I have a lasting interest in how people make good decisions, especially when many people are involved, and many people are affected by the decisions.

Currently reading the book “Crucial Conversations“. Towards the end of the book, there is a section on moving from a dialogue towards concrete actions. The authors say that there are 4 methods of decision making.

The 4 methods of decision making:

  1. Command – One person decides. It might be the main authority figure, or that individual might delegate the power to decide to another specific individual.
  2. Consult – A person given the power to make a decision first consults widely before making a decision. Note: you can listen to someone’s opinion without taking on an obligation to use that opinion in your decision.
  3. Vote – The group votes.
  4. Consensus – we negotiate a position that everyone can agree to. This can take a long time, and can lead to many compromises on the decision being agreed.

When choosing which way to decide there are four questions to ask:

  1. Who cares? – Don’t involve people who don’t care
  2. Who knows? – Don’t involve people who cannot add value.
  3. Who must agree? – Who could block the implementation later on if not part of the decision process today?
  4. How many people must be involved? – The fewer the better.

If everybody is responsible, nobody is responsible. Great teams assign clear individual responsibilities and hold people to their commitments.

This list was put together by my father, Terry Neill, in the 1980’s as a reminder for himself and those around him about the nature of good leadership, and the easy pitfalls of Non-Leadership. He led businesses through good times and through tough times and I can see the positive impact he has had on many who worked with him.

He was recently cleaning out some papers in his office and found this and shared it with me and my siblings. I find it simple and clear. Leadership is not easy, but it is necessary in all areas of our lives.

You don’t need Power to lead

You do not need to wait for power, nor permission nor position to decide to act like a leader. You decide to take responsibility and begin. You realise that each of your actions make a difference. You are connected to many people and your actions have impact. You will affect more than 1,000 people over the course of your life. If you have a positive affect on them, they in turn are connected to more than 1,000 people and your leadership will ripple out and touch over 1,000,000 lives. These 1,000,000 lives are connected out to 1,000 in their turn… and your small daily actions of leading and taking responsibility to make things better will ripple out to a billion people. Your actions matter.

The differences between Leaders and Non-Leaders

by Terry Neill, partly based on “Search for Excellence

LEADERSNON-LEADERS
Carries water for peoplePresides over the mess
A coach appealing to the best in each person; open door; problem solver and advice giver; cheerleaderInvisible – gives orders to staff – expects them to be carried out
Thinks of ways to help people be more productive, more focused on practicval goals and how to reward themThinks of personal awards, status, and how he or she looks to outsiders
Comfortable with people in their workplacesUncomfortable with people
Wants anonymity for self, publicity for practice of othersThe reverse
Often takes the blameLooks for a scapegoat
Gives credit to othersTakes credit. Complains about lack of good people
Gives honest, frequent feedbackInfo flows one way – into his or her office
Knows when and how to deal with non performers or unfair clients’ comments or pressuresDucks unpleasant tasks
Goes where the trouble is – to helpInterrupts people in crisis and calls them to meetings at his or her desk
Has respect for all peopleThinks operators, clerical staff etc are lazy, incompetent ingrates
Knows the business, and the kind of people who make it tickThey’ve never met him or her
Honest under pressureImprovises, equivocates
Looks for controls to abolishLoves new controls
Prefers eyeball to eyeball instead of memosPrefers memos… long reports
StraightforwardTricky, manipulative
Admits own mistakes. Comforts others when they admit themNever makes mistakes. Blames others. Starts witch hunts to identify culprits
OpennessSecrecy
Little paperwork in planningVast paperwork in planning
Arrives early. Stays lateIn late. Usually leaves on time
Common touchStrained with shop or office floor
Good listener‘Good’ talker
Simplistic on organisation valuesGood at demonstrating his/her command of all the complexities
AvailableHard to reach from below
FairFair to the top. Exploits the rest
DecisiveUses committees. Makes accountabilities opaque
ModestArrogant
Tough – confronts nasty problemsElusive – “the artful dodger”
PersistantOnly when his/her goodies are at stake
Simplifies (makes it look ‘easy’)Complicates (Makes it look difficult)
Tolerant of open disagreementIntolerant of open disagreement
Knows people’s namesDoesn’t know people’s names
Has strong convictionsVacillates when a decision is needed
Trusts peopleTrusts words and numbers on paper
Delegates whole important jobsKeeps all final decisions
Keeps promisesDoesn’t – unless it ‘suits’
Thinks there are at least 2 other people who would be better at his/her jobNumber one priority is to make bloody sure no one remotely gets near to being a threat
Focused to the point of monomania on values and ethical principlesUnfocused except on self
Sees mistakes as learning opportunitiesSees mistakes as punishment opportunities
Does ‘dog work’ when necessaryAbove ‘dog work’
Consistent and credible with the troopsUnpredictable. Says what he thinks they want to hear

