Tuesday, May 8, 2012

How to Think Strategically

How to Think Strategically

What are the 5 skills of strategic thinking? 

Not long ago Grace, the CEO of a mid-size firm on the east coast, told me that she needed to hire a less expensive consulting group to work in another area of her company. Grace said that budgetary considerations necessitated the switch to this “low cost provider.” I asked her how the new consultant’s work would relate to the previous work and the implementation of her strategic plan. She said she hadn’t really thought about it “that way.” That’s when we discussed the difference between planning strategy and thinking strategically.

Thinking strategically is not the same as merely thinking about strategy or reflecting on a strategic plan. A strategic plan is a document from a systematic, often yearly, process. Thinking strategically, on the other hand, is a way of thinking throughout the day. It is a mindset that helps implement the plan via better daily decisions. The five skills of thinking strategically are seen below (1).

The Five Skills of Thinking Strategically
          I.    Focus Intention
        II.    Use Peripheral Vision
       III.    See the System
      IV.    Connect in Time
       V.    Test Drive Solutions

I. Focus Intention – What do we want to achieve? – Our energy, attention, and time can be focused like a laser's beam or diffused like a prism's spectrum. Intent-focused leaders are lasers. They act on what is most important and refuse to be distracted by the scattered spectrum of daily urgencies. These strategic thinkers strive to apply Peter Drucker’s mandate to be both effective (do the right things) and efficient (do things right) in that order. They also use the Pareto principle, better known as the 80/20 rule, to focus their organization on the fundamental few. They seldom mistake activity for accomplishment.

As a CEO, Grace is often pulled in many directions by diverse stakeholders who have competing agendas. We have worked together to identify and manage her strategic paradox (the tension she feels to improve service and constrain costs at the same time). She’s also choosing to be more focused by creating a “NOT to do list.”

II. Use Peripheral Vision – How are we staying open to other opportunities? – Athletes who are intent on scoring themselves seldom see their open teammates who may have easier shots. In basketball, this over-focus on self often results in forcing the shot. In business, clear direction without flexible execution is dogma. Thus, a leader with a strategic direction, but no peripheral vision, confuses focus with tunnel vision.

For example, Grace visits her regional offices every quarter to review their progress. When I asked her how she stayed open to regional influences and concerns as she pursued her strategic plan, her eyes glazed over. I explained that a healthy peripheral vision encourages leaders to keep their eyes wide open and pursue their top priorities at the same time. (Yes, another paradox!) Therefore, she decided to decrease the amount of time she spent reviewing her plan during her visits and increase the time she invested listening to each region’s stakeholders (local staff, customers, suppliers etc.).

III. See the SystemHow does this issue relate to our ecosystem? A systems perspective invites leaders to think about the parts of the organization, the pattern of the parts, and the relationship among the parts. It is a way of viewing issues as part of the larger ecosystem. Unfortunately, many leaders think in silos instead of systems. They walk around with blinders on, like the proverbial racehorse focused only on their race. Strategic thinkers, on the other hand, consider the relationships among the vertical (e.g., corporate, division level, business unit, etc.) and horizontal (e.g., marketing, research and development, manufacturing, suppliers, etc.) elements of the organization as they make decisions.

If Grace was thinking from a systems perspective when she considered hiring a less expensive consultant group, she would have thought about how her other initiatives would be affected by this new hire. Thinking strategically is not about saying NO to silos, it’s about saying KNOW to silos. It’s about knowing when to focus on your silo (your unit) and when to open your silo doors to connect with others.

IV. Connect in Time – How should our history influence our destiny? “If you’re still here after Christmas, I’m going to climb up on that Coke box and hit you...” The bank president, Steve, said that the lesson he learned from the preacher who uttered those words 40 years earlier was not to quit when the going got tough. So, Steve went back to college after Christmas, received his diploma two years later, and went on to become a successful banking executive. Steve now has the Coke box in his office. It’s his connection to the past.

Leaders, like Steve, know how to connect in time. They do not live in the past, but they do use it to communicate important values and principles via powerful metaphors, symbols, and stories. To connect in time, strategic thinkers reflect on the past and future. They consider how both should inform present decisions.

