Monday, December 13, 2010

Is Leadership dead?

In 1943 Nietzsche rocked the Christian and theological establishments with his assertion that "God is dead". A few years later (1952) JB Phillips continued this "rocking" in his book "Your God is Too Small". Once the shock and horror from the establishment had abated, these works (and others like the writings of Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann, Dietrich Bonheoffer, Paul Tillich etc) lead to many questioning their faith and, for some it lead to a new and deeper understanding of what they believe and why. [More recently, of course, the shock was continued by people such as John Robinson and John Spong]

Is “leadership” dead? Just as Nietzsche, Barth, Bultmann, Bonheoffer, Tillich, Robinson, Spong and others forced the Christian and theological establishments to re-examine their beliefs and concepts, has the time come when we need to seriously reconsider our leadship beliefs and concepts?

No matter what any person’s personal views relating to Julian Assange, the current furore around Wikileaks provides a focus for this question.

When I talk with people at any level of virtually any organisation I invariably hear that the problem they face is “leadership”. (A few years ago it was “communication”.) When I ask for clarification I get a shopping list of issues and concerns such that it would wear out a series of magic wands if they were all to be addressed.

It seems to me that "leadership" now seems to be a catch-all term (a bit like "communication"). That being the case, has the time now come when we should be considering whether the term "leadership" has lost its impact and whether we need to radically rethink the whole concept by moving out of all the traditional concepts like "servant leadership", "situational leadership", “contingency leadership”, “leadership habits” etc that are based on attitudes and behaviours?

In “Third Generation Leadership: how to develop commitment and accountability in the 21st century” I suggest that the 1980’s brought about a seismic shift in the way leadership operates. I say in that book: “Gen Y finds rigid reporting structures and narrow sources of information to be a foreign concept. Their whole life has been lived in a world of personal computers, mobile phones, the internet, social networking, and the like. They have learned that by using the internet and the search engine of their choice they can find out almost anything about anyone at any time – and some of what they find out will even be accurate! Gen Y has an expectation that information will be readily available and that they will be involved in determining the accuracy and utility of such information.”

I wrote that long before Wikileaks was forefront of international consciousness but recent events demonstrate how accurate I was. “Leadership” as it largely exists today pertains to power and authority. In such an approach the ownership and control of information and knowledge is a very effective power base that can be used for good or evil but, almost always, to further the ambitions and desires of the leadership elite. This is as true in families as it is in organisations and nations. Most of the reaction against Julian Assange and Wikileaks relates not so much to what is being released but the very fact of this power base now being eroded.

If this forces us to reconsider the whole concept of “leadership” perhaps its not totally a bad thing.

I'd love to know what you think. Please make your comments below.

More information about me at

and at

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

... and start all over again!

“Failure is a word I don't accept” – John Johnson

Johnson was a “self made man” in the USA who became one of the first Afro Americans to establish a major international business. He attributed his success to the fact that he never allowed external circumstances to dictate how he should feel, think, or act. He saw issues and problems as something to be overcome rather than as things that would destroy him.

The many things I remember from my childhood include a ditty from a movie called, I think, “I love Melville”. It went “Life has its funny little ups and downs, downs and ups, ups and downs” and gave me the impression that its always important to get up and try again after any fall. Those childhood memories also include the words, from I think, another movie “pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and start all over again.”

The end of any year is a time for reflection.

All of us have experienced many things during 2010. Some of these have been the ‘highs’ that we wanted – happy moments and times we consider the successes of the year. For many people these ‘highs’ vastly outnumber the ‘lows’ and, for some, may even mean that the ‘lows’ are forgotten. That’s a nice position to be in.

But for others, right now the ‘lows’ dominate. Just yesterday I was talking to a woman in her 40’s who, very early in the conversation made the comment that she had recently buried a teenage son. I can hardly imagine what this woman and her family must be feeling. Last Friday I heard that a friend from earlier years had lost his business and his home because of international economic factors. I know he will be devastated but making contact with him in order to provide support is proving difficult. Aged in his early 60’s, he’s going to find it hard to start again.

These are extremes. Fortunately most of us won’t have experienced things as devastating as this. But no matter what we have experienced - whether it is the ‘highs’ or the ‘lows’ – the critical thing is how we respond to it.

From my own experience, sometimes it seems as though it is easier to pick yourself up after a really significant “low” than it is after a whole series of smaller “lows”. It’s a bit like the “boiled frog syndrome” – when the temperature rises slowly the cumulative effect isn’t noticed in time to do something about it, but when the temperature rises suddenly the frog escapes and survives.

I wonder what 2010 held for you. More importantly, I wonder how you dealt with whatever happened.

I'd love to know what you think of this. Please make your comments below.

More information about me at and my video blog is at

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Battle for the Mind

“If you believe you can,


if you believe you can’t …

Either way you are right!”

I came across this quotation recently and thought it warranted further consideration.

It is, of course, very true.

Almost every person is born with virtually unlimited potential in terms of their ability to develop. Not everyone can be (or wants to be) an elite athlete or a Nobel Prize winner, but almost anyone can mature to be the person that he or she wants to be. The problem is that, in many cases, this maturing is negatively impacted by our self-talk. And much self talk arises out of feedback we experience.

Unfortunately many of us have learned disappointment and failure. Growing up our parents, teachers, and other important influences told us “you can’t do that” – and too often punished us when we tried! At work we were told “it’s not your role to think. Just do as I tell you!” And so our attempts to be creative or to innovate were crushed and we learned not to try. Even when we knew processes and results could be improved, we learned to say nothing and to “fit in” if we wanted to get on or even just wanted to remain employed.

While it is true that, ultimately, each of us is responsible for the choices and decisions we make and it is equally true that we each have a significant impact on whether or not we achieve whatever it is we consider “success”, it is also true that the type of leadership we have received and the type of leadership we provide has a very real impact – either positively or negatively.

First Generation Leadership and Second Generation Leadership were pretty comfortable with followers experiencing learned helplessness. Where the emphasis was on compliance or conformance it was disconcerting and a threat to have followers who were thinking for themselves – after all, they might challenge the status quo and that could affect me.

Third Generation Leadership operates in a different mind space.

A Third Generation Leader wants people to think and to question. A Third Generation Leader knows that peak performance of an individual, a unit, or an organisation is only possible when everyone is fully engaged with their tasks and those around them. A Third Generation Leader knows that he or she doesn’t have all the answers – and, in fact, may not have many answers at all. But a Third Generation Leader knows that time and again the answers to problems and issues encountered are to be found in the collective wisdom and thinking of everyone involved. In order to harness this collective wisdom, a Third Generation Leader knows that it is essential to create an environment in which the battle for the mind is won by “I believe I can”.

And that requires a different sort of feedback and lots of encouragement.

Please let me know what you think of this. Make your comments below.

More information about Doug Long at

More information about Third Generation Leadership at

Monday, November 15, 2010

How to achieve peak performance

There are 5 critical steps in obtaining peak performance:

1. Don’t expect respect.

2. Don’t think you’ve got the answer

3. Don’t pretend

4. Get out of the way

5. Say “thank you”

Don’t expect respect

One of the earliest lessons I received from my first boss was: “work with your people: don’t expect them to work for you.” What this means is that you cannot expect to be respected and to achieve results simply because you're "the boss". Respect is something you earn and until you have earned the respect of your people there is little or no probability that your unit will achieve peak performance as frequently as may desired.

You don’t have to be liked to be respected and there’s a huge difference between “liking” and “respecting”. You need to be respected.”

The steps to earning this respect are:

Don’t think you’ve got the answer

The first step in obtaining respect is to understand the difference between things that are negotiable and things that are not. When it comes to safety issues like the use of equipment and working conditions, the rules and regulations pertaining to these are designed to minimise the probability of injury or accident to others. Here there is no room for discussion or error.

