The Art of Possibility: Transformational Leadership

transformational_leadership Leadership Benjamin_ZanderOptimism and resilience are the two qualities most sought by employers.  Does this mean we are seeking unrealistic Pollyanna types?  No. The ideal optimist fearlessly faces reality – deliberately uncovering and facing unpleasant facts – while maintaining the course. They are not deflated by obstacles.

One particular book on this topic, The Art of Possibility, has served me well for years. I find myself drawn to it again and again.  Here is a favorite excerpt from the book:

The practice featured in this chapter helps one invent and sustain frameworks that bring forth possibility. It is about restructuring meanings, creating visions, and establishing environments where possibility is spoken — where the buoyant force of possibility overcomes the pull of the downward spiral.

The steps to the practice of framing possibility are:

1. Make a new distinction in the realm of possibility: one that is a powerful substitute for the current framework of meaning that is generating the downward spiral.

2. Enter the territory. Embody the new distinction in such a way that it becomes the framework for life around you.

3. Keep distinguishing what is “on the track” and what is “off the track” of your framework for possibility.

I recommend this book to anyone who aspires to transformational leadership.

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Virtual Teams: Creating Synergy

Virtual team meetingIn the traditional work environment we rely on physical proximity to tap into the spirit and energy of teams.  What if your team members work remotely from each other?  A virtual team must build the same sense of community and shared purpose.

The key is in our communications and the way we convey the common purpose of the group.  Since gatherings play such a big role in building shared purpose, this post will address the special considerations of virtual team meetings.

Before the Meeting

  • Take time to build trust with team members one-on-one before you begin virtual team meetings.  Members of a virtual team who know they are trusted will be more forthcoming with ideas and will challenge group thinking in a healthy way.  Use one-on-one time to ensure each team member understands the bigger picture and is aligned with the individual contribution they can make.
  • Be considerate of team members in different time zones.  There’s an excellent meeting-planning tool at timeanddate.com that allows you to input the meeting date and attendee cities to calculate best times.  The date feature is a real boon as not all areas participate in daylight savings time.

During the Meeting

  • Pick your meeting tools in advance and stick with them.   If there are handouts, ensure they are sent to everyone in advance.  Avoid the temptation to create last-minute documents to hand to in-person attendees leaving the remote members at a loss.  If you have chosen to use net conferencing technology, familiarize yourself fully with tool functionality to increase group participation.
  • Be aware of the group dynamic during meetings.  The most challenging meetings are those where some team members are gathered in the same room while others dial in.  Part of the challenge stems from our natural propensity for communicating through body language.  Think about the last meeting you attended in person.  How many questions were answered with a head nod, a sideways glance or perhaps by silently pointing to a sheet of paper?  We can counteract some of this by narrating for the remote members.  This inclusive behavior will keep your remote teammates informed and will also help everyone learn virtual meeting best practices.

After the Meeting

  • Create an easy way for team members to update shared action plans or collaborate on documents.  Sharepoint is easy to use and can be quickly configured to allow for confidentiality if that is a concern.  If your company does not have a collaboration tool, you can use a blogging site like WordPress with appropriate privacy settings.

Western Provinces Set To Drive GDP Growth in Canada

Canada’s modest GDP growth forecast will outperform that of the U.S.  We should expect to see a continued influx of U.S. companies as growth-oriented organizations look for new markets in stable economies.  I’ve heard from several U.S.-based staffing providers who see Canada as their next target for international expansion.  Are you prepared for increased competition?

GDP Forecast 2012 % Change

Drivers
Canada overall 2.5 Modest growth expected. Challenges: government stimulus spending is winding down; record household debt levels, high food and gas prices and a cooling housing market.
Alberta 3.3 Heavy oil output ramping up.  Demand for technical, scientific and legal professionals will remain strong as the province’s economy continues to grow and diversify. “Alberta Innovates” initiative is providing funding to a wide variety of knowledge-intensive industries, including health, energy and the environment.
Saskatchewan 3.3 Oil well drilling & natural gas production increases.  Agriculture hit by poor spring conditions but fueled by strong growth in agriculture bio-tech sector.
British Columbia 3.1 Mining & mining support services (engineering, legal), natural gas export to Asian markets, software, film industry.
Manitoba 2.7 Utilities (construction & energy export), service sector expected to outperform (finance, insurance, real estate)
Newfoundland & Labrador 2.5 Mining & related construction, offshore oil, housing market fuelled by strong employment numbers and rising income
Quebec 2.5 Aerospace manufacturing, mining, technology
Ontario 2.2 Service sector growth (finance, retail, wholesale trade).  Manufacturing will benefit from tax reforms.  Auto manufacturing expected to jump following the Japan crisis.
Prince Edward Island 2.1 Food manufacturing, wind power research & manufacturing, pharma and medical manufacturing increase.
New Brunswick 2.0 Potash expected to double. Non-durable goods production increases. Challenge: NB is most vulnerable to U.S. exports (over 85% of exports are U.S. bound) and high Canadian dollar placing more pressure on outsourced call centre sector. Local talent not keeping up with technology sector demands.
Nova Scotia 1.9 Manufacturing stabilized & poised for growth in international export sectors. Finance, real estate & insurance remain strong – partially attributed to “jobsHere” initiative.

