Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ethics Is More Than Good Business, by MIchael Josephson

Ethics Is More Than Good Business

Ethics is a popular topic at corporate meetings today because management correctly sees the benefits. Good things tend to happen to companies that consistently do the right thing, and bad things tend to happen to those that even occasionally do the wrong thing. Being ethical is playing the odds.

Ethical companies have a competitive edge because people prefer to deal with firms they trust. They also benefit from high credibility; being believed is an enormous asset. In addition, ethical companies attract and retain employees better because they have higher morale. And finally, good ethics generates a good reputation, good will, and loyalty.

So it’s true: Good ethics is good business.

Most companies try to motivate employees to be ethical by stressing how doing so will benefit the corporation. The problem is, this amoral rationale is grounded in self-interest rather than morality. It has nothing to do with ethics.

Doing the right thing to get something in return is an investment, not a demonstration of character. Ethics based on self-interest is situational; ethics based on moral convictions is reliable. It’s the difference between acting ethically and being ethical.

Trying to motivate people to do the right thing by stressing benefits rather than values and virtue turns decision making into a cold cost-benefit analysis rather than a reflection of what’s right.

But if a company encourages employees to make decisions based on the supposed advantages, why should anyone put their firm’s interests above their own? In the absence of authentic moral conviction, why should employees refrain from unethical or illegal conduct if they think it will save their job or enhance their compensation? Clearly, what’s good for an enterprise is not always good for its employees.

My point is, it’s foolish and fruitless to expect most employees to sacrifice their financial well-being for the good of the company. On the other hand, many will do so in the name of honor, as a matter of conscience, and to earn the esteem and admiration of family and friends.

Corporations have a much better chance of deterring improper conduct by appealing to conscience and principle rather than risks and rewards.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.


The Four Phases of Design Thinking - Warren Berger - The Conversation - Harvard Business Review

The Four Phases of Design Thinking - Warren Berger - The Conversation - Harvard Business Review

What can people in business learn from studying the ways successful designers solve problems and innovate? On the most basic level, they can learn to question, care, connect, and commit — four of the most important things successful designers do to achieve significant breakthroughs.

Having studied more than a hundred top designers in various fields over the past couple of years (while doing research for a book), I found that there were a few shared behaviors that seemed to be almost second nature to many designers. And these ingrained habits were intrinsically linked to the designer's ability to bring original ideas into the world as successful innovations. All of which suggests that they merit a closer look.

Question. If you spend any time around designers, you quickly discover this about them: They ask, and raise, a lot of questions. Often this is the starting point in the design process, and it can have a profound influence on everything that follows. Many of the designers I studied, from Bruce Mau to Richard Saul Wurman to Paula Scher, talked about the importance of asking "stupid questions"--the ones that challenge the existing realities and assumptions in a given industry or sector. The persistent tendency of designers to do this is captured in the joke designers tell about themselves. How many designers does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: Does it have to be a light bulb?

In a business setting, asking basic "why" questions can make the questioner seem naïve while putting others on the defensive (as in, "What do you mean 'Why are we doing it this way?' We've been doing it this way for 22 years!"). But by encouraging people to step back and reconsider old problems or entrenched practices, the designer can begin to re-frame the challenge at hand — which can then steer thinking in new directions. For business in today's volatile marketplace, the ability to question and rethink basic fundamentals — What business are we really in? What do today's consumers actually need or expect from us? — has never been more important.

Care. It's easy for companies to say they care about customer needs. But to really empathize, you have to be willing to do what many of the best designers do: step out of the corporate bubble and actually immerse yourself in the daily lives of people you're trying to serve. What impressed me about design researchers such as Jane Fulton Suri of IDEO was the dedication to really observing and paying close attention to people — because this is usually the best way to ferret out their deep, unarticulated needs. Focus groups and questionnaires don't cut it; designers know that you must care enough to actually be present in people's lives.

Connect. Designers, I discovered, have a knack for synthesizing--for taking existing elements or ideas and mashing them together in fresh new ways. This can be a valuable shortcut to innovation because it means you don't necessarily have to invent from scratch. By coming up with "smart recombinations" (to use a term coined by the designer John Thackara), Apple has produced some of its most successful hybrid products; and Nike smartly combining a running shoe with an iPod to produce its groundbreaking Nike Plus line (which enables users to program their runs). It isn't easy to come up with these great combos. Designers know that you must "think laterally" — searching far and wide for ideas and influences — and must also be willing to try connecting ideas that might not seem to go together. This is a way of thinking that can also be embraced by non-designers.