But other matters are open to discussion. The objectives and strategy might be given from the top and the tactics might come from your immediate boss but the implementation of these in the most effective way usually has reasonable degrees of freedom at an operational level. Draw on the knowledge and experience of your people. In my experience, once people realise that you are genuinely asking for their input, they freely give it. The results then become theirs - not yours alone.

Don’t pretend

The need for integrity and authenticity should always be apparent. Most people in Australia have a very well developed “bullshit detection meter”. They can quickly distinguish between an academic or theoretical solution to a problem and a solution that is based on experience. Learn to make clear the difference between what you have been taught in your education or training and your experience. Then open the issue up for input from them as to what is the optimal way forward. The result should be a blend of knowledge and experience that results in everyone learning from each other and a deepening of trust and respect that will ensure that, when required, things will be done without question and with absolute commitment to the goals, the unit, and each individual. You might be “the boss” but without their commitment you can achieve almost nothing.

Get out of the way

Central to this concept of trust is learning not to micro manage. Your role is to ensure everyone has all of the necessary knowledge and skill to do what is required and to develop the level of commitment that will ensure you achieve what is necessary no matter what the personal cost. You need to be a close-knit unit where if someone sees something needing urgent attention he or she has the power and authority to take action without waiting for you to approve it. This means that, at times, you could be a follower who respects and responds to the knowledge and experience of someone technically junior to you. You can't do the work of your people. You can only do your work and your people need to trust that you will do it. You have to trust them to do their work and together you have to achieve results.

Say thank you

Always acknowledge the contribution of others. It is vital that those who make the contributions get the acknowledgment and reward. Learn to never take credit for the input of others and to ensure that the team’s effort is always recognised.

One thing I know for sure: these 5 things apply everywhere. They are critical to good leadership and they provide the base for Third Generation Leadership.

I'd love to know what you think about this. Please provide your comments below.

More information about me at

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What followers need

The research that lead to the concept of Third Generation Leadership showed that there are 4 key things that followers need if they are to provide peak performance - in other words, to do the things that their leaders need them to do in obtaining desired results. These are:

  1. The follower needs to feel absolutely safe both physically and emotionally. This means that there can be no bullying, harassment, or discrimination just as much as it means that the highest standards of occupational health and safety standards should apply. When a person feels threatened in any way their attention is directed to avoiding, eliminating, or minimising the effect of the threat and so they are unable to give other activities the engagement required and performance suffers. Any form of threat will reduce long term overall performance even if, in the short term, it achieves results.
  2. The follower needs to feel respected by his or her leader. Where the follower does not feel respected, this lack of respect is reciprocated and the follower is not committed to giving his or her best to the task at hand - in the worst case scenarios the follower will actively work to denigrate or embarrass the leader. While most leaders are perfectly happy to give conditional respect - in other words, 'do what I want and I will respect you' - the evidence is that only unconditional respect can totally remove all feelings of threat.
  3. The follower needs to feel listened to by his or her leader. This is clearly related to the concept of unconditional respect. Virtually every consultant with whom I've spoken, as well as from my own experience, knows that people "down the food chain" generally know both what are the issues in any organisation and they can generally tell you pretty sensible ways of addressing these issues. When a leader acts as though he or she has all the answers they invariably limit the ability of people to perform at their best.
  4. The follower needs to feel believed in by his or her leader. Its the old concept of self fulfilling prophecy. People perform in accordance with the belief shown in them - and this belief shows itself in actions and attitudes rather than in words.
Third Generation Leadership isn't rocket science. Third Generation Leadership is learning how to engage followers with each other as well as with the things that need to be done.

More information available at and at

Please let me know what you think about this. Post your comments below.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

There's no leadership to be seen yet

I had hoped that, by now, commonsense might prevail and that we might have seen some leadership from both sides of Australian Federal politics. Silly of me I know! It's one of the problems with being an optimist!
While I fully understand that some people in politics see it as a game of win-lose power play, there actually is a serious side to all the fun - and I don't mean the huge superannuation payouts and high levels of influence that tend to come after one retires from the political fray - there really is a responsibility to try and create an environment in which succeeding generations can live and prosper.
This message seems lost to both parties at the moment.
Like many others, I am tired of the game playing. Recently I heard one senior Coalition frontbencher comment that the members of the Liberal and Country parties expected and wanted the Coalition to try and destroy the Government. In the Sydney Morning Herald of Monday September 27, another Coalition frontbencher was reported as laughing when reminded of comments made when both parties were negotiating to become the minority government. An additional comment seemed to indicate that, in this person's mind, subterfuge and dishonesty is ok if it gains the end you desire.
Of course, more recently we have had the on-going unedifying fracas between John Howard and Peter Costello - neither of whom come out of it very well.
We appear to have degenerated into a country run by "little" people - people who are small in their minds, who have lost sight of the visions that gave us the Snowy Hydro Scheme, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House, and the tremendous leaps in infrastructure that occurred under governments of all persuasions many years ago. If John Howard could be nicknamed "Little Johnny", then a similar sobriquet could also be applied to "Little Julia" and "Little Tony".

We need leaders with vision - leaders who place their own ambition in a position secondary to the needs of the country. As in the business world where time and again we see long term viability subordinated to short term results, in the political arena we are seeing the desire to score points and obtain power trumping over approaches that will take us into the distant future. We need leaders who develop a commonality of purpose among all groups - a desire to ensure a better world for our grandchildren's grandchildren - and who engage us all in the process.
We need Third Generation Leaders for this Third Generation Leadershipo environment. I've had enough of First and Second Generation Leaders in all areas of life.
To learn more about Third Generation Leadership go to
I'd love to know your thoughts. Please post your comments below.
More information about me at

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Leaders and Threat

So Tony Blair's memoirs are out. I haven't yet read them but apparently he partly justifies the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan by claiming that it was necessary to send the message that attacking the USA would not be tolerated. On the radio yesterday I heard an interview in which Blair went on to say that the greatest threat to world peace was Islamic fundamentalism.

Sounds pretty screwed up to me. Sure as sure can be, it doesn't look or sound like leadership. It sounds far more like the actions of the schoolyard bully and his/her mates who have the attitude we can do what we like and don't you dare touch us.

But Blair is right on one thing. The greatest threat to world peace is fundamentalism - but it doesn't matter whether the label is Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, or anything else. Immediately any person or group claims to be the only purveyor of truth - to be the only way to righteousness and God (no matter how 'God' may be defined) - and makes it clear that they are prepared to use violence (physical, emotional, or mental) in order to achieve their goals we have a problem.

This is the realisation stated by General Petraeus in his condemnation of the plan by the Dove Outreach Centre in Florida to burn copies of the Koran. I suspect that members of the Dove Outreach Centre would see the burning of the Bible as an act of violence and I suspect they would argue for retaliation against anyone who committed what they would see as an act of sacrilege. They have a total right to have such feelings. But equally the Muslim community have the same right to feel affronted and attacked by the burning of the Koran.

Unfortunately the statement by Blair that identifies only Muslim fundamentalism and his comments justifying the invasion of Iraq give the totally wrong message. It is a toxic message - one that gives succour to extremists of other faiths - and by such action exacerbates both the possibility and the probability of violence.

True leadership recognises that the issue is far more complex than the simplistic idea of sending "a message of total clarity to the world" after September 11. True leadership is far more complex than attacking the activities of one extremist group while ignoring or tacitly condoning the activities of other extremist groups. True leadership seeks to deal with the root causes - what Deming (the father of the Quality movement) called the systems causes as opposed to the special causes. And this is something that the past and current activities in Iraq and Afghanistan fail to do.

