Leaders Know that Rules Aren't Values and Values Aren't Rules

Thinking in the language of can versus can’t predisposes you to perceive challenges in a certain way and respond within narrow avenues.  Thinking in and speaking the language of values—the language of should and shouldn’t instead of the language of can and can’t—opens up a wide spectrum of possible thought, a spectrum that encompasses the full colors of human behavior as opposed to the black-and-white response of rules.  ~Dov Seidman

Dr. Kathryn Scanland is the president of Greystone Global LLC, a consulting firm focusing on strategic planning, leadership development and organizational design. This post is republished with permission from Tuesday Mornings.
Dov Seidman hits the nail on the head once again. The organizations of the industrial-age with their vertical hierarchies drove their rules and policies through the organization. But now, in the information-age and an economy built on knowledge with flat organizational structures, it is shared values permeating throughout organizations that enable them to thrive.

I can’t say it better than Dov, so I’ll let him explain:

The New American Gig: Creating Sustainability Buy-in with a Transient Workforce

Used with permission from photologue_np.

The composition of the US workforce is changing dramatically. Some define that change based on the overall aging population, while others base it on increasing diversity, or the emergence of women. Still others see the change as a function of the skills needed (from manufacturing to service and information-based). And no doubt, all of these trends are influencing the labor force. However, there is a single phenomenon that is impacting 1/3rd of the US workforce – the “gig” economy

According to Sara Horowitz, founder of the Freelancers Union, approximately 42 million people comprise this group of independent workers she defines as “freelancers, contractors, sole proprietors, consultants, temps, and the self-employed.” The growth in this workgroup is driven by a few mega trends (i) recent economic downturn causing workers to seek supplemental income to augment lower wage jobs; (ii) the laid off, who are finding re-employment difficult and thus are cobbling together multiple jobs to create a meaningful wage; and (iii) an increasing choice by younger workers to trend away from traditional jobs to those that offer more flexibility and balance.

Could the Failure of Enron Have Been a Good Thing?

Photo used with permission 

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe that the utter failure of Enron was a good thing for its employees, its customers or any of its stakeholders. Tens of thousands of people were negatively impacted, and many were horribly wronged by the recklessness of a few of the company’s leaders and their corrupt inner circle. 

So why might one think, as the title suggests, that the failure of Enron was perhaps a good thing?

First, it should be stated that by “good,” I mean it in the sense that often when “bad” things happen, there is a paradoxical result of something of benefit later arising out of the bad, which is a positive change that might not have happened otherwise.  So from this narrow viewpoint alone, I do think some good has resulted from the tragedy of Enron.  

Corporations participate in the construction of meaning that we, as individuals, sense and acknowledge around us.  As such, the incredible level of deception that a few top leaders were able to get away with for so long should (and did) make most all of us pause in awe.  There was certainly something to be learned about how we had been preparing -- or were ostensibly failing to prepare – future business leaders of the corporations and firms that are the primary engines of a free society, regardless of size, to lead from an ethical base.

Second, I think that beyond the deception itself, the very fact that comparatively so few within the firm seemed to be actually aware of what had been going on, stuns us into disbelief.  This disbelief propels us forward, as a society, towards new learning and subsequently, some new positive and beneficial action.

Many would point to Sarbanes Oxley as one of the “new” actions.  I, however, would describe the enactment into law of stricter and more prescriptive regulations as a reaction – not a new action.  And while I suspect that for some time to come it will continue to be debated as to whether or not the new regulations were the right and best response (including also if “ethical” behavior could be achieved through some governmental mandate), I still offer that a regulatory response was reactive, regardless if one believes the new regulations were needed or not.

So what non-reactive response or new actions have occurred?  I think it can be summed up in two words:  radical transparency. The failure of Enron, and especially the unbelievable level of unethical behaviors undertaken by its corrupt leaders and their accomplices, literally shocked us all, jolting us into wanting and demanding transparency not only in financial auditing and reporting related to publically-traded companies, but at all levels across our society.

And this I believe to be a good thing. We need ready access to information related to publically-traded companies, publically supported institutions, publicly-funded projects, and in fact all decision-making and actions taken by government itself. Without this information, it is impossible to shine a light into dark corners. Information helps us to clarify, understand, and give meaning to the past, while simultaneously providing us a basis on which to construct meaning presently and for the future.