Commit. It's one thing to dream up original ideas. But designers quickly take those ideas beyond the realm of imagination by giving form to them. Whether it's a napkin sketch, a prototype carved from foam rubber, or a digital mock-up, the quick-and-rough models that designers constantly create are a critical component of innovation — because when you give form to an idea, you begin to make it real.

But it's also true that when you commit to an idea early — putting it out into the world while it's still young and imperfect — you increase the possibility of short-term failure. Designers tend to be much more comfortable with this risk than most of us. They know that innovation often involves an iterative process with setbacks along the way — and those small failures are actually useful because they show the designer what works and what needs fixing. The designer's ability to "fail forward" is a particularly valuable quality in times of dynamic change. Today, many companies find themselves operating in a test-and-learn business environment that requires rapid prototyping. Which is just one more reason to pay attention to the people who've been conducting their work this way all along.

Warren Berger is the author of GLIMMER: How design can transform, business, your life, and maybe even the world (Penguin Press). He edits the online magazine

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Leading Blog: A Leadership Blog: No Excuses!, by Michael McKinney

Leading Blog: A Leadership Blog: No Excuses!

No Excuses!

“I don't know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations.”
—Michael Gold (played by Jeff Goldblum) in The Big Chill (1983)
We like (need) to rationalize. We often feel compelled to create acceptable reasons for otherwise unacceptable behavior. You know … excuses. We all have made excuses and can easily get into the habit of making excuses.

Excuses are insidious things that get in the way of moving forward. Eliminate them.

Brian Tracy, a man who needs no introduction, says the way out of the morass created by excuses is self-discipline. Elbert Hubbard defines self-discipline as the ability to do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not.

No Excuses! is a primer on self-discipline and full of those kinds of things that will make you reconsider the habits you have gotten into. Tracy cites Kop Kopmeyer:“There are 999 other success principles that I have found in my reading and experience, but without self-discipline, none of them work. With self-discipline they all work.”

Tracy examines how the practice of self-discipline impacts twenty-one areas of your personal, business, sales and financial life such as character development, goal setting, leadership, health and family. The pull to take the path of least resistance and to do what is expedient, says Tracy is our worst enemy. Looking only to the short-term “most people do what is expedient, what is fun and easy rather than what is necessary for success.”

In a personal example, Tracy recalls at age 21 that it dawned on him that “this is my life. This was not a rehearsal for something else. The game was on, and I was the main character, as in a play.” That realization changed his life and he resolved to take more responsibility for his life and take a “no excuses” approach to every aspect of his life.

“In its simplest form,” says Tracy, “the role of the leader is to take responsibility for results.” This involves developing a vision for yourself and for your areas of responsibility.

[As an aside to the vision thing, on Twitter today, Tom Peters said that maybe it’s just semantics but, “Don’t especially like vision. Prefer portrait. E.g.: ‘Leaders paint portraits of Excellence.’” Phil Gerbyshak filled in some of the details of Tom’s thought by stating that he thinks “leaders provide the outline for excellence and allow others to fill in the colors and add details/meaning.” Good food for thought. Does portrait put a face on it—responsibility?]

Continuing on, Tracy says that leaders must take the responsibility to be role models and set the example. “There is a direct relationship between your ability to discipline yourself and your behaviors and your readiness to lead.”

The bottom-line of self-discipline is peace of mind. Peace of mind because you consistently do what needs to be done and have developed the self-discipline needed to let go of the negative events that happen to you—forgive and forget—and focus your energy instead on taking responsibility and moving forward. “Discipline yourself to stop justifying your negative emotions by continually rehashing what happened and what the other person did or didn’t do.” Tracy adds, “Your ability to achieve your own peace of mind is the true measure of your success and the key determinant of your happiness.”
There are a thousand excuses for failure but never a good reason.
—Mark Twain

Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anyone else expects of you. Never excuse yourself. Never pity yourself. Be a hard master to yourself and be lenient to everyone else.
—Henry Ward Beecher

Friday, July 23, 2010

Three Tips for Becoming an Energizer - Rosabeth Moss Kanter - Harvard Business Review, by Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Three Tips for Becoming an Energizer - Rosabeth Moss Kanter - Harvard Business Review

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Rosabeth Moss Kanter is a professor at Harvard Business School and the author ofConfidence and SuperCorp. Connect with her on Facebook or


Three Tips for Becoming an Energizer


Some people become leaders no matter what their chosen path because their positive energy is so uplifting. Even in tough times, they always find a way. They seem to live life on their own terms even when having to comply with someone else's requirements. When they walk into a room, they make it come alive. When they send a message, it feels good to receive it. Their energy makes them magnets attracting other people.

