Thursday, February 24, 2011

Welcome to ShookSvensen!

I have moved into a bigger space!
My blog has moved to - as you can see there is a little more than the Blog there.
So welcome!
I hope you will continue with me on my journey to explore leadership and management - and I am always grateful for comments, requests or anything else you want to tell me on

Monday, February 21, 2011

“The Leadership Code”

At this time of year a lot of Norwegians enter the mountains for cross-country skiing. It is – in most cases – a great outdoors experience, but in some cases there are accidents and even fatalities. Mostly because people don’t follow some simple rules of conduct in the mountains and because of the fast-changing weather conditions. So for many years the Norwegian Trekking Association have published and promoted the Norwegian Mountain Code.

When I saw these the other day I realized that these “rules of conducts” where close to a set of guidelines for leadership. Here they are:

  • Be prepared
  • Leave word of your route
  • Be weatherwise
  • Be equipped for bad weather and frost.
  • Learn from the locals
  • Use map and compass
  • Don't go solo
  • Turn back in time; sensible retreat is no disgrace
  • Conserve energy and build a snow shelter if necessary

Be prepared
            Train and be conscious. Take on leadership tasks and BE a leader as often as you can to gain experience.
 Leave word of your route
            Tell your surroundings where you are going – publish your goals and make sure you get feedback
 Be weatherwise
            Get as much intell as possible about what’s going on in your group. Gather information and use it. Don’t walk blindly into the storms.
 Be equipped for bad weather and frost.
            “Plan for success – prepare for disaster”. Make sure you have contingency plans and that you have backup and a Plan B if necessary.
 Learn from the locals
            Listen to experience, but don’t listen to the “nay-sayers”.
 Use map and compass
            If there is a process that’s effective and efficient, use it. Make sure it’s understood and implemented. If not, create it.
 Don't go solo
            Probably the toughest to follow: “Great leaders don’t do it alone.” Ask for help. Let others impress you
 Turn back in time; sensible retreat is no disgrace
            Know when to quit. Pick your fights. Don’t beat a dead horse. All good advice, unfortunately often neglected.
 Conserve energy and build a snow shelter if necessary
Don’t know about snow shelters in the work place ;-), but make sure you have a sensible balance between work and the rest of your life. You will NOT be thanked when you burn yourself out.

 Good luck on your leadership journey, Bon voyage or "God Tur"

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Interested vs. Interesting

A lot of us try to impress others. I guess it is human nature. But it is not leadership.

Nothing is more interesting than a person who is genuinely interested in you. So decide that you will be interested in the people working for you – and they will find you interesting.

If you decide to do this, you can train yourself to listen better, delegate more and assume good intent.

So: if you want to impress others, have the courage to let them impress you. That is impressive!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How to make meetings even better.

Don’t end on time – end early.

This is also borrowed from Bill Hoogterp.

Prepare for the meeting:   Even if it’s a regular meeting, even if you only prepare a few minutes.
  • What is the goal?
  • Who really needs to be there?  Much of the time, you don’t need as many people.
  • Does anything need to be read in advance?
  • If the meeting is not as important as it might have been, cancel it.
Start on time:   Set the tone and begin on time, even if everyone is not there, you will get a reputation for starting on time and people will begin to show up a couple minutes early too.

At the beginning of the meeting… clarify the goal and agenda at the beginning with the group
Think about all the meetings you have been in during the last month. Raise your hand if every one of those meetings had a completely clear goal and what needed to be accomplished that everyone in the room understood.

  • Propose time parameters on each part of the agenda to begin, and then be flexible on them.
  • Ask the group an open-- not closed-- question on the agenda as you begin.  A closed question allows a yes or no answer.  “Is the agenda OK everybody?” is a closed question, which leads to little involvement. 
  • An open question allows a multitude of answers, “What can we do to make this agenda better?” elicits more responses and involvement.   If people say, let’s make this section a few minutes longer or this section shorter, that’s good—it engages the group and improves the agenda.
  • For junior leaders, an agenda is a list of things to talk about until time runs out.  For senior leaders, an agenda is a map—guiding the group towards a goal.
  • Be firm on the goal and flexible on the strategy/agenda.  If you are not asking the group to improve the agenda and improve the strategy, then you are driving the agenda too much.  That means you don’t really need the group on this topic, you didn’t need the meeting.
Get a starter thought from each person:  At the beginning, go around the table and ask everyone to give one starter thought, just a sentence, on the topic at end.  This lowers everyone’s filters, gets them engaged and doubles the effectiveness of the first portion of the meeting.

Track action steps:  Give people roles, like keeping time, keeping us on topic, and tracking and writing any action step that individuals or the group commits to.

Keep checking with everyone.  If someone says nothing for a while, ask what they are thinking.

Close with action steps and summary.  Don’t end on time.  End early.  Ask people from time to time, what could we have done to make that meeting better?

Monday, February 14, 2011

What would make meetings shorter but more effective?

Meetings can be dramatically shorter and more effective by thinking of the agenda as a map—not a list, having a clear product and reducing weak language.

I have borrowed this from a friend – Bill Hoogterp 

Bill got to work on a brief project years ago with Tony Robbins, the famous author and motivational speaker.  Quite a brilliant guy.  They were both involved helping on something called The Presidents Summit for Americas’ Future, chaired by General Colin Powell.

We were just getting started in a meeting and Tony politely interrupted the chair and said.  “Stuart, just one question before we dive in.  What do you really want us to get done here?”   Stuart was caught a bit off guard but it was obvious Tony was trying to be helpful so he answered.  “Well, you have the agenda.. uh…right here.   We’re gonna talk about …”  Tony interrupted again. “Hey, no, the agenda looks great Stuart, but what do you really want us to get accomplished before we leave.  We’re with you but what do you want us to truly get done before we walk out that door?”   Stuart considered it and came up with the couple things he thought were the top priorities.  And it helped the meeting.  A day later, another meeting, different topic, different chair.  Same Tony, same question.   A couple days later, a conference call and Tony does the same thing.  Each time it was helpful but after a few meetings, what did you think people started doing knowing that Tony would be in the meeting?    They started writing across the top of the agenda the articulated goal of the meeting and it improved the effectiveness of the group.

You can be the Tony of your group by asking his question.

Imagine your goal is the top of the mountain where you want the group to go.  Everyone has to agree on your goal.  That goal has to be fixed, it does not change and your job as a leader is to get the group there.  

Now imagine the path up the mountain is your strategy.  That is flexible.  There can be many different paths that reach the top of the mountain, which is the better one or best one for now?

Be firm on the goal, flexible on the strategy.  You want your group, your employees and colleagues to improve your strategy and come up with a better path whenever they can. 

...more to come on effective meetings...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sour grapes.

I was working with a group of course-participants the other day and they were given a (relatively) complicated task to solve. Not job-related, so really no problem if it wasn't solved. Blindfolded, so they had to rely on other senses than eye-sight. They were not given a deadline or timing, but we – the facilitators – decided that we would stop the activity after 30 minutes – regardless of whether they had achieved the goal or not.

23 people sitting in a circle without being able to see each other. It was very chaotic and unstructured – as expected – lots of laughter, but also frustration, some checked out, some got angry, some got shut down – everything you would expect.

“Miraculously” – after 29:30 they had solved the task! YAY! Impressive and amazing. And they were not happy. Why?

During the debrief it was very clear that they realized that they hadn’t brought along the whole group. Some of the people were shut down – and was not “brought along” in the solution. These people were sad or mad and would probably in a real situation NOT been able to contribute to the implementation. Just to be clear: This was not team members that the team would want to get rid of – it was top performers.

So the questions are: Are you willing to sacrifice team members for a task? When do you choose to make the task more important than the people? Do you want to make sure that you have buy-in from your team? What is the long-term cost of shutting people off?

No easy answers – just more for you to reflect on.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Stop it!

I think this clip is very funny!

I think it’s funny because it is such a great spoof on what therapist should not do.

AND: It is also a great reminder that occasionally, just once in a while, this is exactly what the person needs to hear. (Maybe not in this particular case, haha)

Great leaders know when to coach and ask great questions and explore what stops me from doing what I really want and when to just propel me into action.

Great leaders know when to tell me to Do It Now! or to Stop It!