V. Test Drive Solutions – How could we try this? The last skill of the strategic thinker invites you to be hypothesis-driven. Unlike those who try to get it perfect the first time, strategic thinkers conduct small experiments. They test solutions by trying ideas, gathering data, conducting after action reviews, and adjusting course. Those skilled in this approach are able to think both creatively (like an entrepreneur) and critically (like a data-driven analyst). They build a culture that cultivates learning as a way of working.

For example, Hewlett-Packard applied this experimental mindset years ago as it researched and developed the ink-jet printer. Leaders at HP used this “rapid prototyping” to push innovations out the door to be tested by users as fast as possible. Failure was not only an option for the strategic thinkers at HP, failure was welcomed... if it was fast, small, and learning oriented.

As Grace develops these five strategic thinking skills, she’s realized that they have helped her make better decisions, adapt her strategies, and achieve her goals. Do you use any of these skills? How? Which ones should you develop to help lead your team? Let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

Keep stretching when you feel pulled,


1. Adapted from: Jeanne M. Liedtka; Thinking strategically: Can it be Taught? Long-Range Planning, Vol 31, 1998, pages 120 – 129.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

From Leadership Styles to Core Competencies

The Four Fundamental Leadership Styles

XLM4StylesMotojpeg269x269In a previous blog ( http://davejensenonleadership.blogspot.com/2010/02/conquering-your-paradoxical-leadership.html ), we discussed the four fundamental leadership styles that help leaders think about the primary dimensions of leadership - daily tasks and interactions (Rational, Visionary, Commanding, and Empowering; seen here). We pointed out that how well you think about issues is crucial because the quality of your thinking dictates the effectiveness of your decisions, which determines your actions, thereby creating your results. Simply put, better leadership results require better thinking about the tasks and interactions needed to achieve your goals and conquer your challenges.

Leading by Managing the Tension of Leadership 
The four styles are placed in an interdependent and opposing relationship in this model because many leadership challenges are paradoxical – they require that you think about opposing and conflicting issues at the same time. For example, do you ever feel the tension between empowering others ("I care about engaging the team") and commanding them ("I need you to be accountable for these results")? Do you ever feel pulled between being a visionary thinker ("Let’s explore the future and think about the big picture") and a rational thinker ("Let's exploit the present and focus on what needs doing today")? Most leaders need to manage these types of tensions every day. This model provides a process to help you think about these paradoxical issues. Remember, we defined leadership as the “process of unleashing the energy of people toward worthy goals.” Most leaders don’t even have a process. Now, you do.

Making Better Leadership Decisions 
You can begin making better decisions today if ask yourself if you have thought about all four styles as you weigh your options. For example, a senior vice president recently told me that he brings the model to all his meetings to make sure he is reminded to consider his weaker style during discussions. I also received the following e-mail from a project leader who read an article about using this model:


I am currently faced with a tough decision as to what to recommend on a construction project that I am managing. The XLM outline is helping me to sort out the options, which are complex and involve political as well as financial considerations… Thank you.

From General Styles to Specific Competencies
In addition to summarizing leadership tasks and interactions, there is another reason I selected these four general styles. I’ve been studying effective leadership and teaching leaders how to apply the research for decades. At one time, my office walls were covered in spreadsheets, as I searched for a simple, but not simplistic, approach to make sense of all the data. A pattern emerged from my analysis that relates to the four leadership styles – most of the competencies tended to relate to one of the leadership styles. The model therefore, not only confirmed our conclusions regarding leadership dimensions and sides, it synthesized the mountainous research hundreds of scientist who have explored how exceptional leaders achieve extraordinary results.

All this research involving so many competencies presents a problem: How do we translate all these data into a practical and predictive model that you can use easily? The key was to select a few effective core competencies for each style. Because there are dozens of competencies, this was no easy task. Pick too many, the model is not practical; pick too few, it’s not predictive. Einstein reminded us to strive to balance simplicity and complexity when he said, “Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

To address difficult issues like this, I find it useful to clarify the criteria that I should use to make the selections. Listed below are the criteria I used to decide which four core competencies to include for each of the four fundamental leadership styles:

  • Predicts Success – Is there evidence that leaders who use it achieve better results?
  • High Demand – Do high-level executives say they need it to achieve their goals?
  • Low Supply – Is this competency relatively hard to find?
  • Learnable – Is it relatively easy to improve this behavior?

