Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Collaborative Leadership of Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren

On January 20th U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren and incumbent Scott Brown signed a pledge intending to stop all PAC (Political Action Committee) spending on their campaigns. The pledge states that for every dollar a PAC spends on TV or Internet advertisement for them or against their opponent they will donate half that amount of money to a charity of the opponent’s choice.

I find this agreement a breath of fresh air, setting an example of political bipartisan leadership as well as collaborative leadership. This model should serve as an example for all politicians to follow. Collaboration is about building something together. It is about remaining open to new possibilities.

Collaborative leadership is both unifying and fluid. Think of an evolving organism, one that is highly dynamic as it adapts and wends its way toward its ever-changing goals. While this may seem amorphous, or even wishy-washy, it is the nature of the universe. Physicists speak of the dance when describing particle physics. Leadership and the nature of organizations is exactly the same.

Conversely, hardened positions such as signing a pledge for no new taxes (a la Taxpayer Protection Pledge) takes flexibility and adaptability off the table. Charles Darwin explained all too well for us what happens to species that are no longer able to adapt. Hardened ideological positions are fine for religions but are no way to stay ahead of the curve, whether leading a nation or a private organization.

It is difficult to lead collaboratively. It requires time, patience, and skill. All parties must be committed to the goal of creating something new and building trust. They must be willing to enter a meaningful dialog to come to an understanding of each other’s values and goals so that this new creation may emerge. Begin by building on small achievements together.

So ask yourself how well you’re working with other leaders and other teams…


• What behaviors do you exhibit which build trust?
• How do you engage others in meaningful dialog?
• How do you get peers to buy into your vision and goals?
• What process do you use to understand everyone’s values, beliefs, and goals?
• What process do you use to build a common vision?
• How do you build upon early accomplishments?
• Are you willing to invest the time to lead collaboratively?
• Are you willing to invest the time and energy to upgrade your leadership skills if necessary?

Keywords: collaborative leadership, trust, dialog, commitment


Ansell, C., & Gash, A. (2008). Collaborative governance in theory and practice. Journal of public administration research and theory, 18(4), 543-571.
Chrislip, D. D., & Larson, C. E. (1994). Collaborative leadership: How citizens and civic leaders can make a difference. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Mullen, C. A., & Kochan, F. K. (2000). Creating a collaborative leadership network: An organic view of change. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 3(3), 183-200.

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Be Careful What You Give-You Cannot Take it Back

Last Thursday was “comp day” at one of the premier investment banking firms, Goldman Sachs. This is the day when employees are handed their bonus for their previous year’s performance. Unfortunately, some reportedly received nothing. If you’ve never received a bonus for your work, that’s not a big deal. If you have, it is a big deal. Let’s find out why.

Imagine you’re babysitting a friend’s child, Jimmy, for the day and he’s been happily playing in your yard. The day is growing long and you decide to reward Jimmy’s good behavior. “Hey Jimmy,” you shout, “you’ve been such a good boy today how ‘bout I take you down to the store and get you a new ball?”

“Awesome!” Jimmy replies as he runs to hop in the car. “Can we get a kickball?” he asks as he slides onto the car seat.

“Sure thing,” you reply. “You’ve been really good today, Jimmy, and I want to reward you for that.”

“Works for me, Mr. Leider. Thanks!”

Anxious to give his new ball a try, Jimmy slides out of the car and onto the driveway without even closing the car door. Stepping to the edge, he holds the ball in front, one hand on each side and swings his right leg back. Hesitating for a moment, he then swings his leg forward in a graceful, powerful arc, sending the ball to the other side of the yard and squeals, “Yippee! Thanks Mr. L. This is awesome!” “You’re welcome Jimmy. I’m glad you enjoy it.”

Jimmy kicks the ball back and forth in the yard, enjoying each kick just as much as the one before. But as he tires, Jimmy has some difficulty keeping the ball in the yard. You watch as he winds up for another powerful stroke. The second his leg connects with the ball you see a car speeding down the street, oblivious to the ball hurled into its path. In an instant the ball is under the car, and then POW! Without hesitating, the car speeds on past, either unaware of the damage inflicted or unwilling to face a dejected child deprived of his precious toy.

“Mr. Leider, Mr. Leider!” Jimmy calls. “Awwww.” Tears begin to stream down his face and you rush to console him.
While it is certainly expected that Jimmy would be sad that his ball has been crushed, let’s step back for a moment to analyze this logically. In the first part of this story Jimmy is quite content playing in the yard without a ball. He has a certain reference point in terms of toys to play with and games he is able to play. You introduce a new toy and new modes of play follow. You have changed the reference point, raising the bar, so to speak.

As a leader, every time that you give your team members something you are changing the reference point. If you don’t give as much as before or take something away you generate unhappiness. While this may not be logical, it is a fact of human behavior.

So be careful what you give. While you can take it back—it won’t be pretty.

