Friday, April 27, 2012

Global Leadership: Mastering Technology-A summary

I've offered my views on the global leaders approach to "mastering technology" in four different ways;

Overview-4/19 blog
Mastering Technology I-The 24/7 challenge-4/23 blog
Mastering Technology II- Email Management-4/24
Mastering Technology  III-The Large Scale Audience=-4/26

I also need to point out the book you see to the right of this blog "Virtual Teams" written by Jessica Lipnack and the late Jeff Stamps.  I had the great good fortune to work with Jessica and Jeff during my time in Shell. If you read the book you will see how their work influenced my own thinking about global teams and the leader's role in those teams.   Jessica continues their work.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mastering Technology III- The Large Scale Audience

I started this Mastering Technology thread with the statement "the global leader needs to use every means available to establish multiple pathways of interaction".  That's true whether you are dealing with individual email, group mailing lists or leadership team communications. It remains true when the leader needs to consider the large scale audience.  One really good practice is to create a matrix where the types of interactions are on one axis of the matrix and the technologies/channels to communicate are on the other axis.  You can then choose the technology or technique that best meets the intent of the message.
For large scale audiences beyond the individual and team, the technologies will be different than for smaller groups.  A checklist of things to consider includes:
1.  Intranet/Internet sites.  The content will be different for the internal and external audiences
but these sites remain important elements of a complete strategy.  There will be cases where an in-house organization won't have an external website.  It's also important to note that most companies have moved to a common "look and feel" and standard design parameters of both internal and external sites. The "everybody does their own thing" days are gone in most global organizations.
2.  Webcasts.  I found these to be very effective.  For one thing you can do them twice in one day. One covering Europe east to Asia and the other covering Europe west to the Americas.  You can communicate the same message to a global community of common interest on the same day without doing it at an inconvenient time for anyone.  I've also done these as part of the agenda of a face to face leadership team meeting where part of the meeting agenda is to engage as a leadership team with the broader community they represent. *
3.  Multi-point teleconference or video teleconference.  Like smaller team meetings these can be very effective.  If you need to use visual aids or slides teleconferences are difficult...even when you send slides in advance.  It's a little better with the video but showing slides can be tricky even then....takes a little practice to make it work smoothly.*
4. Monthly reflections.  In all my roles I tried to send a monthly "Reflections" email to my direct reports and everyone who reported to them.  I always started these with a business update, included status on ongoing projects, highlighted upcoming key dates for planning purposes and concluded with a personal reflection.  This worked for me and I got excellent feedback from staff on how well this kept the global team "on the same page".  That said, this is personality and style dependant.   I know several very effective global leaders who weren't particularly good at communicating this way, recognized it and found other means to communicate these messages.

My final reinforcing message is: the global leader needs to use every means available to establish multiple pathways of interaction. 

*  The design of these sessions and face to face sessions should minimize the 'tell' and maximize the interaction with the audience. Yes the audience want to hear from its leaders but they also want chances to ask questions and provide feedback....and it's got to be better than a 45' presentation and 15' Q&A.  A notional design of 15' presentation, followed by 15'  small group dialogue, followed by 15' small group feedback to the larger audience with an final 10' Q&A works better with the global audience. There are obviously many variations to the notional design just outlined.  The point is to minimize the tell component and maximize the engagement component of the session.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mastering Technology II-Email Management-A tipsheet

