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Category Archives: Leadership

I recently listened to a thought provoking and inspiring talk, the closing keynote to the APCO Canada 2014 Conference in Vancouver on 2014 November 6.

The speaker was Dr. John Izzo and his talk was entitled “100/0: 100% Responsibility/ Zero Excuses How Stepping Up can Change Your Company and the World” Among the points he  made were:

  • Always ask yourself “What can we/I do?” In other words don’t sit back (perhaps complain) and wait for someone else to take action to resolve an issue.
  • Do something, do anything“. However small the action may be and even it is just to get together with others to discuss what you can collectively do – take action!
  • Stepping up and taking action can lead to a ripple that leads others to act. Just by taking the initiative, your actions can be multiplied beyond what you thought you could accomplish alone.

Dr. John Izzo has written six books including his latest  “Stepping Up”, which was the basis for the inspiring talk at APCO Canada.

I’ve been listening to an audiobook this weekend and it has struck a chord with what I think about job satisfaction, so I want to share it with you.
The book is not new, in fact it came out in 2007. The book is The Three Signs of a Miserable Job by Patrick Lencioni. As with five other books by Lencioni, this one is presented in the form of a fable, a fictional tale. This makes the content immensely listenable and therefore the message is easy to absorb  . Lencioni follows up the fable with a summary of the key points.

The three factors which make a job miserable are:

  1. anonymity – the employee  feels unknown by their manager and not personally recognized by the organization.
  2. irrelevance – the employee does not know who their work impacts or how.
  3. immeasurability – the employee does not know how to assess their own progress or success in the job

While I agree with what this book says there is one aspect which I feel worth emphasizing. When it comes to making a job measurable it is very important to have meaningful metrics. The measures must pertain to the service the job offers to those who are served. I believe that the counting of  meaningless things just because they can be easily counted could indeed be counterproductive and indeed contribute to an employee’s feeling of irrelevance.

Lencioni makes the point that  all these factors seem to be just common sense, but nonetheless they are largely ignored even thought dealing with them is relatively straight forward.

This book is directed mainly at managers and it applies equally to all managers of people, from frontline supervisors to CEOs. The content is however also of interest and valuable to anyone who works in a job. If all else fails, if your managers aren’t looking out for you, you can and have to take your job satisfaction onto your own hands as best you can – and if that means finding another job, this book will give you ideas of what to look for so you don’t end up in another miserable job.

You can learn more about Lencioni’s theory by:

As I opened off saying, I liked this book and fully expect I will be giving it a repeat listen in the not too distant future.

In two previous blog entries I mentioned that I had started listening to an audio book by Jim Collins and that as much as I like the freedom that an audio book provides to me, there are times when I want or need a hard-copy.

The Jim Collins’ 2009 book How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In, is a case in point. It was a very good listen and I will listen to it again but in the meantime I have ordered the book. Not only do I want to slow down and think more about certain passages but I also want to read some of the appendices that were not narrated in the audio book.

In this book Collins relates his research findings about seemingly invincible companies that can and have failed. Some of the companies used as case studies for this book include Bank of America, HP, Motorola, Scott Paper and Zenith. Collins has identified 5 distinct stages that a failing company will go through on its demise. These stages are:
1. Hubris Born of Success
2. Undisciplined Pursuit of More
3. Denial of Risk and Peril
4. Grasping for Salvation
5. Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death
Collins points out that by recognizing these stages and the associated warning signs, it is possible to pull out of a dive before crashing into stage five.

I am very interested in thinking through how these same stages might be applied to public sector organizations, to groups within an organization and to individuals. My gut tells me that much of what Collins has identified for the large profit-driven entities will apply. Stay tuned for future discussion on these topics.

I might add that I like Collins’ writing style and will be checking out his very successful earlier books: Good to Great and Built to Last (co-authored with Jerry Porras).

Jim Collins website

I was looking across my shelf of books on the topics of leadership and self-development and realizing that there are a few gems – books that really made a difference to my thinking. I also realized that it has been a few years since I read them and I cannot remember as much of the detail as I would like. So, its time to pull them off the shelf and give them a re-read.
These are the books I am going to re-read and I would heartily recommend you to read also:

1. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
2. The Leadership Challenge by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Pozner
3. Getting Things Done by David Allen

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Restoring the Character Ethic is one of those books that makes intuitive sense. Originally published in 1989, the seven principles still ring true and are worth being reminded of, over and over again. In case you’ve forgotten (or never heard) the seven habits are:
1. Be proactive
2. Begin with the end in mind
3. Put first things first
4. Think win/win
5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood
6. Synergize
7. Sharpen the saw
to ensure that we keep on track (assuming you place some value on being an effective human being).

In the 1995 book The Leadership Challenge, How to Keep Getting Extraordinary Things Done in Organizations, Kouzes and Pozner identified these five practices associated with the best leaders:
1. Challenging the process
2. Inspiring a shared vision
3. Enabling others to act
4. Modeling the way
5. Encouraging the heart.
The book goes into explaining and giving guidance on each of these topics.

The third book on my list of classics to re-read is David Allen’s 2001 book Getting Things Done, the Art of Stress-free Productivity. Allen lays out some straight-forward easy-to-implement techniques for, as the title says Getting Things Done – whatever your “thing” is.

If you are not familiar with any of these three books I suggest checking them out. Maybe you are familiar with them. Maybe like me, you read them when they first came out and you could benefit from re-immersing yourself in their messages.

Please feel free to share your thought on these books or any others that are classics in a similar vein.

After a recommendation from last week’s “Strategizing your Way to Success” seminar, I’ve been listening to Resonant Leadership, the audio version of the book from 2005 by Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee. From the start this book struck a chord with me. One of its key messages is that a successful leader must guard against burnout through a process of renewal.  Boyatzis and McKee suggest that this renewal, this state of resonance, come about when the leader practices mindfulness, compassion, emotional intelligence and hope.

Here is a link to a discussion of the book from Business Week magazine:

and another link to a review from LeadershipNow:

This book was a good listen – well presented and it makes sense to me. It is one of those audio books that makes me want to pick up the physical book (at least in part because the exercises in a printed format would be easier to follow and use). After a first listen I do not hesitate to recommend this book and know that I will be listening to it again in the near future. I’ll also be checking out Becoming a Resonant Leader a companion workbook by the authors (along with Fran Johnston).