Five Leaders Done In by Their Own Troops

Buy Steven's Book Here
In Steven Snyder's latest book, he explores how leadership is a very challenging role that has no easy answers and a myriad of complexities and frustrations -- enough to test the most seasoned and hardy souls.

As a more entertaining but relevant look at the challenge of leadership, we compiled this list of five great military leaders who were killed by their own troops (the ultimate leadership challenge, we think, is to survive your own employees):

1. Captain Yevgeny Golikov
On June 13, 1905, the crew of the Russian cruiser Potemkin mutinied as a result of the poor quality of meat served on the ship. The Captain, whom many felt did not take the crew's demands seriously and treated them poorly, was seized by the mutineers and thrown overboard.

2. Nadir Shah
As the emperor of all lands occupied by the Persians in the early 18th century, Shah had defeated the Indians, Afghans, Mongols and even the Turks. However, he was known to be despotic and cruel and when his own military bodyguard murdered him in 1747, there was widespread approval of his fate.

3. Captain Pedro de Urzua
In 1559, Pedro de Urzua led an expedition of Spanish soldiers to the Amazon basin in search of the mythical golden city of El Dorado. After two years of searching, they were unable to discover any sign of the city and his men mutinied and killed him under the leadership of Lope de Aguirre.

4. Colonel John Finnis
On May 10, 1857, John Finnis, at that time commander of the 11th Native Regiment of the British Indian Army in Meerut, India, was informed that his troops were occupying the main parade ground. Finnis mounted his horse, went to the parade ground, and delivered a harsh lecture to his troops about their supposed insubordination and insulted them. The Indian soldiers responded by shooting and killing him, thereby triggering the Sepoy Mutiny.

5. Captain Lashkevich
In Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) on March 12, 1917, Captain Lashkevich commanded his soldiers of the Volynsky Regiment to fire on street demonstrators. His troops refused, and when he pressed them further, they shot and killed him instead. This marked a critical point in the Russian Revolution because the Volynsky Regiment then became the first Russian military unit to turn against the state and join the revolutionary forces.

Moral of these stories: leadership can be deadly.


Five Complementary Forms of Currency That Work

Buy the Book Here

In Bernard Lietaer and Jacqui Dunne's book Rethinking Money, the authors reveal both the devastation caused by our current monetary systems and ways new currencies are being designed to repair that damage.

Here are just five examples of complementary or cooperative currencies that have made a difference in the world:

1. Blaengawr, South Wales. The small rural village of  Blaengawr, South Waleswhich previously suffered from high unemployment and a bleak future, totally transformed itself within the space of ten years. Following the closure of its coal mining pits in the mid-1980’s, decay and blight set in, as there was no formal employment to replace that of the mines. On the Welsh index of material deprivation, the former mining village was 128th on the scale of 1,800 communities with one being the worst in the country. Today following the introduction of a local currency and timebanking, the rural community stands in 735th place climbing more than 600 places over that period of time.

2. Various locations throughout Japan. The fureaikippu system in Japan provides elderly or handicapped people with any services not covered by the official national healthcare program. Its units are accounted for in hours of service. In what amounts to a healthcare time-savings account, caregivers who provide for the elderly in the fureai kippu system accumulate credits and may draw on these in a variety of ways. They may use this currency themselves if they are ill, or they may elect to electronically transfer part or all of their fureai kippu credits to parents or relatives who require care and may live in another part of the country. Currently there are an estimated 387 fureai kippu systems now operational throughout the country.

3. Switzerland. The WIR banking system and currency in Switzerland has been in operation for over 70 years and is responsible, by in large, for the country’s legendary economic stability. The WIR currency  -- a type of barter-currency -- circulates among businesses in parallel with the national currency. Participants can borrow secure lines of credit from the cooperative in WIR currency at low interest rates ranging from one to one and a half percent. All such loans need to be backed by inventory or other assets. 

4. Rabot, Belgium. Rabot is an immigrant district in Ghent, the fourth largest city in Belgium, and is the poorest community in the entire region. Many inhabitants wanted to have access to a few square yards of land for growing vegetables and flowers. The city-owned land in the neighborhood included a site where an old factory had been demolished. This land was divided up into plots measuring four square meters each, and  became available to rent on an annual basis at the cost of 150 Torekes, a newly introduced local cooperative currency. This currency can be earned by performing tasks from a long list of urban agricultural improvements and beautification activities. 