Email is nearly universal in the global business world.  It's a wonderful technology that gives us the ability to communicate asynchronously.  While working in the US, I can request information of staff in China and Germany during my normal business hours, go home at the end of a normal business day and have a reply from both the next morning when I arrive for normal business hours.  It generates incredible speed in the workplace.  You can get work accomplished in one day that used to take weeks and months at far greater expense.  As useful as email is as an enabler, complaining about it is almost as universal as its presence.  This tipsheet is all about how to make the most of this technology.  There are two parts to the successful practices tipsheet , volume and content.
Volume.  This is the most common complaint. It can take an enormous amount of time to sort through dozens of email one receives in a day to determine which are important and which aren't.   Tips include:
1.  Recognize your own role as a multiplier.  For every email you send as a leader it is likely to be amplified by a factor of 5 or 10.  Be prudent about what you send in this medium.
2.  Limit the use of the :cc function.  If someone needs to be an addressee make them an addressee, but don't include everyone who might have a passing interest in the subject as a :cc addressee.  I had one colleague who had an autoreply on his Outlook that said  "I don't respond to :cc messages."
3.  Don't use the :bcc option.  This has a dishonest or sneaky feel to me.  When you use this function you are sending a copy of an email to someone and you don't want the addressees to know about it.
4.  Be prudent about the use of "reply to all" function.  I want to say don't use it at all but there are occasions where this is appropriate.  For large scale multiple addressee messages it's appropriate as the sender to say "Do not 'reply to all" on this message".
5.  Use the terms "Action" or "Info" as a pre-amble in the subject line of a message.  This helps the receiver prioritize their review of incoming messages.
6.  Use group mailing lists.  This is a way of focusing content to a specific community in a company.  There is a possibility of overuse of this too.  Be selective on what groups you choose to be a part of and de-select when appropriate.
1. Clear corporate rules on inappropriate content. Jokes and links to videos or external websites with inappropriate or offensive content can't be tolerated. Corporate IT can also help by blocking access to certain websites.
2.  Messages should be no longer than a single screen.  If you've got more content than that, place it on your Sharepoint or other collaboration tool site and send a one liner referring to it.  I had one colleague who had a two or three sentence rule.
3.  Pick up the phone when you are "bouncing email back and forth".  If you are on-line and exchanging email near simultaneously, pick up the phone rather than sending two or three exchanges. 
4.  Walk down the hall.  This seems simple but it's surprising how many times I found myself exchanging email with someone in my own offices.
5.  Use your "drafts" folder when you are angry.  Before email you were advised to "write a letter and put it in the desk drawer' for a day before mailing.  The "drafts" folder has the same function.  The electronic medium is a "hot medium" when it comes to emotions.  Better to wait until you cool off to communicate about emotional subjects.
6.  Be simple and direct in your use of language.  The English language is loaded with idioms,   figures of speech  and sports metaphors that can be mysterious and bewildering to those for whom English is a second language.  A quick review of the attached links and avoiding their use in a global context can help avoid confusion.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mastering Technology I: The 24/7 Challenge-A tipsheet

I'll start this communications section talking about the 24/7 challenge.  When you are leading a global team there is a good chance someone on your team will be working during normal hours at their home base at any given time during a 24 hour day.  This is particularly true if you have team members in Asia, the Americas and Europe the Middle East or Russia.  As a leader it is very easy to slip into 14-16 hour workdays.  I once ran a global team from Houston.  When I got up in the morning, my European colleagues had been up and working for 6 or 7 hours.  I'd often work my email in-box from home before going to the office.  I'd work European issues until late morning, Americas issues until late afternoon.  Late in the day around 5 or 6 Melbourne, Australia staff would start their day followed by Singapore.  It was very easy to slip into a 6AM to 8PM work schedule dealing with routine issues. Here are some quick tips on how to deal with the 24/7 dilemma.  First, schedule periodic team meetings at a time that isn't too painful for everyone.  Using the 24 hour clock, 6AM Central US, 1200 London, 1300 Central Europe, 1900 Singapore, 2100 Australia worked for me.  In consideration of the Asia/Pacific staff I'd limit this call to one hour.  Second, schedule 1:1 calls with colleagues in different time zones during their normal business hours.  This also helps "share the pain".  I'd often do my 1:1 calls with Asia-Pac staff in the early evening hours US time which were normal morning work hours for them. Third, be open and honest about expectations.  One of the best leaders I worked for was London based. He was very clear he expected us to be available 24/7 if not on holiday. This meant we occasionally received email on the weekend and he expected a response before Monday.  It wasn't particularly pleasant but this particular leader was "dual-hatted" performing two roles at the time. It was the only way for him to handle the demands of both roles simultaneously.  He didn't call on us over the weekend that often, but it did mean you needed to remain "plugged in" both electronically and mentally.  Another leader I worked for was very clear he would not reply to email on weekends and had no expectations that we be available.   Both were effective.   The point is to be clear on your expectations and make sure your behaviors reflect what you say.  In my own role as a global leader, I told staff I did not expect them to be "plugged in" on weekends.  My initial approach was to occasionally work email on the weekend and tell them I did not expect them to respond until they got back in the office.  That didn't work well because in spite of what I said, staff inferred that if I was working on the weekend they should be also.  After that, if I chose to work on the weekend I'd put messages in my "drafts" folder and then send them first thing Monday morning. Of course, a third option, like one of the leaders I mentioned, was not to work at all on the weekend. The speed at which business operates....the pace... makes this very difficult to do for a leader in a global role.   Again, so long as expectations are clear and your behaviors are consistent with your stated expectations the 24/7 dilemma is manageable..

