Sunday, July 30, 2017

Step 1 of Leadership Part 2

If Leadership is learn-able like what many experts say, why do many people still fail to demonstrate leadership despite being given training or accessing information to help them learn leadership?  I have a hypothesis and that’s what I wish to discuss with you today.

If you haven’t read part 1, I suggest that you go there first. The premise of this series is that the first step of leadership is leading one’s self. It was former Hanover Insurance CEO Bill O’ Brien who said “the quality of the intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervenor.” The leader is an intervenor; hence the quality of his/her leadership is dependent on his/her interior condition. To me this means one’s ability to lead oneself is an important first step.
It all starts with self-awareness and that is what part 1 was about.  This post will be about “Self-Regulation.

Self-regulation is crucial to any kind of success whether you are a leader or not. However, the impact of self-regulation of leaders multiply by the number of people they lead. So what is the effect of lack of self-awareness and regulation to them and their followers? Leaders who are unaware of their strengths, their values, or are not in touch with their emotions, fail to self-regulate hence, respond to situations in a counter-productive manner.  People who attempt to learn leadership transaction but fail to develop their ability to self-regulate, easily put their learning experiences to waste by reverting back to their old familiar ways when they face challenges. 

This reminds me of that old Mike Tyson quote; “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Many so-called leaders throw their learning out the window as soon as the pressures of the job hit them. 

I’ve met with leadership training participants in my follow through sessions. I really see the difference between those who have the ability self-regulate and those who can’t.  The former will have plenty of story about how they applied their learning and how it yielded results, whether positive or negative. They will have questions and realizations about how to move forward. The latter have plenty of excuses about how busy they are with other priorities that’s why they have not applied their learning action plans.

There are several things that being able to master our emotion can do to us.  When we have better self-control, we can manage our impulsive feelings and distressing emotions well. If we can do that, we are not easily knocked down by trying times because we are able to focus better.  Better self-control leads to being accountable, conscientious, better ability to learn and adapt to change. This means lesser need to make excuses, being defensive and demonstrating behaviors we may later regret.

Well, it looks like this one is getting too long and still not enough information to get you started. Tell you what, wait for part 3, so I can share some of the things I think we should explore to lead ourselves better. I’m going to write about mental models and paradigm shifting, locus of control, managing stress and dealing with negative emotions.  That just sounded more than part 3! No worries, we’ll get it done. 

Visit ExeQserve's website if you wish to explore personal mastery as a training for the leaders in your organization. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Step 1 of Leadership - Part 1

Many people still think that they are put in a leadership role. I disagree. I believe we are put in a position that requires leadership but it is up to us to apply leadership in that role.  Leadership, therefore is not something that lands on our lap, it’s something we decide to do.  Our success in it starts with leading ourselves.

We are the "ground zero" of our own leadership journey. Much of the complaints I hear from people who fail to lead others (followers’ cat-and-mouse attitude, failure of to listen, lack of commitment, etc) comes from their failure to model leadership behaviors.

This writing work will have several parts so I can chunk what I wish to share in bite-size pieces and so I don’t have to wait until I am able to complete the whole thing before I share it in one fell swoop.

This Part 1 will be about Self-Awareness, Daniel Goleman’s recommended first step towards self-regulation.  

Deming said that you can’t manage what you can’t measure. In the same sense, you can’t control what you are not aware of.  So, let’s tackle this topic.

Increased self-awareness happens when we take interest in “what we’re made of.”  Jo Luft and Hari Ingham’s JOHARI Window is a good framework to use at the start of this journey of self-discovery.  Here’s how I propose that we use it.
  •  The Arena – things we know about ourselves that others also know. These include everything that’s visible about us, things we disclosed including personal information, opinion, demonstrated skills, applied talents, expressed values and others. The goal is to widen our arena so that we and the world are aware of who we are and what we represent. The way to do this is to decrease the size of the other panes. 
  • The Fa├žade – this pane covers the things we don’t disclose to others; our secrets, unshared feelings and opinions and undisclosed thoughts. It helps to recognize what we are uncomfortable of expressing and decide if they help us or not.
  •  Blind spot – there are things about us that people know but we don’t, or at least refuse to accept.  Listening to others and considering their opinion will help us understand ourselves better and later manage our behaviors better.
  •  Unknown – Our untapped potentials continue to be unknown until we learn to take risk and discover ourselves through the challenges we experience.

