6 questions that new (technical) leaders need to reflect on

One of the services that I provide is working with people who have superb technical skills to develop their leadership capabilities.

In my experience, people with superb technical skills respond much better to one on one coaching than to learning with a group of people since in a group, they have often learned to be heroes and/or excel by leaning on one limited set of skills with people prone to worship technical talent.

When I do intake before I start the work itself, I ask 15 questions in a 2 hour session. Here are 6 of the questions that I ask before we start to work to begin to understand who I am working with.

  • What are the major assumptions that you have about what makes leadership “happen”?
  • What can’t leaders do?
  • What is the added value that a leader should provide towards clients, boss’ and peers? Direct and indirect reports?
  • What events detract from a leader’s influence?
  • What are some of the reasons you can think of why people would not follow you?
  • What are some of the main reasons that you followed and did not follow people who have led you?

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Four questions to determine if a candidate has global literacy.

Several times each month, I interview people who are candidates for roles which have a large degree to of global exposure to vastly different cultures. Clients ask me to provide an assessment of the candidate’s global literacy and a suggested coaching plan where relevant.

I generally ask 12 questions. I will share 4 of these questions with my readers. For these interested in what I consider “global literacy”, here is a link to another post.

1) Describe what you think are the biases of your own culture, and how do they impact the way you manage conflict, communication and teamwork.

2) Describe 2-3  behavioural patterns of other cultures which you find most challenging to deal with and explain.

3)  Respect is a term that many cultures use, yet often it means different things to different people. Explain how you would show respect, differently, to various populations that you work with.

4) How do you go about establishing trust in a society with an insider-outsider dynamic?

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After a reorg, nothing changes

I have witnessed hundreds of reorganizations which have resulted in either no change, or a change for the worse.

The goal of this post are to point out why reorganizations fail.

At face value, reorganizations are implemented to improve the organizational ability to adapt to changing circumstance.

Another unspoken but very real reason for a reorganization is that senior management needs to buy time, and what buys time better than a reorganization, which can often result in a year of grace from pressure from above.

Yet another reason for a reorganization is that it is “doing”, which serves as a message that the status quo is untenable. And management often believes that doing “something” now is better than taking time and figuring out what needs to be done.

Change management and industrial engineers have promulgated a myth that reorganizations are more manageable than they really are, so managers feel more certain that reorganizations can be well controlled, and thus use the reorganization medication frequently.

There are many reasons why reorganizations fail. Here are the top three which come to mind.

  1. Most people have been through many reorganizations, and have learned the defence mechanisms necessary to protect themselves. So structure changes but individual behaviour becomes more self protective, resulting in a reduction in efficiency and effectiveness.
  2. Paralyzing processes, poor products, unskilled/demotivated engineers and a shitty cultures (pardon me)  are not cured by a reorganization.
  3. In order to support structural reorganization , massive investment goes into promulgating instant stability!. Massive investment is made in definitions,  new processes and re-freezing. Yet far too often, these massive efforts does not impact what makes a reorganization fail: politics,  poor leadership, incompetence and poor teamwork.

The type of OD work which is necessary to support reorganization  is not serving as  the CEO’s Vaseline with pre-packaged OD products, as it were, which purport to “manage the change” .

In a reorganization mode, OD needs to focus on ensuring that something else changes, not only the structure. Most time, reorganizations are merely turf grabs, as Terry Seamon notes below in his comments.

But only the best CEO’s want to expose themselves to this type of hardball OD in the first year of a reorganization.

Most CEO’s prefer to use the year of grace, freed from the prattle of an OD consultant whose input creates “noise” by focusing on abstracts like politics and trust.

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4 factors that impact the ability to integrate an Israel based start up

The art of post merger acquisition is difficult regardless of cultural differences. When the culture of the Israel start-up is factored into the equation, the challenges of post merger integration become daunting.

This post will focus on 4 factors that will impact the ability to integrate an Israel based start up after its acquisition.

1) The Israel market has a crushing demand for top talent. So it really does not matter what type of stay bonuses are put in place after acquisition, there is a good chance that top talent will be lost. And because Israel start ups have so few processes and so much “oral law”, the chances are that not only talent will be lost, but also unrecoverable knowledge .

2) Israel is a very modern society and appears very western in its cultural accoutrements.. But Israel is not Western at all: relationships are more important than process, the “old buddy” network is impregnable similar to the Chinese old friend clique, and the communication style within the inner circle is very different than the communication with the outer one. Very few non Israelis get into the Israeli inner circle within the first 3-5 years acquisition.

3) Transparency is a rare commodity Like the Chinese, Israelis believe that transparency maybe foolish, especially when it gives HQ the possibility to screw you.

4) Israelis argue all the time about everything, both with one another and with their bosses. This is very time consuming when doing anything, large or small, because one cannot give “marching orders” to the Israel based manager and assume that things will happen. Corporate directives often encountered with the fiercest resistance due to lack of discipline and rugged individualism, the same rugged individualism and lack of discipline  that enabled the innovation to begin with!

My next posts will address what is to be done when acquiring an Israeli company.

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