Monday, 19 October 2009

Where are the Hot Spots in your company?

"You always know when you are in a Hot Spot. You feel energized and vibrantly alive. Your brain is buzzing with ideas and the people around you share your joy and excitement. The energy is palpable, bright, shining."

This is an extract from the excellent book Hot Spots by Lynda Gratton, professor of management practice at London Business School. Dr Gratton's research is based on a number of in-depth case studies and Cooperative Advantage Research in collaboration with executives and teams from seventeen companies. The aim was to explore why some companies buzz with energy and innovation and others don't.

In conclusion, Dr Gratton found that there were four key elements:

Element 1 - A cooperative mindset. This is the basic assumption and expectation of ourselves and others that we will behave in a coopertaive and supportive manner.

Element 2 - Boundary spanning. For true Hot Spots to emerge, initial networks need to expand from immediate colleagues to stretch across the boundaries of groups, functions and companies.

Element 3 - Igniting purpose. An igniting purpose provides the focus for the energy that has been created and can be triggered by an igniting vision, an igniting question or an igniting task.

Element 4 - Productive capacity. For value to be created from a Hot Spot, there needs top be an emphasis on productive practices. Depending on the complexity of the Hot Spot this might include appreciating talents, making commitments, resolving conflicts, synchronizing time and establishing a rhythm.

Dr Gratton then goes on to consider the leader's role in Hot Spots, designing for the emergence of Hot Spots and resources for creating Hot Spots. It is a truly innovative and ground breaking study of teams and organizations that are a cut above the rest and includes some excellent case studies, examples and anecdotes that bring the text and concepts alive.

Hot Spots can be purchased online

and you can visit the Hot Spots website

Simon Cooper heads up ELC Training Solutions and is the author of Brilliant Leader, the best selling leadership development book.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Are you getting that Coach Energy?

Why is it that some leaders love personal coaching and absolutely swear by it and others reject it as unnecessary and a waste of time?

There might be many reasons of course but one significant factor became apparent to me recently when I was having a discussion with some colleagues about the Wilson Learning Social Styles Model - you know, the one that breaks our preferred communication styles down into Driver, Expressive, Amiable and Analyst.

One of the traits that most coaches seem to share is what I refer to as 'coach energy', a vibrant, open and engaging communication style that is apparent as soon as they walk into the room. This translates pretty well into the social styles model and indicates that many coaches share a natural preference for the Expressive style. But this could be a problem if you have a strong preference for one of the other styles. You might see expressive coaches as unfocused (Driver), intimidating (Amiable) or shallow (Analyst). In turn, this might see you spurn the services of a leadership coach, even though you might need one more than you realise.

Of course, the best coaches develop an intuitive ability to adapt their style for different types of people. And we should not forget that the social styles model is just one lens through which we can view character traits and communication styles. Nonetheless, it highlights one of the reasons why some leaders totally buy-in to their coach and others don't.

While 'coach energy' can be infectious and motivating, it can also have the reverse effect on some, especially those with a strong preference to communicate in a different style.

Simon Cooper heads up ELC Training Solutions and is the author of the best selling leadership development book, Brilliant Leader.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

How Expensive is Poor Leadership?

More than you think...

Retaining talented employees should be a major focus for companies these days. I have heard over the years, that “anyone is replaceable.” When I was a young engineer fresh out college, I believed it myself. There were over 50 engineers in my graduating class and I was competing for jobs like they were. We had very similar skills and backgrounds and I knew I had to separate myself from them so an employer would hire me and not them. Even a couple years after college, I still believed that I could be replaced at any moment by fresh new talent.

It has been drilled into our heads over the years that we are replaceable and we have to conduct ourselves in a way that borders on humiliation. I took my first leadership role over a year ago after working for a few companies that really did not value the contributions of their people. Overtime and chaos was name of their games. Fortunately, those experiences allowed me to create my own leadership philosophy that centers on the fact that my people are not replaceable.

Employee turnover is very expensive. I recently was invited to speak at the Talent Management and Succession Planning Conference on creating a work life balance for employees to motivate and retain good talent. My emphasis will be on the importance of creating a pleasant work environment where leaders and employees respect each other. People will generally stay with a company if they are treated fairly, are given legitimate challenges, and feel their contributions are recognized.

The best way to illustrate the cost of poor leadership is give an example of what it takes today to hire a mid-level engineer. First, the engineer’s resume would cost the company around $15,000 provided it is coming from a recruiter. Today, many professionals move around the country, so the company would offer a full relocation package that would include moving of household items, vehicles, and pets. This would cost around $8,000. Then the employer would cover travel expenses including airfare, temporary housing, rental cars, and maybe thirty days of living expenses during the transition. I will be modest here and say that would cost around $5,000. Many employers also cover closing costs on both selling and buying of a home that could run as high as $10,000 total. Finally the engineer may be offered a starting bonus of $2,000. So, before the employer even starts paying the engineer his or her $65,000 a year salary and before the new employee steps in the door they have paid out around $40,000. This is a very large investment and I have seen many people in these positions quit after ten months to a year from poor leadership in a hostile work environment. Now the company has to do this routine all over again.

Good leadership is the key to retaining good employees and bad managers will only drive them away. As a leader myself, I cannot afford high turnover. I invest time and money into enhancing my people to be better employees. It becomes expensive to keep hiring people and training them to be productive and successful employees. I realize employees leave companies for a variety of other reasons. However, I can still do my part to make their work life a pleasant one.

Guest writer Chris Ortiz is a senior lean consultant and the owner of Kaizen Assembly. He has spent the majority of his professional career working for Fortune 500 companies, teaching and guiding them to become more efficient businesses. He has designed and constructed well over 100 assembly lines and other manufacturing processes resulting in millions of dollars in cost savings and waste reduction. Chris can be reached at or visit his company's website at