Nina Nets It Out

Perspectives on Leadership

Where Do You Start?

For some time I have been fascinated by the way that different people solve problems. Over the years I have worked with both creative thinkers and with directed, logical thinkers and found that each have strengths and weaknesses. Those who tend towards more logical, methodical and analytical approaches are often considered “left brain” dominant. They excel in mathematics and statistics and work through problems in a step-by-step manner. The creative and artistic types, however, are known as “right brain” dominant. Their expertise lies in a capacity for expression. This “lateralization” of the brain was popularized by Nobel Prize winner, Roger W. Sperry. While studying epilepsy, Sperry discovered that cutting the structure that connects the two hemispheres of the brain could reduce or eliminate seizures. This division of brain hemispheres has formed the basis of dozens, or hundreds, of books, seminars and training sessions. No doubt, if you have undertaken a personality or strength profiling exercise, you have experienced some form of this thinking. While this approach is pervasive, it has however, been called into question. Recent research indicates that while aspects of brain function reside in one part of the brain, it is too simplistic to assign left/right brain domination. For example, neuroscientists now know that our capabilities are strongest when both sides of the brain work together. That is, we are more creative and more logical when the left and right hemispheres collaborate. Creative thinkers have strengths and so do logical thinkers. And like the brain itself, which seems to borrow the best and most appropriate capability from any of its regions, leaders must be able to work...

Personal Leadership Starts with You

Whenever I meet with or talk to a successful leader, I am always reminded of the phrase “leadership starts with you.” And recently as I was browsing the All Things Workplace blog, I was reminded again. Steve Roesler says: Without a clear sense of what a successful life means to you, then everyone else can control your time, your choices, and your career. You have no firm basis on which to make decisions. One of the most important functions of the leader is to make decisions and act upon them. This means having a firm personal and professional foundation from which to function. I have explained this previously as “keeping your eyes on the prize”. But leadership success also stems from a single, personal acknowledgement: No-one will support your career the way that you do. I point this out not to be obvious, but to make an important point. Your leadership aspirations will only come to fruition if you acknowledge, own and act upon them. No one will do this for you – not a partner nor parent, not a boss nor mentor. For while these people may have a personal interest in your success, activating that personal interest is the first step that you must make on a much longer journey. There are three key steps that you can take to activate your own personal leadership: Identify a quantifiable step-up: Many people aim for the very top of an organization. While this is an admirable ambition, leadership extends far beyond a singular role. Aspiring leaders need to identify not JUST the goal (ie to be CEO) but a...

Learn to Love Office Politics

Love it or hate it – there is no way around it. Once you start working with a team you are going to experience “office politics”. And for leaders at any stage of their career, learning to deal with office politics is vital. In fact, it can determine whether you are successful in your career or not. Recently I was interviewed by Women’s Leadership Coach, Jo Miller on the subject of office politics. Over on Jo’s blog, February is “office politics month”, so there is plenty of useful information and insight and a range of viewpoints on this controversial topic. In my interview, I fielded a number of questions from Jo’s readers. Here are a couple of extracts – but be sure to read the whole article. QUESTION: Do you feel you MUST engage in office politics in order to be considered successful? Jane, WA NINA: Politics are a reality and one must not ignore them or do so at their own peril. I am not a fan of politics, but I have learned that ignoring them can have negative consequences. So, I do believe that we all must understand the nature of the politics within our respective companies and participate to the extent necessary. QUESTION: Nina, what are some of the “rules of the game” that you have encountered? Shelley, TX and Kay, CA NINA: I have encountered issues of being the only woman in the room, being younger than many of my colleagues, etc. but I have always kept my focus on delivering value and results. I believe, based on my experience, that outcomes matter the most....

The New CIO – The Chief Impact Officer

There once was a time when the driving force for corporate innovation was comfortably at home with the office of the CIO. It was a time when technology was vast and confusing – and in the corporate world – had newly emerged as a powerful way to drive efficiencies, transform supply chains and bring financial accountability to ever more complex global operations. And at the core of all this was information. Coupling the information of a business with the technology that helped accelerate and make decisions across that business generated untold billions in value for organizations around the world. But over the last decade, there has been a shift. There has been less emphasis on the strategic role of information technology and a greater focus on technology responsiveness. Less interest in business cases and capital expenditure than rapidly deployed apps and operational improvement. And there has been more of a demand to balance the back office needs with front-of-house expectations. Today’s CIO has a broad ambit – covering what I call “all things ‘I’”. Insights – CIOs have always been aware of the potential of big data, but the next generation of analytics platforms are turning our data warehouses into a ready storehouse of insights that can power everything from our marketing campaigns through to changes in our supply chains, partner networks and CSR programs. Interactive – As investments in digital marketing begin to outstrip more traditional forms of advertising, technology is no longer on the back end of the customer experience, but front and center. CIOs have an increasingly important role supporting front-of-house activities, feeding insights, data and...