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Leading Global Teams-Mastering technology

When I address "Mastering Technology" I need to be clear that the global leader needs to use every means available to establish multiple pathways of interaction that lead to deeper relationships among team members.  I do believe nothing replaces face to face interaction.  My own hypothesis is that when we met face to face we form literally millions of different data points about others....most unconsciously...variations in voice tone, body language, sense of humor, verbal language idiosyncrasies....the list goes on and on.  However, by definition, global teams are separated by space and time.  Unlike teams where the members are co-located and face to face interaction is frequent, an effective global team has to master technology.  The key elements of an effective team communications/technology strategy would include the following elements:

Face to Face-  In the early days of team formation this is essential.  Team thinking style diagnostics(mentioned in my 11 April blog), agreement on behavioral norms, ways of working together, team building....all need to be addressed in face to face meetings..  As teams mature, the agenda of these face to face meetings can shift.  In a mature team, I'd advocate three of these a year. One in the first quarter of the year to ensue early execution of the annual plan, a mid year check point, and year end to review progress and set strategy for the new year.  If three isn't feasible, then I'd advocate Q1 and Q4 meetings supplemented by virtual meetings.  The agenda for face to face meetings should be heavily weighted towards strategic issues where dialogue is necessary.  Day to day operational issues should be handled in virtual meetings.

Teleconference.  This "old" technology can be quite effective.  It's inexpensive and commonly available about anywhere in the world.  Any number of service providers can provide toll free dial in numbers and pass codes to participants.  Agendas several days in advance and the prudent use of pre-read can make these meetings very productive.  I ran several global teams for many years using only face to face and periodic teleconferences.

Video conference.  More expensive and requires greater infrastructure.  You do get the benefit of non verbal communications.  It's also more difficult when there are US, Europe, Middle East, and Asia participants.  Someone ends up having to go into a video suite at an odd hour in order for everyone to meet simultaneously.  8AM in the Central US time zone, is 2PM in London, 3PM in Frankfurt, 5PM in Dubai and 9PM in Singapore.  SKYPE or similar desktop video conferencing can be used to mitigate the hassle for those participating at odd hours.

Computer.   Email is pretty much ubiquitous in today's business world but not without its limitations.  The sharing of large embedded files, spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations ultimately leads you to some sort of document repository.  Sharepoint, a Microsoft product,  or some other document sharing/collaboration tool is essential.  In Shell, we also had a fair number of on-line communities of practice, connecting staff in different organizations in different parts of the world tackling similar problems.  These on-line communities of practice also require some sort of electronic collaboration tool.
I'll end this the way I started by saying the global leader needs to use every means available to create pathways of interaction.  I'll tackle challenges and dilemmas tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Global Leader's guide to diverse teams

I've spent a lot of time over the last few weeks talking about diversity and inclusive behaviors in global teams.  I've done so because I strongly believe effectively leading global teams REQUIRES mastering diversity and inclusion.  A global leader's guide to leading diverse teams includes the following elements:

1.  Understand and be able to articulate the business case for diversity.(Blog 3/23)
2.  Deepen your cultural awareness(Blogs 3/26-27)
3.  Build a diverse team(Blogs 3/28, 4/10-11)
4.  Manage divergent conversations(Blog 4/12)
5.  Converge the divergent conversation(Blog 4/16)

I'll cover my last point #6 tomorrow:  Mastering technology.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Leading a diverse team-Converging a Divergent conversation