Using these criteria, I was able to distill all the data into the eXpansive Leadership Model (XLM) seen in . Within each of the four fundamental styles are the four core competencies that describe the specific behaviors that my research shows exceptional leaders demonstrate.

The eXpansive Leadership Model (XLM)


The Stem Cells of Leadership
Think of the XLM as the stem cells of high-performing leaders. I use the stem cell analogy because stem cells have the incredible ability to develop into different cell types. In the years that I have been teaching and coaching leadership, I have helped leaders at all levels of diverse organizations apply these competencies. For example, how and what a CEO monitors closely (one of the competencies of the rational style) is different from a front-line supervisor’s approach to this behavior. While the CEO might be monitoring global trends and the competition, the supervisor is probably more focused on the production of her team. Thus, like stem cells, these competencies differentiate to meet the needs of various environments.

In addition to their ability to morph into different cell types, stem cells also can serve as an internal repair system. They are your very own resident handyman (or as is the case in my house, handywoman. My wife fixes everything… I couldn’t fix a brick!) Well, the XLM can also mend some of your leadership issues, if you assess your needs. ( http://xlmassessment.com/ ) Prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.

In summary, the XLM is a highly researched model that provides a practical process to help you think expansively about the many complex issues you confront every day. Expansive thinking leads to better decisions, thereby producing better results. The best way to learn about the four styles and their four competencies, as well as how you can further develop them, is to take the XLM assessment, and then read your 25-page personal report.

Keep eXpanding,

P.S. Dave Jensen is a Senior Lecturer and leadership coach at Emory University’s School of Business and president of his own training/coaching firm. He and his team transform proven leadership tools into your success stories. Dave is also a popular speaker at conferences, meetings, and workshops. He can be reached in Los Angeles, CA at (310) 397-6686 and http://davejensenonleadership.com/index.html

P.S.S. Click on the link below (or paste it into your browser) to read about or take the XLM assessment.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Conquering Your Paradoxical Leadership Challenges with the eXpansive Leadership Model

The test of a first-rate intelligence is
the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind
at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.
F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Dimensions of Leadership
As complicated and difficult as your job as a leader is (at work or home), it has only two primary dimensions:

I. What you do – task-oriented behaviors.
II. How you interact with others – relationship-oriented behaviors.

Each of these dimensions can be subdivided into two sides as seen below (examples are in parentheses):

I. What you do:
A. Major Tasks                         B. Minor Tasks

(contemplate strategic issues)   (focus on project details)

II. How you interact with others:
A. Direct Others                       B. Support Others

(confront a poor performer)      (celebrate team accomplishments)

Defining the leaders’ job in this manner is not new. The pioneering research at Ohio State University and the University of Michigan identified the importance of task-oriented and relationship-oriented behaviors back in the 1950s and 1960s.

Paradoxical Challenges Require Paradoxical Thinking
Professor Richard Farson writes in his challenging book on paradox that, “There’s nothing as invisible as the obvious.” (1) What is obvious, yet not done until now, is to place the two sides of each dimension in opposition to each other and in an interdependent model, as seen below:


This general model summarizes what you need to do (Minor and Major Tasks) and how you need to interact with those doing the tasks (Direct and Support People) as you pursue your goals. Each of these four sides is also ways of thinking about your leadership responsibilities. How you think about what you do and how think about your interactions with others is fundamental to your success. This is because the quality of your thinking dictates the effectiveness of your decisions, which determines your actions, thereby creating your results. (You might want to read that last sentence again. I’ll warn you when I’m being profound!) If you want better results, you need to think better about your challenges and goals. And since we have already concluded in a previous blog that many of your challenges are paradoxical, so too must be your leadership thinking – your process of unleashing the energy of others toward worthy goals.

These four ways of thinking represent four fundamental leadership styles that I have labeled Rational, Visionary, Commanding, and Empowering as seen in below in the eXpansive Leadership Model (XLM). Notice that the styles are in opposition to each other. This enables you to begin thinking about issues paradoxically. The research predicts that you can produce eXtraordinary results when you apply this model to the mountains you scale every day.


How can you use this model to think paradoxically?

