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Year end thoughts

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The end of December is a deeply reflective time for me, as I spend time with family and plan for the coming year.  Along with my other projects—a new book, upcoming client work and speaking engagements, I also reflect on the direction of this blog. As such, rather than a typical post, I choose this week to note down some of the things on my mind, ideas that will surely work their way into what I write in the months to come.  Of late, I have been thinking more and more about corporate culture, continuing to wonder how we can do it better and why it does not seem to get the … Continue reading

Engagement is job one for any manager

John's reflections, leadership Leave a comment

As we saw in the closing paragraph from last time, Captain Abrashoff’s engagement of his ship’s crew led to truly superior combat-readiness ratings. In the end, the Benfold would become regarded as the finest ship in the Pacific Fleet, winning the Navy’s prestigious Spokane Trophy for having the highest degree of combat readiness.   In addition, the rate of military promotions tripled on the Benfold during Abrashoff’s watch. Personnel turnover, which had been at unacceptable levels under the previous leadership, decreased to an unprecedented one percent.  When engagement levels rise, everything improves: The Benfold is an outstanding example, one that demonstrates why I think engagement is job one for any manager. The ship’s all-important combat readiness ratings rose not due to stricter management controls … Continue reading

Relationships with individuals are the key to leading groups

John's reflections, leadership Leave a comment

After last week’s post, I received a number of requests—from both readers and clients—asking my advice about how managers should go about cultivating deep relationships with their individual team members.   As such, I began thinking that it would be a good idea to discuss some other examples in the coming weeks, illustrations of how leaders and managers in a variety of fields—the arts, sports, and business, and perhaps even others—rely on deep connections with individuals to elicit extraordinary group performance.  In addition, I went back to my notes on Abrashoff’s book, It’s Your Ship, and re-read some of the passages I found particularly pertinent to this question. And, the more I reflected on … Continue reading

How to build cultures of engagement

John's reflections, leadership Leave a comment

Returning to a theme from our last post, the most effective leaders engage others in a group culture by creating a space where people want to come, to participate, to express themselves, to contribute their energy and passion, and to feel part of something meaningful.  Stories of people who are able to create these types of cultures within large organizations have special appeal for me, no matter what the field. Some of my best leadership examples come from the world of sports, the military, or the arts, as well as from business or politics. Leaders who build extraordinary group cultures understand this simple truth: If they focus on their possibilities rather than on the limitations of their context, they … Continue reading

The greatest responsibility of managers

John's reflections, leadership Leave a comment

In the last entry, I focused in part on what I see as the responsibility of every leader, at any level of an organization. To me, we all have a responsibility to create a space where people willingly participate and express themselves, where they contribute their talent, energy and passion. Unfortunately, my experience has shown that managers who truly take this undertaking seriously are the exception rather than the rule.  Of course, we have seen that engagement of the managers themselves is a significant issue. Even a casual observer of today’s business press cannot help but notice an abundance of evidence that middle managers in large organizations often perceive their jobs in less than positive terms. In describing their daily … Continue reading

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