We need leadership that can deal with the increasing amounts of ambiguity and uncertainty that exist in every arena of life. First and Second Generation Leadership have got us into this mess. We need Third Generation Leadership to get us out of it. A clue to what this might be like can be found at

Please let me know what you think about this. You can make comments below.

Further information about Doug Long at

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Its all about ambiguity!

The current federal political situation in Australia is symptomatic of the problems with First Generation Leadership and Second Generation Leadership. Both of these depend on hierarchy and control. They both make it clear as to where the "real" power lies and who is in charge. They are both totally inadequate for situations where there is a significant amount of complexity and ambiguity.

Of course our media are inextricably linked into this model, too. The impact of this is that on TV, radio, and in the print media we are confronted by calls for "certainty" and an end to what is seen as an impasse. First Generation Leadership (compliance) and Second Generation Leadership (conformance) seek to bring things back to levels of simplicity that can be handled by people who lack the requisite ability to deal with the reality of ambiguity and complexity.

The truth is that the people of Australia have made it clear that they don't really think either major party is up to the task of governing. They don't really trust either party - and with good reason. And the media "shock jocks" especially are affronted by this.

Our two party political system has lied us into wars of choice that have lead to the deaths of 21 soldiers and countless others wounded or emotionally affected. Our two party political system has seen the main contestants vie with each other as to who can be tougher on refugees and the disadvantaged. Our two main political parties wasted their campaigns by rubbishing their opponents and failed to give us any reason to vote for them. Our two main political parties are both subject to the whims and fancies of unelected power brokers with vested and undeclared interests that, in reality, have little or nothing to do with what is best for Australia overall.

Now these parties have to negotiate with people they have tried to marginalise and/or ignore for years - people who once were members of their parties but who rejected them. The scarcely hidden anger and frustration from the establishment is great.

Personally I don't think any political party is a good one - in fact I think political parties indicate a decline in democracy. Equally I think there is a danger in a small number of independents being able to ultimately decide what is done.

We need a new approach to leadership - one that is able to understand and to deal effectively with increasing amounts of ambiguity and complexity. We need to make the shift to Third Generation Leadership.

Please let me know what you think about this. You can post your comments below.

More information about Doug Long at

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Australian Elections - failures in leadership

What an election campaign that was! The two major parties proved very adept at pointing out the faults of their opponents. A lack-lustre campaign by people who seem to have little or no understanding of what leadership is all about. No wonder we're stuck with a hung parliament!

There have been 2 generations of leadership in the past. First Generation Leadership was all about obedience. Second Generation Leadership was all about conformance. You don't need vision and inspiration for these - all you need is a desire to obtain power or to remain in power.

Third Generation Leadership is about engaging people and enabling them to achieve great things. Neither the Liberal-National Coalition nor the Labor Party offered this. (And neither did the others to any extent.)

What a travesty. No matter who wins we'll wind up with mediocrity dragging us further into mediocrity. We've got Second Generation Leaders trying to use First Generation Leadership approaches in a Third Generation Leadership world. In my 34 years in Australia I have never before experienced such a rubbish campaign or seen such mediocrity in both major parties.

Australia deserves better than this.

Please let me know what you think about this posting. Place you comments below.

More information about Douglas Long at

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Improved Profits

"How can Third Generation Leadership increase my organisation's profitability?" That was a question posed to me recently. The answer is simple.

Trust the people you work with (not just the managers) and, working with them in a very open session at which everything is "on the table", work through the following process:
  1. Make a list of all the things impact on your organisation's ability to operate profitably.
  2. Sort the list into two groups - those things within your organisation and those things external to your organisation
  3. Sort the "internal" list into the following categories: knowledge, strategy, non-human resources, structure, human process
  4. Very honestly and as impartially as possible, assess each item in each category of this list as to whether it actively enhances profitability, impedes profitability (usually by causing a problem or blockage that affects some other item from functioning effectively), or operates in such a way as to prevent profitability
  5. Determine how to rid your organisation of those things that prevent profitability and clear the impediments
  6. Determine how those items enhancing profitability can be further supported
  7. Sort the "external" list into the following categories: those you can influence, those you cannot influence
  8. Develop a very clear plan for positively influencing each item you can influence and develop an approach for dealing with those items you cannot influence
  9. Empower everyone to make the new plan work

A First Generation Leader or a Second Generation Leader will try to control this discussion and will see as a threat any suggestions which question the leader's thought process and preferred approach. Such leaders will make it clear that some items are not open for consideration. This is a red zone approach.

A Third Generation Leader will operate from his or her brain's blue zone of control. This will allow full engagement with everyone involved and enable new and creative solutions and approaches to be developed. By then trusting people to actually implement what they have worked on developing, their commitment and competence will be harnessed towards achieving what needs to be done.

I'd love to know what you think of this. Please post a comment below.

More information about Doug Long at

Friday, July 9, 2010

Leadership, winter, rain, and puppies!

Those of us living in Sydney know that lately we've had some pretty cold and miserable weather. Yesterday I had to go to Hornsby to do some shopping (not my favourite past time!). The shopping centre was pretty full (school holidays and all) and the retailers should have been very happy with the floor traffic.

I'm a "people watcher" and I decided that having a cup of coffee was a good idea. (Those who know me are very aware that I can almost always find any excuse for a cup of coffee!) I chose a coffee shop quite close to a pet store. Now I don't really like pet stores both because so many of them sell animals bred in "puppy farms" and the like and also because the very presence of pet stores can encourage emotional responses that result in many people buying puppies, kittens, or other pets that they don't really want and that may later be abandoned or abused. However this time I noticed that the pet store was having an interesting and positive effect on shoppers.

From where I sat I could see people coming down the mall from near the car park and most seemed to look quite dismal and disgruntled. Perhaps it was the time of the year and the rain, but people looked grumpy and anxious. Even infants and young children seemed subdued and a bit sullen.

I noticed that almost everyone seemed to head for the pet shop. Even if they were on the other side of the mall most people seemed to cross over to look at the animals as they passed. Behind the glass the puppies were playing in the shredded paper that lined their cages. the puppies were full of the joy of being alive. They were being, well, puppies!

And the effect on the shoppers was instant. Almost without exception, after watching the puppies for a few seconds, people moved on with a lighter step and a smile on their face. Whatever concerns people may have had, for a few moments these were dispelled as the puppies brought some light and sunshine.

It made me think.

As leaders what are we doing to bring some light and sunshine into the lives of those we lead? Part of our role is to inspire.

Perhaps there's a leadership lesson from puppies.

I'd like to know what you think of this. Please make your comment below.

More information about Doug Long at

Friday, July 2, 2010

Third Generation Leadership = Engagement

It is interesting to note that various articles in the mass media have picked up on the issue of relationships and how they affect engagement. The most recent trigger for this has been the change of Prime Minister in Australia.

In Australia, Prime Ministers are not elected by the people. Political parties determine their leaders and, following national elections, a particular political party (or coalition of parties) is elected to govern and the leader of that party then becomes Prime Minister. As has been graphically illustrated in the Kevin Rudd situation, a failure to engage both the general populace and your party colleagues, can lead to a rapid demise.

I note that apparently some of our business leaders (particularly in the retail arena) are using various forms of subterfuge in order to catch "slackers" at work. It seems that they feel their sales figures would be improved if people worked harder and so they want to find out who is not working as hard as perhaps they could. Clearly there is an associated implication that any "slackers" so discovered will have committed a "career limiting" activity!

I suggest that a better approach might be to improve the quality of leadership.

