Doug Hoffman

A Conversation About Leadership, Part 3

This segment concludes this series on leadership…

Doug: I have been on both sides of the leadership scenario you describe and have had some victories and have made some pretty big mistakes. I remember one situation where I was new in a leadership position and had a substantial project to get done under great pressure. The people who were truly on my team allowed me both the freedom to ask a lot of them and the leeway to make mistakes. The challenge came with people who joined the team later, after the project had momentum.

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A Conversation About Leadership, Part 2

Doug: Great, so a leader is someone who produces extraordinary results and around whom other leaders emerge and for the moment we are discussing specifically leaders of teams of people rather than people who “lead themselves”. You mention the hurdles of producing the result and in my experience the hurdles are a critical part of the process.

How does a leader get a team of people, each of whom may have issues or challenges personally, through a process of producing the intended results?

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A Conversation About Leadership, Part 1

The following pages represent an ongoing conversation between, Allan Scherr and Douglas Hoffman. The subject is leadership. In this post and the ones that follow, we will be speaking about leadership both in terms of theory and in practical experience. We invite all comments and additions to the conversation.

Doug: Allan, I have been reading on Linkedin, conversation after conversation, attempting to boil leadership down to its simplest elements. And while I appreciate the intention, I am amazed at times by the diversity of reply.

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(Not) Career Coaching

First: I am not in the business of career coaching. Now, there have been many times when I examined my career, and many more when I have been with others through that journey. I have enjoyed the process, as have the people with whom I have shared the experience. We have produced the intended results. In every case, as I see it, the career that will be most satisfying will be one that occurs as a natural self-expression. And yet, for many people, the inquiry into what they really want to be doing has been a long and fruitless one.

I have worked through the following process with at least two dozen people and we have found it valuable. Ultimately, what we are looking for has two parts: first, find that thing that you so can’t help but do that sometimes your friends wish you could; and second, figure out who wants to pay you well for doing that.

A valuable frame of reference is that there are many job searches that are not career searches, and it is good to know the difference. If someone needs a job, then they need a job.  A job pays bills and supports life. Sometimes, looking for the perfect career is not the wise move. Sometimes one simply needs a job. Now, it won’t hurt a person to go through this process even if all they need is a job. Getting a job doesn’t mean that pursuing a career cannot be done, it is just that a job is often something needed with urgency, and this process is not that. A career choice can take time and it seems it is best done when urgency is not a factor.

There are two primary inquiries here. The first is the following greatness and passion exercise. The second is described below that and involves looking at the job market.

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From Here To Breakthrough (for organizations with a foundation of success)

Let’s start where you are.  Your organization is meeting expectations.  Clearly what you do works.  You have a track record of producing reliable results and growing at a rate that is satisfactory.  You know how to do many things that when combined, produce predictable results.  You sell an acceptable amount of product or service, deliver it at an acceptable quality of service and do so at a margin that works.  This demonstrates a sensible approach and solid management.  Without both, this would not be possible.  This represents an excellent foundation for true high performance with two caveats. First, A solid reliable organization cannot make dramatic shifts, what we call breakthroughs, without recognizing that breakthrough performance does not come from what we already know.  Second, leaders must be willing to commit to getting somewhere specific.  Without a known destination it is possible to do lots of great work, but it is not possible to correct our course.  Predictable breakthroughs happen only when we know where we are going and they happen in an environment where we are willing to work with the unknown as well as the known. 

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Buying Leadership Support: A Biased Opinion On The Single Most Important Factor in Choosing A Coach/ Trainer/ Consultant

Over the past 18 years I have worked with clients and colleagues on literally hundreds of projects.  I have done so in the context of Leadership Development, Training, Consulting or Coaching.  I have been told that for most organizations, the cost of such development work has been thought of as HR cost, an investment in their people and as such an overhead issue.  In my experience, this is an error.  In my opinion, organizations get the greatest value when their retained support is focused on and committed to producing specific results that make a difference to the organization at the bottom line.  This applies equally to corporate organizations and non-governmental organizations, (NGO’s).  My suggestion: do not ever hire anyone to train or coach the leadership of your company who will not agree to be responsible for the results that are produced as a result of said engagement.  There is such a thing as a consulting engagement where what you are asking for is nothing more than opinion and advice.  Even in this case, what will be the outcomes if you follow that advice?  A consultant who will not commit is not worth retaining. 

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You’ve Got To Know When To Hold ‘Em, Know When To Fold ‘Em

What does a deck of cards have to tell us about leadership and teams?  I suggest that we look at the poker hand as an analogy for a team, and that we consider the suits and numbers as characteristic of human traits. I will go through the values of hands (team structures) in order and briefly discuss the characteristics of the individual suits and higher-ranking cards. And, if anyone does not know, a poker hand has 5 cards.
I will refer to two different types of alignment: an alignment of perspective (where one is standing) and an alignment of intention (what one is committed to).  I suggest that the number or value of the card represents perspective, and the suit represents what one is committed to. I’ll start with the four suits (commitments).

ALS On The Road: The People of India

I recently returned from a business trip to India and I am deeply moved by what I have seen of the people and what I see as the future of that nation.  I am also inspired to look at the America I know, and to offer my thoughts about what it is we have to learn from what is happening over there.  I am clear that at least once in American history, we were a nation much like they are now: proud to be who we are, anxious for the opportunity to learn more and to work harder and willing to do what it takes.  We were a nation where innovation was the rule and created new opportunities constantly.  

From the people I met in India I regained a connection to what it takes to become a great nation, a global leader. None of this is intended to exalt India or its people as if they have no problems, nor is it intended to put down the US, but to offer a critical look at the patterns of thought and behavior that have move people, organizations, nations forward and some that don’t.

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ALS On The Road: India

For this month, I am simply going to start a thread.  I am currently in India working with an amazing company called Seed Infotech.  I have only been here about 24 hours but would like to share some of what I have noticed, and invite you to take a look at something for yourself.

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