Just plain energy is a neglected dimension of leadership. It is a form of power available to anyone in any circumstances. While inspiration is a long-term proposition, energy is necessary on a daily basis, just to keep going.

Three things characterize the people who are energizers.

1. A relentless focus on the bright side. Energizers find the positive and run with it. A state government official in a state that doesn't like government overcomes that handicap through her strong positive presence. She dispenses compliments along with support for the community served by her agency, making it seem that she works for them rather than for the government. She greets everyone with the joy generally reserved for a close relative returning from war. I can see skeptics' eyebrows starting to rise, but judging from her success, people love meeting with her or getting her exclamation-filled emails. She is invited to everything.

The payoffs from stressing the bright side can be considerable. In my new book, SuperCorp, I tell the story about how Maurice Levy, CEO of the global marketing company Publicis Groupe, tilted the balance in his company's favor when his firm was one of several suitors for Internet pioneer Digitas. At one point in a long courtship, Digitas hit problems, and the stock collapsed. One of Publicis's major competitors sent Digitas's head an email saying, "Now you are at a price which is affordable, so we should start speaking." Levy sent an email the same day saying, "It's so unfair that you are hurt this way because the parameters remain very good." Levy's positive energy won the prized acquisition.

2. Redefining negatives as positives. Energizers are can-do people. They do not like to stay in negative territory, even when there are things that are genuinely depressing. For example, it might seem a stretch for anyone to call unemployment as "a good time for reflection and redirection while between jobs," but some energizers genuinely stress the minor positive notes in a gloomy symphony. A marketing manager laid off by a company hit hard by the recession saw potential in people he met at a career counseling center and convinced them that they could start a service business together. He became the energizing force for shifting their definition of the situation from negative to an opportunity.

"Positive thinking" and "counting blessings" can sound like naïve cliches. But energizers are not fools. They can be shrewd analysts who know their flaws and listen carefully to critics so that they can keep improving. Studies show that optimists are more likely to listen to negative information than pessimists, because they think they can do something about it. To keep moving through storms, energizers cultivate thick skins that shed negativity like a waterproof raincoat sheds drops of water. They are sometimes discouraged, but never victims.

An entrepreneur who has built numerous businesses and incubated others had a strong personal mission to raise national standards in his industry. He began that quest by meeting individually with the heads of major industry organizations, all of whom told him that he would fail. He nodded politely, asked for a small commitment to one action anyway, just as a test, he said, and went on to the next meeting. Eight or nine meetings later, he was well along on a path everyone had tried to discourage him from taking.

3. Fast response time. Energizers don't dawdle. Energizers don't tell you all the reasons something can't be done. They just get to it. They might take time to deliberate, but they keep the action moving. They are very responsive to emails or phone calls, even if the fast response is that they can't respond yet. This helps them get more done. Because they are so responsive, others go to them for information or connections. In the process, energizers get more information and a bigger personal network, which are the assets necessary for success.

The nice thing about this form of energy is that it is potentially abundant, renewable, and free. The only requirements for energizers are that they stay active, positive, responsive, and on mission. Are you an energizer? Any tips you'd like to share?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Michael Josephson Commentary: Character Boot Camp 680.3

Michael Josephson Commentary: Character Boot Camp 680.3

So what could I say to 700 bankers, investors, and lawyers deeply involved in the commercial real estate market?

I started with a simple point: external economic forces beyond our control can diminish, even decimate, every form of financial asset, but the most important asset we possess, integrity, can only be destroyed by our own choices. And those who sacrifice integrity to save their fortunes eventually lose both.

I showed a cartoon with the caption: “This might not be ethical. Is that a problem for anybody?” to make the point that ethics is not simply a factor to consider; it’s a ground rule. People who treasure their integrity summon the strength to do the right thing even when it costs more than they want to pay.