So was the collapse of Enron a good thing for any of its stakeholders? Certainly not in the classical sense of the word good. But this unbelievably bad event in U.S. corporate history may have led to tremendous benefits, which otherwise might have never come about.  For that, we can thank Enron for its contribution to radical transparency across all levels.

Anna Amato is the President and CEO of edtec central, an educational consulting firm based in Michigan. She is a student in Benedictine University’s Ph.D./D.B.A. program in Values-Driven Leadership. 

Well that's Lin-teresting: How You're Missing Great Talent on Your Bench

Sports news invaded even NPR and the New York Times last week as Knicks' bench player Jeremy Lin scored 136 points in his first five starts. That's the most by any NBA player since the NBA merged with the ABA in 1976.

As the New York Times said, "nobody saw this coming. Lin was cut during the pre-season by the Golden State Warriors, and then again by the Houston Rockets, one of the more statistically savvy teams in the league. Lin had been undrafted out of college — that college was Harvard, by the way, where Lin had a G.P.A. of 3.1 and majored in economics."

Lin's success caused an overnight sensation on the internet. Sports Illustrated columnist Phil Taylor tweeted: 

Sure, now Taylor and the rest of the sports world recognizes this. But just over a week ago, Lin's sudden rise to basketball stardom was unimaginable. He was overlooked talent, sitting wasted on a court-side bench. 

Some of your biggest potential leaders are probably sitting benched right now too. How do you keep from leaving your big scorers on the bench? Here are two ideas, culled from the leadership lives of the often overlooked:

1. Go outside headquarters. Some of your best bench players may be sitting a few cities away. And they may not be willing to relocate. 

Carla (name changed) was a middle manager with high potential at an international firm. Though her leadership had been recognized in modest ways, she was continually overlooked for promotions because she was unwilling to relocate her young family. When it became clear that moving to headquarters was a deal breaker, Carla took her talent outside the company. "I've never seen such an outpouring of appreciation than when Carla left," said her division's senior vice president. 

Relocating can be an even bigger challenge now, with so many home owners with mortgages underwater. If your top talent won't move, accommodate them in other ways: negotiate travel schedules, increase use of video conferencing, develop local staff around a rising star. 

2. Test the waters. The Knicks' turned to Lin after they'd exhausted other point guard options. He was the last person on the bench, and they got lucky: he was more than ready for the job. 

Lin hadn't been sitting on the Knicks' bench for long: he'd been undrafted, tossed around from team to team, and made a few trips to the D-League. No one knew what he could do in a real NBA game ... mostly because he hadn't been tested. 

When it comes to identifying talent, always test the waters. Trust young employees with specific responsibilities and watch how they deliver. Do they meet expectations? Exceed them? Take criticism as a challenge rather than a blow? Do they bring others along with them? Command the respect of other leaders?  Remain positive? 

If you can answer yes to those questions, then you've found a star, potentially years before the natural progression of a career would have led them to your office door. Take them off the bench and put them into the game. To do anything else is, well, Lin-sanity. 

Amber Johnson is the Center for Values-Driven Leadership's corporate relations and social media advisor. She is a non-profit and small business communications professional.    

Changing the Flow of a River: Changing the Culture of Your Tribe

Photo used with permission by Andrew Eck. 

