Accelerating the Impact of New Government Leaders

Navigating leadership changes can be a difficult challenge for teams and organizations. New relationships, new ways of working, and shifts in strategic priorities can derail even the most successful teams. And with many organizations already struggling to meet performance expectations, it is imperative that leaders quickly make an impact on key mission priorities. So, how can new leaders more quickly assimilate?

Formal New Leader Assimilation

Most existing new leader assimilation processes trace their roots to original research conducted by John Gabarro first published in 1985. Gabarro studied the succession of 14 general managers to understand the challenges of taking charge of a new organization. Using longitudinal studies and historical case reviews, Gabarro examined successions covering:

  • Functional and general managers
  • Organizations ranging in annual sales from $1.2 million to $3 billion,
  • Turnarounds and normal situations
  • Successions that failed as well as those that succeeded.

In Gabarro’s work, he found that it typically takes 13 to 18 months of learning before a new leadership is ready to significantly impact the organization. Given the amount of time and resources invested in finding and placing a new leader, waiting a year or more to see a return on that investment is a daunting proposition for most organizations. As such it is no surprise that Gabarro’s work spawned tremendous interest in finding ways to significantly reduce that timeline. Read More…

Yin/Yang Leadership: Seeking Balance

Yin Yang Leadership

When I woke this morning, I laid in bed for a moment realizing the quieter start of our days and thought through the agenda for the hours ahead. I took a moment to figure out what day it was, marveling at the perception of time. Days are flying by, yet it feels like we’re standing still.

I was struck by a thought I had, and that it was the exact same thought I had the day before, and the day before that. It’s a thought that comes to me with such clarity, such simplicity, and urgently. “This is so weird.”

We will be going through our day without leaving the house (except to take another walk around the block ), without interacting with other people (except for our neighbors from an awkward distance across the sidewalk), and without physically connecting with our friends and family outside of our home. Now, more than ever, I am grateful for technology and video conferencing.

I wonder, when will I wake and say, ‘this is normal.’ Or not have any thought or judgment of the day at all. And what I’m learning is that it isn’t without the other experiences that I’m able to truly observe my current reality.

Without a sense of normalcy, I wouldn’t be able to see this current reality as weird. As I reflect on the changes and differences and losses of today, I can see more clearly all the things that I perceived as normal. Read More…

Leadership Lessons From Unlikely Authors: Part 2

Portuguese author Fernando Pessoa wrote, “Literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life.”

I’ve certainly found this to be true as I’ve been packing for our move. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about procrastinating from packing by rediscovering lessons from past reads. And, that particular procrastination has become my go-to activity of late. So, I thought I’d finally post the follow up to that blog and share a few more of the leadership lessons I’ve found in unexpected places.