Keep eXpanding,


P.S. Click on this link (or paste it into your browser) to read about or take the XLM assessment. http://xlmassessment.com/

1. Richard Farson; Management of the Absurd: Paradoxes in Leadership, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 1996.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Are You a Leader or Manager?

LeaderWomanbs01584_When I worked for the global giant Siemens many years ago, I reported to a boss who thought he was leading us, but Don was only managing us. He provided little inspiration, cross-functional collaboration or innovation. While he thought of us as followers, we felt like subordinates. Don didn’t realize that subordinates comply with marching orders, whereas followers commit to pursuing worthy goals. Lunch with Peter Drucker helped me understand this distinction.

The purpose of my luncheon meeting with management guru Peter Drucker, whom Harvard Business Review considers the “father of management,” was to discuss the overall strategy for a new organization we were building at UCLA. After soaring with Professor Drucker’s illuminating ideas, I found myself back on earth in my office reviewing budget details. These two experiences summed up my responsibilities as the chief administrative officer of this organization. One minute I was thinking big picture and developing long-term goals, the next I was clarifying objectives and managing operations. I was answering YES to the question, am I a leader or a manager? If I wanted to have followers, instead of just subordinates, I needed to be a leader and a manager. The same is true for you.

How often do you find yourself engaged in what some call “leadership” activities, such as developing long-term goals or strategies, collaborating with others across divisions or departments, inspiring change or innovation among your team members? Do you also engage in what many would label traditional “management” behaviors, such as clarifying objectives and expectations, developing plans, managing operations, or monitoring your environment? Whether you consider yourself a leader or a manager, success in today's flat, complex and interdependent work environment demands that you use the complementary skills of both. Of course, there is a difference regarding the amount, nature, and exact mix of these skills depending on your level of responsibility in the organization. Never-the-less, if you are going to unleash the energy of your team toward worthy goals (the very definition of a leader), research says you need to be a leader and a manager.

In his review of approximately 1,300 scientific studies on leadership, Professor Gary Yukl states, "most scholars seem to agree that success as a manager or administrator in modern organizations necessarily involves leading." (1) To which I add; success as a leader also involves managing. Integrating the latest research on leadership  and management skills to help you conquer your daunting challenges and unleash the energy of people toward your worthy goals is the objective of this blog.

Where do you see an unbalanced practice of leadership and management skills?

Keep eXpanding,

P.S. Dave Jensen is a Senior Lecturer and leadership coach at Emory University’s School of Business and president of his own training/coaching firm. He and his team transform proven leadership tools into your success stories. Dave is also a popular speaker at conferences, meetings, and workshops. He can be reached in Los Angeles, CA at (310) 397-6686 and http://davejensenonleadership.com/index.html

1. Yukl, Gary; Leadership in Organizations, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 2006, page 6.)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

How Leadership Books Kill People

It’s 9AM at 35,000 feet. The captain requests that we fasten our seat belts as we fly over the Colorado Rocky Mountains. I’m flying to Atlanta to teach another five-day leadership class with my colleagues from Emory University. As I gaze at the endless snow-capped mountains stretching toward the heavens, I am struck at how brief my small life is on this planet.

Oh my God, I think! Tears well up as suddenly I feel the weight of the mountains on my slumped shoulders. The leaders I teach this week are going to actually use their brief time on this planet applying my ideas. What an enormous responsibility! Dear Lord, please help me make sure that what I teach this week improves their lives when they get back to work.

As I write these words, tears well up once again. The sands of time are slipping through your hourglass. You have chosen to spend them reading this article and, if I do my job well, use these ideas with others. I feel a huge responsibility to share only those leadership tools, tips, and techniques that will actually work for you.

ShootingLincolnj0149884jpgMost leadership books and articles do not take this approach. They are written opinions of coaches, consultants, or former executives. Of course, there is nothing wrong with reading their opinions if you want to spend your brief time on this planet trying untested ideas.

Unfortunately, that’s precisely how most leadership books and blogs kill people, and put organizations out of business.

How Leadership Books Kill
Imagine your boss invites you into her office and asks you to find a great book on leadership. She tells you that she is going to use ideas from them to teach a new leadership class on “how leaders conquer today's tough challenges and reach their goals.” She explains that just as a physician must find the best treatment to cure a sick patient, you need to find the best resource to help her leaders.