About Terry Neill

Terry Neill

Father of 4 wonderful children and Grandpa to 9 grandchildren.

In his 30 year career with Accenture/Andersen Consulting he was based in Dublin, Chicago and London. He was Chairperson of Andersen Worldwide and Accenture; and was worldwide managing partner of the Change Management Practice.

He returned to Ireland in 2005 and was a Director of Bank of Ireland Group, UBM (the world’s biggest events company) and CRH plc. He is chairperson of the National Council of Wexford Festival Opera.

He is a maths/physics graduate of Trinity College Dublin. He was for 13 years a Governor of London Business School, where he had also gained his MBA. He is a member of both the Board of Trinity Foundation and the Trinity Arts & Humanities Governance Board.  He was chairperson of Co-operation Ireland (GB) and Camerata Ireland, Barry Douglas’s all island chamber orchestra.

If you enjoyed reading this post, you will also like What is Leadership? and 17 daily habits for a fulfilling life.

This is an interview with John Zimmer, one of the leadership communications coaches who joins me regularly at IESE Business School for various programs. This week we are teaching the Executive MBA program.

John has a wonderful blog: Manner of Speaking. Four of the top posts at his blog are:

About IESE Business School

IESE Business School

IESE Business School is a global business school offering MBA and Executive Education programs. Ranked #1 in world by FT, four years in a row (2014-2018). IESE has locations in Barcelona, Madrid, New York, Munich and Sao Paulo.

The Mission of IESE Business School

The mission of IESE is to develop and inspire business leaders who strive to make a deep, positive and lasting impact on the people, companies and society they serve.

“We want to educate leaders to whom we can entrust the future of business and society. For this reason, we develop the integrity, spirit of service, professional excellence and sense of responsibility of all those who take part in one of our programs.”

IESE Business School

IESE Business School activities are centered around three management axes:

  • global mindset
  • general management approach
  • people-centered vision, with the ethics and social responsibility that entails. We believe that companies are, above all, communities of people who work better in atmospheres of respect and trust.

How to improve your life: make better decisions.

If you take better decisions, you improve your life.  How to take better decisions:

  1. Improve your data
  2. Focus on what is Important (with Frameworks)
  3. Get other brains involved

Improve your Data

Feelings are not a good guide in complex decisions. Only evidence and the perspectives of people who have gone through similar decisions is good data for your decisions. Everyone has an opinion, not all opinions have value.

What data are you putting in front of you as you begin the process of deciding?

Focus on what is Important

The famed Eisenhower prioritization matrix has two axis:

  • level of importance,
  • level of urgency.

This gives 4 states:

  1. important & urgent
  2. Important & not urgent
  3. Not important & not urgent
  4. Not important & urgent

Zone 4 is deadly.

Stay out of Zone 4. Zone 2 requires the greatest discipline, and has the greatest long term payback.

You have to know where you are going. If you don’t have goals, you’ll drift into shit you don’t enjoy doing.  You’ll not build anything.  You’re headed down a dead end.

