Tag Archives: Influence

Here we go again!

Chaos theory popularized the idea that an energized company felt chaotic. I remember the first time I mentored a business owner who was a devout disciple of that theory. This company had not been nurtured into a productive rhythm, so the energy of raw chaos ruled around the latest (usually good) new idea. When people experience a very bright, personable, and verbally gifted leader as chaotic and unable to maintain a steady stream of focus, confused and resentful followers always develop.

I was recently with a senior team that said about their leader, “He sets the plan and then changes it.” This example reminded me of how good intentions can have unintended consequences, particularly for CEOs and senior leaders that come from a sales or business development discipline. They have trained their mind to translate situational obstacles into closed future deals without much practical thought.

The tension between making a plan and sticking with it or changing the plan upon a new discovery are as old as time. Every leader needs to develop a capacity to embrace this challenge or senior team effectiveness and cohesiveness will be marginal. The rhythm between discipline and creativity should never be governed by the next new idea, but more importantly, by a mature leader that has mastered impulse control.

A disciplined mind is a critical leadership attribute.

Lack of impulse control results from an untrained mind where a stream of anxiety flows without notice. Conversely, a trained mind is more spacious because it has learned that ideas and thoughts flow through the mind like a never-ending stream, observed without attachment. These leaders have trained their mind to separate from thoughts so they can enjoy inner freedom and usually a good deal of peace.

Execution is more important than strategy.

Every leader can iteratively create “the ideal strategy” that almost no one can fully execute. In one sense, the perfect strategy is an obstacle to winning. Execution is more important than strategy, so take a break and let the plan work its way through the challenges of learning. Successful leaders learn that an adequate strategy executed well usually wins.

At a more practical level, a critical component of scaling and execution is contract administration. If customer contracts are consistent and easy to manage then scaling and changing is manageable. However, if out of 300 customer contracts many are customized then the process of scaling becomes nearly impossible. A CEO with a sales or business development mind won’t see this as a problem, but one with a trained mind will.

If impulse control seems like an opportunity for you to master, be encouraged! The first leader I mentioned changed quickly once he understood the benefits, then the quality and profitability of his revenue followed. Eventually he was able to transition his leadership skills to the next generation in his family business.

Your company is your Practice Field – learn, adjust and flourish. Let it shape you into your true self!

I’d love to hear your comments.  Jim@peer-place.com


Cultivating Followers

Our learning leaped into high gear as twenty-five CEOs and executives collaborated around the topic of accelerating change and its impact to their historical leadership patterns.

Democratic business platforms like Glass Door and LinkedIn, along with the proliferation of smart phones, alert all of us to a powerful new leadership paradigm.

The relentless flow of power away from institutions and senior managers, toward individual employees and customers, is accelerating.  These groups now have the ability to express their opinions and choices publicly, without fear.  Through technology, people are connecting according to their interests – they are forming into organic networks of influence.  The future of work is the network, and no institution or CEO is in control of it, but if we are wise, we can influence the formation of the network.

Our collaboration became more intriguing when one CEO shared that he wanted leadership to be “a set of gears emanating from the center of his company to synchronize execution.”  This concept seemed to work, until he realized that gears would grind when the direction shifts.  While his construct was faulty, his underlying question was correct; “How do I maintain control?”

Whether the mechanism is gears or the network, only one lubricant keeps progress on track – trust.  When a senior leader doesn’t trust that their people will do their work well, grinding gears or slippery belts become the metaphor of choice.  When trust is low, we reach for control.

Likewise, when employees don’t trust the competency of senior leaders to set the right direction, design the right roles, select and develop the right people, or cultivate the right environment, they also become controlling.

Thankfully, this central issue surfaced during our collaboration when one executive (non-CEO), who had been quiet through much of the discussion, offered this comment to the CEOs, “One thing that would help strengthen your influence with us is humility.  We all know when you make poor decisions, but we rarely hear you acknowledge them publicly.  You don’t need to act like you’re perfect, we know you’re not.”

When CEOs make mistakes and don’t acknowledge them, they sow the seeds of mistrust and they lose influence.  Being human means that we will make mistakes and learn from them – this is our practice field.  To lead in the networked world, our people need to see us practice publicly, and then they can learn to trust us.  This executive was telling these CEOs to loosen up.

Influence is the only thing a CEO really has.  If the CEO wants high levels of influence, he must also receive reciprocal influence from those in his circle.  Feedback and influence are the vital nutrients to cultivate followers.

Now, shift your thinking to gardening and compare the two gardens below, while asking yourself these questions: What do these gardens tell you about each owner?  Which owner would you trust most?

While the second garden clearly out produces the first, I’m attracted to the owner of the first garden because I sense this owner has vision, order and the infrastructure investment needed to support a promising future.



While your opinion may be different, this example demonstrates how talking about these garden owners is just like your employees, managers and customers talking about you.  Their conversation increasingly determines who is attracted to your company and how fast it grows.  Influence resides in the network and if you want to have influence, you need to listen and respond.

Would you like better feedback from your people or your peers?  This can be very liberating and I can help.  Jim@peer-place.com