Another cartoon depicted a conference table of executives. The head honcho points to a woman with an armful of blindfolds and announces: “Miss Jensen will now hand out the moral blinders.” The message: try as we might, we can’t avoid ethical responsibilities by covering our eyes. Our obligation to be honest, fair, and responsible doesn’t go away just because we refuse to acknowledge it.

Speaking of the turmoil before the American Revolution, Thomas Paine said, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Well, tough times like these always try our souls and test our character.

The next year or so will be like a character boot camp where our moral backbone will be either strengthened or broken.

While we can’t know when, it’s absolutely certain that this dark period will end. And when it does, only those who protected and preserved their integrity will emerge with the credibility to restore everything they lost.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

Leadership Follies – Blamestorming « Linked 2 Leadership, by Anil Saxena

Leadership Follies – Blamestorming « Linked 2 Leadership

Leadership Follies – Blamestorming

Are you Guilty of Blamestorming?

Blamestorming (n) (blām’stôr’mĭng) 1) A method of collectively finding one to blame for a mistake no one is willing to confess to. Often occurs in the form of a meeting of colleagues at work, gathered to decide who is to blame for a screw up.

What to do with Problems?

“We spend all of our time trying to figure out who or what is to blame and none of it trying to fix the problem,” said the senior leader. She was trying to figure out why the new “Focus on the Customer” strategy was not taking hold. I had seen it too often – a great idea or strategy to improve business performance that actually decreases it. Or organizations spend all their time looking for heads to roll. Here is a sample sentence used in a dictionary definition of the work “blamestorming:”

“The board of directors was exhausted after a four hour blamestorming session which finally resulted in two names for the chopping block.” ~ Gab Halasz,Merriam Webster

Why does this happen?

It is as if organizations are built on the principles of self preservation….wait, they are. Like any other organism, organizations actively work to survive. Unfortunately in business, sometimes survival is the enemy of exceptional or superior performance.

The major thrust of Jim Collin’s exceptional book “Good to Great” was the chasm between the good and the great. It is even showed recently.

The rash of companies that have failed in the past decade due to the “circling the wagon” mentality – Toyota, Goldman Sachs, BP and many more – or have lostmarket share because they can’t implement new strategies vital to their business’s success (think record labels dealing with the internet or US Steel Mills unable to deal with globalization). Clearly, there were efforts in all those companies to pull the organization towards a solution, but somehow it fell short.

It is almost understandable that a company would try to block or repel accusations of failure, but why would that happen internally? All the company’s departments are working towards the same goal, right?

“Anyone that has worked in a company with more than one person knows that eventually people lose sight of the common goal.” ~ Henry Ford

Storm Clouds Gather

The Storm Clouds Gather

At some point in every employee’s career, they go from caring about the company to caring about themselves. Just like an individual, organizations start out focused, driven and building solutions for their customer’s success. But, companies can fall into the trap of caring more about their survival than the people orprocess that brought them success.

Chance of inclement weather and disaster

When companies reach the point that they do more “fixing the process” than solving customer problems, than blamestorming has taken over. It is easy to see when this happens:

Once a company starts to go down the blamestorming path, these are the things that can happen:

  • Increase in internal bureaucracy
  • Lower employee morale
  • Decrease in new ideas coming from employees, lower organizational creativity
  • Lots of CYB (cover your butt) action like documenting every single interaction
  • Increase in Customer attrition
  • Overall lower organizational efficiency

Riding the Storm Out

Blamestorming is an organizational issue, but it can be addressed at many layers within the organization.

At the team level

1) Focus on the problem and solve it.

Sounds simple, right? It is not as simple as it seems. The idea is that the long-term solution will come from solving the problem presented. Once the problem is solved completely take the solution and analyze it.

  • Why did the solution work?
  • How can it be used again?
  • Where can we leverage this solution?

2) Don’t focus on the process, focus on the people

Process is important. It lends to organizational consistency, but once it is done for the sake of the process it is failing. This is evidenced when leaders want employees to follow process over action or impact. It is important that when solving a problem that individuals are taken into account. Make sure that the people are taken care of while solving the problem. All the people involved – customers, employees, vendors, etc. In the end people will make or break your process and the success of your company (just ask Jerry Reinsdorf how that went when Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, etc. left the Bulls.)

