Friday, October 22, 2010

Why Passion and Drive Can Destroy Good Leaders

Executives and business leaders are notoriously passionate about their work, driven to succeed at all costs. That’s fine, but it has a dark side, a trap that highly-dedicated professionals fall into all too often. Work becomes their life. Not only is that unhealthy, but sooner or later it catches up with them, actually hindering their ability to succeed.

We all struggle with work-life balance. We talk about it, worry about it, but achieving it, that’s another matter. These days, we’re all under pressure to be on 24-7. We’re constantly being asked to do more with less, deliver results with fewer resources. The truth is that it’s never been more challenging to keep work from becoming our life.

But for top executives and business leaders, the problem is actually far worse. There are two reasons for that.

1. For all their power, perks, and pay packages, leaders carry a heavy burden of responsibility. Their stress level is higher. They often put way too much pressure on themselves, to the point where failure becomes something to avoid at all cost. For some, failure becomes something they just can’t live with.
2. It’s all too easy to get drawn in by the attention, the admiration, the ego boost. At work, they’re kings and queens. At home, they’re just another spouse, parent, or friend. Many of them actually feel more competent, more comfortable, even more safe, at work than at home. That’s the attraction of the dark side.

So we call ourselves workaholics, say our work is our lives. We think of ourselves as winners, special, above the masses of ordinary people. It sounds so grandiose, and that’s exactly what it is, a grandiose self-image that can never be fulfilled. A trap.

As for the effect all that has on our ability to perform effectively as leaders, it has a discrete, negative impact on a number of key leadership attributes:

• Empathy and humility. Lack of empathy for your own mistakes and failures tends to transfer to others. If you can’t feel empathy for yourself, you can’t feel empathy for those you lead. And knowing that you’re human, just like everyone else, is what humility is all about. Empathy and humility are key leadership traits.
• Perspective and objectivity. We live in highly complex and competitive times. When tough issues arise, as they inevitably do, leaders need to be able to disengage, to retreat to a place where they feel safe from all that, a place where they can achieve some level of perspective and objectivity.
• Judgment. The biggest problem with grandiose ego is that it fools you into thinking you have to have all the answers. And while you’d never consciously admit to thinking you’re always right, deep inside, you have a need to be just that. That impairs your judgment. I’ve seen it time and again; it’s sad to watch once successful entrepreneurs and executives make bad calls because they stop asking questions and listening to others. Worst case, they can self-destruct and take the whole company down with them.
• Confidence. An oversized ego turns confidence into arrogance. Sure, people like Larry Ellison, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs managed to get away with being arrogant, but I would argue that Gates and Jobs eventually grew up. Ellison, I’m not so sure. But for the rest of us, it’s irritating, annoying, and hinders our ability to work effectively with and yes, lead others.
• Longevity. To be a great leader, you’ve got to be able to hang in there, to be around long enough to see the fruits of your labor. You’ve got to have stick-with-it-ness, the ability to survive the inevitable hurdles and challenges of a highly competitive business world. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and you’ve got to pace yourself to last.

Bottom line. A healthy ego is a good thing. Self-confidence is a good thing. Passion and dedication are good things. But when you stop thinking of yourself as an ordinary person, when you no longer believe that there are more important things in life than succeeding at work, that will catch up with you, sooner or later. Guaranteed.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Predictive Management Vs Reactive Management

By F. John Reh

Many managers believe that their job is to resolve problems that arise. While that is true, it is only the lesser part of the job. More importantly, a manager's job is to prevent problems. This is the difference between reactive management, which solves problems as they occur, and predictive management, which tries to prevent many problems from arising in the first place.

Reactive Management

Reactive management deals with problems as they come up. It is a management style that is much admired for its ability to quickly get the resources back into production, whether those resources are machines or people. If you are good at reactive management, you are:

• Decisive and able to act quickly,
• Able to find the root cause of events,
• Creative and able to develop many solutions,
• Innovative and able to find new ways to solve problems, and
• Calm and in control in the midst of a "crisis".

Someone who is good at reactive management is able to remain calm, quickly analyze the problem, and find its root cause. Rather than getting lost in the symptoms, they are able to think up many possible solutions, some proven and some new, and select the best choice. They are equally quick at implementing the solution to resolve the problem.

A reactive management style clearly is a desirable skill set for a manager to have. By quickly solving problems they are able to get the people and/or machine quickly back to work and productive again. However, it's not the best style. Managers should concentrate on improving their ability in predictive management as well.

Predictive Management

Predictive management focuses on reducing the number of problems that require reactive management. The more problems that can be prevented through predictive management, the fewer problems will need to be solved through reactive management. If you are good at predictive management, you are:

• Thoughtful and analytic,
• Not likely to go chasing after the current panic,
• More aware of the important than the merely urgent issues,
• Able to identify patterns in data and patterns of failures,
• More focused on "why" did something go wrong, rather than "what" can be done to fix it, and
• Able to keep the big picture in mind when working through the details.