Most people want to do a good job. That which stops them tends to be problems in the quality of leadership or in some systems issue within the organisation. Those familiar with the concepts of Total Quality and the work of Edwards Deming will understand this.

If an organisation is not meeting the performance required, the first place to look is at the leadership. If the leader is failing to engage those with whom he or she is working, performance becomes a random variable!

I'd like to know what you think about this. Please post comments below.

More information about Doug Long at

Friday, June 25, 2010

Third Generation Leadership engages people

It doesn't really matter what I might think of Kevin Rudd, Tony Abbott, Julia Gillard or any other politician. What does matter is what may be learned from the absolutely unbelievable last few days in Australian politics.

The dominant leadership model today in politics as in most other areas of life is either First Generation Leadership in which obedience is demanded or Second Generation Leadership in which conformance is rewarded and non conformance is punished. Both of these are leadership approaches in which the emphasis is on hierarchy and control. These are the approaches which lead to "strong" leadership which sets goals and then brooks no denial or excuse in the attainment of these goals.

Unfortunately for the advocates of these approaches, increasing numbers of people today are refusing to accept that these are the best, or even the only, way to lead.

Last evening I built a list of the Prime Ministers in Australia since 1976 (when arrived here). Without exception they have been people who maintained very tight control over their parties and over the public servants who answered to them. Like them or loathe them, each of them have achieved much and each of them has fallen short in one or another area. In every case, eventually people rebelled against their controls and an increasing number of "leaks" made their way to the public arena with consequent embarrassment to the leader and/or his party.

Third Generation Leadership takes a totally different approach. Third Generation Leadership doesn't demand compliance or conformance. Third Generation Leadership is based on the concept of engaging with people so that they want to follow. The first step in bringing this about lies in the leader earning the respect of those he or she wants to lead.

From where sit, it seems that this is 180 degrees from the approach generally seen. My observations indicate that our "leaders" seem to expect respect to be automatic given their role.

My observations also indicate that this approach is failing.

Its about time we got leaders in every area of life who concentrated on engaging with people in such a way that people want to follow. And that will require a huge change in the attitudes and behaviour of virtually all those who claim to lead.

I'd love to know what you think of this. Please post a comment below.

More information about Doug Long at

Friday, June 18, 2010

Conditional Respect is Red Zone, Stupid

Well, what a week or two!

Its only a short time since those seeking to break the blockade of Gaza received far more publicity and sympathy than could have been imagined by the stupid (and probably criminal) actions of Israeli forces boarding a ship in international waters and killing at least 9 of those people who, despite what some may say, sought quite legally to defend themselves against this attack.

Its just 10 days since a footballer, Timana Tahu, was prepared to step away from a career high point - representing his state in the Australian Rugby League (RFL) State of Origin series - in order to draw attention to blatantly racist statements by one of RFL's previous "greats". [Despite this ARL experience, in the past 48 hours, we have had two one-time "greats" in the Australian Football League (AFL) again make overtly racist comments.]

That which is common to all of these is the issue of respect.

Clearly the assistant coach in the RFL and the two "greats" from the AFL do not have unconditional respect for all players. Equally clearly the Israeli government does not have unconditional respect for people who fail to comply with what Israel demands. And it is this conditional respect shown sby ome in the RFL and the AFL and by Israel that has caused them problems.

The rights and wrongs of Timana Tahu's action and of the Palestinian blockade will be debated by many and each side is fully entitled to its own opinion. What cannot be denied is that Tahu's reputation has been enhanced while that of the RFL, the AFL, and of Israel has been damaged.

There is no doubt that the actions by those seeking to break the blockade of Gaza were acting provocatively. There is no doubt that the actions of the RFL assistant coach and those of the AFL "greats" were stupid and illegal.

Unfortunately provocation and stupidity are occurrences with which most of us have to deal on a daily basis. For those who operate out of the red zone of conditional respect (see this is not really an issue. They perceive such action as some sort of threat (which may or may not be real) and act accordingly - generally they attack by word or action with the hope that such actions will either stop the situation deteriorating or deter further provocative actions. Unfortunately the long term effects are often far from what is desired - the almost universal condemnation by the international community of Israel's action is a case in point.

And that is where Timana Tahu's behaviour stands out.

Tahu could have reacted from the red zone. He could have had a blazing row and/or have taken legal action against his coach. Instead he chose to quietly withdraw, consider his actions, then act in a way that has ensured he will be considered a hero by many because the issue of racism in sport has received attention is a way that should ensure all codes finally take stringent action to stamp out this scourge. This was blue zone behaviour. This was behaviour that showed ability to deal with ambiguity and complexity in a positive manner.

Third Generation Leadership - that leadership that is now so desperately needed throughout the world is leadership that is possible only when our brains have their locus of control firmly in the blue zone. We could go a long way to resolving most of the provocations, threats, and stupid actions in the personal, national, and international arenas if we learned how to manage down our red zones and manage up our blue zones. And this can be learned.

Please let me know what you think of this posting. You can make comments below.

Further information about Doug Long at

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Reaching Your Potential

We hear a lot today about the need for children and young people to reach their potential. In many places such as Australia any terms which may appear negative are prohibited in our preschools and schools. A person is not allowed to "fail" or "be naughty" - rather the emphasis is on providing feedback in positive terms so that growth will be encouraged. Singling out inappropriate behaviour and using methods such as "the naughty chair" or "time out rooms" are now not allowed in preschool and early school education. The intention is that the child will at all times be treated with respect and that the child's self esteem will be bolstered rather than harmed.

The intention is admirable. For too long we have "put down" people (including children) in the home, at school, in the work place, and in society at large. Those who haven't conformed to what was wanted by the parent, teacher, boss, or other authority figure have been subjected to sarcasm, insults, ridicule, and other elements of institutionalised bullying. The result has been some people with low self esteem who see themselves unable to achieve anything and therefore run the risk of drifting into what has been called "the detritus of society".

Recently in Sydney we had a conference on "Happiness". The emphasis seemed to be on encouraging positive emotions at all times. One speaker, the social researcher Hugh McKay, bucked the trend and made the point that to be fully human and to fully reach our potentials, we need to experience the full gamut of emotions - there is a sense in which we only really understand "happy" when we also know "sad".

We need to concentrate on the positive. No argument with that. But we also need to call inappropriate behaviour for what it is and ensure people (including children) understand both why it is inappropriate and what the appropriate behaviour ought to be. Sometimes this means we need to be very direct and to include some form of penalty that is clearly recognised as such.

This is a key component of Third Generation Leadership. Third Generation Leadership makes a clear distinction between the person (who is always acceptable) and their behaviour (which may not be acceptable). It doesn't 'gild the lily' - it calls behaviour for what it is and deals with that which is unacceptable in a way that doesn't diminish the other person's self esteem but, rather, is designed to help them reach their full potential.

Third Generation Leadership behaviours can be learned. Information about a workshop on this is available from

Please let me know what you think about this. You can make a comment below.

More information about Doug Long at http://www,

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Why I like Gen Y

Recently I was discussing leadership and a few names I didn't know were nominated as leaders who were respected. Enquiry ascertained that these people were considered to be:
  • legitimate
  • effective
  • efficient

Legitimacy was deemed to be "doing the right thing" in that their actions reflected the over-riding moral responsibility of the organisations for which they worked. Effectiveness and efficiency were nominated as measures of how well they carried out their role. Further discussion ascertained that these people were seen as ones who demonstrated:

  • congruence between what they said and did - they seek to be themselves rather than present a facade
  • unconditional positive regard for everyone while having the ability to make it clear when they find behaviour to be unacceptable
  • a willingness to learn from others - to see others more as "peers" rather than as part of some hierarchical structure

What I really like about Gen Y is that, despite whether I may like how they do it, they demonstrate an openness and authenticity that enables them to demonstrate these factors.