What are your lifetime goals?  Do you have them written down? Who do you want to be when you are older?

Imagination is the greatest human talent. It is vital to use your imagination to visualize your desired future. An architect doesn’t begin to build until the house is finished (on paper).

Get other brains involved

I was with the Arbinger Institute last week.

The biggest problem with human beings: Self Delusion.

We have such a huge need to see ourselves as being right, that we will ignore all evidence to the contrary.

Mastermind groups, peer advisory groups (EO, YPO, Vistage), mentors and coaches are vital to hold a mirror up to you and call out flawed thinking processes.

The person we find it easiest to lie to: ourselves.

Be careful. The question is not whether you are deceiving yourself, the question is where are you deceiving yourself.

How do you take decisions?

What do you do well? What do you not do so well?

Here’s a quick analysis (not scientific nor complete) of poor ways of listening. I am guilty of #1 and #2, I can enjoy #3… but I really hate #4. (#2 is my Achilles Heel).

The 4 Categories of Poor Listening

  1. Knows it Already
  2. One Upper
  3. Gossiper
  4. Black Hole

Knows it Already

As you get half-way through your sentence, the Knows it Already already knows what they think you are going to say. They are now preparing their response rather than listening to the rest of your words.

One Upper

Whatever you have done, they have done it… but twice as well, or twice as big or twice as impressive. You share that you went on safari last year and saw 2 elephants. They went on safari 2 years ago and saw 4 elephants, 10 lions and millions of other animals.

  • I give thanks to Florian Mueck for helping me recognise and reduce my tendency towards “One Upping”

Gossiper

Whatever you share, they will share something negative or comparative about other people who are not in the room.

Black Hole

Life is shit.

“All my daughter really wants from me is a few minutes of my undivided attention… the richer people get the more money they spend trying to “

Dorothée Loorbach

I am bad with money

It has taken me many years to admit this to myself. It was only by admitting it that I have been able to take the steps to put my family on a path to financial freedom.

I have a long standing belief that if I am a good person and do good work, the “money thing” will sort itself out. This has proven to be a poor approach to a well balanced life.

I still have had a lot to learn about my relationship to money. Many of the lessons shared in this video resonate with my own (poor) relationship to money. I am so optimistic that the future will be better that I don’t hold myself to the discipline of saving and investing my money. It has taken several business failures and a clear objective reflection on my poor money decisions to start to accumulate money over the last few years.

10 lessons about money from Dorothée Loorbach

Dorothée was “successful” in her job and made a lot of money… and then she spent it all… until she was broke, unable even to bake her little daughter a birthday cake. She had to face her own flawed beliefs about money and how they were damaging her ability to live a life that matters.

The 10 Lessons on Money from the Video

  • 4:49 #1 Money is important
  • 5:55 #2 Money equals time
  • 7:00 #3 Money equals value
  • 8:03 #4 What people say doesn’t matter
  • 9:49 #5 What people say matters
  • 10:58 #6 It’s really simple
  • 11:33 #7 It’s not that easy
  • 13:05 #8 Being broke sucks
  • 14:35 #9 Stay Broke
  • 15:54 #10 Money is not important

What are you beliefs about money? Are they having a positive impact on your approach to life?

This is a 30 minute interview I conducted with Waldemar Schmidt, past-CEO of a 250,000 employee global company. He shared insights about the role of the CEO:

  1. How to get the CEO role
  2. How to be a good CEO
  3. How to end your time as CEO and
  4. What to do next.

Watch the Interview

View on YouTube: The Job of the CEO

About Waldemar Schmidt

Waldemar Schmidt

Waldemar Schmidt, past-CEO of ISS, a 250,000 employee global facilities services business.

Currently on the Boards of 28 companies, London Business School Advisory Board, Professor at Copenhagen Business School, Executive in Residence at IMD.

Author of 4 books including “The Job of the CEO“. Note: all book Royalties are donated to the Waldemar Schmidt Scholarship for (Brazilian) students at the international MBA Programme at Copenhagen Business School.

