Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Manager or Leader – which best describes you?

The table below is my attempt to separate the traits of Managers from those of Leaders.  There are roles for both Managers and Leaders of course, and things are never quite as clearly defined as this table suggests, but for me this is a useful comparison that helps me modify my behavior if I feel I am slipping into the (more comfortable) role of managing when I should be leading (or vice-versa).  Personally I find that when riskier things aren’t going as well as I expected that my frustration leads to behavior from the left hand column when what is needed are the traits from the right hand column.

Demands obedience, controlling, trusts no-one fully

Objective is to repeat previous results but a little more cheaply or a little more efficiently

Cuts costs, limits variation

Plays it safe

Takes the credit

Points out flaws and criticizes mistakes

Makes decisions, gives answers

Has a short term view, focused on profit

Accepts the way things are done

Maintains and improves processes
Trusting, inspires trust in others, vulnerable

Heads for uncharted territory

Sees possibility, embraces innovation

Takes risks

Credits others

Recognises and praises accomplishments, sees mistakes as opportunities to learn

Asks questions to encourage others to solve problems, enables answers

Has a long term perspective, focused on the future

Challenges the way things are done

Develops people

Do you recognize yourself in this table?  Are you happy with where you find yourself and is your behavior what is best for your business?  Challenge yourself now and then – its what leaders do!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Ask Students What Their Education Should Look Like

Recently in Thailand and beyond, the media was abuzz with stories of ‘Frank’, the high school student who started a Facebook campaign to abolish the mechanistic school system in Thailand.  Schooling in some Asian countries demands military-like discipline from students in order to produce a homogenized, compliant and a near-identical set of adults.  In Japan, for example, for much of their school lives, hair length and hair color are regulated.

Frank and his ‘friends’ want to transform the purpose of Education and encourage ‘free-thinking’.  What they are seeing is that society’s demands of them as adults and citizens are vastly different from the adults they are taught to become. The strict conformity of some Asian school systems highlights the gulf between what is taught and what is needed, but in most countries it is fair to say, I believe, that there is a disjoint between the objectives of Education systems and the needs of societies.

Education produces adults who are:
Economies need adults who are:

So what to do?  Much is written and said about how Education needs to change but little actually gets changed.  But if even the students themselves can recognize that something is wrong then its time we all listened. 

Sunday, 16 June 2013

The Optimist, the Pessimist and the Physicist

The Optimist says: 'This glass is half full.'
The Pessimist says: 'This glass is half empty.'
The Physicist wonders why they are using the wrong glass.

We are often encouraged by trainers and professional development consultants to 'think out of the box' or 'out of the square'. The implication is that by changing the parameters, we may find more creative solutions to our problems. The assumption though is that we have correctly identified the problems we have.

Both the Optimist and the Pessimist have assumed that there is not enough water in their glass. The Physicist wonders why the Optimist and the Pessimist are using the wrong glass to hold the right amount of water. This is not looking for a creative solution to the 'problem', but a redefining of the problem itself. Rather than 'thinking out of the box' the Physicist has thrown the box away.

Many will have heard the story of the boy who fills his bucket with stones, but then discovers that there is still room for pebbles and then still more room for sand and then water. Recently at a PD session we were told by a consultant that if the bucket were the employees' total working hours that there was a limit to what would fit in the bucket. Until one employee pointed out that the consultant's idea of the bucket was that all employees work from 9 to 5 with a break for lunch. She redefined the problem by removing the 9 to 5 restriction – not by requiring more hours from each employee but by freeing up resources employees need to do their jobs efficiently. She threw away the bucket.

'Thinking out of the box' first requires a box (or a bucket). Once we have defined a box for ourselves we limit our ability to think beyond, not just out of those limits.

Get rid of the box!