I'm rather excited by Gen Y. I like the authenticity I see - even if it is often confronting and means that I have to make personal adjustments.

In Gen Y I see the seeds of openness and harmony. Sure there is serious questioning of the status quo in every area of life including religion and politics. Sure they are blunt and, compared with how I was brought up, often rude and apparently dismissive. Sure there are (and will be) vehement discussions and arguments where enthusiasm often trumps knowledge. But all that is both necessary and healthy - there is much today that is well overdue for change. In Gen Y I see people who just might be able to bring about a world with far less hypocrisy and cant than the one we live in today.

Let me know what you think. Use the comments tag below.

More information about Doug Long at

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Its still a "SNAFU"

On Sunday April 11, the TV station SBS showed an interview with Ken Feinberg of Washington DC in the USA. Feinberg has been appointed to enforce a law passed by the US Congress to curb the excesses of 7 US Corporations bailed out during the global financial crisis. In this interview Feinberg says:

"I have discovered on this job the tremendous gap in perception between the way Wall Street thinks and the way Main Street thinks in America. There is real, justifiable anger and frustration over these excessive Wall Street bonuses, guaranteed salaries, guaranteed commissions - regardless of performance - it is these principles, or these characteristics of Wall Street, that we are trying to change."

As has been said by many people: the only thing we have leaned from history is that we have never learned from history.

Some people in Australia today speak and act as though there never was a global financial crisis. Its as though they live in a fool's paradise in which, because Australia never suffered as badly as every other western economy, there was overreaction by those in authority. When we see the way in which housing prices are again soaring and realise that, again, many people are seeking 100% (or very close to that) finance for their home because they don't want to miss out on this property boom, we can understand the caution and apprehension of Treasury and The Reserve Bank.

There have been figures released recently that indicate the gap between the "haves" and the "have nots" in Australia is widening. God forbid that it should ever reach the levels that exists in the USA and many other countries - although I do see here an increasing incidence of people begging.

The system is broke. Traditional approaches are not going to fix it.

We need re-creation. We need Third Generation Leadership.

More information about Doug Long at

Please let me know what you think of this posting. You can provide feedback by clicking the link below.

Monday, April 5, 2010

On May 25, 1878 the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta "HMS Pinafore" opened in London. In this work Ralph Rackstraw, a "common sailor" and Josephine Corcoran, the daughter of his ship's captain, fall in love - a love that is doomed because of the difference in their social stations. However Little Buttercup, a woman selling goods to the ship's complement, makes the startling admission that, many years before when she was a nursemaid, she mixed up two children. She makes amends for her error by making it clear that Ralph Rackstraw is, in reality, the one of high birth and vice versa. Once this is known, the two switch places and love blossoms.

Gilbert's lyrics were, in part, drawing attention to the sometime farcical situation in which command - leadership - belonged to people by right of birth and had nothing whatsoever to do with competence and training.

This was the world of First Generation Leadership and 1G Leaders. A person's birth determined one's place in society and, therefore, their ability to lead. In the 1950's and 60's this was still a significant (even if diminishing) factor.

Today, at least in developed countries, this style of leadership is seldom encountered and even less accepted. We live in a world in which Third Generation Leadership and 3G Leaders are increasingly demanded across the world.

Third Generation Leadership is the component that can draw together the various leadership approaches being used by any organisation so that the leadership provided in this 21st century is increasingly effective.

Successful organisations tomorrow will be those in which Third Generation Leadership is the norm.

More information about Doug Long at

Please let me know what you think of this. Click on the feedback button below.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Why Teams Don't Work

Back in the 1970's the concept of "teams" started to become a major emphasis. By the 1980's the vogue was very much an emphasis on "teams" and much time and money was invested in team building. It was argued that "teams" would revolutionise the organisation through the synergy that can occur when people work together. The ideal, according to many, was that teams should become self-directed with managers playing a largely supportive role. Of course what happened in practice was that, in the majority of cases there was a shuffling of the deckchairs on the Titanic - the terms changed but everything functioned largely as it always had.

"Teams" are still a major emphasis today. The problem, however, continues to be getting "teams" to actually work as they are intended.

One team of researchers and practitioners from the 1980's (Organizational Psychology Kolb, Rubin & McIntyre) placed the emphasis on "goal issues, role issues, procedural issues, and interpersonal issues". Another team from Harvard University in The Wisdom of Teams (Katzenback & Smith) made similar findings but they added the point that "high-performance teams are extremely rare". Other researchers endorsed this and made the emphasis that the key to effective teams lay in defining what had to be done, clarifying roles and responsibilities, involving team members, and empowering people to act.

Organisations with First Generation Leadership and/or Second Generation Leadership (ie today's dominant organisational model) face a conflict of interest in relation to teams - especially if they try to introduce self-directed teams. By definition these organisations have a defined power structure and those people who want career advancement know that, no matter what the rhetoric, the fact is that the team needs to fit in with what is really wanted by "the boss". This can easily lead to competition between "team members" with (as often happens in sales teams, for example) the prime emphasis being on individual performance rather than on team results.

High performing teams need to operate in an environment:
  • in which the team leader is collaborative
  • there is unconditional respect for every team member
  • questions are openly and frequently invited
  • in which the leader sees him/herself as a fellow team member and a facilitator
  • decisions come from multiple viewpoints and are team based

They need Third Generation Leadership and a 3G Leader.

For more information, see

Please let me know what you think of this. Click on the feedback button below.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The worst of all possible worlds!

I have just been contacted by someone who has been the recipient of some "interesting" human resource management practices.

"Edward" (not his real name) applied for a senior position with a national organisation and eventually made the short list. At this point he was asked for referees and supplied the names and contact details of people for whom and with whom he had worked over the past 20 years. Several weeks passed and, at the start of March, he was contacted and offered the position. He was thrilled. He believed the organisation to be very reputable and professional.

"Edward" had been surprised at the extent to which background checking had been made (it was not a security-orientated position) and felt that, as he put it, he had been "laundered and drycleaned". However this very factor was a key one in making him want the position - "any organisation that is that thorough has to be a good one to work for," he told me.

He had no hesitation in accepting the offer and, at that stage, he was told that a contract would be drawn up for him. Last Friday the contract arrived and he got his lawyer to check it. The consultant's covering letter said how pleased everyone was that he had accepted the job and nominated a starting date. His lawyer suggested some minor changes and the contract documents were back to the company by Wednesday.

On Wednesday evening he was contacted by the consultant who was acting for the company and told that the offer had been withdrawn "as it is too complicated to negotiate the contract". "Edward" is devastated and I suspect that his lawyer may now become a little more involved.

"Edward" has been caught up in a very bad manifestation of what is probably Second Generation Leadership and with the antics of a 2G Leader. Clearly this is an organisation that demands conformance but it may have regressed to a First Generation Leadership approach of demanding obedience. Whatever the generational stage, it now appears clear that they never had any intention of negotiating and that, from their side, the contract was offered on a "take it or leave it" basis. The problem is that they never made this clear to "Edward".

There can be little doubt that the company's "red zone" approach has infected "Edward" and has engendered a red zone response ("red zones" are contagious.) Across Australia, he's got a lot of friends, family and contacts - I have little doubt as to whether or not he will share this experience with them. And neither the company nor its consultant are likely to have their reputations enhanced in those discussions! "Edward" now sees both the consultant and the company as being toxic.

Third Generation Leadership and 3G Leaders don't play these sorts of games. They are honest and transparent. If they make a decision then decide that they made a mistake they are open about this: they explain the what and the how: they seek to minimise the impact of their mistake on everyone involved: and then they move on. Because 3G Leaders show respect to those with whom they interact, they receive respect in return. 3G Leaders are never found in toxic organisations.