  1. The best leaders celebrate the unique way each individual contributes to their team. I read Jackie Robinson’s autobiography, I Never Had it Made, many years ago. As a lifelong baseball fan, the stories of those who made the game great always something I enjoy. And, of course, Robinson’s impact on baseball and the country can’t be understated. Early in the book Robinson recalls his conversation with Branch Rickey about joining the Dodgers. He shares a pivotal thought that was a driving force in his decision to take on the challenge of breaking the color barrier in major league baseball. As Robinson wrestled with the motives Rickey had for offering him a spot on the Dodgers and whether the pain and hardship would be worth the opportunity, Robinson remarks, “The most luxurious possession, the richest treasure anybody has, is his personal dignity.” It was Robinson’s belief in his own dignity, his unwavering knowledge that he was worthy of honor and respect – even at a time where so many were saying just the opposite – that, at least in part, drove him to join the Dodgers. As I read the passage, I was struck by the idea that it wasn’t just a desire to play the game he loved, or to challenge the league’s racial divisions that made Robinson take on this particular challenge. It was also the fact that not doing so would mean sacrificing some of his own sense of dignity, agreeing with the voices that said he wasn’t worthy of the honor of playing professional baseball. I believe that just as baseball offered Robinson the chance to affirm his personal dignity, all people work, at least in part, for the same reason. Our jobs offer us the opportunity to affirm our own belief that we can make a difference for others, that our skills and capabilities are of value, and that who we are can contribute to the benefit of others. Being the best leader you can be means respecting what every member of your team brings to the organization. It requires you to see and celebrate the worth of their contributions. And, it also requires that you provide the feedback they need to maximize the use of their unique talents.
  2. The best organizations focus on building a community, not building systems. As a consultant, I’ve learned a lot from the work of Peter Block. His book, Flawless Consulting, was already somewhat of a classic when I started my consulting career, and many of the ideas I found there influenced the way I approach my work. But, the most important lesson I’ve learned from Block’s work actually comes from his 2008 book on revitalizing American communities, Community: The Structure of Belonging. Writing about the importance of rediscovering collaborative association, Block says, “Systems are an organized group of funded and well-resourced professionals who operate in the domain of cases, clients, and services. Systems are capable of services, but not care.” While Block was focused more on the larger notion of community, I think what he says is also true of how to best organize our places of work. There is clearly value in optimizing your organization at the system level, but if you want to truly care for your team, your shareholders, customers and the broader ecosystem in which you operate, you have to build community. Further, Block notes, building community requires groups that don’t just work in parallel, but relentlessly pursue the type of collaboration where each individual and group contributes their unique capabilities towards achieving a common goal. As a leader, if you want to build a team and organization that is resilient and sustainable, you have to build a community.
  3. Building a team that focuses on others is critical for sustained success. There’s been so much talk in the last several years about the impact of technology on jobs and the workforce. As I was trying to make sense of all that’s been written, I stumbled on Jeff Colvin’s book, Humans are Underrated. If you want a realistic assessment of how humans and machines are likely to collaborate in the workplace of the future, I’d highly recommend this quick read. But, my biggest takeaway wasn’t really about technology. Instead, it was about how to cultivate a team to provide sustained competitive advantage. According to Colvin, “For producing innovations that organizations actually value, intrinsic motivation isn’t enough..people who are intrinsically motivated as well as other-focused produce the most creative and useful ideas.” Colvin points out that building a team that consistently produces ideas that drive organizations, requires finding people who focus beyond themselves. This notion is central to the concept and process of design thinking. In design thinking building deep empathy for customers (or others) is the first step in innovation. The foundational activity of building empathy is all about putting the needs and desires of others in the driver’s seat. And only through deep connection with those needs and desires can you develop a product or service that will be really useful to the end user. Useful innovation is the hallmark of teams and companies that thrive in rapidly changing conditions.

Now that my bookshelf is packed, it’s time for me to go find some new sources of leadership inspiration. I hope after reading this, you’ll also be inspired to look for leadership lessons in whatever you chose to read.

And if you want to expand your reading list, GovLoop is curating a list of helpful resources for telework, here. Or check out the Washington Post’s top reads for 2020 so far.

This article originally appeared on

Leadership in Times of Crisis: Vulnerability as a Strength

Leaders emerge during times of crisis, formal titles or not.  They provide support, strength, and vision for those around them.  And they give something else of themselves: vulnerability.

Our presence as leaders is not only about projections or manifestations of strength.  It is about being open to the concept of vulnerability – which, paradoxically, in and of itself is a strength.

Is there anyone in the world today who does not feel vulnerable?

In speaking with leaders in recent days, I find that many are struggling with their personal situations (working at home with young children, for instance), as well as their own insecurities and fears.  They confess to me that they are reluctant to tell others what they are experiencing, although they realize the emotions they feel are universal.  These leaders sometimes conclude that telling others what they are experiencing might be a sign of weakness.

I ask my clients “What do you feel vulnerable about now?” and “How would it serve you and your team by talking about it?”  Also, “How can you best establish a connection with your people during this crisis?”  Finally, “What do you think your people concerned about?”

What emerges from their answers?   That opening up on a personal level is what people need.  And a leader who speaks of his or her own challenges opens up the possibilities for others to speak about theirs.  That solidifies the connection – that human contact – which is so important to each of us. Read More…

Podcast: Leadership Development: Leadership From Your Laptop?

In this episode, James O’Flaherty interviews Kevin Hyde, President, and Co-Founder of Layer 8 Security.

Leadership Development is being affected by technological innovation, teleworking, and multi-generational teams. Kevin discusses how he has navigated these issues both in his military career and also as president of a cyber-security company. He tells relatable stories and gives actionable advice about how he approaches leadership development in this changing environment.

