Remote Control Leadership

June 22nd, 2010

Did you ever try to sit and watch TV with your significant other? It requires a little patience and love. Most couples do not have the same interest in programming (or for how to enjoy watching seven channels simultaneously). I can watch the same movie over and over again if it is real favorite, and can start watching at whatever point in the movie I get there. Lets just say – that this does not work for my wife Kim!

The other day I found myself in the midst of a leadership meeting with a leader at CBI Group and I blurted out, “Be careful about being a remote control leader”. We were discussing goal setting, thinking through priorities and working on communication and messaging. Remote control leadership is when a leaders actions do not support their words and vice versa. It is when we flit and flutter all over the place, changing the priorities and agenda so frequently that it begins not to make sense to your staff.

We know we need to be nimble and flexible with our business. We want to be more customer centered and to look for our next product – one good idea becomes your future. Yet, to our employees, the process of holding on to where our company is going is riddled with side trips that make it hard to stick with and remember. So to avoid this, I created my Top 5 Failures in Remote Control Leadership. I hope it helps you and your thinking.

1. Leading by Reading. How many times have you gone on vacation or attended a seminar and announced at your next staff meeting that you were going to implement what you learned? ALL of us have done this. In fact, this first one is an easy stereotype of most leaders, both beginner and experienced!

2. Top 5 Priorities – Not Enough. I learned long ago that a company functions better when employees agree on priorities and know where to focus. For many years we have focused clearly on five per quarter. The logic is simple. Twenty people focused on five things is more productive than twenty people focused on their own lists of priorities. My learn? Opportunity knocks. A customer ask you to do something new. Someone wants you to buy their business. Key talent comes your way. How do you balance being entrepreneurial and opportunistic with being pragmatic and judicious with your limited resources?

3. Funding Too Many Ideas. I started my business with a willingness to back any good employee idea. I felt that for every 10, one or two might hit it big time. I am not talking about a change of coffee flavor in the break room. I am talking game changes – new services or new markets. I learned that you must vet these ideas and prioritize. Put a time line to them.

4. The Power of NOT Saying NO. For too many years I did not want to discourage my culture. I confused a culture of innovation and creativity with the balancing act of decent business planning and strategy. Remember, it is okay to say “not right now”. Or to ask how something fits into your short term and long term plans. You can always change plans if it makes sense.

5. Not Keeping Messages Simple. I read once that a leader defined their job as repeating simple messages all day long. I took the other route. Talked too much about too much. I have learned that really powerful visions are simple ones. They create emotional appeal because they can be felt and seen. They are repeated often and that repetition is key to helping employees internalize them and act upon them.

2 Responses to “Remote Control Leadership”

  1. where do i find sranglekelp in wow Says:

    Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.

  2. Guest Post by Bill Tietjen: Context Drives Structure & Systems Says:

    […] Chris’s blog provoked my thinking and I want to pose even broader questions about the world of work today. I am not sure that by simply identifying examples of forward thinking in action, without there also being a strategic object at organizational levels, can lead to the needed wisdom for sustained and productive organizational change. I think we need to examine the forces that are giving energy to these phenomena. To make leadership everyone’s responsibility and thereby create the most productive and professionally satisfying organizations, it is imperative that there be clarity about the tidal wave of change that has been brought on by recent economic developments. This altered context requires rethinking about how the basic employer-employee agreement is understood and what impacts follow when “leadership as everyone’s responsibility” is now the norm. It is suggested that when the economy recovers, things won’t return to normal in the workplace and instead it will defined by its “permanent crisis” state (Heifetz et al. “Leadership in (Permanent) Crisis”, Harvard Business Review June-July 2009) To accept this paradigm means that organizational effectiveness is contingent upon everyone practicing both leadership and “followership”. Being a leader no longer describes a hierarchy of titles, but rather an intended dynamic interaction among all levels of staff to accomplish organizational goals. Leadership is influence at its best. Influence happens in “the space in-between” individuals and is reinforced, developed and recognized through organizational structures and systems. It can be argued that individual expectations of the employment agreement often do not align, nor do they support, the behavior of individual leadership required to do “best practices, while establishing next practices” (Ibid). The rapid expansion of varied “employment” models (project work, contingency employment) and the rise of “encore careers” as an option for boomers and talent managers alike, contributes to an urgency to re-examine the assumptions that drive today’s major HR practices . To understand the context of today’s world of work and the altered employer-employee agreement will drive organizational transformation to expect and require the demonstration of “leadership” by all employees and contractors. Are organizations, HR professionals, managers and the workforce ready to recognize this reality and take incremental steps toward this new world of work? Action without thought will be unproductive. Bill Tietjen is a certified consulting associate with the Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH) Career Transition Practice of Greater Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley Region. In addition, Bill is a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Social Policy & Practice and is a lecturer at Temple University’s Executive MBA Career Management Program and mentors the MBA students at Drexel University. AKPC_IDS += "485,";Popularity: unranked [?] // […]

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