The journey within is not easy. We have to be willing to accept that we have strengths as well as weaknesses. Whether those weaknesses are things we discover ourselves or given as a feedback by others, we need to listen so it contributes to our self-awareness. The more you fight information that seems to attack your self-concept, the longer it takes for you to learn.
Here are a few suggested activities you can take to enhance self-awareness:
  • Take the strengths-finder test to find out what your strengths are
  • Take a personality test that helps validate your strengths and weaknesses. MBTI or DISC are just some of them
  •  Identify your personal core values, describe them and identify critical incidents to help contextualize these values.
  •  Call a friend and ask, what he/she thinks are your strengths and weaknesses. This should validate what the other tests are saying.
  • Experiment. Test your skills. Every time you break a personal barrier, you learn something new about yourself.

In the next post, I’ll talk about Self-Regulation as a way to achieve self-mastery.

in the mean time, check out ExeQserve's Personal Mastery Training on Emotional Intelligence

Monday, July 24, 2017

Are You Preparing Your Leadership Successor?

I think that the height of Leadership confidence comes when you decide that you can help your people take your place or even go beyond what you have achieved. I also learned that the more you develop people and share leadership with them, the more powerful you get and the more easy your job of leading gets as well.

When I attended a Basic Supervisory Course some sixteen years ago, one lesson stuck with me more than others and that is "it is the supervisor's responsibility to train the ones who will take his place". I was an acting supervisor then in a 7-Eleven store in EDSA corner Boni avenue. I was young, still a bit naive and insecure and the idea of giving someone a chance to take my place was unthinkable. To a certain extent I was protective of what I know. I was assigned to an acting leadership role shortly after I was regularized. I thought that I ascended unusually fast and to have someone outpace my rise to leadership was unsettling. So in my mind I was saying "No way!"

Leo Ortiz who conducted that training also said that if your subordinates happen to be better leaders than you and move past you, you should be happy with the fact that you paved the way for a great leader to arise. You can just imagine me kicking and screaming my way to accepting that lesson. It was against my "I'll race you to the top" concept of achieving professional success. But Ortiz said that if we train our employees to become leaders, they will push us up and that if we don't, they will weigh us down. I learned from that seminar that one of the true measures of leadership success is developing other leaders. It made so much sense to me that it has become my passion, no, obsession to equip my employees to actually take my place or overtake if they can. I'm proud to report that a number of my previous staff have moved up to become successful Managers themselves. 

So, how does one leader prepare others to take her place? I'd say that work starts right at hiring them. If you consider yourself a good leader and believe that your work requires a fair deal of leadership skills, you can't train replacements if you keep hiring people with absolutely no leadership potentials. I am, for example, more inclined to hire people who are clear about their ambitions, have initiatives, who are creative and resourceful, capable of expressing themselves and good-natured. That's because I believe those are good leadership ingredients. I'm sure you have your own recipe for leadership. What's important is you know your ingredients when you see them. Look for them when you screen candidates.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Roles I played in My Leadership Journey

I was introduced to David Kantor's 4-Player model when I participated as a process consultant in  a PAHRODF-funded DILG's Leadership Development Program last year. I was inspired by the simplicity and logic of the model in appreciating and strengthening teamwork. I had a chance to reflect on my own leadership experience and wish to share with you my realizations on how I moved from a particularly preferred player role to  others as my understanding of leadership grows.

First off, let's look at the  model in case you are encountering it for the first time.