Where would you look? If you searched books on Amazon.com, the word “leadership” would yield 381,556 titles. How would you decide which one to recommend to your boss? More importantly, what criteria would you use to select a great book?

If we stay with your boss’s medical analogy for a second we might ask ourselves, how does a physician decide which treatment is best? Having conducted medical research for several years and been a healthcare executive, I can tell you that the best physicians base the majority of their decision on ‘evidence’ - what research says really works. Why? Because the essence of science is prediction. When an excellent physician recommends a treatment or writes a prescription, he is predicting that the patient will get better based on the evidence from years of scientific research, filtered by experience. Spending your precious time and money on leadership books or articles that are not fact-based is like going to a doctor who prescribes medication that he cooks up in the back room. The medication may help, but it also may kill.

It’s the same with most leadership books. They are usually based on the experiences of the author. They lack the facts to predict that you and your organization will get better if you take their “prescription.” Of course, you can read books that don't have the research to back up their prediction and see if what the author recommends produces results for you. That's called experimentation (via trial and error). Yet that’s how leadership books and blogs kill! How much time, energy, and resources do you and your people have to conduct experiments? What if your competitors are applying proven, fact-based ideas with high predictive value while you spend time trying the next ‘flavor-of-the-month’ fad?

There are in fact two things, science and opinion;
the former begets knowledge, the later ignorance.


A Fact-based Blog That Gets Results
In their excellent book Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-Based Management, Professors Pfeffer and Sutton cite numerous examples of the high cost of not using research as you lead others. They recommend that you base your leadership practices on the best evidence (i.e., facts), not what is in vogue. (1)

I’ve taken their advice in order to make the best use of the grains of sand slipping through your hourglass. My articles are a summary of hundreds of scientific studies and well-researched books on leadership that gets results. I’ve combined these academic findings with stories about my successes and failures as a leader (I’m a former chief administrative officer) and educator (I’ve taught and/or coached about 10,000 global leaders over the past 15 years). Reading these articles is like embarking on a journey where only predictive and practical leadership tools that have been studied under the microscope of science and confirmed in the corridors of the corporation are revealed.

Have you seen anyone killed by leadership books or articles?

Keep eXpanding,

1. Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton; Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-Based Management, Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, Massachusetts, 2006, page 41.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

How eXceptional Leaders Achieve eXtraordinary Results Under Pressure

Greg was organized, likable, and communicated well. He was promoted to director of finance after three years as a mid-level manager. Team meetings ran like a Swiss watch. His managers told me that Greg included them in decision-making and that he delegated well. He also fostered an environment of creativity and openness to change. Unfortunately...

The economy worsened and the CEO demanded more productivity. That’s when cracks in Greg's leadership armor began to show. Three of his middle managers failed to perform under the increased pressure. They missed project deadlines, were unresponsive to their colleagues service needs, and failed to engage their own team members in dealing with the difficult times. Employee morale plummeted and turnover skyrocketed. Craig finally counseled his three managers, but they didn’t improve because he failed to hold them accountable for implementing an improvement plan. A year after Greg was promoted... he was fired.

How Often Are You Strong to a Fault?
Greg’s problem was “lopsided leadership” – the tendency to overuse a strength (i.e., to be strong to a fault), especially under stress. Leaders who over-focus on their strongest style(s) are like muscle-bound bodybuilders who don’t stretch. They’re inflexible, rigid, and unable to adapt to changing circumstances. How often does this happen to you when you’re under pressure?

In his book, The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman states, “It’s a world that demands constant adjustment and does not tolerate leaders who are unable or unwilling to build up their weak muscles—or who overuse their strong muscles.”

Based on my review of hundreds of studies that included more than 171, 000 leaders, I discovered that relying on your strengths is not enough anymore. What got you here won’t get you there! You need to avoid overdoing your strengths (and shore up your weaknesses), especially when you’re feeling stressed. Before we discuss how four leadership styles can eliminate lopsided leadership, let’s take a quick look at today’s challenges...

Do These Challenges Look Familiar?
Listed below are the top challenges leaders face in today’s whitewater work environment based on a survey of 1,600 global leaders and my analysis of the issues affecting thousands of leaders who have attended our courses (1) How many of these are affecting you and your organization?