Highlights from the Interview

  • 1:49 What is the Job of the CEO?
  • 3:18 Know Products, Numbers, Customers
  • 4:30 Management and Leadership
  • 5:35 Taking Good Decisions
  • 12:40 The Calendar of the CEO
  • 15:07 What do you do after being a CEO?
  • 16:45 Why did Waldemar step back from the CEO role?
  • 18:10 Advice to a 55 year old ex-CEO
  • 19:55 Networking as a CEO
  • 21:18 How to Build Relationships with top Head Hunters
  • 23:20 130 dilemmas that CEOs will face in life and business
  • 23:50 The worst enemy of great leadership: Arrogance

Further Resources

The Job of the CEO – Book Contents

  1. the Job of the CEO
  2. Characteristics and Skills of Great Leaders
  3. Examples of Successful CEOS’ Education, Nationality and Career Paths
  4. Self-assessment Tests
  5. Reflect, Evaluate and Decide Whether the Job of the CEO Is Right for You
  6. Planning Your Career if a CEO Career Is Not Right for You
  7. the Essence of Career Planning
  8. Career Planning
  9. Your Personal Brand
  10. How to Work With Executive Search Firms
  11. Your Pre-CEO Jobs
  12. How to Manage Your First CEO Job
  13. How to Manage Your Next CEO Jobs
  14. How to Manage Your Dream CEO Job
  15. How to Successfully Exit From Your Final CEO Job
  16. Decline or Revival?
  17. What Do You Do if You Lose Your CEO Job?
  18. Retirement or a New Career?
  19. How to Manage Your Second Career
  20. How to Manage Your Third Career
  21. How to Manage Your Work-life Balance
  22. How to Deal With 130 Critical Career and Job Issues

Buy the Book

Note: all book Royalties are donated to the Waldemar Schmidt Scholarship for (Brazilian) students at the international MBA Programme at Copenhagen Business School.

A leader should be interested in developing 2 competencies in the people within their organisation:

  1. Good Decision Making (to take good choices about how to use the resources of the organisation to achieve strategic plans)
  2. Influencing Skills (because if they cannot influence their peers, people will have to involve you every time…)

If your team doesn’t have #1 they are taking poor decisions.  If your team doesn’t have #2 they cannot execute without your support (you will be sucked in to every initiative).

In order to take Good Decisions, you need to ask great questions.  

Most people ask few questions and rapidly jump to a solution.  Great decision makers ask many questions and get many perspectives before they commit to a decision.  Here’s a set of great questions…

This set of questions was inspired by the Global Digital Citizen Foundation and by Vistage Issue Processing where we help leaders develop the ability to ask great questions to help leaders think more deeply and see new perspectives, clarify objectives and take disciplined effective action.

The Ultimate Guide to Great Questions for Critical Thinking

Divided into who, what, where, when, why, how…

Who

  • …benefits from this?
  • …is this harmful to?
  • …makes decisions about this?
  • …is most directly affected?
  • …have you also heard discuss this?
  • …would be the best person to consult?
  • …else has overcome a similar challenge?
  • …will be the key people in this?
  • …deserves recognition for this?

What

  • …is the impact on you?
  • …is the impact on those close to you?
  • …are the strengths/weaknesses?
  • …is another perspective?
  • …is another alternative?
  • …would be a counter-argument?
  • …is the best/worst case scenario?
  • …is the most/least important?
  • …can we do to make a positive change?
  • …is getting in the way of taking action?

Where

  • …else would we see this problem showing up in your life?
  • …else have you overcome this type of challenge?
  • …are there similar situations?
  • …is there the most need for this?
  • …would this be the greatest problem?
  • …can we get more information?
  • …do we go for help with this?
  • …will this idea take us?
  • …are the areas for improvement?

When

  • …is this acceptable/unacceptable?
  • …would this benefit you?
  • …would this cause a problem?
  • …is the best time to take action?
  • …will we know we’ve succeeded?
  • …has this played a part in your past?
  • …can we expect this to change?
  • …should we ask for help with this?