If group think is the risk with non-diverse teams then endless debate can be the "dark side" of diverse teams.  So how does a leader of a diverse global team avoid endless debate? 
As I mentioned in my 16 March blog, governance must be clear.. There a number of different organizational design models for global organizations. This link gives an overview of several. In whatever structure a leader finds themselves in it's very like to contain some sort of matrix....a "hard" reporting line and a "dotted" line. In short, this often means serving two masters, sometimes with competing interests. It has to be crystal clear "who gets to decide" in any of the structures. Until you get that right "endless debate" is likely.
Assuming the governance is sorted out, the leader must make it clear that although different views are valued, consensus is not required.  This can be very difficult in some national or company cultures where consensus is expected and every team member believes they have a veto on every issue.  It's also important to be clear when debate isn't helpful...when a decision has already been taken .  It's ok to debate the most effective way to implement a decision, but don't fall into the trap of debating a decision that has already been taken.  To that end it's effective to identify the purpose of agenda items on team meetings as  "tell", "discuss" or "decide" .  This sets expectations.  It's good for team members to understand what's expected and occasionally necessary to remind them in the heat of controversial topics.  The effective leader also needs to develop a sense of when everything that needs to be said has been said and she has all the voices in the room.  That should be a trigger to converge.  A final technique is that if the leader is not comfortable with deciding in the moment and they have time, you can charter a sub-group of the team to do a deeper dive on an issue and report back.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

How to Insure diverse views get surfaced-A tipsheet

Once you have your diverse team together and understand both above and below the waterline issues that influence team member thinking, what does the leader actually have to do to ensure the team is effective?    How does the leader get the full benefit of the diversity of their team?  The goal is to identify a problem, surface divergent views, debate those views, then converge and act. There are a couple of things to be aware of.  One is the influence that the first person to speak or the person who speaks most assertively on a team can have....people often line up behind those views.  The leader's expressed point of view can also greatly influence the degree to which a team is willing to diverge in their thinking...."the boss had made up her mind"   Subject matter experts can also affect the degree to which people are willing to present contrary views.  A short list of how to deal with these issues and insure divergent thinking includes:
1.  Designate a "devil's advocate".  A very senior person told me last week that in his board meetings he designates a devil's advocate to present a challenge to an emerging convergence of opinion.
2.  Know the style preferences and cultural nuances of your team members.  Rather than open dialogue, designate someone to lead the conversation who might otherwise defer to an assertive, first mover.
3.  "Listen for silence".  This is especially important in teleconferences.  If you haven't heard someone for some time on a conversation, invite their voice in.
4.  Know your people well enough to detect non-verbal signs of discomfort.  "Tom, I can tell you aren't comfortable with the way this conversation is headed.  Can you share with us what you are thinking?"
5.  Master the engagement skills of Inquiry, Advocacy, Mental Models and the Ladder of Inference.  A short reference is at this link. 
6.  Daniel Kahneman even suggests team members write out their point of view on agenda items before dialogue starts.  It's not practical for every agenda item in every meeting but for certain issues it is quite useful.
7.  Be choiceful about when you express your point of view.  If you truly are seeking divergence on an issue, guide the conversation but also let it flow.  If you have a strong point of view, acknowledge it up front and invite challenge. How you handle the challenge is will determine to the degree to which people are later willing to do so.  If you hammer dissenting views into submission, don't expect challenges to your thinking in the future.  If you do have a strong point of view, withhold it and then later hammer disagreement into submission, don't expect much conversation in the future until you have spoken.
8.  Watch for weak signals that challenge your own mental models.  This can be especially important in mature teams where the leader's attitudes and views are well known and shared.  This makes it even harder to surface a dissenting view.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Building a Diverse Global team-A summary