Imagine traveling through a jungle in Africa or South America and coming upon a remote tribe. Your introduction to the group is an uncommon language followed by a series of rare customs, beliefs, values and behaviors. Your task, or should I say “mountain of a task,” is to change the culture of the tribe. Where would you begin? How would you undo what has been accepted as normal? How would you convince the leaders and members of the tribe that change is needed and good for them?
While that illustration may sound intimidating and daunting, it is not far from the truth and reality of attempting to change the culture of an organization.
I have heard the phrase often, especially from newly appointed leaders, “The first thing I have to do is change the culture of the company.” Though often a factual statement, it is certainly much easier said than done. The culture of an organization is like a flowing river. It can be fluid, resilient and steady, serving as the thrust and positive force that guides members in the right direction or it can be the resistance and opposition that makes a change in course difficult to achieve.
Even if done with the best of intentions, a serious mistake made by many leaders is to force change. After a new vision is cast the thought is that subordinates may at first resist, but with consistent, forceful and at times manipulative behavior and motivation techniques, they will eventually give in and jump on board. While this can create initial progress on changing the culture of an organization, it is rarely long-lasting or sustainable. In fact, such an approach may do more damage than good as employees grow resentful, skeptical, and suspicious of leadership. Instead of imposing change on others, the best approach is to lead change.
This begs the question, what are some important aspects of leading cultural change? I submit three for consideration:
Leadership Involvement: Are your leaders, most notably your senior leaders visibly and actively engaged with, and supportive of, the organization’s cultural change strategy? Leaders have the opportunity to lead cultural change with both their words and actions; and those that consistently match the two set a wonderful example for others to follow.
Leadership Commitment: It is important for leaders to keep a steady hand at the wheel while driving through even the most treacherous terrain. The road to cultural change will be inevitably marked with wins and set-backs, ups and downs, and while some circumstances are out of the control of leadership, how they respond to it is not. Remaining steadfast and resolute when expected change is slow can set a powerful precedent for others to follow.
Leadership Patience: On the heels of commitment is the show of patience. English poet Rudyard Kipling, in his famous poem If, was accurate when he penned the words, “…If you can wait and not be tired of waiting…” because cultural change takes time. Patience can be the final necessary ingredient needed for an organization to persevere through the hardship and struggles that accompany change.
I have provided only three components relevant to change. What are your impressions? Help me start a list. What others will you add?
Alberto Arroyo is an Assessment and Development Consultant at The Vaya Group, a Talent Management consultancy that applies science and precision to the art of talent assessment and development. This post originally appeared on Vaya's blog. 

Remembering to Ask, What Business are We In? (Recommended Reading from Tom Walter)

Tom Walter is a "serial entrepreneur" who has launched nearly 30 companies. He is the CEO of Tasty Catering, named one of Winning Workplaces best small companies in 2010. This post is republished with permission from Serial Entrepreneur.

Kay Plantes is an MIT educated economist. She has been a friend and business confident for several years.  Her book, Beyond Price, provides great insight into how commoditization can destroy a business.
I thought this blog, and the five points she poses, should be read by you.  Some of these points I have heard from other “practicing” economists and financial advisors.
Her point about “disrupt your business before someone else does” is contained in almost every book on strategy that I have read.  This is a poignant, to the point, discussion that is easy to understand and apply to your business.  You may link to her blog through the link here. 
- Tom
Editor's Note: Tom recommends Kay's blog post, What Business Are We In?, which you can find at this link. In her post, Kay offers five principles to guide your understanding of the question, including the "disrupt your business" principle that Tom mentions above. 

What the Susan G Komen Foundation Reminded All of Us about Decision Making

A few years ago I had an under-performing employee who resisted all the performance-enhancing recommendations her colleagues and I made over a number of months. I knew I needed to let her go.

Some people are good at letting people go. They see it as good for the company and better for the person in the long run. I understand this perspective, but I'm not good at living it out.

So when it came time to face Jenny (name changed), I attempted to soften the decision. Things aren't really working out, I told her. And we're not sure what we're doing with the position. Money is tight, and budgets are getting cut. I have to let you go. All of this was true. But it was also true that if Jenny had been a high performing employee, I'd have found a way to keep her. She wasn't, and she needed to go.

Proving You Can't Be Bought: A Values-Based Culture in Strategy & Action

Integrated Project Management is a suburban-Chicago company that focuses on strategic management of critical business projects. IPM's clients include industry leaders like Pfizer, Motorola, and Johnson and Johnson.

CEO and founder Rich Panico has earned national attention for his ethical leadership. For Rich, IPM's reputation as a values-based, ethical company is its most valuable asset. To ensure that this approach to business is evident throughout the company's work, Rich focuses on creating a values-based culture.

In the following short videos (each under four minutes), Rich outlines how he does this. First, in Creating, Enabling and Sustaining a Values-Based Culture, Rich gives an overview of his approach, focusing on leadership, consistent behavior, and the character of employees.