5. Your wallet. The most recognized example of a complementary currency is frequent flyer miles. These so-called loyalty currencies are the largest cooperative currency system in existence today. Since American Airlines introduced the first of these programs more than 30 years ago as a marketing promotion, there are currently some 92 airlines issuing miles.  Increasingly, frequent flyer miles are redeemable for a variety of services besides airline tickets, such as long distance and mobile phone calls, hotels, cruises and catalog merchandise.  They have developed into corporate scripa private currency issued, in this case, by airlines. In fact, about 54 percent of miles are not earned from flying. Instead, credit cards that offer bonus miles with purchases have become the most popular way to earn frequent flyer credits.


Four Things We Don't Need More Of

Buy the book here
Over-using our resources the way we do now only means bad news for the future -- especially when this use is not based on actual need for anything more than simple excess; taking more because there is more to take (for now).

As the authors Rob Dietz and Dan O'Neill discuss in their book Enough is Enough, that's a big problem that we seem to be blind to. As examples, the authors list four surprising things of which we have more than we need (and the damage done with the excess):

1. Priuses.
The Toyota Prius has become a popular ride, capturing more and more market share each year. These vehicles use less fuel per mile traveled, but the lower operating costs encourage additional driving, a circumstance which can undermine (or even overtake) the original gain in efficiency—this is the rebound effect.  More technology and greater efficiency have their place, but they are not enough on their own.  We can't consume our way to sustainability, even if that consumption consists of cooler cars.

2. Attention paid to GDP.
GDP has become the most watched and most misinterpreted of all economic indicators. GDP is just a measure of money changing hands, and it doesn’t ask what that money is actually being spent on.  It could be spent on good things like bicycles and education, or bad things like war and disaster cleanup.  It turns out we’re spending more and more money on things in the second camp, and calling this "progress."  It's time to ditch GDP and measure what really matters—the health of our societies and the ecosystems that support them.

3. Infrastructure Projects.
Unlike the successes of FDR's New Deal, many of these projects turned out to be unproductive, and they failed to provide jobs over the long term.  The U.S. has also been directing funds to infrastructure ("stimulus" spending), mostly in fossil-fueled urban areas.  Society needs jobs, but creating them through wasteful and obsolete build-outs is a dead end. For example, an ultra-modern, cable-stayed bridge provides an easy way to get across the harbor of Hamada, Japan.  The only trouble is that not very many people want to get across the harbor, resulting in a wasted expense of public money and amassed debt to build infrastructure with little purpose.

4. Cheerleading for Growth.
When a newscaster says, "The market has turned bullish, pushing the Dow Jones Industrial Average higher," the most common response is, "Whoo-hoo!"  But if Boeing’s stock price increases because it is expected to sell more weaponry, or if Exxon Mobil’s stock goes up because it can exploit tar sands, is that a good thing?  All “growth” is not equal and definitely not beneficial to society even if it is to the stock markets.


Looking for Potential in the Wrong Places

Buy the Book Here
Authors Don Maruska and Jay Perry challenge traditional methods for identifying high-potential employees and developing their talent. In their new book, the authors argue that talent development can extend to all members of an organization at all levels and not just a select few elites.

To help us with some of the factors we need to be aware of, Don and Jay compiled this list of Five Ways "Traditional" Talent Development Programs Remain Ineffective In Actually Locating and Developing Talent:
1. They apply an outmoded, mechanistic view of people and organizations.
The organization-employee relationship has undergone, and continues to undergo, a profound evolutionary and generational shift. Thinking of organizations as machines and people as filling slots in them doesn’t fit with today’s fast-paced innovation economy. Employees at all levels need to take personal initiative and be nimble and creative. Younger generations are accustomed to being more independent and are able and eager to find needed information and create applications.

2. They try to “drive” results from the top down.
The idea of driving behavior as if people were cattle isn't effective and promotes a culture of dependence. Such strategies focus on what management or the organization is doing to fire up its employees. The reality is that employees have the talent. Workers need a culture that encourages them to discover it and the self-motivation to apply it.

3. They focus on “high-potential” candidates and ignore others.
When talent development comes from the top down, management’s available time and resources limit its scope. As a result, resources focus on “high potentials.” Picking a few winners among a large workforce creates an “us-them” dynamic, which undermines engagement and diminishes critically-needed contributions from everyone else.