At the macro (organizational) level

1) Mine for Solutions

Organizations can foster a sense of pride and build creativity by promoting/highlighting solutions. This is not collecting best practices. Best practices have become “formulaic” and don’t allow for creativity. It is showcasing solutions. Promoting, as an organization, looking for and creating solutions.

2) Align to Strategy

This is going to sound a little bi-polar. On one hand, organizations need to promote a solution focus. That requires some freedom of thought and action where the primary objective is to solve organizational issues (customer problems, etc.) On the other hand there needs to be some focus on the focus. That is there needs to be some direction or boundaries to the problems being solved. Actions taken within the organization and to forward the organization should be taken towards a common end or strategy. This will increase the overall organizational effectiveness.

Why do something about it now?

A logical question might be, “Why should we worry about this now?” Organizations that don’t will go the way to horse carriage makers, US Watch makers, etc. These organizations did not see that they were not solving customer issues but holding on to a way to doing business or even product that wasn’t needed.

Monday, July 19, 2010

My challenge to you: only speak like a human at work - Telegraph, Daniel Pink

My challenge to you: only speak like a human at work - Telegraph

My challenge to you: only speak like a human at work

Companies are talking 'professionalese' to keep customers and colleagues at a distance, when what people crave is openness and honesty, argues Daniel H Pink.

One night last month, a Virgin Atlantic flight left Heathrow Airport bound for Newark, New Jersey. As the plane neared the Eastern Seaboard, bad weather forced the flight to divert to Hartford, Connecticut, some 106 miles north of its destination. The plane sat on the runway there for four hours – without air-conditioning, food or water – as babies wailed and adults anguished in the darkened cabin.

The next day, the airline, which explained that the Hartford airport lacked the customs personnel to process an international flight, offered this response: “Virgin Atlantic would like to thank passengers for their patience and apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

Jason Fried, co-founder of the American software firm 37 Signals and co-author of ReWork: Change the Way You Work Forever, finds the language of that statement almost as inhuman as the problem that prompted it.

Not too long ago, Fried saw a similar, though less calamitous, disaster in a Chicago cafe. A woman had just purchased a large cup of coffee. On the way to sit down, she tripped, and spilled the entire contents all over another customer.

Here’s what she said: “I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry.”

“If someone is really, truly sorry,” says Fried, “that’s how they respond.”

But in business we rarely talk like that. Instead, we resort to a weird and inadvertent bilingualism. We speak human at home and “professionalese” at work. And that might be hurting our businesses more than we realise.

Go back to that all-too-common phrase: “We apologise for any inconvenience this might have caused.” Would you say that to your daughter when you were late picking her up from football practice? To your neighbour when your dog trampled his flowerbed?

“Any inconvenience” is emotionally anaemic and lacks the specificity to make it meaningful. “We apologise” isn’t much better. It’s distancing almost to the point of dismissiveness. “When you say, ‘I’m sorry,’ you’re owning,” Fried explains. “When you say ‘I apologise,’ you’re renting.”

Professionalese is a renter’s language. It doesn’t expect to be around for very long and has no stake in the long-term prospects of the neighbourhood. It says, “mistakes were made” rather than “we messed up” and claims to “take responsibility” instead of acknowledging “it’s my fault”.

Using business-speak at work rests on the notion that the distance of professional language is inherently strong – and the closeness of personal language inherently weak.

But this idea may be wrong.

The behavioural economist Dan Ariely has conducted research showing that when people are treated rudely, they’re more likely to behave vengefully – for instance, by not saying anything when they’re given too much change in a transaction. But when rudeness is followed by a clear and simple “I’m sorry”, the annoyance dissipates and people tend to behave as honourably as they do in ordinary circumstances.

Or consider medicine. In the US, where physicians fret that every patient is a potential plaintiff in a malpractice lawsuit, lawyers counsel doctors never to admit a mistake. But evidence shows that when doctors apologise for an error and show how they’ll avoid it in the future – that’s to say, when they talk and act like human beings – aggrieved patients think more highly of the physician and are less likely to sue.

In 2006, Threadless, an online T-shirt company, confronted a case of technological malpractice. While upgrading its computer system, the company accidentally deleted all of the blogs that its customers had maintained for several years. Yet when Threadless, instead of hiding behind the stilted language of “inconvenience caused”, explained its errors, apologised directly for them and even invited comments on the blunder, customers reacted with surprising empathy.