• Every time you give team members something you generate a new reference point
• As humans, once we have an enjoyable experience we desire to keep it or repeat it

Keywords: leadership, rewards, happiness, endowment effect, loss aversion, reference point

Kahneman, D., Knetsch, J. L., & Thaler, R. H. (1990). Experimental tests of the endowment effect and the Coase theorem. Journal of Political Economy, 98(6), 1325-1348.
Kahneman, D., Knetsch, J. L., & Thaler, R. H. (1991). Anomalies: The endowment effect, loss aversion, and status quo bias. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 5(1), 193–206.
Munger, C. (1995, June). The psychology of human misjudgment. Lecture given at the Harvard University.
Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1991). Loss aversion in riskless choice: A reference-dependent model. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 106(4), 1039-1061.
Veenhoven, R. (1991). Is happiness relative? Social Indicators Research, 24(1), 1-34.

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Motivating Your Team: The Types of Human Motivation

As I work with clients to hone their leadership skills the issue of motivation frequently arises. The prevailing view is that you must provide an incentive for your team members to work hard to meet their goals. However, such a view is fraught with peril.

Research on motivation has shown us that individuals are generally motivated in one of two ways:
• Intrinsically, with the satisfaction of having done a good job or completing a challenging assignment
• Extrinsically, with external rewards such as a bonus, prize, or contest

In general, intrinsically motivated individuals are those you should be looking for. They will be motivated by challenging assignments and the satisfaction of having done a good job. The extrinsically motivated people will require constant care and feeding since they’ll always be looking for the reward, the “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM) factor.

The real difficulty lies in rewarding intrinsically motivated individuals with external rewards. A colleague of mine and fellow Kansas State University alumna, Dr. Nancy Johnson, provided me with an excellent example over coffee one day. In one of her classes at the University of Kentucky she encouraged students to participate and appealed to their intrinsic motivation. Those who were generally intrinsically motivated were eager to participate and became more involved in the class. She then offered an extra credit point for class participation—an extrinsic reward. As expected, the extrinsically motivated individuals began to participate. So far so good. But then the intrinsically motivated people significantly reduced their participation because they felt as if they were only participating for points rather than ideas. In other words the extrinsic reward impaired the intrinsic motivation.

So be careful—the same effect can happen to your team. Some of the motivation research has shown a similar phenomena where external rewards destroy intrinsic motivation. Even further, some of the motivation and creativity research has revealed that extrinsic rewards may diminish creativity.

Goals are also powerful motivators. We have seen many studies which show that well-designed goals enhance performance. The existence of goals, depending on how they are treated, may appeal to an individual’s intrinsic or extrinsic motivation.

• Through your one-on-one discussions with team members determine whether they are more intrinsically or extrinsically motivated
• Use appropriate motivation techniques with individuals
• Use a thoughtful and measured approach to setting goals and incentives for team projects

Keywords: leadership, motivation, extrinsic, intrinsic, goals, creativity

Amabile, T. M. (1985). Motivation and creativity: Effect of motivational orientation on creative writers. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48(2), 393-399.
Amabile, T. M. (1996). Creativity in context. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Amabile, T. M. (1997). Motivating creativity in organizations: On doing what you love and loving what you do. California Management Review, 40(1), 39-58.
Atkinson, J. W. (1958). Towards experimental analysis of human motivation in terms of motives, expectancies, and incentives. In J. W. Atkinson (Ed.), Motives in fantasy, action, and society (pp. 288–305). Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand.
Cameron, J., & Pierce, W. D. (1996). The debate about rewards and intrinsic motivation: Protests and accusations do not alter the results. Review of Educational Research, 66(1), 39-51.
Deci, E. L. (1971). Effects of externally mediated rewards on intrinsic motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 18(1), 105-115.
Deci, E. L., Koestner, R., & Ryan, R. M. (1999). A meta-analytic review of experiments examining the effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 125(6), 627-668.
Deci, E. L., Koestner, R., & Ryan, R. M. (2001). Extrinsic rewards and intrinsic motivation in education: Reconsidered once again. Review of Educational Research, 71(1), 1-27.
Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum Press.
Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1991, A motivational approach to self: Integration in personality. Proceedings from Nebraska Symposium on Motivation 1990, Lincoln, NE.
Eisenberger, R., & Cameron, J. (1996). Detrimental effects of reward: Reality or myth? American Psychologist, 51(11), 1153-1166.
Hackman, J. R., & Oldham, G. R. (1976). Motivation through the design of work. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 16, 250-279.
Herzberg, F. (1968). One more time: How do you motivate employees? Harvard Business Review, 46(1), 53-62.
Herzberg, F. (1973). Work and the nature of man. New York: New American Library.
Herzberg, F., Mausner, B., & Snyderman, B. B. (1959). The motivation to work (2nd ed.). New York: Wiley.
McGregor, D. M. (1957). The human side of enterprise. Management Review, 46, 22-28, 88-92.
McGregor, D. M. (1960). The human side of enterprise. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Prendergast, C. (1999). The provision of incentives in firms. Journal of Economic Literature, 37, 7-63.
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68-78.

