April 18, 2018

Hierarchy of Needs

American psychologist Abraham Harold Maslow (1908 – 1970) is considered the father of humanistic psychology and is known for his theory that that there is a “hierarchy of human needs” that determines human motivation. The first in this
hierarchy of our needs Maslow called “animal survival needs” (food, water, reproduction, shelter, instinctual behavior). As each set of needs is met, we progress toward the next level, which, in turn, allows us to pursue and fulfill a whole new set of human needs. According to Maslow, as we satisfy these needs, we pass through a series of five levels that both expand in complexity and broaden our perspective and ability to make an impact in life. While this progression takes place, we increase our awareness, our attention and our focus to a larger set of concerns. This progression culminates with “self actualization”- becoming the best of who we are meant to be as the highest level.

As you can see from the following diagram, the highest levels are about being more outwardly directed. In the fourth and fifth levels, we begin to turn our attention outward toward others, as opposed to focusing on our own needs as was required and appropriate in the early levels. The two highest levels allow us to look out into the world and imagine how we might make the world a better place to be. My experience tells me that people want to make a difference more than anything else. When they find themselves in a position to contribute, they will strive to do so. Most people will go to great lengths to contribute to a worthwhile cause if they know that they can succeed and, therefore, matter.

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Chartering a Breakthrough

April 11, 2018

Chartering a Breakthrough

Move through a large organization, and you will likely find many dedicated people who are working hard on company priorities that are designed to add value, grow the business or innovate. These organizations are targeting big things, yet individuals and teams can find themselves stalled in their quest for accomplishing the extraordinary. So often, when our firm is invited in to work with such companies, we hear people say, “We have a history of lots of take-offs, but we have very few landings.” What this statement means is that a lot of projects get started, but few of them really deliver their intended results. Targeting, executing and delivering Breakthrough results are highly valued skills. It is not unusual for us to be invited to work in areas where there are both big opportunities and an insufficient structure in place to capture these gains.

We most often address this dilemma by suggesting that whatever extraordinary results an organization is committed to producing will require imaginative, breakthrough thinking in the company. A powerful way to trigger the imagination and stimulate breakthrough thinking is to write a charter. We assert that any project that is attempting to accomplish the unlikely or unpredictable needs a charter.

A charter is a written document that serves as a performance contract for a designated project or intended set of work objectives. However, it is a performance contract that targets unprecedented results. Our firm has found that when a charter is written well, launched powerfully, and managed with integrity, extraordinary results will be achieved.

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Context: A Short Conversation

April 11, 2018

What is Context?

People often ask us why we focus so much on context and why we put such a premium on the discussion about context in our approach to organizational transformation. We have discovered that no other single area of focus seems to have the kind of impact and leverage in an organization that context has. Understanding what context is and, most importantly, being clear about how context works can empower senior leaders to make an extraordinary difference in their transformation effort.

Let’s start with the dictionary definition of context:

Context: The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood.

Context comes from Middle English words meaning “together” plus “to weave.”

So you see, context is everything that surrounds a particular subject. Not only is context in the background, it is the background. It is the place from which people think. Context has the power to shape what we think and what we know. It is only when we are aware of the context for a specific situation, can that situation – in the dictionary’s terms – “be fully understood.”

Context is a word that isn’t immediately clear to organizational leaders when they first hear it.

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*Some of the concepts from this article are derived from the work of Werner Erhard and are used with permission.

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Getting Your People on Board is Job #2 for a Leader

April 4, 2018

Most leaders got into the position they’re in by being competent managers making things happen, solving problems, and getting the trains to run on time. However, simply managing the present is insufficient when one is a leader because a leader’s job is really to focus on the future and create a vision for the future that inspires their people to make it happen. Job #1 of a leader is to have a vision that is compelling, inspiring and achievable. Job #2 is to share that vision with their constituents in such a way that their people see that that future has their name on it, and that they not only want to be a part of it, but will own it in such a way that it comes to fruition. People want to make a difference. They want to have their lives matter; quoting George Bernard Shaw ~ “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”

Creating the vision to engage others is tricky, because the vision needs to be articulated in such a way that people can hear it, identify with it, and want to participate in it. There are many examples of such leaders in the last decade ~ for example Steve Jobs at Apple declared there would be “an Apple on every desk”, Jeff Bezos at Amazon whose originating mantra was “Get Big Fast” and, Elon Musk at Tesla is known for his vision of “Anywhere on earth in under one hour.” Each of them has demonstrated the importance of this vital aspect of leadership by stepping way out into the future, creating a vision for their company for what’s possible and then going after it with gangbusters. Part of this brilliance has to do with the way they are able to presence this vision for their employees such that it’s almost tangible and certainly doable. By doing this a leader is ensured that people in their company become a part of implementing the vision. Most people know that 70% of strategic initiatives fail in corporations. Getting your people to buy into the vision gives you a huge advantage for success.

How do they do this? They do it by walking people through the vision ~ what it will take, how it will unfold, and underlining the benefits and rewards. At Leadera Consulting we have a 9-point, step-by-step formula for this skill set in which we train leaders how to deliver a powerful leadership message focusing on the future. When leaders design a message using these 9 points (in order) they find that their people are able to connect with the vision, having it become tangible and wanting to participate in delivering it.

The 9 points are:

  1. Background connection
  2. The vision
  3. Strategy
  4. Implications
  5. Actions needed
  6. Sense of urgency
  7. Benefits and rewards
  8. Hardball issues
  9. Appreciation and acknowledgement

It is important that the message be designed and delivered in this order. We have found that this particular order is consistent with the way people think. For more details on this step-by-step process please follow this link to our website ~

The bottom line is successful leaders love to inspire their people.  Getting your people to “buy in” to your message is what allows for the message being fulfilled. When done well, inspiration leads others into action. But keep in mind that message and that inspiration has no shelf life on its own. A successful leader will build regular and consistent reminders into the workplace that reinforce the message. Inspiration must be shored-up with actions. Consider designing how to get your people “on board”, and how to keep them there.

Kevin Cullen is President of Leadera Consulting Group, specializing in producing breakthrough business results. If you want more on this conversation or the firm, contact us at Leadera Consulting Group.

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