1. Control costs
2. Grow the business
3. Motivate others
4. Hold others accountable for results
5. Meet short-term objectives
6. Innovate for long-term growth
7. Get more done with less
8. Take time to coach/mentor others
9. Increase teamwork/collaboration
10. Achieve your own performance goals
11. Beat global competition in a turbulent economy
12. Address local and increasingly fragmented customer needs
13. Use the advances of the Internet and other technologies
14. Focus on your core competencies
15. Manage generational and cultural differences
16. Adhere to uniform policies and procedures
17. Embrace the accelerated pace of change
18. Provide stability to keep others from overwhelmed by change
19. Meet the increasing demands of work
20. Have a fulfilling home life

As you identified your challenges, did you notice that these challenges actually pull in opposite directions? If you read the list again with the word and at the end of each odd-numbered statement, you’ll spot today's critical leadership challenge.

“The problem, of course, is that… management is complicated and confusing. Be global and be local. Collaborate and compete. Change perpetually and maintain order. Make the numbers while nurturing your people. How is anyone supposed to reconcile all this?” (2)
    Professor Henry Mintzberg

Conquering Your Paradoxical Challenges

Leadership scholar Henry Mintzberg, the top challenges, and even Greg’s true story, teach us that leaders at all levels are being stretched by issues that pull them in opposite directions (i.e., “paradoxical tensions”). According to research by OnPoint Consulting, and many others, the most successful leaders conquer their challenges by managing these paradoxical tensions effectively. (3)

If paradox is the essence of your leadership challenge, shouldn't it be essential to your leadership thinking?

In a word, YES... based on my extensive research, experience as an executive, and decades of coaching/teaching 10,000 leaders. Being strong in one style or two styles is no longer adequate. If you want to consistently conquer your paradoxical challenges and achieve your goals, you need to dynamically juggle four leadership styles throughout the day. Let me explain...

The Four Interdependent Styles of Leadership

eXpanding your leadership effectiveness begins by recognizing that leadership consists of two primary dimensions:

I. WHAT you do - the tasks that need to be done.
II. HOW you work with others - how to interact with those doing.

Each of these dimensions has two distinct sides:
I. WHAT you do:
- Major Tasks (e.g., conduct a strategy retreat)
 - Minor Tasks (e.g., review details of a project plan)

II. HOW you work with others:
- Take Charge (e.g., confront a poor performer)
 - Take Care (e.g., mentor team members)

Research tells us that today’s paradoxical challenges requires leaders to juggle both sides of both dimensions simultaneously throughout the day. The eXpansive Leadership Model (XLM) expresses these four "requirements" as four fundamental leadership styles. The Rational and Visionary leadership styles represent the task dimension (I). The Empowering and Commanding leadership styles represent the relationship dimension (II). Each style is described below:

RATIONAL – Focus on the Facts
The rational leadership style is the left-brain, logical thinking side of leadership. Leaders who are highly skilled in this style clearly define their and their team members’ roles. They excel at setting short-term objectives and generating detailed plans with milestones. Performance expectations are plainly spelled out. Because they actively seek feedback, effective rational leaders understand their strengths and weaknesses, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of those around them. They also stay in touch with their team members, peers, their boss and their customers.

VISIONARY – Imagine the Future
The visionary leadership style is the creative, dreamer aspect of leadership. Those highly skilled in this style create flexible approaches to solve problems, make decisions and achieve strategic goals. They bring new products, services or processes to fruition primarily because they are effective in launching cross-functional experiments. Visionary leaders also inspire others to question the status quo by embracing change, creativity, and open-mindedness. They enjoy reflecting on global issues, thinking about long-term consequences and pondering future possibilities.

The empowering leadership style is the servant side of leadership. Those highly skilled in this style enable others to do their best every day by delegating well, as well as coaching and involving team members in decisions. They are masters at orchestrating diverse individuals into high-performing, energized teams that work well across the enterprise. Empowering leaders build trust and empathy by patiently listening to other perspectives and beliefs without prejudgment. They also demonstrate fairness, honesty, integrity, and humility in all their interactions.

