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Follow the leader…

Just read Followership by Barbara Kellerman. Review coming this weekend.

A must-read book that questions why we overvalue leaders and undervalue followers. And warns about the costs and risks of disengaged followers who do nothing and know little whether at work or in the community.

Here in Hamilton, 63% of registered voters didn't bother to cast ballots in the last municipal election (and it was the same no-show rate in the 2003 election).

So while we are forever bringing leaders together to groupthink our way to greatness, will any solution actually stick if we have 213,955 disengaged citizens sitting on the sidelines?

Maybe the issue isn't a lack of leadership but rather a lack of followership.

PowerPoint: the good, the bad and the very ugly

Just posted this file on effective media relations to, where you'll find thousands of PowerPoints.

Some good. Some bad. Some very bad.

A good resource if you're looking for industry expertise.

Book review: Leading change the right way

It Starts With One: Changing Individuals Changes Organizations

J. Stewart Black and Hal Gregersen

Wharton School Publishing,


I’m camped out at the photocopier, cranking out the latest and greatest change and transition newsletter. A co-worker wanders by as I kill a forest worth of trees.

The co-worker doesn’t share my zeal for all things re-engineered.

"You won’t be so keen on change when you’re married, have kids and a mortgage," predicts the older and wiser co-worker. "You’ll happily settle for the status quo. Come to work. Do your job. Go home. No surprises. No change."

The co-worker gives the hot-off-the-copier newsletter a cursory read.

"And you won’t get worked up over flavour-of-the-month change projects."

Fast forward 12 years. I’m married with two kids, a mortgage and minivan. But I still haven’t settled for the status quo. And I get myself in trouble when nothing’s changing and I’m bored and restless.

Yet the co-worker wasn’t completely wrong. My enthusiasm for corporate change projects has waxed and waned. Who hasn’t been conscripted for a project that doesn’t lead to the promised land? Where the senior exec who’s championing the change does a cameo at the kickoff meeting and is never seen or heard from again? Where the orphaned team strikes out on a journey of introspection and irrelevance? Where the key deliverables are a logo, three issues of a special project newsletter and death by PowerPoint on unsuspecting audiences? Where team members beg off with reassignments back to the real world? And where meetings get scrubbed in deference to National Egg Month, Fairy Godmother Week and Greenery Day in Japan.

It’s an experience backed by research carried out by authors Stewart Black and Hal Gregersen. They estimate that up to 80 per cent of change projects go off the rails and end badly. The culprit? A less than firm grasp on the fundamentals of change. The same research shows more than 80 per cent of organizations list leading change as one of the top five leadership competencies for the future and 85 per cent report their high potential leaders don’t exactly have this competency in spades.

According to the authors, there’s a fundamental process for driving strategic change. It starts with your organization successfully doing a great job of doing the right thing. But suddenly or slowly, your world changes. Customers want something else. Competitors offer something better. Technology changes the playing field. Governments change the rules of the game. What was once right is now wrong.

Now, you’re left doing a great job of doing the wrong thing.

Eventually, you see the light and start doing the new right thing but struggle early on and do a lousy job of it. With time and practice, you learn how to do a great job of doing the new right thing.

So what can go wrong? You’re up against three barriers in the all-too-common failures to see, move and finish. Folks fail to see the need to change. It’s still the days of wine and roses. "They often fail to see the need for change because they are blinded by the light of what they already see – the powerful mental maps that have worked well for them in the past."

Even when folks see the need, they fail to move. It’s not because they’re stupid or don’t get it. "People recognize that they cannot go directly and instantly from doing the old wrong thing well to doing the new right thing well," say the authors. "They understand that they will go from doing the wrong thing well to doing the right thing poorly.

"Given this brilliant insight, imagine from their perspective how silly a leader shouting for change might seem. People can now see how bad they will look doing the new right thing."

This may well be the most overlooked and common reason why change projects fail, say the authors.

And once folks see the need to change and start moving, many fail to finish. They won’t go far or fast enough. Change doesn’t happen overnight. And it’s exhausting work.

"People get tired because organizational transformation is fundamentally not about transforming the organization; it is about transforming the people who work in it.

If the people themselves don’t change, the wheels spin, and the strategic initiative gets zero traction."

If see, move and finish are the barriers, what are the solutions? The authors recommend contrast and confrontation to help folks clearly see the need for change.

"Changing entrenched mental maps requires a serious shock to the system." To get people moving, they need to believe there’s a path that will safely take them from doing the new right thing poorly to doing it well. This is where supports and rewards come in to play. Trust is also critical to get folks moving.

"If they trust you, they will venture forth and stay on the path. If they don’t, they won’t." Instead of rolling out pilot projects, go with a handful of launch sites and recruit change champions to reinforce desired behaviours.

Leaders play a key role. Any disconnect between what’s said and done will doom a project. So lead by example. "Lasting change starts from the inside out – by first changing individuals. In many cases, the first person to change is ourselves. We change individuals, ourselves and others, by remapping minds to see, move and finish. By changing individuals, we really can change organizations."

