Martin Business Consulting, Inc.
April 15, 2014
MBC, Inc. Communication – Volume 1 Issue 5
MBC, Inc. Newsletter Topics on “Leadership”
Leadership Development Seminars at MBC, Inc.
As Inspired by “The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell”
By – *Oren Harari
Are You Looking for No!
Are you looking for someone to stop you! – Why?
Yes or No – Progress or Stagnation! – What’s the Choice?
The General’s speeches, papers and books often tell us, “don’t go looking for no”, or “you don’t know what you can get away with until you try.”
Words to live by or fools advice?
Organizations both large and small are filled with people that only wait for orders to come down from top management. Afraid to take any initiative they only implement what is ordered, never pushing for change or trying to find a better way. These same people are generally the ones that cry “nothing ever changes around here”.
This is exactly what the General is talking about. Another way of looking at the General’s words; “it is easier to get forgiveness that it is to get permission”. Is this risky behavior? Only if you’re in an organization that refuses change, improvement, innovation or risk taking. If you go looking for a “no” you will probably find it. Likewise if you go seeking a “yes” you will likely not find it.
The General’s position in multiple presentations and discussions about permission has always been, “If I haven’t explicitly been told no, I can do it.” When this is your base you have permission to do anything except what has been expressly prohibited by oral or written orders. This is often a dividing point between mediocre leaders and outstanding leaders. The mediocre will take the approach, “if I haven’t explicitly been told yes, I can’t do it.” When this is your base you aren’t able to do anything except wait for top management to “see the light” and then issue orders for you to take action.
Will you always succeed? No. Will you be punished for every failure? If you have good leadership in your organization “no”, failures that don’t harm the organization should only be considered “learning-moments”. Is there ground between success and failure? Yes. Often taking the intuitive to do something new or innovative will not bring the result you expected or predicted, but you and the organization may still see benefit. Be prepared to accept limited success, not everything is a home-run, but anything can be a base-hit or walk, there is still benefit.
Oren Harari and Linda Mukai conducted a study in the early 1990’s to learn what the attributes of high-performing leaders are. Oren and Linda ask senior managers of five major corporations to identify their best middle managers and the run-of-the-mill middle managers. Both groups where interviewed and the attributes of excellence soon came to light. Factors such as education, tenure, age or sex where not key determinants of performance. The attributes that separated the two groups were, “How likely a manager was to push things to the limit”. The mediocre managers simply carried out standing orders and waited for new orders to come from above. Conversely the best managers were constantly working around the edges or pushing the limits sometimes outside-the-lines of their personal job descriptions and defined responsibilities. Quite often without asking permission, they experimented, tinkered and explored looking to improve the organization or move toward some goal. This must always be approached without being irresponsible or insubordinate. The less effective managers followed; “if I haven’t been told YES, I can’t do it”, the best leaders followed; “if I haven’t been told NO, I can do it.
Stretching the envelope is usually the result of exercising your freedom within the acceptable boundaries of the organization. This is often very productive and beneficial to you and the organization but it also carries responsibility.
The good leader whether pushing the envelope, by-passing procedures or the chain of command you must always keep one thing in mind. Regardless of your position or sphere of influence the good leader, the responsible leader is never reckless, don’t ever jeopardize the organization. Pushing the envelope is not about putting yourself, the organization or others at risk. Pushing the envelope is about working toward change.
“Freedom to be your best means nothing unless you’re willing to do your best.”
General Colin Powell
Colin Powell Principles summary;
“Live the old military adage: “No guts, no glory.” It is easier to get forgiveness than permission, particularly in these complex times.”
“Do your best by pursuing every avenue: pushing the envelope means leaving nothing on the table; many careers have been stymied because of a manager’s unwillingness to push to the next level or the new way.”
“Make everyone want to stretch: whether you are in charge of a small department or a large organization, your first name does not have to be CEO to make a difference.”
“Don’t punish for failure: as long as the organization is not being subjected to unnecessary risk it is never wrong or punishable to fail or come-up-short of a goal.
“Don’t invest in or be a party to an organization that punishes risk takers. If you are a part of such an organization this may be the case or the time when you start working on your exit strategy, by making yourself more valuable to another organization, where you can excel!
If you are looking for Leadership Development Seminars
Consider MBC, Inc.
There are two books that I recommend to everyone that is interested in understanding the principles of leadership.
- The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell by *Oren Harari
- The Powel Principles by *Oren Harari
Please talk with your peers and see if they would benefit from this series. If you think they may, please send them to the web-site www.mbcincorp.com they may download the free white paper and be automatically signed up to receive all future leadership articles and quality tips.
Thanks to All
Bill Martin – President