To reiterate the considerations when building a  global team they are 1) Where are the business "centers of gravity" need a local presence 2)  Team members need to be proficient- competent and knowledgeable 3)  Look for a range of work experiences 4) A gender mix is preferred 5) Pick complementary personalities.  To the extent you can satisfy these criteria, you have a good chance of achieving the diverse thinking that is the real goal of a diverse leadership team.
With that said, achieving diverse thinking on a team requires a second level of analysis.  It's quite possible that even satisfying those considerations, you might not achieve the degree of diverse thinking you  desire. Why?  First of all, we all have a tendency to pick people in whom we can see ourselves.  While the "above the waterline" indicators might appear very diverse, "below the waterline" people may be very similar.  Second, some company cultures are so strong  they "homogenize" the workforce. After initial recruitment, those who adapt to the culture tend to stay and those who don't either self-select out or are selected out.  Third, some company cultures are dominated by similar training and experience that can yield common approaches to similar problems.   While this is not a bad thing in and of itself, it can lead to group-think and difficulty in innovation.
So how can a leader insure their team has diverse thinking or at least be aware of gaps they may have? In the example I gave yesterday of the original Mercury astronauts, they were given a personality inventory test with 600 questions.  They were required to do a "Who Am I" exercise where they had to answer that question 20 times without repeating an answer. They also did Rorschach inkblot tests.  The data from these responses were used not to achieve seven astronauts who were exactly alike but to insure they weren't. Most of us in business these days don't have the resources or time or need to be that precise in our team selections.  There are some tools, however, which can help us understand the thinking styles on a team. The Meyers-Briggs type indicator has been around for a long time and can be very useful.  I've also used the Belbin Team roles instrument.  I-OPT is an instrument that measures how team members process information.  I'd recommend using one of these instruments to deepen team awareness about individual members thinking styles and preferences.  To varying degrees they can expose gaps and highlight risks that global teams teams face.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Diversity-It's not all about Race and Gender and Nationality

The book I've listed today is "We Seven".  It was written in 1962 by the original seven Project Mercury astronauts.  So what could be relevant to diversity about this 50 year old book in today's global environment?  When the original seven astronauts were selected there were a number of specific criteria.  First, they needed to be young enough to be in their physical prime.  Maximum age was set at 40.  The capsule had already been designed and anyone taller than 71" in a pressurized suit would not fit.  Maximum height then was 5'11".  Maximum weight was 180 lbs.  A formal engineering degree or its equivalent was required...the astronauts were expected to be participants in the design process.  They had to be practicing military test pilots and they had to be volunteers.  508 men met this initial screening criteria.  Those 508 were ultimately pared to the final seven.  Quoting from the introduction to the book: "This was the pattern-seven men with similar background and technical education, the same kind of skills and know-how, and only small variations in size, shape and coloring to distinguish one from the other.  Since they had all been pushed through the same fine sieve of interviews and tests, one might even have expected that they would come tumbling out of the hopper like seven peas in a pod.  But the Astronauts did not turn out like that at all.  On the contrary, NASA would up with a team of seven distinctly original personalities and a rich mixture of private attitudes, personal characteristics and professional ideas that were to prove invaluable in the day-to-day workings of the program."  Alan Shephard, one of the seven, told a friend "We are seven different individuals, seven different personalities.  We all have different strengths and abilities and different temperaments.....Some of us are stronger in certain fields.  Some have stronger personalities.  Some have a moderating influence.  Nobody pulls any punches when we get together."  Still later in the introduction, "There are more profound differences between any two of the Astronauts than are apparent in a simple comparison of their individual personalities or physical appearance.  Scott Carpenter and Deke Slayton, for example(who happen to be of the same height and weighed the same when they joined the program), have found themselves on different sides of the fence on a number of occasions when a matter of training or project policy was at stake.  These differences of opinion have been healthy and positive, and more often than not they have resulted in constructive ideas for the program"

There are two points to this story.  One is that even a team of all white men, married with children, within four inches of the same height, with a range in weight of only 25 pounds,  a narrow age range....32-37, and with similar technical education can have incredible diversity of thinking.  The lack of "above the water line" measures of diversity doesn't necessarily lead to "group think" or a lack of  "creative tension".    A "cousin" to that idea is that racial and gender and nationality diversity on a team doesn't necessarily guarantee diverse thinking.  As I've mentioned in earlier blogs, there are other good business-case driven reasons to consider those dimensions in selection, but they are not required to achieve diverse thinking on a team. So what is a leader to do with these competing ideas?  We'll turn to that tomorrow.