Dear delightful, intelligent, and oh so friendly readers-- Jane did not get back on track as predicted in Monday's post. We were preparing a scathing Fit by Five for Tuesday (in response to a discussion with a representative from a financial institution that used to serve us, please take note of the words 'used to'), which will have to wait for next Tuesday. And, we had a post for Wednesday that ... well, let us surprise you next week, when we REALLY, REALLY, really get back on track. (the original post had 404 errors in it-- we apologize, dear readers! it is being fixed as you read this)
Today, dear readers, we do have a Smart Man Online interview, to make up for not bringing you one last week. This week's interview is beyond the ordinary. Our Smart Man Online, Laurence Haughton, is totally extraordinary-- not only because of his recent book, It's Not What You Say...It's What You Do, (published by Doubleday) which we will talk about today-- but because he's approachable, he's not stuck in that old Dick and Jane world we keep reminding you to leave behind, and he uses words like "intuitive" in conversation.
We know you're going to take some valuable business insight away with you today...read on to hear what Laurence Haughton says about following through in business:
Lip-sticking: Early on in your book, you advise managers to "Just make it a policy that when making important decisions everyone must put their thoughts in writing.” This is a powerful statement, which you go on to explain in the book, but...could you give Lip-sticking's readers a glimpse into why writing goals, decisions, and even thoughts, down on paper is so useful?
Laurence: Linda Lockwood is a VP and Chief of Staff for Charles Schwab and Company. In her 14 years at Schwab Lockwood has developed a spectacular reputation for making sure that what’s expected gets done (my definition of follow through from a leader’s perspective).
What’s her secret? She believes that if you want better follow through you need to start every project or initiative with crystal clear expectations; clearly communicated and clearly understood.
But you don’t need Linda to tell you that clarity is in very short supply in modern organizations. We got a lot of vagueness, generalities, distortion, and conflicting priorities, but very little clear direction, clearly communicated. It’s no wonder half of all management strategies fail. I mean if people don’t have a clear understanding of what to do it’s only sheer luck that they will deliver as expected.
So how can leaders become clearer? The CEO of a large health care provider, Sister Mary Jean Ryan, told me it was three specific disciplines that gave
her leadership group the ability to think more clearly and provide crystal clear directions. Writing things down topped that list.
Writing things down – whether it’s your solution to a problem, a response to a simple question, or your opinion on the current conditions of a business – forces the author to work on being more accurate, thorough and clear.
Test it out yourself. Ask somebody to describe their “ideal leadership system” for you. They’ll take a stab at it maybe stopping to ask a question or two. But if you ask them to give you that answer “in writing” they’ll ask many more questions
and want time before they give you their answer.
Lip-sticking: We loved your statement on p. 47: "The average American tells 2,555 white lies a year.” Wow! Is this human nature, or just an American trait?
And, how do we see through the white lies...in order to get business done effectively?
Laurence: I don’t know if every culture uses the “white lie” as frequently as Americans. White lies are used to get one out of an uncomfortable situation or
to help another save face so it could be a part of all world cultures. I’m sure someone in the blogosphere has a link on this topic.
How can a leader cut through the “white lies” in business, especially the ones we tell ourselves? That’s a tough one. Managers (especially top executives)
are skilled at spinning and using their authority to get others to play along.
Executives I spoke to said that they get feedback from knowledgeable and uncompromised sources – straight-talking staffers, outsiders, or even family members.
One executive gave a few paragraphs of his strategy memo to a friend’s sixteen year-old daughter. She had expressed an interest in what he was working on.
After she read (and reread ) the page she looked up and said, "Sometimes you write things just to show people how smart you are." He asked her to read the
entire paper and mark every sentence that struck her that way. Then he rewrote the whole thing.
To separate other people’s spin from the truth just note the gaps between what they say and what they do. Then don’t rely on unreliable sources.
Lip-sticking: Hire Attitude Over Experience: this was our favorite chapter! We cannot tell you how many times we were misjudged and mistreated in the corporate world because our enthusiasm was not considered in the hiring or promoting process. Our work experience, while excellent for many of the jobs we held, was just a small part of what we felt we brought to the table-- yet, it was all anybody ever wanted to talk about! How do YOU convince companies that attitude can trump experience?
Laurence: Oh Jane, I can feel your pain. But you need to forget about convincing people unless they are open to being convinced. Being unyielding, adamant, and inflexible is a deep-rooted attitude, a part of the individual’s personality that is largely set by the age of 25 (as you read in that chapter). You need to screen your associates, partners, and even bosses for openness.
If they are open, you can give them my book’s six point test for hiring attitudes over experience. Here are my top three points:
1. Does the job call for a lot of problem-solving? Are associates expected to fill in the gaps between company procedures and what situations demand?
Do customers look to you for solutions to unique problems or ask you to tailor the standard offers to their needs? Does your company expect employees to
participate in continuous quality improvement programs? How important is it to balance intuitive leaps, logical analysis, and realistic assessments in this job?
Rate your need for a creative problem-solver.
Follow the process manual Innovate and create solutions
1......... 2.......... 3.......... 4.......... 5........... 6.......... 7
2. Must the associate handle frustration and uncertainty really well? How unpredictable is the work environment? How often will this employee be asked
to handle unpleasant tasks? Are there a lot of job related tensions, like headquarters moving the goalposts after the budgets are set? Is this employee
expected to effectively deal with upset and disappointment caused by others out of your control? Rate your requirements for level headedness and coping mechanisms.
OK for average breaking point Needs extra maturity
1............ 2......... 3.......... 4......... 5.......... 6............... 7
3. Are the things they’re able to learn on the job more important than the things they bring to the job? How volatile is your competitive environment?