More information about Doug Long and how I may be able to help you at

Please let me know what you think about this. Click on the comment box below.

Monday, March 15, 2010

3G Leader Characteristics

In the Harvard Business Review's book "Leaders on Leadership" (1992), Jimmy Carter, past President of the USA, says: "[a leader requires] the ability to work with other people, the capacity to expand one's mind and one's heart as the years go by, and to see the broader dimensions of the future. Most important, it's necessary not to fear the prospect of failure but to be determined not to fail. If a leader is not willing to attempt things that might not succeed, then he has little faith in himself or the goal he seeks to achieve."

In my book "Leaders: diamonds or cubic zirconia" (1998) I quote the people interviewed as stressing the first building block for a leader is for a person to recognise that they have a leadership responsibility and, coupled with this, to have the self confidence to acknowledge they are not always right and so a preparedness to enlist help from others and to apologise when they are wrong.

Both of these are activities that are possible because the leader has moved away from the red zone of anxiety to the blue zone of courage (see They are characteristics of Third Generation Leadership and of 3G Leaders.

Other characteristics of Third Generation Leadership and 3G Leaders are:
  • they engage with others rather than seeking to obtain obedience or compliance
  • they are collaborative and facilitative
  • they encourage growth and self directed learning by everyone
  • they respect other people even if they are not receiving respect in return
  • they invite questions and discussion
  • they ask questions with a view to helping others find their own solutions
  • they listen to help others engage with their own or shared solutions
  • they are totally non discriminatory in thought, word and action

Because of these characteristics, 3G Leaders are able to create environments in which people feel:

  • emotionally safe
  • unconditionally respected
  • believed in as individuals
  • listened to

and these are the critical conditions for people to be engaged not only with what they do but also with those they are doing it with. These are the optimal conditions for organisational and personal success.

More information about Doug Long and how I may be able to help you at

please let me know what you think about this. Click on the "comment" box below.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Third Generation Leadership - Developing 3G Leaders

Over the years there has been recurring discussion relating to leadership development and right now one of the on-line discussion groups I am involved with is looking at the question: "What traits do you think our next generation of leaders should possess?"

There are certain things that seem to be self-evident. My research that lead to the 1998 book "Leaders: diamonds or cubic zirconia?" indicated that knowing yourself and recognising that you do have leadership responsibilities in at least some areas of life is at the very core of any group of essentials. Most leadership development programs address this issue.

But there is another issue that is less often addressed - and even then, often not very well. This is the issue of "creating an environment in which everyone can be successful".

With First Generation Leadership (G1 Leaders) and Second Generation Leadership (G2 Leaders) this was not so much of an issue. However with Third Generation Leadership (G3 Leaders) it is critical.

One of the key researchers of value to G1 Leadership and G2 Leadership in addressing this issue was Elliott Jaques who, in books such as "Requisite Organisation" (1998, Cason Hall & Co), made the point that leaders needed to have greater conceptual and complex information processing skills than their followers if they were to provide an environment in which others could be successful. Jaques' work is still absolutely vital for G3 Leadership.

But G3 Leadership requires another element - it requires the ability to manage down those areas of the brain that are not helpful in leader-follower interactions while simultaneously managing up those areas of the brain that are helpful. I refer to these as "Red Zone" (not helpful) and "Blue Zone" (helpful). Where the leader has his or her brain's locus of control is critical because only G3 Leaders are able to engage everyone with whom they interact: a G2Leader can engage only some and a G1 Leader can engage only a few.

This is the area of leadership development to which I will pay attention in coming blogs.

For more information about Doug Long and how may be able to help you, see

Please let me know what you think about this. Click on the comment link below.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The three generations of leadership - G1 Leadership, G2 Leadership, G3 Leadership

We are all used to hearing about generations of mobile phone technology and G3 is now dominant. Similarly we are used to hearing about the various versions of computer programs - terms like V1, V2, V3 are commonplace.

But what about leadership?

When you read the leadership literature it seems as though there is an underlying assumption that the basics of leadership have remained the same for countless years. I am as guilty as anyone else of allowing this view to continue.

But not any more.

One of my major recent learnings has been that there are at least 3 generations of leadership - we can call these "G1 Leadership" (or "Leadership v1.0"), "G2 Leadership" (or "Leadership v2.0") and "G3 Leadership" (or "Leadership v3.0").

G1 Leadership is characterised by a command and control mentality. It has its origins in the world prior to the Second World War. Leadership in this generation is predicated on the follower being obedient and at all time showing respect for their leaders. Followers are not expected to question the decisions of and/or instructions from their leaders and any questions made by the leader are primarily for the purpose of enabling the leader to make a decision. Followers obtain security and certainty by following the rules in a reasonably predictable world. Hierarchy is seen as natural and essential for the smooth operation of society.

G2 Leadership is a development from this. The key difference is that "conformance" replaces "obedience" although the follower is still expected to show respect for the leader at all times. G2 Leadership arose in the 1940's and 50's out of research by management theorists and humanistic psychologists who showed that rewarding people for compliance to instructions was more productive than blind obedience. Most current leadership development programs are based on the belief that followers will act in consistence with what the leader models and that providing positive reinforcement for appropriate behaviour ("operant conditioning") is the most powerful means of motivating people to achieve results. Access to or isolation from information is a key power base in this approach. Again in this model, some form of hierarchy is accepted as a core tenet of society and upwards questioning is often discouraged while questioning from the leader is generally for the purpose of helping the follower solve his or her problems.

Today's Generation Y tends to have considerable difficulty with this approach. They know that with access to the internet and social networking there is very little information that can remain hidden for prolonged periods. In addition they prefer to work out their own solutions to problems rather than relying on others to provide them with answers. There tends to be a significant disconnect between Generation Y followers and G2 Leaders with G2 Leaders often bemoaning the work and social attitudes of Generation Y.

Which brings us to G3 Leadership.

G3 Leadership is all about engaging people with both what they do and those with whom they do it. A G3 Leader operates in an atmosphere of mutual respect between leader and follower and in which the leader has the maturity to distinguish between the person (who is always acceptable) and their actions (which might not be acceptable.) Where G1 Leaders and G2 Leaders have their brain's locus of control primarily in the red zone (basic/reptilian - limbic areas), G3 Leaders have their brain's locus of control in the cortical areas of the brain - the blue zone.

The really good news is that we can all learn to become G3 Leaders.

More information about Doug Long and how I may be able to help you at

Please let me know what you think about this. Click on the comment link below.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Problem with Feedback

I have spent much of this week working with the management team of an organisation with a long and proud history of service to the community. One of the key issues we have been confronting relates to the giving and receiving of feedback to younger people. They have been finding that their traditional ways of doing this need changing.

Feedback is interesting. When I play golf I receive feedback on my stroke immediately after the clubhead hits the ball. Of course I can't change anything at that point and the ball will continue on whatever direction and trajectory I have given it, but I am given information that enables me to make decisions as to whether or not I should make some changes. In the workplace there are some situations like that but, in a vast number of instances, it is necessary for other people to provide me with the feedback that will allow me to decide what if any changes in my behaviour are necessary.

The issue then becomes one of how this feedback is given. And this is the issue my client faces.

In the societal approaches of the past, this wasn't really a problem - which doesn't mean that it was done well - because those more senior to you in an organisation were generally heeded some attention when they spoke. Our society had a world view that said if you were older or in a more senior position then you were to receive respect and your authority was not to be questioned.

This is no longer the case.

