There is nothing quite like the adrenaline rush of that moment when you’re first awarded an important leadership role.

Having “finally arrived” you imagine yourself as the rock star taking center stage at a roaring stadium of adoring fans. You can almost hear the ear shattering cheers of the crowd as they clamor to get closer, iPhones in hand, ready for the chance to take a cherished selfie and bask in your celebrity. The congratulatory comments and notes follow soon after, as do the handshakes, hugs and back slaps of colleagues, some of who may be actually be truly happy for your success.

But, after repeatedly playing this movie in your head, (in which your performance in the leading role is, of course, Oscar-worthy) at some point you come face to face with the enormity of your responsibility to others. Grand titles and big salary aside, the burning issue now is how you’ll show up as a leader and what legacy you’ll leave behind. (read more…)

What stories are told in your organization today? Are you aware of them? Do they reinforce your desired culture or do they inspire undesired actions?

Most leaders I speak to don’t pay attention to stories that are told in their company. They should, though, because stories are powerful. Stories direct actions, sometimes subtly, sometimes explicitly. They inspire action over inaction –which can be a good thing, if those stories inspire aligned behavior and considerate interactions.

If the wrong stories are being told, people will be drawn to emulate the actions and practices the story reinforces. Here’s an example. One client had a “do whatever it takes” service culture. One day a shipment didn’t go out on time, which meant a customer commitment was at risk. The person that discovered the issue realized that if she got the package to the UPS facility at the airport by 5 p.m., overnight service would get the package to the client’s site by 10 a.m. (read more…)

Sadly, late last month we learned of the sudden death of Ed Gilligan, president of American Express. Gilligan spent his entire business career at American Express and was considered the likely successor to CEO Ken Chenault.

Also last month, David Goldberg, CEO of SurveyMonkey and husband of Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg, died unexpectedly when he fell while exercising on a treadmill in Mexico.

These tragedies are unquestionably and, thankfully, infrequent. Nevertheless, they are a reality and remind us that planning for casualty is a necessity both for families as well as the businesses and organizations we all inhabit.

Planning can take many forms, but within the context of businesses, it is succession planning that should take center stage. Who is next in line for a role? Jack Welch, the former chairman and CEO of General Electric, was a proponent of succession planning, and GE is often looked upon as the standard by which succession planning should be practiced. (read more…)

According to a recent study by the Korn-Ferry Institute, “knowing thyself” isn’t just a nice-to-to; self-awareness flows directly to a firm’s bottom line.

I’ve been sharing this information with my network and it’s generating a lot of interest. While we’ve all know that awareness of strengths and weaknesses and how we are perceived by others is essential to being an effective leader, it’s interesting to see a connection made to a firm’s financial results.

Here’s more from a June 15 press release:

An analysis by Korn Ferry (NYSE:KFY), the preeminent authority on leadership and talent, shows that public companies with a higher rate of return (ROR) also employ professionals who exhibit higher levels of self-awareness.

The Korn Ferry Institute analyzed a total of 6,977 self-assessments from professionals at 486 publicly traded companies to identify the “blind spots” in individuals’ leadership characteristics. A blind spot is defined as a skill that the professional counted among his or her strengths, when coworkers cited that same skill as one of the professional’s weaknesses. (read more…)

It’s remarkable to see huge companies go up in flames due to managerial failure. And yet it happens regularly. Why?

Frequently, the cause of managerial failure is rooted in corporate culture. Managerial failure often springs from a lack of humility, curiosity, and open-mindedness that is reflected in the attitudes, language and behavior — the culture — of the people in a company, and in particular, the company’s leaders.

For example, a company fails to notice and respond to the changing marketplace or to opportunities to bring about disruptive innovation in its industry. The failure leads to declining revenue and profit. Costs must be cut in order to survive. People lose their jobs. The company fails to recover and sells itself or closes its doors for good.

Are there “red flags” that might indicate the effect your current corporate culture is having? Ask yourself the following:

  1. Are our leaders consistently seeking the opinions and ideas of others then considering what they hear before making decisions?
  2. (read more…)