How many things have changed unpredictably in the last few years? Do you expect this person to take on new responsibilities and grow into new responsibilities? Determine your need for someone who can learn more and adapt constantly.
Routine, predictable work Lots of change
1............ 2............ 3............ 4............ 5............ 6............ 7
Lip-sticking: Tell us about CAVE people! You say, "You cannot reason a person out of a position they did not reason themselves into.” So, what's a manager to do? We all mouth the platitude that change is good, but...few of us believe it to our core. Then, the CAVE people take over! Help us!
Laurence: When I was told about CAVE people during the third phase of my investigation (what it takes to start every strategy with enough buy-in) I pictured
some mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals. (we did, too!) I’d seen a few of these types fighting against progress in lots of organizations. But Anand Sharma said, “No. CAVE is an acronym for Citizens Against Virtually Everything. They look like you and me. But they attack and impede new ideas and changes and keep others from buying in.”
Every leader needs a plan to outmaneuver these CAVE people, not to sell them on buying in. And that starts by keeping them out of the first stages of any project.
I’m like a Crime Scene Investigator. I get invited in to companies after things have gone horribly wrong and there’s a dead initiative on the floor
(or one that’s mortally wounded). I can’t tell you how many times I’m recreating what went wrong and I'm told, “I knew so-and-so would kill everyone’s buy-in.”
“Well if you knew that,” I think in my head, “why on earth did you let them on the team?”
Let me tell you a story:
A scorpion was walking along the bank of a river, wondering how he would get to the other side. Suddenly he saw a fox preparing to swim cross. He asked the fox if he would give him a ride on his back.
The fox said, “No, if I let you go with me on my back you’ll sting me and I’ll drown.”
The scorpion assured him, “If I did that we’d both drown.”
So the fox agreed. The scorpion climbed up on his back and fox began to swim, and half of the way across the river, the scorpion stung him.
As he felt the sting and the venom began to work, the fox turned to the scorpion and said, “Why did you do that? Now you’ll drown too.”
“I couldn’t help it,” said the scorpion. “It’s my nature.”
The CAVE people are like the scorpion – stinging your team’s buy-in is in their nature. Never, never, never give them the opportunity. The rest of the battle plan for “Outmaneuvering the CAVE People” is in the book (Building Block III).
Lip-sticking: Rather than give away anymore of the book (since we will be writing a full book review on Blogcritics) let's talk about the writing of the book: how long did it take? Did you write a proposal for Doubleday or did they approach you? What did they offer you? (we apologize for being so forward, but we know a lot of writers who would be interested in your comments on this.)
Laurence: The writing of the book, investigating the reasons why half of all management strategies fail, locating and observing leaders across every industry who had cracked the code on following through, and then putting all of the big ideas into palatable bites took me two years.
Doubleday approached me because I had written a New York Times, Wall Street Journal bestseller, It's Not the Big that Eat the Small...It's the Fast that Eat the Slow. They gave me a very generous advance (thanks Roger, but I still needed more money), a very respected team of editors, and most importantly, they showed me they believed in me. There is an incredible power to improve performance when you show your people that you believe in them. It’s in my chapter called “Create a Hot Team.”
Lip-sticking: Why don't you blog? We would LOVE to see a blog on how to get things done-- written by an expert in the field.
Laurence: Actually I do blog -- a little. I’ve guest hosted on BusinessPundit and posted comments on several sites. I’m glad to share what I’ve learned in true
open source style with others through blogs or email. Just let me know that you want my thinking and research at [email protected]
Lip-sticking: You mentioned in our talk that you were into Talk Radio in the 70s. Can you compare that to the rising popularity of pod casting? Will we hear you podcasting anytime soon?
Laurence: I want to Podcast. I own the audio right to It's Not What You Say...It's What You Do, How Following Through at Every Level Can Make or Break Your Company, so that might become a chance to experiment with Podcasts. (hear, hear-- to all our podcasting friends.)
During college I worked in TalkRadio. I remember some experiences from that time that seem very relevant to what I see now in the blogosphere.
Lip-sticking: Jane has to ask: how much shopping do you do online? Some folks consider online shopping a risk-taking venture-- what are your thoughts? Are those of us who willy-nilly give out our credit card online being foolish, or...moving along with the times?
Laurence: I buy online. I pay bills online. The press kit for my book is online. I am very open to anything online that makes my life easier. However, willy-nilly is not an adjective I like. Scams are easy to detect. Get a list of scam busting sites and read the posts. Goggle that EBay request for account verification.
Remember the old African proverb, “Only a fool tests the depth of the water with both feet.”
Lip-sticking: Are you working on another book? Can you give us a preview?
Laurence: Right now I am 100 percent committed to helping leaders at every level to make sure that what’s expected gets done in their company. I believe my next big idea will surface as I follow through on this mission.
Lip-sticking: Throughout your book, we were struck by the number of stories you told (stories are powerful communication tools, so we tell our readers all the time) that included or were about women in the corporate world. Maybe that's one reason we consider this book a must-read -- because you have an innate sense of how women will be changing the world of business in the coming years. Care to comment?
Laurence: I wasn’t trying to find a women’s perspective on this subject. It’s just that I wanted simple solutions and practical answers that didn’t echo the conventional (failed) wisdom. Women had many intriguing insights and innovative approaches for improving the follow through in all sorts of industries and at every level. They were also more open to sharing their thoughts candidly.
At first I didn’t notice that more than half of the best ideas were coming from women. Then when I did I started to ask why? I’m just starting to collect some
knowledgeable sources to interview and some good questions to ask. Maybe your readers have some leads and some insights. (readers?)
All I can tell you is I have a very powerful intuition that this capacity to drive more follow through will be the wedge that cracks the glass ceiling.
There you have it, dear readers. A gentleman who is on track for great(er) success and for working with women-- we have to ask:
What's not to like about that?