Archive for May, 2011

Stimulate Your Thinking: Slow Down to Speed Up

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

John B. McGuire and Vance Tang 02.23.11, 12:21 PM ET

Complexity is in cahoots with speed and uncertainty. When you have little time and even less clarity, complexity steps in to demand even more of you. Put together all three–speed, uncertainly and complexity–and the toughest among us can falter.

Complexity is the No. 1 issue facing chief executives today, according to a 2010 IBM study of 1,500 chief executives. The problem is that we’ve bought into the complexity conspiracy. We try to match complexity with greater complexity and speed with increased speed. Feeling out of control, we seek more control. Instead of the clarity we crave, we get ambiguity and more uncertainty.

There is a way to break the stranglehold of complexity: Slow down to power up.

That’s right. Slow down now and you will move faster, further and with greater purpose later–even when, or especially when, you are staring down the triple threat of complexity, speed and uncertainty. That’s the lesson that began a powerful transformation at KONE Americas.

KONE Americas, a leader in the elevator and escalator industry, seemed comfortable as a market follower just a few years ago. But its highly technical and independent management team had to struggle to sort out competing demands within the organization and among its customers. Five CEOs were appointed in seven years, so company leaders learned to be reactive, solving one problem at a time.

Organizational leadership, it turned out, was what was missing. With the help of a learning partnership with the Center for Creative Leadership, KONE Americas’ executives realized that to deal with the company’s expanding challenges and emerge as an industry leader, they would need to move to an interdependent, collaborative leadership culture.

This is where the phrase Slow down to power up came in. Slowing down at key times to use dialogue for deep diagnosis has allowed the business as a whole to power up. Time lost at the front end has translated into clarity, speed and strength further along in the process. Here’s how slowing down works to foster collaboration and confront complexity:

Complex challenges require 90% inquiry and 10% decision making. To resolve a significant issue, you must first understand whether you are looking at a problem to solve or a dilemma with which to cope. When we don’t slow down, we run the risk of spending time and money reacting to symptoms. When leaders hit the pause button on action and decision making, they can have different and deeper conversations. Instead of focusing on speed, they can focus on learning, exploration and collaboration. Slowing down helps you see information, patterns and issues that were previously overlooked or unclear. You can find multiple right answers and integrate them for better decisions and sustainable solutions. Complexity takes on a new hue.

Beliefs drive decisions; decisions drive behaviors; behaviors become practices. In the executive suite, out in the field or in the trenches of the business, our actions are the result of our beliefs. What beliefs are required to drive your business strategy in the right direction? What beliefs get in the way?

The KONE Americas executive team identified key beliefs that would help them advance a more collaborative, interdependent, customer-driven culture. These were not abstract or soft concepts. The executives are hands-on, engaging all employees in the quest for industry leadership.

At a recent meeting, for example, a regional leader literally repeated the maxim “Beliefs drive decisions, decisions drive behaviors, behaviors become practices.” A group of seasoned elevator mechanics nodded their heads. The leader then asked, “Do you believe that accidents are inevitable, or are you willing to believe in complete safety for everyone all the time?” The mechanics and the front-line team jumped into discussion about the effect the two different attitudes have on real-world decisions and actions, and how a culture of safety for everyone is at the core of customer-centered service.

Change yourself, change the culture. If you don’t change your response to the pressures of complexity, you can’t expect that others will either. Unless you collaborate, have open dialogue and slow down to learn together, complex challenges will continue to be addressed with a strictly technical “fix-it fast” mentality.

At KONE Americas, it took the executive team only a few days to commit to developing a slow-down-to-power-up mindset and a few more days to agree on core beliefs. It took another year to learn, practice and transform into a strategic, collaborative team while engaging the company’s top 100 leaders. But now the transformation at the top is extending deep into the organization. As a result, during one of most challenging economic environments in history, customer satisfaction has more than tripled, employee engagement has increased by more than 30%, and financial results have improved dramatically. Furthermore, employee safety, a top priority, has reached industry leadership levels.

Complexity doesn’t need to equal trouble. When top leaders slow down to power up, they can better overcome the pressures of complexity, speed and uncertainty and meet the challenges of a changing world.

John B. McGuire is a senior faculty member at the Center for Creative Leadership and co-author of Transforming Your Leadership Culture. Vance Tang is the leader of KONE Americas.