Kantor introduced the model in the 70's. It was initially designed for families but was soon applied to teams as the world realizes the importance of teamwork in organizational success.   Here's a direct quote from MIT Sloan Leadership Center website  ( on the four roles:

Move — This act establishes a direction and sets the team in motion.
Example: “Let's build Product X. Product X is the best idea out there.”
Follow — The follow act provides support for the move and serves the function of completion.
Example: “I agree with the arguments you've made. Product X is the way to go.”
Oppose — The oppose act questions the move that has been initiated.
Example: “The data don't support your claims. We'll be in real trouble if we go with Product X.”
Bystand — Bystanding provides perspective and invites the team to be more reflective. A bystander might bring in data from another team, an historic perspective, or some insight about the operations of the team itself.
Example: “We tried some of these same ideas two years ago and they didn't work. What do we think has changed?”


When I was younger, my orientation was that to lead is to be

Friday, July 14, 2017

Addressing the Leadership Blind spots of Your Organization

We all have it but most of us deny that it exist. We do things as leaders that impact on others either positively or negatively but we don't know it. Our inability to establish a work environment where people can give us honest feedback about the way we lead is making us miss golden opportunities to improve our leadership skills.

When things are not working as we envisioned them, we tend to blame it on the poor work attitude of the people we work with. We are frustrated by their lack of discipline, their noncompliance or their laziness. We wonder if we hired the wrong persons but when they go, the people we hire as replacement demonstrate the same lack of engagement. We look for interventions. We send them to those so called work attitude and values enhancement workshops or go to a team building session only to be frustrated by the lack of long term change of behavior.

It cannot be us leaders because as far as our personal assessment is concerned, we're alright. This is where we are failing. We underestimate the value of understanding our own impact on others. We think that what we know is enough and that the real problem is that others don't know and don't do enough. We often fail to recognize that others' behaviors are their reactions to our style of leading or the absence of it.

If you have been hiring talented people but can't seem to get the most from them, look at all the reasons for the lack of engagement and you will find a common factor; lack of leadership.

Leadership in this context is the ability to initiate or cope with change, it's the ability to inspire people and engage them to pursue a shared vision. When I ask managers what they think of leadership they miss this. They think leadership is about getting things done through others. I have a bit of a problem with that kind of understanding because it misconstrues that leadership is about being in control of others and to many of us controlling others is leadership, it is not.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

What You Tolerate Becomes the Norm

It matters what the leader says, does or doesn’t do. Whatever you do, you’re communicating something. And whatever it is, it influences people’s behaviors because they respond/react to their leader’s behaviors. It is therefore important for the leader to be clear about the culture he/she wants to cultivate in the organization and as clear about the behaviors that cannot be tolerated.

A CEO friend hired her best friend as a director in her company. The friend’s performance was mediocre at best. It came to a point that the customers don’t want to work with her anymore. The CEO looked for another position in the company that the friend managed to bungle as well. To make the long story short, the CEO kept on moving the friend from one position to another until she ended up doing menial things but still with a Director’s salary. The problem now is every time the CEO wants to call the attention of other employees for their performance, she feels guilty because she knows they will point back to the friend and ask why she’s still working in the company.

Her example is just one of the many things that highlight how a leader’s tolerance of negative behaviors can affect the team. You really can’t have a high performing team if you tolerate low performance behaviors.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Leadership: Separating the Chaff from the Grain

I am often asked by clients to identify who among my participants have the leadership potential when I conduct leadership or team building workshops. each time I wish I am clairvoyant so I can give them a more accurate answer. As I am not, I talk to them about leadership behaviors or qualities demonstrated by participants during the sessions like ability to communicate their opinion clearly, facilitating skills when asked to work in groups etc. I make clear however that these competencies do not guarantee leadership. these qualities support leadership but they do not define leadership. Besides, There is hardly any accurate way to pinpoint leadership potentials just by observing participants behave during a two or three-day session. I made enough guessing mistakes to know this to be true.

My experience tells me that if you want to separate the chaffs from the grains as far leadership is concerned, you have to test them to find out who will step up to the plate and make a difference. Yes, a leader has the sense of urgency to do that, a non-leader will keep the status quo or worse turn in a mediocre performance. A leader will enroll and engage people to realize a vision, a non-leader will instruct or worse, they won't. A leader will turn the seemingly unessential role to a highly contributing role, a non-leader will take advantage of the seeming lack of importance of the role to do nothing. 