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This is One Impressive Cat: The Leadership of Doug Oberhelman

Caterpillar is an unlikely darling. We all know that technology is where it’s at, not heavy industry. Don’t tell that to Doug Oberhelman, CEO of Caterpillar. Under his leadership the company has thrived through the current recession.

Doug led a team during a boom cycle in 2005 that put together a strategy on how to deal with a huge downturn in sales. While extremely unpopular at the time, it turned out to be exactly the right thing to do. In November 2008 sales plummeted and the strategy was quickly executed in order to stay ahead of the downturn. This prepared Caterpillar for the next up-cycle—one that is currently underway.

Under Oberhelman’s leadership, Caterpillar recently completed the $8.8B acquisition of Bucyrus, a manufacturer of complementary heavy machinery as well as several other smaller acquisitions. Determined to make the most of this recession, he’s investing in new plants, hiring workers, bringing manufacturing back to the US where the customers are, and scratching to gain market share while others sit on hoards of cash and continue to lay workers off. This takes courage.

If you listen to Doug Oberhelman’s words and observe his actions you’ll notice something—his forward-moving energy is palpable. There’s a lot we can learn from Doug. Let’s look at his behavior:
• Focused on the customer (he visits at least one customer a week)
• Is optimistic about the market and paranoid about competitors
• Maintains a good balance between people and tasks
• Communicates, communicates, and communicates even more
• Focuses on moving forward while learning from the past

Keywords: leadership, balance, strategy, communication

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Sears: A Fallen Giant

Last week Sears reported that it will close up to 120 Sears and Kmart stores. I found it to be another sad chapter in the story of a fallen giant. For me, Sears is akin to a giant sequoia tree—a mammoth, standing stable generation after generation. Unfortunately the retailer continues to erode its foundation a bit almost every year.

Let’s travel back in time for a moment. Many of you may not be aware that in the late 1950s to early 1980s considerable work on employee selection took place, primarily at Standard Oil Company, AT&T, and Sears. These organizations spent considerable time and money to determine how to select individuals most likely to be successful in their organizations. V. J. Bentz and L. L. Thurstone pioneered the efforts at Sears. Those studies became the basis for today’s selection instruments. Their efforts paid off.

Sears was the big Kahuna of retail. But it didn’t last as complacency and arrogance set in. Arrogance can blind you to new competitors, and I’ll give you a personal example. Many years ago I gave a presentation to a company regarding technology industry customer support. I listed WordPerfect (remember them?) and PCs Limited as exemplars. Before I could move past the slide one of the executives couldn’t pass up the chance to sneer at the name PCs Limited. “Who are those guys? They’re nothing.” was the comment. My retort was a simple, “Well, they may be nothing today but if they keep up the good service they’ll be something some day.” We do know them today—Dell. And the company I was presenting to, well, I’ll withhold comment.

Sears failed to adapt to changing market conditions as specialty retailers and big box stores left them in the dust. While Sears continues to be a strong retailer (number 10 last year) those with superior market strategies have prevailed.

• Use well-validated employee selection methods
• Remain adaptable to market conditions
• Never, ever become complacent or arrogant—maintain a healthy fear of competitors

Keywords: leadership, employee selection, complacency, adaptability

• Bentz, V. J. (1967). The Sears experience in the investigation, description, and prediction of executive behavior. In F. R. Wickert & D. E. McFarland (Eds.), Measuring executive effectiveness (pp. 147-205). New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.
• Bentz, V. J. (1968). The Sears experience in the investigation, description, and prediction of executive behavior. In J. A. Myers (Ed.), Predicting managerial success (pp. 59-152). Ann Arbor, Michigan: Foundation for Research on Human Behavior.
• Bentz, V. J. (1985). Research findings from personality assessment of executives. In J. H. Bernardin & D. A. Bownas (Eds.), Personality assessment in organizations (pp. 82–144). New York: Praeger Publishers.
• Bentz, V. J. (1990). Contextual issues in predicting high-level leadership performance: Contextual richness as a criterion consideration in personality research with executives. In K. E. Clark & M. B. Clark (Eds.), Measures of leadership (pp. 131-143). West Orange, NJ: Leadership Library of America, Inc.
• Bray, D. W. (1968). Choosing good managers. In J. A. Myers (Ed.), Predicting managerial success (pp. 153-165). Ann Arbor, Michigan: Foundation for Research on Human Behavior.
• Bray, D. W., Campbell, R. J., & Grant, D. L. (1974). Formative years in business: A long-term AT&T study of managerial lives. New York: Wiley-Interscience.
• Sparks, C. P. (1970). Validity of psychological tests. Personnel Psychology, 23(1), 39–46.
• Sparks, C. P. (1983). Paper and pencil measures of potential. In G. F. Dreher & P. R. Sackett (Eds.), Perspectives on employee staffing and selection (pp. 349–368). Homewood, Illinois: Richard D. irwin, Inc.
• Sparks, C. P. (1990). Testing for management potential. In K. E. Clark & M. B. Clark (Eds.), Measures of leadership (pp. 103-112).

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