Archive: July 2010

Guest Post by Bill Tietjen: Context Drives Structure & Systems

July 28th, 2010

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.

What does your staff say about you during vacation season?

July 20th, 2010

My mentor always said that Outside-In leadership involves letting others take a rest when they deserve it. That leading by example can mean letting your newest employee take off on Christmas Eve or skip a late shift on a Friday night, even if you have to step up as the leader and work in their place. We are all equal in importance, we all have value and as leaders, we want to send the right message. As a leader, we should be prepared to allow others the opportunity to go home when we would normally be the first in line.

During my college years, I worked in retail and my manager never worked Sundays. She always told us that once we put our time in and were leaders ourselves that we could set the schedule as we saw fit. Ironically, in order to maximize her weekend she also did not work late on Saturdays (and in many cases had that day off too). That logic seems funny – to leave the assistant managers and newest employees to manage the busiest and probably most profitable time in this business. What she did was not necessarily wrong but it did not earn her our trust or respect. We all knew it was on purpose and it only served to enforce that there was a pecking order and we knew where we stood. It hurt productivity and didn’t foster allegiance to a great company because we did not believe in our leader. We all eventually would leave and find other work.

What do most of us practice as we climb the ladder and achieve the status and the accolades that come with leadership? We take the time off that we want. Sure we work hard, even work around the clock. That is not unique, in fact, it is our job. Time is not something we ever have enough of and we feel like we have earned it. So we leave early on Fridays in the summer. We take two weeks off in a row, when most of our employees don’t even get that kind of time off in a whole year.

Please do not be offended by my point of view – I’m merely stating that leadership is about doing “right things” and in my estimation that means leading by example. Working and putting in your time during holidays and vacation season. Your people may not say anything – but they will see it and they will know you are acting in a way that aligns with your culture…

So do you have 50% of your staff in during heavy vacations? How is your customer service level?
Will your managers be at the office at 50%?
Are your rookies getting their time off?
Are your senior people always getting their first choice for time off?
Are you going to lead by example this summer?

My good friend Bill has a point…

July 8th, 2010

If you read my blog through one of the many ways we distribute, you probably read my good friend Bill Tietjen’s comments about remote control leadership. Bill and I get together several times a year to “wax philosophical” on career systems and business models and what works in today’s fast paced, unique business climate.

To quote Bill, “Remote control leadership can (and should) be complemented by a “remote control followership” in which all parties demonstrate and refine the same set of principles that have been outlined.”

My challenge to all of us who engage in organizational/entrepreneurial endeavors – How do we make such a tidal wave shift to a culture where “leadership is EVERYONE’s responsibilty”?

Our first common belief is that traditional career systems are dead. We are all not going to work for one company and have one job. We will all have many, as many as seven or more different jobs over our work life times.

Secondly, that the old military style of organized business where information flows from the top through the chain of command out to the troops and from the troops back to the top is less appealing today. Frankly not productive at the employee level. This model is inflexible, slow, and not likely to generate innovation and or create an environment of extreme customer service. To many this is still a common notion today because many leaders and most employees don’t know how to change. For the employee, they probably need to find a culturally based company. There are a few and they are worth finding. For leaders?

Leaders have a real challenge. Leaders who are worth their salt got to where they are by working hard and leveraging their natural strengths and learned leadership behaviors. Chances are most leaders did not learn to start or run their company utilizing the skills and or techniques that create an Outside-In culture or customer centered environment. This is the organization that is relatively flat, all are empowered, and information is shared across the business.

Innovation and speed come from empowerment. It also comes from earned trust that leaders gain through daily investments in the natural reinforcement of organizational priorities and by leading through the cultural values established for the business. But how do you make leadership everyone’s job? Seems like a daunting task, but it has been done. Have you ever been to a Ritz Carlton? Ever bought a Gore-Tex jacket? These are two organizations that are beacons of hope for making leadership everyone’s job.

The most important thing to do first? Leaders embed culture! Without your commitment as a leader to give leadership out to all, it will always fall short. And this must be in your words and actions!

Remote control followership. How do you do it? Where have you seen it?


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