“The best way to figure out if you’re running a good company is to figure out if your customers trust your apology,” says Jeffrey Kalmikoff, who was Threadless’s chief creative officer during the snafu.

Like any valuable relationship, the ones we have in business hinge on trust. And trust depends on openness, respect and humanity. Yet we often resist taking that approach in our professional lives, even though we know it would be absurd to do anything else in our personal lives.

For instance, suppose I’m talking on my mobile phone – maybe doing an interview for this column – when my wife calls. I can’t speak with her at the moment – I’m on deadline – so I say to her: “All of my brain is busy right now, so please hold and I’ll be with you shortly. Your call is very important to me.”

I guarantee that my customer satisfaction scores at home would suffer.

But if that’s true, why not re-craft the waiting message in our call centres so that it’s more like what we’d say to our spouses? “We know it’s frustrating to wait on hold – but we’re swamped right now answering other calls. We’ll get to you as soon as we can – probably about [insert an accurate number] minutes. We’re sorry for making you wait.”

In a world awash in information and choices, clarity is now a source of competitive advantage, says Fried. “The real winners in business are going to be the clear companies. Clarity is what everybody really wants and appreciates.”

So try an experiment. For the next seven days, go monolingual and speak only human at work. Don’t say anything to your boss, your staff, your teammate, your supplier or your customer that you wouldn’t say to your spouse or your friend.

It might startle people at first. But I suspect that they’ll reply in the same vernacular – and you might start actually understanding each other and getting something done.

However, if I’m mistaken – and this test flops – I apologise in advance for any inconvenience caused.

Daniel H Pink is an author and business leader who writes about the world of work. His most recent book is Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (Canongate Books)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Leading Blog: A Leadership Blog: 5 Leadership Lessons: Joseph Nye on Leadership

Leading Blog: A Leadership Blog: 5 Leadership Lessons: Joseph Nye on Leadership


5 Leadership Lessons: Joseph Nye on Leadership

5 Leadership Lessons

Joseph S. Nye is University Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. In The Powers to Lead, he relates leadership and power. He expands further on his concept of soft power—co-opting people rather than coercing them—and hard power—influence involving pressure or threats—but he shows how effective leadership in the real world requires a mixture of both.

Hard and soft power are related because they are both aspects of the ability to achieve one’s purpose by affecting the behavior of others. They sometimes reinforce each other and sometimes they interfere with each other. The use of either one or the other depends on context. The ability to know which to use when is what he calls smart power. We need to know our context.

He says, “Soft power is not good per se, and it is not always better than hard power. Nobody likes to feel manipulated, even by soft power. Like any form of power, it can be wielded for good or bad purposes, and these often vary with the eye of the beholder.”

Here are five leadership lessons from The Powers to Lead:

1 Almost anyone can become a leader. Leadership can be learned. It depends on nature and nurture. Leadership can exist at any level, with or without formal authority. Most people are both leader and followers. They “lead from the middle.

2 Smart leaders need both soft and hard power skills: co-optive and command styles. Both transformational and transactional objectives and styles can be useful. One is not automatically better than the other. Leaders depend on and arepartly shaped by followers. Some degree of soft power is necessary. Presence/magnetism is inherent in some personalities more than others, but “charisma” is largely bestowed by followers.

3 Appropriate style depends on the context. There are “autocratic situations” and “democratic situations,” normal and crisis conditions, and routine and novel crises. Good diagnosis of the need for change (or not) is essential for contextual intelligence.

4 Leadership for crisis conditions requires advance preparation, emotional maturity, and the ability to distinguish the roles of operational, analytical, and political work. The appropriate mix of styles and skills varies with the stage of the crisis.

5 The information revolution and democratization are causing a long-term secular shift in the context of postmodern organizations—a shift along the continuum from command to co-optive style. Network organizations require a more consultative style. While sometimes stereotyped as a feminine style, both men and women face this change and need to adapt to it. A consultative style is more costly in terms of time, but it provides more information, creates buy-in, and empowers followers.

Monday, July 12, 2010

9 Expert Tips For Better Writing - by Seth Simonds

9 Expert Tips For Better Writing

One of the things I like best about social media is the way it helps me discover talented writers. They remind me a lot of distance athletes with their deep conversations about seemingly minor details and long periods of time spent practicing alone.

The web also has a downside. There seems to be a growing belief that having mobile access to information negates any need to regularly consume quality writing.