Why

  • …is this a problem/challenge?
  • …is it relevant to your goals?
  • …is this the best/worst scenario?
  • …are people influenced by this?
  • …should people know about this?
  • …has it been this way for so long?
  • …is there a need for this today?

How

  • …is this similar to _____?
  • …does this disrupt things?
  • …do we know the truth about this?
  • …does this benefit you/us/others?
  • …does this harm you/us/others?
  • …do we see this playing out in the future?
  • …can we help you?
[Edit: this poem was shared by my Dad upon receiving this post]

I Keep Six Honest Serving Men
Rudyard Kipling
I KEEP six honest serving-men
 (They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When 
 And How and Where and Who.
I send them over land and sea,
 I send them east and west;
But after they have worked for me,
 I give them all a rest.

I let them rest from nine till five,
 For I am busy then,
As well as breakfast, lunch, and tea,
 For they are hungry men.
But different folk have different views; 
I know a person small—
She keeps ten million serving-men,
Who get no rest at all!

She sends’em abroad on her own affairs,
 From the second she opens her eyes—
One million Hows, two million Wheres,
And seven million Whys!

The Elephant’s Child 

More Great Questions for Vistage Groups

Great Questions for Teaching & the Learning Process

Jim Collins delivered the Keynote at this year’s Vistage ChairWorld meeting to over 800 participants.

About Jim Collins

Jim Collins is a student and teacher of what makes great companies tick, and a Socratic advisor to leaders in the business and social sectors.  He has authored 6 books that have sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. His books include: 

  • Good to Great which examines why some companies make the leap to superior results,
  • Built to Last, which explores how some leaders build companies that remain visionary for generations; 
  • How the Mighty Fall, which delves into how once-great companies can self-destruct; and 
  • Great by Choice, which is about thriving in chaos—why some do, and others don’t.

Conor’s Video Summary of Jim Collins 12 Questions

Jim Collins shared 12 questions that come out of his work over the last 25 years.

These are my notes and reflections from his Keynote address.

The 4 part video series below gives a short overview of each of the 12 questions.

Video: Summary of Jim Collins’ 12 Questions

#1 strive for excellence

The first step is a conscious decision on the part of leadership to decide for excellence, to decide to build an enduring great company. Often leaders are enduring great individuals, but that doesn’t make for an enduring great company. Leaders must put excellence in the company over “success” in their own individual life. (This doesn’t mean that they give up a good life, but that they are willing to pay the price of leading an Enduring Great Company.)

Differences between level 5 and level 4 leader?

  • Humility. This is key to level 5. Deep genuine personal humility combined with a brutal will, a fierce resolve directed at something that is not about them
  • Leadership: People follow when they have the choice to not follow… otherwise it is just power.
  • Charisma – not necessary for Level 5 leadership (“never confuse personality with leadership”)

The author of this blog with Jim Collins, best selling author of Good to Great and Built to Last, at Vistage ChairWorld, January 2019

#2 First who, then what.

Right people, then trust them to figure out where the bus is going. Great vision without great people is irrelevant. Single most important talent: select great people for the key seats. Nothing is more important that key seats filled with great people.

#3 confront the brutal facts

What brutal facts must we confront? No opinions.

#4 Hedgehog concept

Fox knows many things, hedgehog knows 1 Fox loves complexity, hedgehog loves simple Intersection of Passion, best in world, drives economic engine Big is not equal to great (think restaurants- if it were to disappear it would leave an unfillable hole)

#5 20 mile march

Driving the flywheel  “Which push made the difference?” None… Cumulative effort consistently over long time Flywheel- causal links between, inevitability  “I admire Nike” “what do Nike do? Products so great that pros wear them” great products + social proof Execution 1-10… flywheel accelerator at quality of execution of lowest quality of execution  Best investment strategy “a highly undiversified investment where you are right” “We can make it up on a good day” fallacy.  Be super careful of overextension leading to missing your March Cycle across USA… booked the hotels ahead of time: have to make it, and prepare for tomorrow and the next day
“Part of the task of helping others is to be really hard on them… with love”

