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.