And if you’re looking to earn a king’s ransom and never find yourself lacking for work, learn how to lead folks through anticipatory change.

"From our extensive consulting work and research, the conclusion is clear: anticipatory change leaders are in great demand and extremely short supply."

Figure out how to get people seeing, moving and finishing while the sun’s still shining, the storm clouds aren’t gathering on the horizon and you have more time and flexibility to pull off change on your terms. "Without a passionate pursuit of the extraordinary, risks so typically and tightly tied to anticipatory change will likely win the day, and we will end up waiting and drifting down to reactionary change."

The person you don’t want to be in 2 years

Having done the slow crawl commute from Hamilton to Toronto earlier this week, here’s who I wouldn’t want to be in 2 years.

A suburban-living, SUV-driving commuter. With a $250,000 mortgage. And a 4-year lease on a gas guzzler.

You’re going to get hammered at the pumps. Hammered with home heating and cooling costs. And your McMansion in the ‘burbs could soon become the slums and tenements of our future as retiring Boomers and young families return to city cores where there’s public transit and closer proximity to jobs.

Check out this article from The Atlantic (the one magazine everyone should read) about neighbourhoods that are already tipping and the exodus that’s already underway.

How to win over large groups

This article from the Stanford Social Innovation Review on how to win over a large group is worth the read.

The first people to win over should be fence-sitters — moderates who are neither so opposed to a proposal as to be unmovable nor so enamored of it as to be incredible to the unconvinced. Give moderates the hard facts and, if they buy in, they’ll influence, persuade and win over others with soft information like simple endorsements and perfunctory explanations that are fact-and-stat lite.

And keep this list in mind to sort and categorize your large group, courtesy of San Francisco-based The Democracy Centre:

  • champions of an issue
  • allies of an issue
  • fence-sitters who are neutral on the issue
  • mellow opponents
  • hard-core opponents

Focus your time and attention on fence-sitters who will be your key target audience.

How to stand and deliver a memorable presentation

Good advice in today’s Globe and Mail from consultant Garr Reynolds on 6 lessons for effective presentations:

  1. Develop rapport with the audience. It’s not about you. It’s all about them. Build a connection.
  2. Give your audience an idea of where you’re going. Tell them you have 3 things you want to talk about.
  3. Show your enthusiasm. Way too many presenters have little or no enthusiasm. Believe what you say.
  4. It’s not about the numbers, it’s about what the numbers mean. Make numbers, facts and stats comprehensible to your audience.
  5. Make it visual. Use a photo. An image. A graphic that drives home your key points. Just don’t use a 40-slide PowerPoint.
  6. Save the best for last. Yes, that first minute or two is key to engaging your audience. You need an even stronger finish because that’s what folks remember.

And a brilliant presentation here on how to avoid death by PowerPoint.

Book review: How to be a game changing innovator

The Game Changer: How You Can Drive Revenue and Profit Growth With Innovation

A.G. Lafley and Ram Charan

Crown Business, $32

I’ve just stunned a bunch of students.

We’re meeting to review their year-end assignments. I’m here to offer constructive criticism on their public relations plans. But the plans are pretty good and they graduate in two days. So really, what’s left to say?

One team fixates on their mark. They’re not happy campers. What should we have done to get a better grade, they ask. Don’t lose sleep over it, I say. Your future employer won’t care and you won’t remember your mark in six months. The one and only time I tossed my Harvard of the North transcripts into a job search, my boss-to-be was unimpressed. He diplomatically told me that he couldn’t see the connection between getting an A average in political theory and contemporary film studies and knowing how to crank out newsletters and clip stories from the North Bay Nugget, Windsor Star and Orillia Packet and Times.

Another team asks how I would have done the assignment. And here’s where I shock and awe the students. I’d spend 90 per cent of my time rounding up PR plans from the real world. I’d search Google and Wikipedia, work the phones and fire off e-mails to PR pros who know what they’re doing. I’d spend the remaining 10 per cent of my time shamelessly stealing and stitching together the best ideas.

Which is pretty much how I do my job every day, I tell the students.

Works like a charm.

You can do that? ask the students. Won’t you get fired?

No, I tell the students. If anything, you’ll Teflon coat your career.

Instead of wasting time reinventing wheels and coming up with square tires, you’ll get the job done faster and smarter. And that’s why you’ll get paid the big bucks.

Aren’t we supposed to be creative? ask the students. Come up with new ideas?

You bet, I say. Just don’t try doing it on your own. No one’s that smart and no one has a monopoly on good ideas. So connect with other folks and read as much as you can. Cram your head with ideas, different perspectives and conflicting viewpoints. Ask people how and why they did what you’re thinking of doing. Talk best practices. Swap lessons learned. Soak up case studies. Riff off each other’s ideas. Mix, match and mash up what you learn, what you hear and see. You’re all but guaranteed to come up with something innovative and far better than what you could ever dream up by going solo behind closed doors.