Source: Scotiabank Group Global Economic Research, July 2011

Leading the Multi-Generational Workforce

Traditionalists.  Baby Boomers.  Generation Jones.  Millennials.  Generation X.  Generation Y.  Keeping up with the latest insight on workforce behaviour is enough to make one’s head spin.

We all know diversity can add richness and depth to any group — but it can also create tension as individuals with differing backgrounds and beliefs come together to create results.  Generational diversity is no less powerful than gender or ethnic diversity.

Below is a very brief overview of the generations at work and some of the events that influence their view of the world.  The trick is to take an individualistic approach rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to the way you manage and lead this diverse workforce.  Get your teams talking about what is important to them in the workplace.  Help them identify common ground and express appreciation for those in other generations.

Traditionalists
Born between 1928-1945
Influenced by World War II, rationing, working hard and saving money for a rainy day. Work ethic is based on dedication, commitment, and conformity. May believe in awarding promotions based on length of service.

Boomers
Born between 1946-1964
Influenced by social unrest and protest, equality between the genders, and the race to the moon. Brought up in the relative affluence of the 1960’s, tend to believe anything is possible through hard work.

Generation X
Born between 1965-1979
Also called the “latchkey generation”, they have learned self reliance and pragmatism. Concerned with financial and emotional security. More global and technologically-oriented than previous generations.

Generation Y
Born between 1980-1995

Largest consumer group in history.  Influenced by the terrorist attacks of September 11 and Columbine, they are concerned with well-being of others and are community centric.  Want to work on their own terms – “paid volunteers”.

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The Future of Work 2.0

Work – as we know it – is changing.  Your career success will be impacted by how well you keep up with the changes and how willing you are to make adjustments.

Tom Malone, professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, talks about hyperspecialization in this Harvard video.  He makes interesting observations on the impact to workers and talks about managers learning a different kind of delegation.

Employment References: Would You Recognize a Fake?

fake_reference_check employment reference job_referenceDid you know you can purchase fake employment references?  Call me naïve but I had no idea this service existed before I began researching the world of background checking.

Recently I was asked to provide a reference for a former employee.  No problem.  The person in question has an excellent work ethic, good interpersonal skills, and reported directly to me for a long enough period that I could confidently comment.  However, the request was for me to provide my comments via an online survey.  I was a little taken aback that a major financial institution would rely on such an anonymous method.

This made me curious.  Was I just being a stick in the mud?  Am I behind the times and need a boot into the 21st century of reference checking?  I decided to ask my professional network on LinkedIn for their opinion on this method.  The responses were varied and well thought out.  Some said they would absolutely not participate using an online survey, some said they would.  A couple of commenters brought up the convenience factor when one is working overseas.  Because the online survey is available 24 hours a day, it circumvents time zone challenges.  Good point.  Still…

Here’s the web site I found that really shocked me:  The Reference Store

virtual_references employment reference fake_references

I’ll just let that site speak for itself.

Then I found this: BackCheck says they captured CareerExcuse.com providing a fake employment check interview .  Click the link to watch a 7-minute fraud in action.  The conversation includes a bogus web site (that conveniently shares no information other than an under construction notice) and apparently costs only $200.  Would you be able to spot a fake reference?


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3 Things You’re Missing on Twitter

This post is dedicated to those who think the only thing people do on Twitter is report what kind of sandwich they had for lunch.  Instead of pulling out my hair every time I hear this line, I decided to showcase what you’re missing.  It’s way more polite and I’m too vain to go through life with random bald patches.

Connections with lifelong learners

Meeting these people is the reason I participate.  Sometimes their tweets contain a link to online material – sometimes they’re just a short, provocative thought designed to get the mind turning.  They enlarge my perspective and introduce me to other great thinkers and learners.  Here is a sample:


Accessing help from the Twitter community

Everyone needs assistance as some time.  Are you looking for a job?  Do you need help finding an apartment in a certain neighborhood?  Have you just received a medical diagnosis and wonder what community support might be available?  Tweeps (Twitter people) are tireless sharers.


Building your business

If you’re in business and you’re not using Twitter to listen to your user community and engage in two-way conversations, shame on you.  That’s like discarding customer demographics data because you don’t like the way the text is formatted.  I’m not talking about using Twitter to post ads. The opportunity Twitter affords is that of building a community around your brand.  Where else do you get the chance to overhear people discussing their experience with your product or service? Below is a tweet from ING’s CEO, Peter Aceto. I admire the way he regularly engages with his community by listening to them.


So there you have it: my totally biased view of Twitter as a valuable tool.  If you’re looking for me on Twitter, I’m @SWrightBoucher.

Wrongology: Letting Go of Rightness

We go to great lengths to prove we’re right.  We defend our point of view when challenged.  We debate and argue to get others to see things our way. And yet we celebrate movies and books that surprise us with plot twists and red herrings just so that we can enjoy the feeling of being wrong when we get to the end of the story.  What happens to us in real life that compels us to be right?  Are we missing opportunities to be surprised and delighted?

If you can spare 18 minutes to watch this insightful TED video, I promise you will gain a new appreciation for being wrong every once in a while.

http://ted.com/talks/view/id/1126