4. They create transactional relationships, which prompt employees to withhold rather than offer their best.
The cash for tasks approach to encouraging employees to apply their talents triggers fearful behavior. In that kind of environment, people are loathe to take risks and often keep knowledge and inventive practices to themselves in order to keep a competitive edge. Everything is a negotiation that no worker wants to lose.

5. High levels of disengagement and unused talent remain.
If traditional approaches were working, we’d see better results. Instead, levels of disengagement remain persistently high. Based upon a Gallup survey of U.S. workers in 2011, 95 million employees are not engaged or actively disengaged. What’s more, even high performers in excellent organizations tell us that 30 to 40 percent of their talent remains untapped. Since people don’t join organizations with the intention of being unhappy or unfulfilled, it’s time for a change.


Five Ways Consultants Do More Damage Than Good

Buy Karen's Book Here
Karen Phelan's latest book focuses on management consultants and how they can often do more damage than good. --> Bringing in outside consultants can rejuvenate an organization with fresh perspectives, new capabilities, and formerly unthought-of options, but unfortunately many of the large, industrialized consulting practices do just the opposite. 

Here are five ways consultants get it wrong :

1. Focusing on delivering those deliverables – “Deliverables”  is consultant-speak for the end products,  like that binder full of flow charts or the 200-page power point deck, that are contractually required for the huge fees and provide proof of the consultants’ value.  Many consultancies obsess over creating deliverables instead of building capabilities. Worse, those documents usually become obsolete shortly after you print them because they’ve been based on….

2.  Assuming the world is static – Promising optimized business processes is dependent on a static world. How do you optimize something that is constantly changing? Even those 5-year strategic plans become obsolete before they can be executed. Do you really want to execute a plan based on years-old assumptions? Rather than disseminating knowledge or offering options, many consultants recommend one course of action as the right answer or recipe for success. If the world changes, then that answer is no longer applicable. Unfortunately, many consultants require that one solution for…..

3. Constructing command and control functions – Often, a consulting team will walk into a client site and be appalled by the lack of oversight. How can the executive team be so naively trusting that their employees will do the right things? That prompts a major effort of implementing command and control functions where every employee and every action is monitored and measured, hence stifling innovation, flexibility, and engagement. Many companies fall for this rigid system because the terms “management by objectives” and “performance metrics” have become part of the management theory lexicon. And much of this jargon exists because consultants are so good at ….

4. Propagating management consulting gobbledygook  – This takes the form of the indecipherable jargon,  a quadrant chart with cute animals, or a formula that calculates shareholder satisfaction.  The only thing this gobbledygook succeeds in doing is to distort thinking, either by boiling down complicated human systems to an x-by-y plot or by disguising what is actually happening by calling it something else, ala right sizing.   All this gobbledygook is a result of consultants …..

5. Seeking fame and fortune as thought leaders – While consultants are rewarded on client satisfaction, the real money and recognition comes from being a thought leader and creating a trademarked model that brings both royalties and renown.  The problem with thought leadership is that it is not usually derived from extensive real-world experiments or years of data gathering.  If you call thought leadership what it really is – it’s making stuff up in your head and getting other people to follow it – then it’s obvious that the impressive sounding methodologies only look good on paper. 

A little raw, perhaps, but there it is. Thoughts?


Five Great Advantages that Startups Don't Take Advantage Of

Buy Peter's Book Here

Peter Cohan has started several profitable companies and is also a venture capitalist who knows what startups have to go through to get established. In his latest book, Peter discusses how startups can take advantage of various factors to launch their businesses.

For this blog entry, Peter shares Five Great Advantages that Startup CEOs  Don't Even Realize That They Have:

1. You have the ability to attack big competitor vulnerabilities.
A big market is big because there are huge competitors who are likely dominating it. You might think that those big companies will do anything to defend their market share, but you would be wrong. They won’t cut price below their costs because that would threaten their quarterly profits – which would crater their stock price.

Since you have virtually no costs, you can sell your product at a much lower price than they do and still make a profit. If you start to gain market share, the big company won’t match your price unless they can cut their costs enough to preserve their currently fat profit margins.