COMMANDING – Take Charge
The commanding leadership style is the strong, forceful side of leadership. Those highly skilled in this style work extremely hard to fulfill commitments and execute strategies. They push to accomplish tasks, projects and goals on time. They are not afraid to solicit opposing views when making important decisions. They are also comfortable with ambiguity; they don't need all the data in order to move forward. Commanding leaders control their emotions and moods under pressure. In addition, they refuse to allow themselves or their team to be the victim during adversity. They take personal responsibility for their choices and consequences.

The Core Competencies in Each Style

Each of the four fundamental styles is comprised of four core competencies. Taken together, these competencies describe the essence of what you must develop to master each style.

The XLM blends all four styles, and their competencies, into a holistic leadership model seen below:

The eXpansive Leadership Method (XLM)

There is an avalanche of evidence confirming, “One leadership style is not enough” if you want to conquer your challenges and reach your goals. Your job as a leader is to first identify your (and your team's) strengths and weaknesses, then develop a focused plan to lead with your strengths and manage your weakness. (The XLM assessment is a great, inexpensive tool to help you do just that. Click here for more info: http://xlmassessment.com/ )

Does Leadership Development Pay?

Of course, you might ask if organizations that develop their leaders to rise to the challenge actually perform better. A McKinsey survey found that companies scoring in the top quintile of talent-management practices outperform their industry's mean return to shareholders by a remarkable 22 percentage points. (4) In addition, Laurie Bassi and her colleagues measured the effect of spending on employee education by following the stock prices of 575 publicly traded firms. They found that companies that invested the most in their employees outperformed the S&P 500 by 17 to 35%. (5). Finally, Bob Eichinger and his colleagues reviewed the research on effective human resource interventions and reported that training does indeed pay. (6) They cite a four-year study by Morrow and Rupinski, which found a mean ROI of 45% for managerial training and 418% for sales/technical training. (7) The moral of the story is that development does pay if it's based on research-proven tools.

What’s next?
Let me know how I can help you or your team conquer your paradoxical challenges and reach your goals.


Dave Jensen, Author
XLM Assessment and Profile

P.S. Dave Jensen is a Senior Lecturer on leadership at Emory University’s School of Business and president of the training/coaching firm S3, Inc. He and his team transform proven leadership tools into your success stories. Dave is also a popular speaker at conferences, meetings, and workshops. He can be reached in Los Angeles, CA at (310) 397-6686 and http://davejensenonleadership.com/index.html

1. MWorld, Winter 2006, pages 21 – 26.

2. Jonathan Gosling and Henry Mintzberg: The Five Minds of the Manager. Harvard Business Review, November: 54 -- 63, 2003.

3. Richard Lepsinger: How Top Performing Companies Get Ahead of the Pack and Stay There. American Management Association, MWorld, Summer 2007, 3 – 4.

4. http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/The_war_for_talent_part_two_1035.

5. Laurie Bassi and Daniel McMurrer, How's Your Return on People? Harvard Business Review, March, 2004, page 18. Reprint F0403B.

6. Robert Eichinger, Michael Lombardo, and Dave Ulrich. 100 Things You Need To Know: Best People Practices For Managers And HR, Lominger Ltd., Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2006, 207 -- 212.

7. Morrow, C. and Rupinski, M., An Investigation of the Effect and Economic Utility of Corporate Wide Training, Personnel Psychology, 50 (1), 1997, 91 -- 120.)

Friday, December 11, 2009

How Leaders Apply WHATEVER They Learn to Achieve eXtraordinary Results

Happy young graduate throwing out school papers, dusk sky behind. The End is the Beginning
The end of ANY book, seminar, or educational endeavor is the start of your journey to fulfill your purpose for that endeavor. In other words, the most important part of education is what happens after you obtain it.

Let’s assume you just finished reading a book on leadership. Why did you read it? To become a better leader, of course. But will you actually become a better leader? Haven't you read other non-fiction books that failed to help you to take the action required to improve your skills? We don't want that to happen to you, do we? Knowledge is not power, applied knowledge is power. You spent your money, and more importantly your precious time, reading the book. (FYI, the expenditures for training and development services in North America exceeds $120B. Training Magazine, Oct., 2003.) You need to see the pay off! Otherwise, it’s like shoveling cash and small pieces of your life into a burning potbelly stove.

