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June 'At C-Level': Leadership Slumber, Xerxes and the Consulting Tribe

D. Kevin Berchelmann
At C-Level

June 2009

Triangle Performance, LLC

From the Top

I'm late. I'm sorry.

There, that should cover my week-long tardiness in sending this newsletter. Some of you are saying to yourself, "Wow, I didn't even know he sent this thing on any particular schedule." My ego won't allow me to accept that, so I insist on providing this apology, happy in my fantasy that you've been tapping your foot, seething daily at my delay.

Never waste a good crisis. This has been said in political circles, to a not-always-enthusiastic reception. I'd offer that for you and I, it's actually pretty good advice.

Many of our folks feel the weight of current economic conditions, even if our specific companies are actually doing reasonably well. These employees expect -- and need -- to see action-oriented leadership, so let's not disappoint.

Get costs in line where that needs to occur. Ensure staffing levels are correct, and necessary for our business today and going forward. Make sure those in leadership have the skills necessary to do more, do better, and the moxie to do it on their own. Plans need to be specific, goals driven by action, and performance expectations made certain -- and managed to -- for all.

Don't waste a good crisis. Use it to do what needs to be done, even if the eye of the hurricane is missing you to one side.

We're mentioned in the news:

This is a repeat, because I like it... The Houston Business Journal  featured my firm (and a large client) for an article on team-centric executive development. Appeared on page 5B of the April 24th print edition of the HBJ.

Advance for Nurses  interviewed me for keys to watch for when implementing a leadership development effort in their feature article, Lead the Way! How to Develop an Effective Leadership Development Program. Appeared in the May 6 online and print editions.

Commercial Property News came to me for expert commentary on building a senior leadership team for their article Management Strategies – Perfect Mix & Match that appeared in their late 2008 edition.

Convention South Magazine needed input from a strategy and leadership expert on the importance of selecting the right facilitator for successful strategic planning for Effective Strategic Planning, appearing in February 2009 print and online editions.

Further, feel free to download and read a few articles that may be relevant today:

The 5 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership – and they're non-negotiable, folks!

Training vs. Performance Management – Just push the damn button!

Leading Leaders: 5 Steps to Successful Executive Leadership – Herding cats would be easier..., and

Applied Strategic Planning: The Corporate Reality Show

...and don't forget to check out my blog ; some interesting (I think) posts on women in leadership, the human buffer, and some results from my super-scientific traveling employee survey... please comment, complain, or scream at me if you agree, disagree, or just want your opinion read, seen, and heard.

Berchelmann's Blog

As always, I hope this finds you well, personally and professionally; please give me a call if I can ever help in any way, and feel free to forward this to anyone you feel may be interested. (Really!) I appreciate your referrals.

Warm Regards,

D. Kevin Berchelmann

Strategy & Leadership

Leadership Slumber -- "Sleep & Learn" is alive & well...

The story you're about to read is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. Ok, you may not be old enough for that line to make sense (Dragnet), so I'll stop. Plus, these people weren't "innocent." Further, I'm not changing the names, I'm simply omitting the company name, and only because my client suggested I do so.

Moving on...

So, I'm in Cedar Rapids, working with one of my largest clients -- Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). I'd just spent the last two days facilitating multiple half-day sessions with three separate groups of up-and-coming leaders and was relaxing before dinner.

Sitting in the lobby lounge, I couldn't help but overhear a fairly rowdy bunch next to me. They clearly worked together, or at least for the same company, and were having quite a time. Several were discussing where they would go to "continue the party" that evening.

Though I didn't hear the initial exchange, apparently one of the crew questioned the wisdom of a traveling party, since they all had to get up a bit early the next day.

"We're at management training this week -- how awake do we have to be??"

I kid you not, that's the response that came from one of the women in this group. At about nine kazillion decibels, lest someone in the adjoining hotel couldn't hear.

Obviously, this got my attention.