2. You can lure top employees and talent
I don’t know anyone who actually liked working for a huge company because they often feel like powerless drones whose work has very little personal or professional meaning and mainly benefits a handful of people who don’t even know they exist.

This means that your start-up has a chance to lure some of the best talent –even though you won’t be able to pay high salaries. People crave the chance to do work that they find personally meaningful and work with other people who feel the same way. If you can convince talented people that your start-up can create that kind of profound meaning, they will gladly give up a chance for a high salary in a big company. Your offer of stock options or equity won’t hurt either.

3. You have a steeper learning curve.
Big companies take a long time to make decisions because countless bureaucratic obstacles have to be overcome before a big company can introduce a new product, raise its prices, lower its costs, or go after a new market opportunity. And as long as it takes big companies to make decisions, it takes them even longer to implement those decisions.

But a start-up can go through seven such learning cycles in the time it takes a big company to complete one. This means that your start-up can get much smarter than a big company about a new opportunity because it can get prototypes to customers, find out fast what works and what does not, and adapt to what you’ve learned.

4. You can tap your network to get needed resources.
People and other leaders are much more willing to help out gifted and inspired start-up CEOs than to lend a hand to corporate power brokers.

If you have a track record for winning, then the people in your network will want to give you their time and money (some more of each than others). If you need help making a marketing plan, raising capital, deciding who to hire and fire, which company to acquire, getting customers, forging partnerships, or designing products – people in your network are there to help.

5. You have the ability to take market share by delivering far more value.
If you’ve picked the right market opportunity, big companies have set the bar pretty low by giving customers a product that is priced too high and does a mediocre job of meeting their needs. But because they dominate the marketplace, they have little reason to do better.

Your start-up is poised to deliver them much more bang for the buck by finding a problem that is causing that industry’s customers great pain but that no other competitor is solving, and figure out a way to solve it while charging a lower price. Then people start coming to you instead. (Remember the pain of video rental late fees and having to drive back and forth from Blockbuster? Netflix did.)

These five start-up resources only look like nothing to a big company. But if you’re an entrepreneur worth your salt, you’re already exploiting them to scoop up that big company’s customers with a spoon.


Five Ways Scenario Planning Can Help Social Action Groups

Buy Adam's Book Here
Author Adam Kahane was a leader of the groundbreaking Scenario Planning Team for Royal Dutch Shell, the energy company, -- widely credited as the originator of scenario planning. In his latest book (Transformative Scenario Planning), Adam takes the basic principles of scenario planning and explains how they can be used for social action initiatives.

Here are three ways scenario planning in the social sector (what Adam calls "Transformative Scenario Planning") can help social action groups:

1. Transformative Scenario Planning helps us see a bigger picture of what is happening now and might happen in the future.
We cannot be effective in changing what is happening in the world is we only see our own little part of what is happening. Transformative scenario planning enables actors from across a whole social system—a community, a sector, a nation—to pool their perspectives and so to see more systemically and act more effectively.

2. Transformative Scenario Planning helps us not be blindsided by futures we don’t want because of a narrow focus on what we do want.
People who are passionately trying to change the world often focus their attention on the way they want things to be. The discipline of Transformative Scenario Planning is that is requires us to focus dispassionately on how things might be, and so helps us improve our peripheral vision and our resilience.

3. Transformative Scenario Planning builds diverse alliances of actors, all of whom want to change the status quo.
More often, the problems we face are too complex to be solved by any one person or organization or sector. But the diverse actors who would need to work together to make progress usually don’t agree on the solution or even on the problem. Transformative scenario planning, because it initially focuses simply on describing “our complex problematic situation,” provides a practical way for such actors to begin to work together.

4. Transformative Scenario Planning helps us develop the capacity to think and talk and work with strangers and opponents, not just with friends and colleagues.
In a transformative scenario planning process, diverse actors rigorously and creatively talk through a set of relevant, challenging, plausible and clear scenario stories about what is happening and might happen; what these stories imply; and in the context of these stories what the actors can and must do. In this way the actors learn to work together across difficult differences in positions, perspectives, and interests.

5. Transformative Scenario Planning helps in constructing better ways forward together for a better world for all.
Transformative scenario planning is a way for a broad alliance of committed actors to build new understandings, relationships, intentions, and actions. These four types of results enable these actors to achieve together what they cannot achieve separately: to co-construct new and better futures.