How To Use It and Not Lose It
The process outlined below will help you apply the ideas you learn from any meeting, seminar, book... It is a system that shows leaders how to invest, not spend, their time and money on education.

1.      Brainstorm challenges and strategy. Ask yourself: What major challenges am I facing at work? Let your ideas flow and keep your pen moving as you brainstorm the answers to the question. In addition, reflect on your professional goals and your organization's strategy.

2.      Write a S.M.A.R.T. goal. Based on your business challenges, professional goals, and your organization's strategic imperatives, write a S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Responsible, and Timed) goal for your leadership development. What do you want to do better or differently because of the book? For example, one executive at our recent leadership course said her goal was: Improve my coaching skills by… (insert date) to help my direct reports develop professionally.

3.      Meet with your manager. Meet with your manager for a few minutes to discuss your goal. Access your commanding skills and tell your boss what you’re planning to work on. Ask for input, especially regarding how well you have aligned your goal with his or her overall strategy.

4.      Review your insights, ideas, and behaviors page. Write a list of 7 to 10 insights, ideas, or behaviors (IIB's) on a sheet of paper. (I do this as I read a book or take a class.) For example, listed below are several ideas that leaders from my leadership classes identified as most effective:

  • Use the XLM for my and my team’s development. Ask team members to assess their XLM at www.xlmassessment.com. Then develop ways to leverage our talents and hold each other accountable for stretching. Meet every two weeks to measure progress and celebrate our success.
  • Map a paradox. Conduct a mapping session on issues affecting our team. This will help them understand the tension they feel and increase buy-in to managing the two issues simultaneously.
  • Eliminate internal silos using systems thinking principles. Think systemically by increasing cross-functional teamwork, inviting other departments to our meetings occasionally, and using the S.T.A.T. model.
  • Focus on what’s important to team members. Meet 1-on-1 with one team member every day for five minutes to discuss individual concerns, clarify expectations, and applaud small successes.
  • Increase two-way communication. Speak last at meetings, ask more questions, listen better, and remember that broadcasting is not communicating.
  • Conduct after action reviews. Coach others by delegating small portions of my job, and then ask these questions after completion: What happened? Why? What lessons were learned? Who else might benefit from these lessons?
  • Make better decisions with the XLM. Access all four orientations of the XLM when making decisions. This will help ensure I have all the facts (R), consider the big picture (V), assess the impact on others (E), and take action (C).
  • Manage anxiety. When stressed, ask the team "how can we view the differently?" Also, remind them that anxiety is the essence of growth and that great companies approach downturns as a chance to beat their competitors.
  • Understand concerns and focus on influence. Use Stephen Covey's circle of concern and influence to encourage me (and others) to take personal responsibility, exercise their free will, and be expansive.

5.      Review your favorites with a partner. Review your insights, ideas, and behaviors with a colleague. Focus your discussion on the few IIB's that you feel will help you best reach your goal. Tell your partner how you're going to use these few IIB's.

6.      Create a list of four behaviors. Translate your few, insights, ideas and behaviors into four specific behaviors you will implement when you get back to work. Write these four behaviors in the left-hand column on a blank sheet of paper. A well-written behavioral action helps you adapt an IIB into a behavior that you can actually see yourself applying. Here's an example: I will write the XLM on a Post-it note, and place it on my computer screen during my direct reports' performance reviews.

7.      Link the new behavior with an old habit. One of the best ways to remind yourself to practice your new behaviors is to link those new behaviors to old habits or current systems (old habit + new behavior = new habit). In the previous step, the old habit (i.e., current system) was conducting performance reviews. Linking the performance review with the XLM on a Post-it note will help create the new habit of using the XLM to develop direct reports.

8.      Review and celebrate progress. When you are back at work, solicit feedback from a colleague or your manager regarding your implementation of these behaviors. Ask them to help you monitor your progress. Once a week, report the progress and challenges you are experiencing as you use your new behaviors. Make sure you also celebrate your small successes. Don't worry too much about your goal, concentrate on behaviors. Research tells us that you will accomplish your big goal by focusing on small steps.

The most important part of education is what happens after you obtain it. Which of these steps do you use to help you Use It and Not Lose it? Are there others you find helpful?

Keep eXpanding,

P.S. Click on the link below (or paste it into your browser) to read about my research on 171,000 leaders: