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Linda Henman

Strategic Resolutions for 2016

The global economic turmoil that began in 2008 has taught numerous lessons—the most important one: When leaders make good decisions, little else matters. When they refuse to make decisions or show a pattern of making bad ones, nothing else matters. Corporate leaders should hear this as a clarion call that awakened us all to the fact that we can no longer afford the short-sighted luxury of considering decision-making a passive, pristine process. It’s not. It’s messy. Facing harsh realities is the first step, resolving to do better in the new year the second. Here are ideas for making that happen:

1. Don’t pay underperforming employees handsomely to leave your organization. Use the funds to attract top talent to replace them.

At some point, senior leaders developed the misguided notion that they have to pay to terminate employees. Laws vary on termination, but one thing seems clear: most companies have gone too far in their efforts to avoid lawsuits. In addition to costing dearly, these practices send the message that bad performance will be rewarded. If research and development or technology drive your organization, you’ll be at risk for this phenomenon than other kinds of organizations.


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About the Author

Dr. Linda Henman, the catalyst for virtuoso organizations, is the author of Landing in the Executive Chair, among other works. She is an expert on setting strategy, planning succession, and developing talent. For more than 30 years she has helped executives and boards in Fortune 500 Companies and privately-held organizations dramatically grow their businesses. She was one of eight succession planning experts who worked directly with John Tyson after his company’s acquisition of International Beef Products. Some of her other clients include Emerson Electric, Avon, Kraft Foods, Edward Jones, and Boeing. She can be reached in St. Louis at www.henmanperformancegroup.com.

Linda Henman

Leadership Lessons from Zombies

Sometime in the past two years, perhaps while we were distracted by the vampire craze, zombies started presenting a more menacing presence. Scores of television programs, movies, and books have seemingly sprung from nowhere to teach us to survive a zombie attack. For example, Max Brooks, son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft, has dominated the best seller list with his Zombie Survival Guide, a must-have for every survival-conscious home.

But there’s another must-have for any professional library: A Zombie’s Guide to Getting A Head (sic) in Business. This book will help you take both your leadership and strategy formulation to new heights. No survival guide, this book offers concrete tips about how to excel in the hot seat by acting like a zombie. Using the author’s zombie expertise as a foundation, here’s what I suggest:

  • Stop dithering and start lurching forward. No one has to cajole a zombie to act, which clearly contrasts them to many leadership teams who dither rather than decide. These teams often opt for indecision, failing to recognize that not deciding is a decision – a decision to fall victim to the changing environment and other things you can’t control. You don’t write strategic objectives in stone; you put them in a Word file. When new information surfaces, you can change directions. But not having a clear direction and path for getting there will curse you to rest on your laurels and continue to settle for the success you’ve always had. Or maybe not. Maybe the economy has changed so drastically in your neck of the woods that what you’ve done to get here won’t get you anywhere else.
  • Crash trough the glass ceiling like a zombie breaking through the walls of a farm house. So many leaders embrace limiting ideas. They settle for what they’ve always done, the status quo, sunk costs, and every manner of excuse not to change. A very successful consultant who is in her early fifties recently told me she thinks she’s getting too old to do consulting work. I said, “Are you nuts? You’re barely old enough to do it! Clients value experience.” Her limiting idea is my motivating idea. What limiting ideas hold you back?
  • Turn your weaknesses into strengths – a missing arm or leg never stops a zombie. Some great company changes have started with a failure or weakness. Legend has it that a restaurant owner created fried ravioli, a St. Louis favorite, when he accidentally dropped the ravioli into the French fryer. What opportunities lurk in your organization? The 3M Company, formerly known as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, is an American multinational conglomerate corporation based in Minnesota. With over 80,000 employees, they produce more than 55,000 products, including: adhesives, abrasives, laminates, passive fire protection, dental products, electronic materials, medical products, car care products. But the company founders didn’t set out to give us Post-It-Notes and Scotch Tape. They originally planned to sell the mineral corundum to manufacturers in the East for making grinding wheels. However, innovation and a willingness to learn from mistakes allowed the company to morph into what it is today.
  • Trust your instincts. In the nocturnal hunt, or any hunt, the first impulse is usually the right one. If you suddenly get the feeling that a swath of swampland is mined against zombie attacks, it probably is. And if the whacky new product seems too good to be true, it probably is. Stick to your mission, vision, and values. These will help you force the tradeoffs that will help you avoid both implosion and explosion.
  • Ignore that which is already dead. An error that many executives make, that no zombie ever makes, is wasting valuable time on sunk costs and things that are no longer priorities. Check the egos at the door. When it comes to setting strategy, only the future counts.
  • ‘Bite once.’ A zombie’s bite transmits everything salient it has to contribute. It immediately ‘infects’ the other with zombie characteristics. No more need for follow-ups, emails, status reports, or ‘circling back.’ Bite and move on.

No matter where you want to go, and regardless of the daunting and difficult nature of the journey, a zombie has been through worse and ‘lived’ to tell about it. By incorporating the traits of a zombie, you too can become dynamic, brave, and unstoppable as any member of the legions of the living dead. Inside every zombie and effective executive reside core impulses to harness power. The first quarter of 2012 lies behind us, but the remaining three quarters remain. Arise from the grave of ineffectiveness and get ahead.


About the Author

Dr. Linda Henman, the catalyst for virtuoso organizations, is the author of Landing in the Executive Chair, among other works. She is an expert on setting strategy, planning succession, and developing talent. For more than 30 years she has helped executives and boards in Fortune 500 Companies and privately-held organizations dramatically grow their businesses. She was one of eight succession planning experts who worked directly with John Tyson after his company’s acquisition of International Beef Products. Some of her other clients include Emerson Electric, Avon, Kraft Foods, Edward Jones, and Boeing. She can be reached in St. Louis at www.henmanperformancegroup.com.

Leading Through Volatility

As I write this on April 5, 2012, the Dow is above 13,000 and all indications point to signs of recovery. Notice the disclaimer, ‘As I write this.’ If we have learned nothing else in the past four years, let us remember that a stable, predictable economy may be a thing of the past. We cautiously celebrate signs of recovery while we simultaneously prepare for more change.

Landing in the Executive Chair: How to Excel in the Hot Seat
by Linda Henman

 

In today’s fast-paced, unprecedented, and unpredictable economy, many executives simply don’t know what to do. Conventional methods-which many never entirely understood in the first place-often don’t work during economic upheaval. Executives, especially CEOs, need something better. They need a guide that identifies the roadblocks and points out the landmines. In her more than 30 years of working with hundreds of executives, Dr. Linda Henman has observed the critical elements of success, both for the new leader and the one who aspires to the next level of success. In Landing in the Executive Chair, you’ll learn how to:

  • Avoid the pitfalls and identify a clear plan for personal and organizational stress.
  • Leverage the first months in a new executive position- that time of transition that promises opportunity and challenge, but also brings a period of great vulnerability.
  • Create a competitive advantage, set the right tone, make effective decisions, keep talent inside your doors, and establish credibility-all while navigating unfamiliar and turbulent waters.

As organizations expand and grow, the skills that led to success often won’t sustain further development in a more complex, high-stakes environment. Present and future executives need more. They need Landing in the Executive Chair.

The continuing economic challenges – both domestic and international – require practical approaches for maintaining a high level of employee commitment and performance. But these challenges demand something else – a new approach to leadership – the kind of leadership that puts the shoulder of good judgment up against the door of immediate rewards and keeps pushing until it shoves it wide open for the possibilities of long-range, future gains. During difficult, changing times, conventional wisdom proves neither conventional nor wise. We need something new, something that will equip us to face future challenges. The F2 Leadership Model does just that.

The F2 Leadership Model explains the behaviors – not skills, talents, attitudes, or preferences – executives need to display to be effective. F2 leaders have a balanced concern for task accomplishment and people issues. They are firm but fair leaders whom others trust, leaders who commit themselves to both relationship behavior and task accomplishment.

The model sets tension between opposing forces – firmness and fairness – to provide understanding and direction. In other words, it challenges us to ask ourselves how to have both a clear task orientation and an appreciation for the people who achieve the results.

This model is truly more follower-driven than leader-driven. It keeps the leader’s focus on those who count – the people in the organization who will define success. It helps leaders figure out whether they are losing balance, tending to act like Genghis Khan or Mr. Rogers.

The four-quadrant model is both prescriptive and descriptive. It allows leaders to understand their own behavior relative to their direct reports, but by its nature, it implies a preferred way of behaving. In other words, the model explains what leaders should do to be effective instead of merely describing what they tend to do or prefer to do. It explores two key dimensions of leadership: relationship behaviors, like fairness, and task behaviors, like firmness.

F2 Model - StrategyDrivenWhen leaders lose the balance between fairness and firmness, they lose their effectiveness and compromise that of their direct reports. The model helps them analyze what they’re doing and then make choices to move toward F2 behavior. Keep in mind, the model addresses behavior and represents an ideal, so no person fits into one quadrant all the time. Leaders who want to be more effective strive for F2 behavior, but they occasionally drift into one of the other quadrants. When this happens, problems occur, but awareness offers the first step toward remedy.

When I ask people what they think it takes to be a great leader, their first response is usually, ‘vision’. Without question, effective leadership requires a strategic focus, but remember, people in mental institutions have visions, too. Seeing into the future is not enough; successful leadership in the new economy requires more. These leaders understand they must lead better than their competitors, and they need to inspire loyalty through firm but fair leadership. Even though their personalities and management styles may differ, executives who make it to the top and stay there, share some common traits: they have a sense of proportion in their leadership styles and lives; they possess a high degree of self-awareness and self-regulation; and they maintain a long-term focus for themselves and those who depend on them.


About the Author

Dr. Linda Henman, the catalyst for virtuoso organizations, is the author of Landing in the Executive Chair, among other works. She is an expert on setting strategy, planning succession, and developing talent. For more than 30 years she has helped executives and boards in Fortune 500 Companies and privately-held organizations dramatically grow their businesses. She was one of eight succession planning experts who worked directly with John Tyson after his company’s acquisition of International Beef Products. Some of her other clients include Emerson Electric, Avon, Kraft Foods, Edward Jones, and Boeing. She can be reached in St. Louis at www.henmanperformancegroup.com.

How to Prepare Yourself for the Executive Chair

Comedian Steve Martin once said that if you want to be a millionaire, the first thing you have to do is get a million dollars. Most advice for positioning yourself for executive positions mirrors Martin’s sentiments: If you want to land in the executive chair, the first thing you need to do is get executive experience. I’ll counter with my own observation: If you want to land in the executive chair, start planning to do so when you’re in high school.

Landing in the Executive Chair: How to Excel in the Hot Seat
by Linda Henman

 

In today’s fast-paced, unprecedented, and unpredictable economy, many executives simply don’t know what to do. Conventional methods-which many never entirely understood in the first place-often don’t work during economic upheaval. Executives, especially CEOs, need something better. They need a guide that identifies the roadblocks and points out the landmines. In her more than 30 years of working with hundreds of executives, Dr. Linda Henman has observed the critical elements of success, both for the new leader and the one who aspires to the next level of success. In Landing in the Executive Chair, you’ll learn how to:

  • Avoid the pitfalls and identify a clear plan for personal and organizational stress.
  • Leverage the first months in a new executive position- that time of transition that promises opportunity and challenge, but also brings a period of great vulnerability.
  • Create a competitive advantage, set the right tone, make effective decisions, keep talent inside your doors, and establish credibility-all while navigating unfamiliar and turbulent waters.

As organizations expand and grow, the skills that led to success often won’t sustain further development in a more complex, high-stakes environment. Present and future executives need more. They need Landing in the Executive Chair.