Some writers point to the popularity of the Twilight series and say it’s a sign the general population no longer cares about quality. In my reply I always point to the wise commentary of Juan Williams:

Pandering to base interests is very different from catering to real needs.(Paraphrased from his commentary on the notion that people of color only want to watch MTV.)

It’s possible that you’ll make money by pandering, but there are a lot of people doing the same thing now. Traipse around online for a bit and you’ll find thousands of desperate writers trying to predict the next fetish in hopes of fame and fortune. It’s sad to watch them trying so hard because in the end they’ll have nothing to be truly proud of. I want to write things for which my only explanation for writing is not, “I needed the money.”

Do you? If so, you may find some portion of the following useful. I’ve gathered some of my favorite quotes from brilliant, prolific, and plain crazy writers and share them here with some tips I’ve found incredibly helpful in my own journey as a yearning writer. I hope you enjoy!

1. Write to make a point, not a target word count

Vigorous writing is concise. ~William Strunk Jr.

Nothing makes me grimace quite like hearing somebody say they’ve reached 50,000 words and so have completed their first novel. Remember dully typing toward a minimum word count for an academic paper you had no interest in writing? If you start to get the feeling about something you’re writing, it’s probably time to stop writing and do some more research (or bribe your editor/professor/mother into accepting the shorter piece of work).

2. Help another edit their writing

I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~Elmore Leonard

I have a short, round-bellied friend who turned me on to this quote. That said, I’ve found that helping another writer edit their work often leaves me with more insight into my own writing than I gave to the other writer! If you can find a trusted friend to trade nascent work with, you will have found a wealth of improvement.

3. Write something every day that you do not intend to share

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth

I have a private blog I update daily with rants, outlines, fears, and bits of nothing that stream out of me when I’m struggling to find focus for another piece of writing. You’ll never see it. There’s no value in my sharing it because the moment I know others can see it is the moment I no longer write just for me. I suggest you give this method a try. It doesn’t have to be a blog. A notebook would work just fine.

4. Outline before drafting & Don’t confuse fiction with dishonest writing

If any man wish to write in a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts; and if any would write in a noble style, let him first possess a noble soul. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I am still learning to to do the first part. I’ve taken great value from sharing outlines of my intended work with friends who are very logical and excel at criticizing arguments without muddling thoughts. The last part… is something I can only hope for. If I someday hear a reader say, “his writing is imbued with kindness” I think that will do.

5. Don’t get caught up in restating the obvious

The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say. ~Anaïs Nin

As one who writes a lot for the web, I am continually tempted by the low-hanging fruit of trending topics and morning news drivel. Restating the obvious is easy, fun, and very retweetable. But the obvious rarely seems to translate into any sort of real legacy. If I only had a list of all the things my readers already know collectively, it would be so simple to stay fresh!

6. Befriend a dictionary

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. ~Mark Twain

Imbue, conjure, nefarious… are just a few of the words I have as friends to help me clearly make a point, share an idea, or call something into question. There’s a joy in having the perfect words at one’s disposal that only a dedicated writer can appreciate. A thesaurus can be useful if you’re bored, lazy, or drunk. Nothing trumps having a word come to mind just as you need its help.

7. Keep a little notebook for moments of inspiration

Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable. ~Francis Bacon

I use a moleskine to store my thoughts for later. Having thoughts and personal commentary all in one place has the added benefit of serving as a source of inspiration for later times of drought. Think of it as you would catching raindrops in a canteen. You’ll be glad for the moisture some day.

8. Not having a pen in your hand doesn’t mean you’re not writing

The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes. ~Agatha Christie

If you walked into my office at random, there’s a very good chance you’d find me sipping a glass of tea while staring off into space. Am I doing nothing? Not in the least. Contrary to my mother’s early suspicions, I’m not addled. I just like to silently try phrases out in my mind before writing them down. Agatha had a point about dishes, too. There’s no such thing as writer’s block. But there are times when washing dishes is a better use of time than staring at an empty screen!

9. Be kind to yourself

Every writer I know has trouble writing. ~Joseph Heller

I hope you are kind to yourself and forgiving when you cannot find the perfect phrase or paint a story just so! Writing, for me, seems a monumental task at times and I am always delighted to find others who understand my situation and reach out to help. There’s a joy in knowing that no matter how lonely a stretch of path may seem we are never entirely alone, no? We always have our writing and with it an entire community of people who care.