Someone who is good at predictive management is sufficiently detached that they can identify the conditions that lead to certain problems and can implement procedures to reduce or eliminate the problems. Rather than being concerned about the immediate problem, they are able to relate current conditions to earlier information and predict when problems might arise.

A predictive management style is an important ability for a manager to have. The more problems that can be prevented through predictive management, the fewer resources will need to be spent on reacting to problems that have arisen. Predictive management does not replace reactive management, but it reduces the need for it.

Getting Better At Predictive Management

How does a manager get better at predictive management? The best way is practice. Focus some time every day on predictive management and on developing the skills listed above. Here's an example of practicing the predictive management behaviors so you can get better at it.

Schedule a meeting with yourself so you can block out a half hour of time. Close your door. Set your phone on do-not-disturb. Turn off your cell phone and pager.
Pick the problem that has been the biggest headache for your organization. Then allow yourself to just think about it.

• When did it happen most recently?
• What caused it?
• What warnings or indicators did we have before it happened?
• What did we do to fix it?
• What could we have done to prevent it?
• What can I do now to reduce the chances of it happening again?

Start monitoring the warning signs you noted above.

When those signs next appear, apply the previous solution before the problem gets big. [li[Evaluate the results and adjust as needed.

The more you practice predictive management the better you will be at it. You will still need your ability in reactive management, but just not as much. Your resources will be used more on getting things done than on fixing problems and you'll have more time to think about and prevent more problems from arising.

Monday, October 11, 2010

7 ways your Job could shorten your life...

If work enriches our lives in many ways, it can shorten them too.

Here are the seven ways your job could put you at risk and how you can nip some of these problems in the bud for a better chance of a longer, healthier life, reports ABC News.

1. Distracted driving: Taking the office on the road

Cell phones, smart phones and personal digital assistants have improved the ability to conduct work at all hours. Meanwhile there has been a surge in the number of fatal crashes caused by drivers who continue texting and talking on cell phones behind the wheel.

The solution:

When you are on the road, put down your phone or BlackBerry. Considering the consequences, it is likely that work, however important, can wait.

2. Sitting still: When work's got you chained to the desk

Doctors, nutritionists and other health professionals tell us time and again how sitting on a couch, snacks at the ready, contributes to heart disease and diabetes. But who knew until quite recently that the countless hours many workers spent seated at their desks, eyes glued to computer screens or phones attached to ears might cut their lives short?

The solution:

Make sure you build into your daily schedule opportunities to get up from your desk and walk around. Take the stairs, leave your desk for lunch.

3. Work is hell: When you have a bad boss or hostile workplace

Multiple studies in recent years have focused on the impact of a hostile workplace and a bad boss on a worker's physical and mental health. It turns out that these factors can be life shortening.

The solution:

Do what you can to change the work culture in your office. Building positive relationships with co-workers and working to forge better communication with your supervisors may go a long way in terms of improving the morale within your work environment. If the situation is untenable, consider talking to human resources to see if there is a legal way to remedy the hostile environment in your workplace.

4. Wide awake: When work disrupts your sleep

Work stress can creep up more subtly. The cumulative effect of insufficient sleep, whether caused by interrupted or poor sleep, insomnia or the body's inability to adjust to shift work can also speed your demise.

The solution:

When possible, leave work at the office; try not to let your work life bleed into the late hours of the night. If necessary, schedule your sleep so that you are guaranteed to get a solid six to eight hours. And if stress is keeping you awake at night on a regular basis, you may want to seek professional help.

5. Walking papers: Getting laid off or fired

The stress associated with losing a job is often described as one of the most trying life events, along with divorce and death of a loved one. But it isn''t the only job-related worry that can kill you. The persistent fear of losing a job, which is particularly prevalent in the current economic climate, can produce similar stress and ill health.

The solution:

It''s not easy to recover after losing your job, but health experts say the effects of such a tribulation can be mitigated by smart behavior. One of the most important things someone struggling with a job loss can do is invest in their own well-being.

6. Burning the midnight oil: Working overtime or working late

Those working 10 to 11 hours a day (compared with the traditional seven-hour British workday) were as much as 60 percent more likely to suffer heart disease or die prematurely than those working regular hours.

The solution:

Given the current economic climate, it may be hard for many workers to say 'no thanks' to overtime for the sake of their health. Still, it may be in your best interest to explore ways to exercise more control over your schedule, such as flex time.

7. Risky workplace: When occupational hazards expose you to danger

Occupational health hazards, sometimes caused by exposures to dangers not visible to the naked eye, can shorten lives.

The solution:

For some jobs, the exposure to potentially dangerous situations or environments is simply a fact of life. The important thing is to adhere to all recommended health and safety practices for your profession-whether that means donning a dust mask or other protective gear if you are in a construction or carpentry role, to practicing proper safety measures if you work with or around dangerous substances.