In today's world it is increasingly clear that respect has to be earned: it is not automatically given. In today's world it is increasingly clear that authority can quickly be lost if the person giving feedback makes a mistake - and the almost instant availability of information by phone or internet makes it almost certain that any such errors will be quickly discovered - and if the person giving feedback isn't respected or hasn't engaged with the people involved then the probability of someone actively seeking out errors is high.

Which means that if, as a supervisor, manager, leader or whatever you need to learn facilitate engagement of people with both the work that they do and with you as a person. Its not easy.

More information about Doug Long and how I may be able to help you at

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Festina Lente !! (Urgent or Important?)

From my very long ago days of doing Latin at school, I seem to remember the phrase "festina lente" as meaning "hasten slowly" or "more hurry less speed". (I may, of course, be wrong in my recollection and, if I am, I'm sure someone will correct me!!)

I thought of this today because of a couple of events.

First I listened to an interview on Australia's ABC FM radio in which the person being interviewed was telling of his commitment to increasing literacy in third world countries. He explained that, now, they are opening a new library somewhere in a third world country every 4 or 5 hours. An incredible rate given that it is only about 10 years since he first became aware of the issue and committed himself to action. He said that he was an action-orientated person who looked for solutions rather than dwelling on problems. But he also pointed out that from first realising the size of the problem to actually getting things properly moving was about a year. Since then things have grown rapidly. Festina lente !

Second I was approached by someone who is trying to get a new business up and running. She is worried about the need for positive cash flow (aren't we all!!) and has been running around everywhere trying to get business. The result is that she has lost focus on what she really wants to achieve and runs the risk of failing because of confusion regarding priorities. We discussed how taking a step back and refocusing then moving forward in a planned approach would actually help her achieve desired results far more effectively than scattering her energies across a broad range of things.

Its the old question of deciding between "what is urgent" and "what is important". Too often we concentrate on "what is urgent" with the result that "what is important" never gets done and we wind up with time management problems, quality problems, staffing problems, and all the rest.

Part of creating an environment in which everyone can be successful - ie part of leadership - is recognising and applying the need for "festina lente" !

More information about Doug Long and how I may be able to help you at

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Return on Investment

On February 12, 2010 a writer in The Sydney Morning Herald, Michael Pascoe made the following statement about the past CEO of Telstra in Australia. In an article entitled "Sol Trujillo was worse than he looked" Pascoe wrote: "When Trujillo and Co departed, it wasn't immediately possible to rank his performance. Parts were obviously bad, parts had promise. By the look of yesterday's interim results, the bits with promise were nowhere near enough to make up for the bad. More hat than cattle, as the saying goes, looking at where Telstra stands 5 years later."

The Sydney Morning Herald's "Good Weekend" of February 13 (p.14) had a similar theme. In an article entitled "Outrageous Fortune", Jane Cadzow points out that in 2003 Sydney University researcher John Shields concluded that the 20 best performing Australian companies paid their CEO's substantially less than did the 20 worst-performing companies. Shields is quoted as saying that "Against three criteria - return on equity, share price change, and change in earnings per share - statistical analysis shows that high executive pay levels actually coincide with a lower bottom line." Shields is quoted as saying that the 2003 research is still broadly true in 2010.

When I talk with Directors and senior executives I hear a lot about for need for measuring return on investment. It is one of the justifications I hear when companies are considering laying off staff or reducing their workforce by using part time workers. We do a lot to measure the return received for work done by lower level echelons on most organisations and the drive for increasing the use of technology is based on the premise that the company will obtain better returns.

Why don't we apply this to the top echelons? If it can be done for the lower levels (and it both can and is) then surely it can and should be applied at the top - including Director remuneration.

For almost 20 years I have been arguing that remuneration at the top should be genuinely performance based. Although the the myth is that this currently happens, the fact of huge bonuses and termination pays being made when the company is going backwards illustrates the discrepancy between myth and fact.

I suggest that the time is right for leaders - Company Directors, Legislators, Regulators, and Owners (shareholders) - to make a stand and insist on measuring return on investment at all levels and paying accordingly. By all means pay huge amounts (well into the $millions) if you believe that is what it takes to get the people you want at the top or anywhere else. I've no argument with that. But pay the bonus components on what happens to the organisation in the subsequent 5 years - especially in the event of a termination pay.

I'm not convinced that there is enough intestinal fortitude around for this to happen. Those executives who actually do provide long-term positive benefit to their companies - ie those who actually do provide a value-added component - have nothing to fear. I suspect its the others who will prevail.

I think that's the point Pascoe is making, too.

More information about Doug Long and how I may be able to help you at

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Change: How not to do it!!

They were all working as normal when the General Manager walked in. There was very little time for the usual banter before he said" "I'd like to discuss something with you." He went on to tell them of some significant reporting and operational changes that the company would like to make. He told them that he would welcome their suggestions prior to making any final decisions. Then, when he was asked when they could get back together to share their thoughts, he told them that the changes would be introduced within 2 weeks and that any suggestions would need to be made in this meeting and that the meeting would only be for the next 30 minutes. The meeting concluded with him thanking them for their suggestions and telling them that the change as originally shared with them would be operational as scheduled.


No. To my certain knowledge, it happened in a major company in this month of February 2010.

The team has been working on a major upgrade of the IT facilities. There are months of work left before the project is scheduled for completion. They are close knit and put in long hours without additional financial recognition because they are proud of their work and of their company.

Or, at least, they were.

The changes will mean that they lose their direct link to the relevant decision maker and that the new person to whom they will report has no background in IT or understanding of the programming issues involved. She will be unable to help them with technical expertise when they need suggestions or assistance and, with the company's rigid reporting lines, they will be discouraged from going directly to those who are able to provide help.

The entire team is now job hunting - and there is reason to believe that they will all leave the company within the next month or so. The cost to the company is going to be significant in money terms quite apart from the continued customer and supplier disquiet because of the current inadequate IT systems.

Over recent years I have observed two significant change programs that were badly designed and implemented. In both cases the changes were initiated after there were changes at Board level and, in both cases, the company is (or at least was) a well known and very successful one with very good EBIT and dividends. This new example appears to be doomed to the same result as the earlier one - good staff will leave; revenues will drop; EBIT will crash; dividends will become close to non existent; and everyone will be blamed except the change initiators.

These days virtually everyone accepts the reality of and the need for change. Most people do not oppose change "on principle". All that people ask is that there is authenticity and integrity from the change initiators. Don't be seen as manipulative by pretending to discuss change and seek input. Either share information and seek input at an early stage or else let people know that the decisions have been made and stop treating them like recalcitrant children.

There are plenty of resources available to help anyone and any organisation through the change process. No matter what the budget or organisational issue, someone can be found to assist you.

A little professional help at an early stage can save a fortune in later costs.

More information about Doug Long and how I can help you at

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Leadership and Fear

Last weekend it was pouring with rain in Sydney. My son and his mates decided to go on their usual 4WD adventure and, as was to be expected, managed to get at least one of the 4WD's bogged. While they were pulling it out (they always have at least 4 vehicles in their party for safety reasons) another vehicle came up and the guys in it ridiculed them for getting stuck. Noticing that they had no support vehicles, my son and his mates warned the newcomers to be very careful as the conditions were quite dangerous - especially if you had little or no experience and/or were on your own. The newcomers jeered and sped off - this was a new vehicle and they were having fun.