Released: April 22, 2020

Podcast: Leading Culture Change in Global Organizations

In this episode, Chris Cancialosi interviews Dr. Daniel Denison of Denison Consulting.

A lot has changed since the topic of organizational culture popped onto the collective radar in the 1980s as a way to drive organizational performance. In this episode, we talk with Dr. Daniel Denison about how globalization and technological innovation has created new challenges, and opportunities, when it comes to culture. Dan discusses the critical dynamics of culture in global organizations and practically, how habits and routines can be at the heart of culture change. Dan expands on these thoughts in his book titled “Leading Culture Change in Global Organizations: Aligning Culture and Strategy.”

Released: April 9, 2020

Show notes: Dan refers to a book about how habits can change culture titled Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg.

Stepping Away From “Hurry Sickness”

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my attempts to take a day off from being busy. Since that post, a lot has changed, and the challenge of unbusying is harder than ever for some.

Between the shift to remote work, increased responsibilities to care for the kids, a spouse/significant other, aging parents, etc, and the need to plan and adapt, I know for many of you, time is still a very scarce resource.

In fact, despite having fewer commitments due to physical distancing requirements, I’m still not doing a great job of being less busy. For all the really hard things this season is bringing, I’ve decided to commit finding some good by taking advantage of the opportunity to reset my schedule.  Here’s why I think, for me at least, now is a perfect time to make the shift to being less busy. Read More…

CEO Spotlight: Dispelling Myths About Military Veterans In The Civilian Workforce

Every so often, I dedicate my writing to a topic that is near and dear to my heart- raising awareness of employment trends and challenges for military veterans who are transitioning out of the service and back into the civilian world of work. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a conference on this very topic at Amazon’s headquarters, hosted by Deloitte and other organizations dedicated to hiring veterans in their organizations as well as organizations that exist to directly provide transition support. 

Part of the day’s events included a presentation by representatives from LinkedIn who shared their latest Veteran Opportunity Report, a study using the massive data and insights available to the digital networking platform. What is important to acknowledge is that LinkedIn’s positioning as a powerhouse of professional networking puts its teams in a unique position to understand this topic in great detail. If you are interested in learning more about this untapped talent pool, I encourage you to download their report for yourself. In the meantime, here are some highlights that might surprise you. 

The quick stats:

  • Veterans remain with their initial employers 8.3% longer than their nonveteran counterparts
  • Veterans are 39% more likely to be promoted than their nonveteran colleagues
  • Veterans are 160% more like to have a graduate degree or higher as compared to nonveterans
  • Veterans with bachelor’s degrees have 2.9X more work experience than their peers

Read More…

Faith and the Optimistic Stance

Faith is a word which elicits different thoughts and emotions for each of us.  For some, it is a sense of trusting others or implicitly knowing we are understood or respected.  For others, it can be the feeling that we will always be encouraged by our friends, colleagues and fellow travelers, especially in time of need.  And for many, like me, it is centered on a belief in a higher power.  Often, it is all of those things combined – and more.

Faith and optimism are intertwined.  One cannot truly believe that something positive will happen in the future without taking a metaphorical leap of faith that is centered in optimism.  Be it a soldier looking over in the foxhole at the man next to him or the coworker with whom you’ve worked for years – it takes faith and optimism to know that the other person will always have your back when the challenges – and battles – confront us.

My colleagues at the Gestalt International Study Center (GISC) have a wonderful perspective called the “Optimistic Stance.”  Their outlook says, “Gestalt takes a realistic view of the present and an optimistic view of the possible, preferring to work in the development of the potential within an individual or system rather than correcting them.”   In other words, they see each system, be they families, teams or much larger groups, as having inherent capabilities that can be appreciated and noticed.  Once they are pointed out, growth is unleashed, which serves every system. Read More…

Podcast: Organizational Culture Consulting: Turning Data Into Action

In this episode, Chris Cancialosi interviews Dylan Flavel Managing Director of Melbourne based Spring Point.

Consulting sometimes gets a bad reputation which seems to come from the root issue of “overdiagnosis.” That means consultants spending way too much time assessing the situation and leaving little focus or budget to help their clients making tangible change. Dylan talks about how now clients are hiring consultants to quickly turn data into action. He also discusses how to find the right consulting firm for your organization.

Released: March 27, 2020