I use two places to do my non-scientific observation on leadership behaviors. The first one is in my workplace and the other one, In my former Toastmasters club . At work, I get a chance to rotate leadership roles or assign non-leadership roles and observe how my team members engage other members to make things happen. All things being equal meaning given the same amount of support, materials and encouragement, a leader will step up to the plate, engage others and make a difference. A non-leader will not. In fact even if you give a real leader a hard time and make it easy for a non-leader, the leader will prevail, the non-leader will give you excuses.

Let me share with you what I see at Toastmasters. For those who are unfamiliar, Toastmasters is a club where people hone and improve not only their communication skills but more importantly in my opinion, their leadership skills (visit for more information). Let me further substantiate that. Those who have leadership skills or potentials improve their skills when they participate in Toastmasters, those who don't have it, waste the opportunity. In this club, members get the opportunity to become leaders when they take on positions from President to Sergeant-At-Arms, all of which are leadership roles, believe it or not, for as long as a leader takes on the role. Let me take the role of the Sergeant-at-arms position, the least of the officer roles, it seems but in the hand of a leader, the sergeant-at-arms make sure that where he or she makes a difference, things get better and better like meeting organization or protocol. A non-leader may hold any of the important President or Vice president positions and trash it.

Speaking of leadership positions, I think all positions are leadership positions in the eyes of real leaders. That's because they make it... they can't help it. They have to lead. Ask successful leaders when they started leading and they'll tell you that it all started when they are still struggling to make a difference because they are not in the position of authority..

So, how do we spot them? how do we separate the leaders from the non-leaders? The answer, observe them demonstrate the following:

- Desire to improve things
- Communicate the desire
- engage others (including peers and boss)
- Show how it's done
- make things happen.

Give real leaders opportunities to demonstrate this and they will deliver. If you find them, take care of them. They can be an asset to your team.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Open Communication and Coercive Influence

One challenge that Filipino leaders face is the high power distance index our culture has compared to many other cultures in the world.  Power distance index  is defined as  “the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally.” In this dimension, inequality and power is perceived from the followers, or the lower level. A higher degree of the Index indicates that hierarchy is clearly established and executed in society, without doubt or reason. A lower degree of the Index signifies that people question authority and attempt to distribute power. 

This means that we have one of the highest tendencies to defer to our leaders for directions, decisions, etc. So, often, whatever the boss says goes. If there are questions or opinions in our minds, we keep it to ourselves, and say we agree even if in reality, we don't. I think that some people have been so accustomed to this arrangement that they don't make effort to form their own opinion anymore.  This is probably why the terms superior and subordinates, "tauhan," higher ups, and people below are still used in many workplaces.

This is not at all surprising. A lot of us were brought up believing it's wrong for kids to join adult conversations, question authorities, or challenge the opinions of our elders. It found its way in the workplace. We do the dance of superior-subordinate everyday, where the superior dishes out instructions while the subordinates obey. This used to work because in the past you have managers and supervisors who are a lot more senior, with lots of experience and expertise in doing work that remained the same overtime.  We can't say that the same is true now. Many managers are younger even less experienced than their staff.  The work changes often because of tough competition and technology. Because many managers cannot claim monopoly on job expertise, they need to shift their tactic from instructing to facilitating, and from controlling to empowering. The quality of conversations is critical in this regard. If we are to improve the quality of the conversation, we need to minimize if not remove the coercive effect of position titles, tenure, age, and other factors that render people thinking one party is superior than the other. How do we do this? We establish norms for conversation. We need to bring the team together and agree on some rules of engagement. Here are a few suggested norms:
  • Speak up
  • Attack the problem not the person
  • Do not hesitate to engage in a debate if that is what is needed to improve decisions
  • Don't let fear of conflict stop you from expressing your opinion
  • Disagree without being disagreeable
These are but a few of possible agreements you can make with your team. Let me say at this point that agreements like these are easy to form but challenging to implement owing to people's hesitance to take risk. Modeling the way as a leader is crucial to its success. Allow yourself to be vulnerable by constantly inquiring humbly, asking for help, soliciting opinions and feedback. 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The First Person We have to Lead

