Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Last week I attended two conferences. Both catered to collegiate tennis coaches, and both offered innumerable insights into leadership and team development.
Through a good friend at Academia Sanchez-Casal, I was afforded an opportunity to sit in on their annual College Coaches Course. The Academia in Naples, Florida serves as the US campus of the famed tennis school in Barcelona, and their course offers insights into technique and strategy, as well as team and player development. Comprehensive in their approach, the staff presented on nutrition, fitness, tennis specific drills, mental conditioning, and also spoke about leadership and teamwork.
During his presentation on coaching Spain to a Davis Cup championship, Emilio Sanchez, Academia co-founder and retired pro, provided intriguing insights. Emilio spoke of roster decisions he made in an effort to better team chemistry, getting to know the players as people, and working to keep the team loose with slogans and good-spirited joking. He displayed two charts from the run at the Cup, one that tracked player performance in a variety of non-tennis factors (e.g., Positive interaction with other players, Positive interaction with coaches, etc.), and another that included superhero nicknames for each teammate and a corresponding superpower. Both were intended to keep the mood light, but assisted with team unity and focus.
In both instances, Emilio took a clear path: lead with levity and purpose, keep the troops happy and united. He also spoke of the hours of on-court preparation, tactical maneuvers, and staff meetings, but only emphasized winning in so much that it was a goal that would be attained one small step at a time. To this end, Emilio’s light-hearted yet driven approach not only proved successful, but is also interesting fodder for leaders of any sport or industry.
In addition to the event at Academia Sanchez-Casal, I attended the ITA’s Annual Coaches Convention. Before presenting a talk entitled Executive Coaching for Coaches I sat in on several presentations, few of which were focused on the x’s and o’s of the job. Rutgers’ professor and previous tennis coach, Marian Rosenwasser, spoke about leadership and team development, offering several insightful exercises. For example, one idea that transfers quite easily to business was to simply encourage dialogue with questions related to motivation, mentoring, and passion (i.e., What was your finest moment in sport/business? Talk about someone who motivated you to achieve something you thought was impossible, and what was that thing? Describe a time when you motivated someone to achieve?). Additionally, Dan Santorum, CEO of PTR spoke about the importance of coaches reaching out and getting to know their athletes, even helping those interested in coaching to land summer jobs as tennis instructors. Santorum’s message was clear, the more you extend yourself as the leader, the more the “followers” will become invested in the program.
Both events were fresh, interesting, and offered unique perspectives that could be applied to the business world. In this era of hyper-specialization, perhaps we’d be better off learning from various disciplines. I gain a tremendous amount from talking with coaches and instructors about team building and leadership. I value their perspective, and am grateful for the opportunities I have to learn.
Thanks to Brandyn and the Sanchez-Casal crew as well as Nancy Breo and the ITA for including me and hosting such outstanding events.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
winning advocacy for public policies that encourage the discovery of life-saving and life enhancing new medicines for patients by pharmaceutical/biotechnology research companies.
This is the silly season. We’ve been having this conversation for the last two years. It will continue to happen while I’m at the University of Cincinnati, because nobody thinks that Cincinnati is a destination job.
We ain't going to lose him. He ain't going nowhere. He already addressed the team on that a couple of days ago. That's dust under the rug. It's been popping up everywhere. Coach, he didn't shy away from it. Coach said, 'Listen guys, I'm here. I'm here to stay. I like you guys. I like the city. I like my team.' He's never lied to me personally.
Just blindsided by the fact that it's a business. People lose sight of that. At the end of the day, NCAA football is a business. People have got to make business decisions.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
I clap my hands, slack jawed and slumped, stupefied with Jeff Immelt’s urging to revitalize and refocus leadership in America. For me this is a moment, an alignment of ideas, of vision, of dreams . . . the products of imagination.
To little fanfare in the major news outlets (A Financial Times Article), GE CEO, Jeff Immelt, stood before an audience at West Point yesterday (12/9/09) and spoke of a need to move beyond the leadership foibles of his generation. During the middle of an always-exuberant Army-Navy Week, Immelt served up an incisive and perhaps historic argument that We must build a new generation of leaders to create a different future, but added a much-needed zest of repentance.
Through his treatise, entitled Renewing American Leadership, Immelt explored five indispensable leadership skills for a world that is reeling from economic fall-out, environmental decline, socio-political unrest, and unscrupulous business sense. He detailed the elements of the accomplished future leader: An active listener and systems thinker who overcomes bureaucratic sloth through empowerment and trust, inspires with vision and achievement, and does so out of respect and adoration for others.
Immelt also articulated a need for change, and pledged his allegiance to the cause:
The residue of the past was a more individualistic “win-lose” game. The 21st century is about building bigger and diverse teams; teams that accomplish tough missions with a culture of respect.