A few minutes later when my son and his mates were restarting their bogged vehicle there was an urgent scream for help over the VHF radio. The newcomers had gone into water and the vehicle was filling rapidly. They were totally bogged, helpless and panicking. When my son's mates reached the accident they found that the doors were locked shut and water inside the car was at the point where possible drowning was a reality. In addition, the driver hadn't known enough to immediately shut off his engine when it went under water and, because there was no snorkel, the turbo charger had ensured there was water throughout the engine. Rescuing the vehicle and occupants was reasonably easy compared with getting the vehicle sufficiently mobile for it to make its way back to the nearest workshop where major repairs could be done. Of course, they had totally voided the vehicle's new car warranty so repairs are going to be very expensive.

I think there's a metaphor here for what sometimes happens in organisations.

There are times when some managers and leaders seem to follow a "crash through or crash" philosophy in relation to achieving results and/or introducing change. When this happens it is not uncommon for those in a hurry to ridicule those who are a little more experienced and/or cautious. The impact on everyone can be extremely traumatic in the event of things going wrong.

Good leaders know that fear can be a positive emotion. It can tell you that things need a bit of consideration before embarking on action. It can enable you to consider alternative ways of attaining your goal. It can lead you to new learning in a very positive way. That's why good leaders generally listen carefully to advice and suggestions from those with more experience.

More information about Doug Long and how I may be able to help you at

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Leaders look around

Sydney's roads (like those of most other major cities) are usually crowded and there are seldom enough lanes to satisfy drivers trying to get from point A to point B. The problem is compounded when cars are allowed to stop and/or park by the kerb with the result that another traffic lane is taken out of play.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not against the use of cars and I don't oppose parking in shopping precincts (even when it means parking at the side of the road) and I'm not trying to redesign Sydney's roads so that they are wider and can take more traffic. No, my concern is with people who don't seem to pay much attention to the impact their stopped or parked car has on other traffic.

Think about it.

How often do you see a car come to a stop and, with no apparent attention to the traffic, the driver's door opens and, sometimes after what seems to be an eternity, a person slowly alights and does whatever else they intend to do. Sometimes this "whatever else they intend to do" includes opening the passenger door on the same side and allowing children to alight with traffic streaming past. All too often this will involve a parent getting a baby out of a baby capsule or a child out of a safety seat which is a process that takes a fair bit of time - all the while with the door open and endangering both those at the car and passing traffic. In even worse cases the process will be further delayed while the parent attends to their child's needs such as changing a nappy.

I have a lot of understanding of where the parent is coming from - I have 5 children (now all grown up) and 4 grandchildren - but I do not understand why some thought is not paid to the dangers of tending children or allowing passengers to alight under such a dangerous manner. A bit of thought and planning when getting people into the car and/or when reaching one's destination means that dealing with baby or children and allowing passengers to alight can be performed much more safely for everyone when done from the doors of the car closest to the kerb. It just requires a bit of thought and foresight. No "rocket science" involved.

Many leaders in politics, business, religious groups, and society at large seem to have the same "not thinking" attitude when it comes to their operations. Like parents and responsible drivers - most of whom genuinely care for their children's / passengers' safety - either they do things that are inherently dangerous or they allow their people to take risks that could and should be avoided. Elliott Jaques ("Requisite Organization", 1998, Cason Hall & Co) talks about the need for managers and leaders to consider the broader picture as well as the immediate issues being dealt with. In fact he makes the point that if you can't see the bigger picture and deal with things from a broader perspective, you probably shouldn't be in a management or leadership role.

Leaders (even parents and car drivers) need to look around and see the bigger picture.

More information about Doug Long at

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Killing Fields

I understand that during the Second World War there was a slogan "Loose Lips Sink Ships" which was designed to encourage everyone to be careful about disclosing information that may be of assistance to the enemy. I know that in the 1970's there was a sales training film entitled "Who Killed The Sale" which looked at things such as general chatter by employees of an organisation being overheard by potential customers to the end that an incipient sale was lost.

I thought about this the other day when I had to phone Microsoft about an issue (yes, the same Microsoft of which I spoke in an earlier blog!).

The issue was simple. An older laptop in the house had decided it wouldn't work and the system diagnostics made it clear that radical surgery was the only remedy - a reformat and reinstall of the operating system (Windows XP). Not a major issue, I thought, and one that even a person of my limited technical expertise could do.

All went well until the machine asked for the Product Key - that 25 digit arrangement that determines whether or not Santa will scratch you from his next Christmas list because you've been naughty and used non-genuine material. No problems. I was using the original disc supplied by the manufacturer (Dell) and they had attached the product key details to the base of the computer. I carefully copied the figures and then input it. Back came the message "The Product ID you entered is not valid".

After several such attempts I then took out several other copies of XP (all carefully stored in their original packages) for other computers in the house and tried their codes. Same message.

At this point decided I was obviously doing something wrong so I emailed Microsoft explaining the situation and asking for suggestions. Back came a response from their Michael Chong asking me to repeat the information I had already given and he suggested that I phone their service line. So I phoned.


The woman with whom I spoke (and who, I am sure, was the same woman who previously had told me I was using illegal material because "Microsoft never made an XP Office") now told me that the problem was not Microsoft's - it was Dell's and that she couldn't help me and, in addition, that I was using a non-genuine disc! Microsoft and I will, I am sure, have further discussions about this and Dell may want to have a chat with them, too!

I then phoned a local Computer Repair person. He asked 3 questions, made 1 suggestion, and the problem was resolved. I was doing something wrong. It was a simple error. In less than 5 minutes things were working and there was no charge. All done over the phone.

In thinking about this, the examples of "Loose Lips Sink Ships" and "Who Killed the Sale" came to mind. This "service" person at Microsoft has harmed her employer. She has created in me the belief that Microsoft don't give a S**##@ about their customers and she has implied that a reputable hardware manufacturer has acted improperly.

As have said before, this is a leadership issue.

There is something in the culture at Microsoft that either models the approach taken by this service person or the training that she has been given is focused on the wrong thing. There may even be a situation of cognitive dissonance in which she is told that "service" is important but other metrics by which she is assessed indicate that that she must get rid of me in X seconds so that she can deal with another person's issues. Under that scenario she is unable to listen to my issue in any other way than with the intent of moving me on as fast as possible - "packaged answers" are the only response.

It set me thinking.

What cultural issues in your organisation damage your reputation? Are there support area issues that adversely impact on how you are perceived by your customers / clients? What are you doing to check about this? What are you going to do in order to correct it?

More information about Doug Long and how I may be able to help you at

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Are we there yet?

When our children were young we did quite a few road trips. We travelled by car all around New Zealand and most of NSW and Victoria in Australia as well as covering significant amounts of Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia. Like most parents we learned to dread the question: "are we there yet?"
Today, in the space of only a few hours, I had two different organisations ask me a very similar question.
Both organisations have a vacancy in a supervisory position. Both organisations have people who are technically everything they desire. The issue relates to the suitability of these people for the next step up the ladder.
Whether or not we readily admit it, the truth is that every supervisory and management position is, first of all, a position demanding "people skills". The moment we move from being assessed on what we achieve from a technical position to what we achieve through the work of other people, the ability to interact positively with other people becomes essential.

Some years ago, Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard in their book "Management of Organizational Behavior" introduced a diagram similar to the one here. The point they made was that, at the operator level of an organisation, the key payoff skills - those things by which you will be assessed - are your technical competence. Once you move into any form of supervisory or management role, the high payoff skills become your people skills. At each level, all three sets of skills are important, but the skills underlying the way in which you are assessed changes significantly.
This was something both of the organisations with which I spoke today have yet to learn. They knew that these vacancies were coming up yet they did nothing to prepare those they are interested in promoting. The result is that they now face the dilemma of either appointing people who lack the necessary people skills or disillusioning (and possibly losing) their best technicians.
Like any other sets of skills, people skills can be learned. What do you do in your organisation to develop the people skills of those responsible for other people?
More information about Doug Long and how I may be able to help you at