“Modeling the way” is one of the leadership practices that came out of Kouzes and Posner’s research that led to the writing of their book, “The Leadership Challenge.”
I do think that being a role model to the people one leads is critical to one’s leadership success.
Modeling the way means being credible or being consistent in words and in actions. It’s quite a challenging requirement given our fallibility. To succeed we need to muster the will to lead that one important person who can make the difference between people following us because they have to and following us because they want to; ourselves.

Bill O’brien, former CEO of Hanover Insurance said that “The success of an intervention is dependent on the interior condition of the intervenor.” I’ve always seen leaders as intervenors and I agree, the success of our leadership journey depends on our interior condition.  How we present ourselves, how we make decisions and the quality of our conversations are highly dependent on how in-touch we are with our thoughts and emotions and how we regulate our behaviors specially during challenging times.

Daniel Goleman offers a framework to guide us through self-mastery.  Here are some insights of my own to support Goleman’s model.
Image source:

Self-Awareness – Keeping tab of your emotional state is an important requisite to self-management. Being clear about your values, knowing your strengths and your weaknesses, makes you aware of your potentials and limitations. As a leader in charge of guiding others, it helps to know  that we are also guided by making decisions that are aligned with our values, our aspiration and choosing a path that caters to our strengths.

Self- Regulation
– There are a number of situations at work that requires self-regulation; when we’re upset, when we’re angry, when we’re not in the mood, when we’re afraid and when we’re on autopilot which is about half the time we’re awake. When we lead people, the decisions we make impact others more than when we were individual contributors responsible only for our individual performance. It helps to master our emotion so that we can avoid rash decisions we might regret later. By the way, self-regulation is more than just controlling one’s anger. I think a valuable part of self-regulation is mustering the courage to take risk and open one’s mind to opportunities. Surely, an important ability to develop.

Social Awareness – When we are in tune with our work and the people around us, we become sensitive to the feelings and needs of others. It helps us respond better. It helps to continually learn about sensing other people’s behaviors and developing the necessary skills and habits to enhance our social awareness because it leads to better relationship management.

Relationship Management – This is an important skill. As leaders, we need to develop our assertiveness, our ability to express ourselves, process what we are hearing in a way that promotes better understanding and respond in a manner that promotes understanding as well.

I seldom see organizations invest in developing their leaders in these areas which is a shame considering its impact on the quality of decisions leaders can make if they have a higher aptitude for managing their own behaviors. I hope you consider this in your own leadership journey.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Hello World!

Welcome to my new blog!
I don't know why I'm doing this but I'm  starting this journal on top of the other blogs I can barely manage, to document my thoughts on the subject of leadership. I know that this is something that I should have started a long time ago, perhaps even before I started my other blogs. It just so happens that the inspiration came in just now!

Anyway, the plan is, for the lack of a better word to use other than plan, is to write down my thoughts on the subject of leadership as I learn from my daily encounters with leaders, ideas about leaders and people, needing leadership.  My purpose is not to educate. I don't think I have the necessary expertise for that.  My intention is to think out loud and share my opinions about how leadership should be.  I also hope to start a conversation that will help me and those who care to have that conversation with me learn a thing or two about our leadership situations and how to deal with them.

So, what do I have in store for you? Essays! stuff that I write while stuck in traffic about leadership. Videos! I have some videos of me talking about leadership in some of my learning engagements that will find their way in this blog. I also plan, there I go again with saying plan, to video-record, some of the leadership frameworks and ideas I believe in and share my thoughts on how to apply them in the real world.

So, do visit this blog again. I will try to write about 10 articles before I launch it. I hope you like it and I hope you find something useful in it for your own leadership journey.