We are committed to renewing American leadership.
And, what is most stunning, amidst his efforts, he noted the failings of his generation’s leaders, laying on the table a precursor for healing and progress, an acknowledgement of flaw, fault, and selfish single-mindedness.
I think we are at the end of a difficult generation of business leadership, and maybe leadership in general. Tough-mindedness, a good trait – was replaced by meanness and greed – both terrible traits. Rewards became perverted. The richest people made the most mistakes with the least accountability. In too many situations, leaders divided us instead of bringing us together.
As a result , the bottom 25% of the American population is poorer than they were 25 years ago. That is just wrong.
To this end, these are thrilling times. Change is afoot, and we stand at the groundswell of what could be a reformation of leadership, business, and political practices for centuries to come. The rules of engagement are changing because they have to, and amidst a sea that often seems dark and stormy, it is refreshing to hear Immelt step forward and lead beneath a mantle of inspired and progressive thought.
Perhaps even more thrilling, it seems as if Immelt is more than just talk , as he's proven to put his money where his mouth is before. While it will be interesting to see what he does for 2009, in 2008 he forewent a bonus that was projected to exceed $12 million in the name of what was best for GE and possibly his image. Although some may rightfully suggest that his leadership legacy is still in question, Immelt seems to be trying, and we need more of that.
I highly recommend this speech, and am eager to hear your thoughts . . .
Monday, December 7, 2009
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Like many, I enjoy Shafeen Charania’s blog, ~synthesis~. Charania’s posts are insightful, accessible, impassioned, and sincere. He crystallizes and critiques larger issues through honest and personal commentary, and offers a running litany of impressions, ideas and opinions that stand apart from the synthetic, commercialized and bureaucratic feel of larger media outlets.
In Charania’s December 1st post, Y-shmy, he discusses the recent boom of Gen-Y banter that’s been swelling throughout the country. He digs into the absurdity of appeasing a generation within the vast context of the workplace, and also suggests that many are either falling victim or preying on the idea that there is some sort of fix to casually and successfully integrating an entire populace into the workforce. He is clear that people work for cash, work hard to be a contributing member of something successful, and work even harder when the leaders of an organization genuinely embrace the mission and people working to achieve it. In his closing he states:
Authentic commitment to greatness requires leaders to care - it requires leaders to be transparent and accountable, and it requires absolute integrity.
If you need HR and predatory consultants to "help" you understand people - perhaps it's because you've stopped being one yourself.
As a consultant, Charania’s phrasing made me wince. Is that how people see me? I don’t even dabble in generational issues, but I am passionate about leadership development, and I don’t see myself as a predator. I also don’t see the individuals I partner with as hapless automatons, at a loss of human understanding and compassion. In fact, much of my clientele is comprised of the opposite: invested professionals who are caring and engaged, eager to keep pushing themselves to be the best they can be.
I appreciate Charania’s point of view, and agree that he touches on a plausible and realistic concern: There certainly are some who need to find it within themselves to grow, and there are other’s who will take advantage of general insecurities for personal gain. However, I caution against perceiving the issue in black and white terms. People who earnestly seek to better themselves, regardless of how, are rarely deserving of criticism – they may benefit from pointed redirection, but criticism would seem to miss the mark. Some don’t need teachers to help them with math, others don’t need trainers to stay conditioned. However, for those who invite the assistance, give them the benefit of the doubt. Additionally, what if those math prodigies had someone to push them to the next level? Either way, self-improvement on any level seems admirable, regardless of the process.
In my line of work, I partner with leaders of varying sorts to facilitate growth and development. I don’t have all the answers, and I’m not solely concerned about my profits. Just as that trainer works with his/her clients to get them to the next level physically, I enjoy watching personal and team growth within organizations of all types. Similarly, I can’t lift anyone’s weights, I make suggestions, engage in dialogue, and together strength is built. I would hope that not all consultants are predators, and I don’t think that all struggling leaders have lost their humanity – There’s got to be some acceptable middle ground.
Oh, and about Gen Y in the workforce. There’s reason to grapple with Charania a bit more, as his theory that we’re all in it for the dough may be a bit off base. Sure, everyone wants to get paid, but when you have options, other factors weigh heavy. Perhaps all the hub-bub is at least worth a glance, as trends and motivations are changing, and with Gen Y being the as big as it is as well as the flavor of the month, the information they have to offer may benefit conscientious employers and leaders. While there are plenty of resources out there, the following articles offer some succinct insights into the varying motives (e.g., Social Impact, Flexibility, Personal Development, Environmentally Conscientious, etc.) of the evolving workforce (How Gen Y & Boomers Will Reshape Your Agenda & Gen Y in the workforce).
I look forward to the comments, and keep doing your thing, whatever it may be, to be an informed, compassionate and thriving leader!