It was only then that I noticed the three-inch blue and white binders sitting next to most of them. "Foundations of Leadership" was embossed on the front; the name and logo of this large defense contractor would be familiar to all reading this. Particularly since there aren't many of those in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Apparently, not all of those revelers understood the general concept of "Foundations of Leadership."

Now we've all been bored stiff at one time or another by a sleep-inducing, monotone-voiced facilitator or trainer (no one in my sessions, of course -- merely speaking hypothetically), droning on about one thing or another for three or four consecutive butt-numbing days. That's not the point here. The points are:

1. Leadership development is crucial for long-term success of an organization. We must convey that those participating are there for a reason. And that reason is not to reach consensus on the next bar location. Having a good time is ok, maybe even encouraged (hey, I like a good time); making learning adjunct to the party is not.

2. The investment for leadership development is substantial. Facilitators, facilities, materials, salaries... then add in loss of productivity while in session and related costs. Save it for those who take leadership -- and their professional development -- seriously.

3. But my final point is this: The most important thing we can do with emerging leaders is to develop them for the future. Not all, of course, are worthy of the mantle, nor the cost of such development. Realizing the importance of development must start with senior leadership, and we need to get better at it.

If we take it seriously, and show its significance to the organization, so will others. That whole "leading by positive example" thing. Maybe then our emerging managers won't use "Foundations of Leadership" as an insomnia cure.

I'll sleep to that...


Who are you listening to? -- Beware false prophets...

Consultants have been around for a long time. Some would argue we're the second-oldest profession; others may even make some snide, not-so-humorous analogies to the oldest profession.

Ok, some of those are humorous...

Regardless, advisors have been "advising" leaders for thousands of years. Not all "advisors," however, are created equal. And here's a key -- merely belonging to an important tribe, club, or company doesn't make the advice any better.

A story...

Almost 2,500 years ago, there was a King called Xerxes, intent on destroying those pesky Greeks and their armies. Surprisingly, the Greeks took exception to this, and were quite formidable opponents.

Just as the King was preparing for a big battle, there was a total solar eclipse. Today, we grab the kids, rush outside and say "ooh," and "aaah;" 2,000 years ago, people ran inside screaming "holy crap, the world is ending!"

Anyway, King Xerxes needed advice about this new development. Not having a resident expert on staff, he brought in his consultant -- called then, a "Magi." Think modern-day McKinsey by lineage...

Xerxe's Magi analyzed the eclipse (undoubtedly with powerpoint slides and 4-square models), and advised the King that he should proceed post-haste with his battle. This Magi foreshadowed a great victory for King Xerxes.

King Xerxes, of course, had his butt handed to him by the Greeks. It wasn't pretty.

I'm certain the Magi, probably on retainer, had good reasons for this marked lapse in effective counsel.

Why does this matter to you? Simple: be cautious from whom you accept counsel. You didn't get where you are today by buying snake oil, so don't buy it now when you get advice that (a) doesn't seem logically thought out, (b) comes from someone who's biggest or only credential is his or her "tribe," and/or (c) if it just doesn't pass your "sniff" test.

Advisor, consultant, consigliere, Magi... these have long been trusted positions of influence in Kingdoms, companies, and mafias (I leave it to you to decide which is yours); they have a place, and are frequently a huge asset to our success.

Use care, however, when selecting.

But that's just me...

** By the way, King Xerxes was eventually murdered -- by his Counselor, confidant, and right-hand man. That's right, an in-house employee. So the lesson here isn't to discard external consultants and only use "in-house" advisors -- it's to only use good ones...

c) 2009 Triangle Performance, LLC

Triangle Performance, LLC | 6046 FM 2920 #320 | Spring | TX | 77379

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Name: D. Kevin Berchelmann
Title: President & Founder
Group: Triangle Performance, LLC
Dateline: Spring, TX United States
Direct Phone: 281-257-4442
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