Still not convinced? Then listen to Procter & Gamble, one of the world’s most innovative companies. "Innovation is all about connections," says P&G CEO A.G. Lafley and business guru Ram Charan.

"The more connections, the more ideas; the more ideas, the more solutions." Today, half of new product and technology innovations come from outside P&G. Eight years ago, it was less than 15 per cent. And what bottom-line impact has this outside-in innovation focus had on the company? In the past seven years, P&G has tripled profits and averaged earnings per share growth of 12 per cent.

Innovation is a social process, the authors repeat throughout their must-read book. "And this process can only happen when people do that simple, profound thing — connect to share problems, opportunities and learning. Anyone can innovate but practically no one can innovate alone."

At the centre of all P&G innovation are the consumers who use the company’s brands three billion times a day. At P&G, the consumer — and not the CEO or the board of directors — is boss. Can the same be said of your organization?

"Regardless of the original source of innovation — an idea, a technology, a social trend — the consumer must be at the centre of the innovation process from beginning to end," says Lafley.

Consumers are involved early and often. "Ideally, she or he will co-create and co-design new brands and new products. In the end, we don’t have a successful innovation until she/he tries, buys and repurchases on a regular basis."

Check out how P&G connects with consumers. The company runs a pair of consumer immersion programs called Living It and Working It. One program has senior execs, managers, staffers and new hires living with families. Sleeping under the same roof. Eating meals and shopping together. Watching and learning how folks spend their time and money.

What they buy, why and how they use the products. It’s how P&G cracked the lower-income market in Mexico — a market that represents 60 per cent of Mexico’s 106 million people. Another program has P&G people working behind the counter at small shops. These programs bridge the gap in consumer understanding and that understanding gets turned into profit through innovation.

The company also knows how to create game-changing innovation leaders. According to Lafley and Charan, innovation leaders take on four value-added tasks that differentiate them for the rest of the pack.

They set a vision that can’t be accomplished without innovation, they inspire others, integrate innovation into all aspects of their work through extraordinary creativity and exceptional discipline and make the right things happen by dealing with the real issues.

Game changers have relentless courage and aren’t afraid of risk. They’re integrative thinkers, able to find unobvious connections and patterns from a diverse set of seemingly contradictory factors. They see more things as relevant and important. And they have well-balanced intellectual and emotional skills. They think with their head and their gut and "have a well developed intuition to understand and appreciate people’s intentions, feelings and motivations."

Doesn’t sound like you? Not involved in running or pitching any innovative projects at work? You may want to make it a Monday morning priority.

"There is an increasing advantage to being a game-changer – and higher risk for trying to survive on the defensive," says Charan.

"Innovation enables you to be on the offensive. The speed of change is such that compared to even to two decades ago, ‘innovate or die’ is truly the name of the game."

Resisting, dismissing or ignoring calls for innovation is a career-limiting move "because you will be left behind or risk obsolescence in the skills that will be required in the future," say Lafley and Charan.

"Without this experience, you are neither building your capabilities nor learning how to deal with uncertainty and managing risk. Figuring out how to make decisions across silos — bringing together all the skills from people across the company to make innovation happen — can help to make you CEO material."

And that may well be the best advice to give to freshly-minted grads looking to make their mark in the workplace.

Best ad of the week

Now, who could refuse an offer to help donkeys in distress?

Looks like the donkey’s depressed that he isn’t on the tropical island in the in-house ad right below the "Help Us Help Donkeys" ad.

And how many distressed donkeys could there be at the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada in Guelph, Ontario?

Almost makes you want to head down there and help make a donkey’s day. Be sure to sign up for the Donkey Day newsletter.

These aren’t tears of joy…

Went to a volunteer appreciation dinner this week.

Great bunch of people doing great work in the community.

Great conversations. Great food. But there’s no such thing as a free meal.

After dessert came the guest speaker.

And if you’re somewhat of an introvert, who wouldn’t you want to see step up to the podium?

How about a laughter coach.

"We’re not going to have to stand up and practice laughing," I ask, remembering some Dateline or 60 Minutes episode where hundreds of people meet in a park in India and do a group laugh. Seemed sort of creepy.

"You’ll just have to wait and see," say the folks who put on the event. Not a good sign.

So after a quick rundown on how we should love ourselves and be the star of our own movie (I was going to cast George Clooney, although I’m sure my wife would want to play herself) and a crash course in Stephen Covey’s 7 habits (I can only remember sharpening the saw and seem to think an 8th habit’s been added), it was time for audience participation.

Let’s stand up and do some laughter aerobics, says the guest speaker. Walk over to your fellow volunteers and laugh in their faces. Waddle around like a crazed penguin (not unlike my dance moves, if I ever danced).

Sadly, this was an alcohol free event, although the get-together for another group in the next room had a cash bar.

Yes, it’s good to try new things and do something you would never otherwise do. But try as a I might to "change my paradigm" and "live in the moment", I’m not a big fan of playing reindeer games. Some of the longest 20 minutes of my life.

Although it’s funny in retrospect.