Too late? Then, start preparation now. These ideas will help:

  1. If you didn’t have the advantages of a stellar education, remedy that situation. Study history, literature, art, music, and foreign languages. Begin today to augment your liberal arts knowledge, because doing so will help you with creative problem solving, conversation, and life balance.
  2. Address the nuts and bolts of business too. If you don’t understand finance and accounting, enroll in a course immediately. With so many online options, there’s really no excuse to overlook this essential building block to your success.
  3. Read. Read the Wall Street Journal and your local paper every day. If your city has a weekly business journal, read that too. Read your leading-edge industry publications, Forbes, other finance journals, and popular business books. At any given time, you should have read at least two books on the best seller list. In addition to giving you valuable information, this reading will make you a more interesting person.
  4. Map out a path to the executive position you want. How did others get there? Position yourself for each rung on the ladder; take the requisite training; learn the relevant skills; and acquire the needed experience.
  5. If you don’t hold a finance or operations position, consider cross training. Will the CEO allow you to work in these arenas for a short time? You’ll need this sort of groundwork for upward mobility. You can read books about HR and marketing, but getting your head in and hands on the finances and operations will pay huge premiums later on.
  6. If you hold an HR position, get out as soon as you can. HR professionals tend to hit both glass walls and glass ceilings. They find that they can’t get promoted outside the HR function, and that road seldom leads to the executive chair.
  7. Look the part. Everything about you should scream ‘Success!’ Dress well. Get a good haircut. Surround yourself with quality objects: car, pen, shoes, brief case, etc. If you’re uncertain about points of etiquette, hire a coach. If you’re out of shape, get a trainer. In short, send the message that you’ll be 100% at home in the C-suite, boardroom, or country club.
  8. Get a mentor. The military, better than many civilian organizations I’ve worked with, understands the value of committing to high potentials – a commitment that turns those who may not have reached their potential into top performers. Many senior military officers begin mentoring future candidates when those would-be generals are still captains. Use this best practice for yourself. Find someone inside or outside your organization who has achieved what you aspire to do. Ask them to give you advice when you need it. Few will refuse to drink a cup of coffee with you while you pick their brains. Instead, they will feel flattered.
  9. Get a coach. In the world of professional athletics, no one questions the value of coaching top performers, yet in business, the stigma seems to linger that those who need coaching must be ‘at risk.’ I have built my entire business model on the opposite approach, however. As ‘the virtuoso coach,’ I only work with high potentials.
    Recently the St. Louis Cardinals added former Cardinal player John Mabry to their roster of batting coaches. Mark McGuire will continue to coach the right-handed batters, and Mabry will concentrate on the left-handers. This focused approach should serve as the gold standard for hiring business coaches too. High potentials should hire specialized business coaches who have built successful businesses themselves and who have developed a proven track record for helping others get promoted.
  10. Conduct your private life with uncompromising integrity. Unlike some of the aforementioned, you have 100% control over this. No one can rob you of your integrity, but you can give it away. I have seen so many high potentials derail themselves from a seemingly-sure path to success with bad decisions in their personal lives. Assume everything you do will make the front page, because some day it just might.

As the Baby Boomers leave executive positions in droves, others will need to ascend the corporate ladder, but too few have actively prepared themselves. No matter when you plan to climb the next rungs of the ladder, now is the time to start planning.


About the Author

Dr. Linda Henman, the catalyst for virtuoso organizations, is the author of Landing in the Executive Chair, among other works. She is an expert on setting strategy, planning succession, and developing talent. For more than 30 years she has helped executives and boards in Fortune 500 Companies and privately-held organizations dramatically grow their businesses. She was one of eight succession planning experts who worked directly with John Tyson after his company’s acquisition of International Beef Products. Some of her other clients include Emerson Electric, Avon, Kraft Foods, Edward Jones, and Boeing. She can be reached in St. Louis at www.henmanperformancegroup.com.

Ten Ways to Engage Your Workforce in 2012

As we start a new year, leaders will once again ask themselves how they can engage their people – often asking employees to do more with less. Let me start by observing that you can’t motivate people. You need to hire motivated top performers and then make sure you don’t demotivate them. Here are some ways to ensure you don’t:


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About the Author

Dr. Linda Henman, the catalyst for virtuoso organizations, is the author of Landing in the Executive Chair, among other works. She is an expert on setting strategy, planning succession, and developing talent. For more than 30 years she has helped executives and boards in Fortune 500 Companies and privately-held organizations dramatically grow their businesses. She was one of eight succession planning experts who worked directly with John Tyson after his company’s acquisition of International Beef Products. Some of her other clients include Emerson Electric, Avon, Kraft Foods, Edward Jones, and Boeing. She can be reached in St. Louis at www.henmanperformancegroup.com.