Stimulate Your Thinking: What Matters Most: Leadership Lessons from Maj. Gen. “Burn” Loeffke

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Major General Bernard “Burn” Loeffke likes to say that he goes into any situation armed with two weapons: the FIRO-B® and the MBTI®. For the uninitiated, the two are personality assessments that can give leaders great insight into how to work effectively with others. Burn Loeffke discovered his most powerful leadership weapons when, as a young General, he attended a CCL program. During a recent visit back to CCL’s campus in Greensboro, NC, he said he carries CCL lessons with him every day – and relies on the Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation-Behavior and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. “Perceptions and emotions matter,” says Gen. Loeffke. “We can’t solve the rational part of a problem until we deal with the emotional.” Both the FIRO-B and the MBTI help people to understand their leadership style and preferences and to consider the different needs and perspectives of others. According to the general, the insights from these tools allowed him to better understand his own colleagues – and his competitors. Three-and-a-half combat tours, rapid promotions and deep love for his fellow soldiers marked Gen. Loeffke’s early career. Later, as a diplomat in uniform, he served in Moscow during the Cold War and as a defense attaché in China. When he retired from the military in 1992, Gen. Loeffke pursued several passions, including leadership development. He returned to CCL as Visiting Fellow in 1993-94. He later earned a medical degree that allows him to practice and teach preventative medicine. He now travels the world on medical missions. He writes; teaches at medical universities; and fosters partnerships, friendships and connections across cultures. Recently, the general was invited to teach leadership fundamentals to 1,000 future leaders in China. In all he does, Gen. Loeffke draws on the insights he learned at CCL – and shares some of his own: Seek and share health, music and laughter. A sense of humor, a dedication to fitness and a love of music have sustained the General personally. He’s also found that a desire for better health, music and laughter are common to any place, any culture. Everyone wants to be healthier and anyone can be a healer, he says. Music gives energy and singing brings people together. And nobody wants to be around glum people, so find humor and laugh more often. Help others. The needs are great. Much of the world is a disaster. The challenges facing nations and individuals in the next decades are extraordinary. In your work and through your life, make a commitment to helping others. Gen. Loeffke adds that science has proven what he has long known: Helping others is good for you. An antibody called SIgA increases – boosting your immunity – as you do things to help other people. “If you do things to help others, you are healthier,” he says. Be humble. Gen. Loeffke is a decorated military officer, distinguished statesman, humanitarian and scholar. Impressive on paper; inspiring in person; and incredibly humble. As a new medical officer serving on a medical mission in a remote combat zone in Sudan, he wasn’t able to rely on his past success and training. When his supervising physician fell ill and was suddenly sent home, Gen. Loeffke was the only trained medical professional in the area, working with two local men who assisted in the makeshift clinic. “We were seeing 120 wounded a day, and I had to take over surgery,” he recalled. One assistant offered to help; the general gratefully accepted. “This man cannot read or write, and is uneducated by Western medical standards. But he knew what to do; he did the surgery. He taught me how to do internal sutures,” says Gen. Loeffke. “I learned humility in Sudan.” FIRO-B is a registered trademark of CPP, Inc. MBTI is a registered trademark owned by Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc. Warrior, Healer, Leader By Laura Santana, PhD Senior Enterprise Associate, Center for Creative Leadership I met “Burn” Loeffke nearly 20 years ago, when he was slated to give feedback during one of CCL’s Spanish Leadership Development Programs in Mexico. In between preparing the feedback packets, he kept flipping through flash cards studying to get his physician’s assistant degree and was studying Mandarin vocabulary. I didn’t learn until later that he was a U.S. Major General, retired, and embarking on the next big phase of his life: midwife and medical missionary to underserved populations around the world. I only noticed that he could do more push-ups than any human being I’d ever met! The CCL program participants loved him immediately; he was intense, kind and interested in life. Each story he told held the participants captivated. Since that time, Burn has continued an amazing career and remains an extraordinary man. A true lifelong learner, he is fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, French and English and has a working knowledge of Mandarin Chinese. As a military man and defense attaché, he built relationships and crossed barriers that taught him great appreciation for cultures other than his own. Today, he continues to build bridges through his medical missionary work, which has taken him to the Sudan, Kenya, Niger, Darfur, Bosnia, Haiti and China. Not content to provide care himself, Burn works tirelessly to educate young people about health and emergency medicine, and to provide training and supplies to impoverished regions. Wherever he goes, Burn has the ability to connect with others. He believes today’s young military needs to do the same. He organizes programs for West Point cadets to participate in medical missions and to get to know their counterparts in the Chinese army. “We have two choices with China: cooperate or confront,” he says. “In 15 years, I want our soldier-statesmen to be able to pick up the phone and say to China’s military, Things are not looking good. Let’s talk. We need to build those bridges today.” Burn and his two children run to encourage volunteerism and support for efforts to build peace and good health throughout nations. Burn’s intelligence, compassion and drive are unwavering – and inspirational.