#6 bullets, then cannonballs

Innovation small, then massive support of small wins. Scale the right innovation. Scaling innovation is more important than innovation. Fail: Not enough bullets Bullets but no guts to fire cannonball Untargeted cannonballs

#7 don’t die

The first step of moving from good to great to built to last is “don’t die” I am terrified by good times. Complacency! Be properly terrified all the time. Fortune 500 85% carnage rate.

Jim Collins’ shares the 5 Stages of Decline of a Business

Productive paranoia:Prepare for the storms (cash to assets ratio 3-10 times greater)

The only mistakes you can learn from are the ones you survive 

#8 clock building or time telling?

Idea-> biz-> great company = enduring success

“The genius with a thousand helpers model is not building a great company”

Jim Collins

Shift from time telling (individual level) to clock building (at a company level). Every leader can grow to be the leader of a bigger, greater company. Don’t answer questions with answers… help people find their own answers, their own resourcefulness.

Steve Jobs 2.0 – had a yoda who helped him create a culture of geniuses.  What’s your leadership 2.0?

#9 preserve the core, stimulate progress 

Yin & yang Core set of unchanging values and purpose, constant progress towards your north star

#10 What’s our BHAG?

Time frame 10-25 years… anything less is just base camp

“The best people want to do the hard things”

Jim Collins

A Good BHAG frightens mediocrity away. Test of BHAG – does it repel some people?

#11 return on Luck

Luck event:

  1. You didn’t cause
  2. Consequences 
  3. Can’t control

Get good at making the most of when luck happens. How do you handle the unexpected? Use both good luck & bad luck (crisis allows change) to improve.

#12 Stop Doing list

Only doing is not discipline. True discipline is about what not to do first.  What should you not be doing?

Peter Drucker – age 65 had written only 1/3 of his books. Age 86 wrote 10 more books.

“You will survive, you will probably succeed… The question Mr Collins is how to be useful”

Peter Drucker (to young Jim Collins)

More from Jim Collins

Are you a Level 5 leader? How do you address these 12 questions? Where do you struggle? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Are you currently a member of a board of directors, or do you hope one day to take the role as a board member?

I came across this short video from the Irish Institute of Directors sharing 10 common mistakes made by company directors. George Bartlett shares from his 25 years of experience as a board member.

George Bartlett, over 25 years experience as a Corporate Director

The top 10 Errors of Corporate Directors

  1. Acting solely in the interests of shareholders, not in the interests of the company as a whole
  2. Lack of independent judgement – falling into Groupthink – Not having strength in your own convictions, not willing to be a minority of one.
  3. Not seeing the risks facing the business
  4. Failing to stand up to dominant or highly influential board members. As a board members you have “joint and several liability” you are both jointly and individually responsible for all board decision making. If you see risks, bring up those risks.
  5. Making promises you can’t keep – not maintaining integrity in all you do and say
  6. Not empowering employees – forgetting the power of a few encouraging words from you to any individual employee
  7. Not Challenging – challenge everything – assumptions, thinking process, risk analysis… and even your own strong opinions and assumptions. (Video: how to give feedback that is both authentic and respectful of the other)
  8. Losing sight of the big picture – micromanaging details. As most board members spend much of their career in executive roles, it can be hard to let go of details.
  9. Not being a Custodian of the corporate standards – quality of governance, quality of service, quality of discussion, quality of recruitment, quality of people development…
  10. Not Listening – to all voices with a role in the company’s future. (to listen well, you need to learn to ask great questions)

Are you currently a board member? What lessons have you learnt? What tips and guidance would you share with someone who has interest in becoming an effective board member?

More Corporate Governance tips from George

George Bartlett shares some corporate governance tips.