here.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett

 

 

You may also like:

Endurance Is Not Always a Virtue

I have seen leaders show great endurance in leading marathon projects. They are putting in marathon hours. The sweat sheen on them and their teams is obvious, even heroic.

Do You Need a Win?

A client wrote to me recently with a note that said simply “I need a win.” Have you been there, where it feels like you have faced a sudden losing streak and quite simply there is a need for a win? I have. I expect Elon Musk is looking for one with Tesla.

The Reader’s Edge

The exceptional leaders are voracious consumers of information. They listen to audio books, they read books, they seek out others to hear their stories. The things they read spans multiple genres, time periods, and cultures.

ANNIVERSARIES ARE IMPORTANT MARKERS

"Ritual is important to us as human beings. It ties us to our traditions and our histories." — Miller Williams, Poet My wife and I just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. Even though real work of building a life together happens in the minutes and hours between...

LEADERSHIP ON FATHER’S DAY

"Welcome to Sherwood!" — Robin Hood Father's Day was a delight for me. My family treated me a number of fun things. I was served breakfast in a hammock. I was treated to a delicious cold milkshake at a local ice-cream shop. My daughter and I have a plan to go buy some...

SUDS MAY SPILL, BEER SHOULD NOT

"I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with. " — Sonia Sotomayor One of my best clients and I were enjoying the start of our day at a local coffee cafe. We covered a range of topics and one...

PERSISTENCE, PREY, AND IDEAS

"Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery. " — Mark Amidon The Washington DC zoo has this very interesting roulette-style wheel located just past the cheetah exhibit. You spin the wheel to find out if you caught your prey, your...

ANTICIPATE INFLECTION POINTS

"A strategic inflection point is a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. that change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end." — Andrew Grover There are a wave of...

PATIENCE, PASSION, PERSISTENCE, PROGRESS

"Even though it is not always easy… being a planetary scientist is one of the coolest jobs on the planet!" — Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle   Imagine exploring Titan! And to be clear, I am not referring to the planet Titan of Thanos (Avengers), I am referring to a...

Making the Leap

Paradigm leaps take need, courage, and sweat. You will notice a different look and feel to the newsletter this week. Earlier this year, I became unsatisfied with a few key things and decided to make some changes.