From the Athena Doctrine to the Five Forces of Kibbutz Leadership

In 2011, when the wall of water hit the Kinoya seafood factory in Ishinomaki, Japan, 800,000 cans of seafood were swept away. In the months and years that followed, as Japan worked to recover from the massive impact of the tsunami, a remarkable movement grew out of the devastation. Volunteers began collecting the cans. One-by-one the cans were cleaned of the sludge and debris that covered them, brought back to the factory and repackaged. About half of those recovered were saleable and were sent to stores around the country. The cans soon became known as cans of hope. However, there was a problem – the labels had been washed away. This meant that the contents were a surprise to the purchaser. Undeterred, the Japanese public began decorating the cans, leaving messages of hope and encouragement. The story of hope had taken a whole new direction. John Gerzema shares this story at the start of his TEDx talk as an illustration of a powerful leadership trend that I have observed for sometime. He calls it the “Athena Doctrine.” At the core of this is an approach to business and leadership that is breaking away from the traditional ways of working – leadership that is more collaborative, flexible and nurturing. Gerzema suggests that this style of leadership is more “feminine” than “masculine.” The Athena Doctrine was built on research carried out with over 60,000 participants in 13 countries. And one of the core findings was that 57% of adults are dissatisfied with the conduct of men. A fact with which 54% of men also agree. The most powerful aspect of this...

“Leader” is Not a Title, it’s a Journey

I’ve held many positions during my career. I have performed many roles. I have achieved outcomes, fulfilled targets and delivered on key performance indicators. But never once have I had “leader” on a business card. I was considering this situation as I read Gary Hamel and Polly LaBarre’s HBR article How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge. They say, “To gain a true leadership advantage, organizations must be filled with individuals who understand how to maximize their own ratio of ‘accomplishment over authority,’” and it resonated with me. It reminded me of the organizations that I have worked for – of the opportunities and challenges that were presented, and of the many teams and individuals that I have worked with. From the earliest points in my career, I was attracted to projects and colleagues who were leaders. I could see that some projects really were ground-breaking – would set a new agenda in the world of business – and I wanted to be part of that. And at the heart of these changes – these waves of disruption – were people who could glimpse some shapes in the future ahead of us and inspire the journey ahead. And I say “people” rather than “leaders” – for almost always, they became leaders during that journey. When I was called upon to lead SAP’s global education business, I saw it as an opportunity, but also as a challenge. It was a substantial business with a long history and a particular way of working. But times were changing, and this business too, had to change. I knew that this was going...

How Using Facebook Helps Leaders

Whether we like it or not – and whether we are prepared or not – our businesses are becoming more networked and connected. Our colleagues and teams are no longer co-located but spread across locations, states and even countries. Welcome to the true, global virtual workforce.

Pivot Your Leadership Aspirations

For every article that talks about breaking through the glass ceiling, there are hundreds of real world examples where it has failed to happen. For no matter how ambitious you may be, how talented or creative, sometimes you reach a plateau, and once you are living and working on that plateau, it’s time to re-evaluate.

Be a Leader, Not a Boss

I have always believed in the power of business culture – to not just set the direction of your company but to accelerate results, improve decision making and drive performance. If you can get your culture right it will set the foundations for your success. So I was interested to think through Geoffrey James’ article on the 8 Core Beliefs of Extraordinary Bosses. This is a great article, covering some of the key principles of management – from an understanding of business through to team motivation and change. Geoffrey’s approach calls out the distinction between an “average boss” and an “extraordinary boss” – identifying eight core beliefs that differentiates one from the other. And while I can’t quibble with the distinctions he makes – I’d like to think we could take this distinction further. Rather than thinking about the notion of a “boss” or a “manager” – let’s reframe our role in the guise of the “leader” and let’s test each item against business culture. Imagine a world where: Business takes place as a process of collaboration between your customers, partners and suppliers Your company, your teams and peers connect as though a tribe Management simply provides a platform which handles the transactions of business while unleashing your creativity Your employees are not only considered peers, but responsible and empowered leaders Fear and even vision are overcome by purpose Change is itself seen as the precondition for innovation and reinvention Technology changes not just the way we do business but our reasons for doing business Work not only contributes to our sense of wellbeing, but inspires us in a...