Leadership and Boundaries

Watch this video of Josh Shipp

What immediately impressed me was how this young man understands boundaries.

Now read this story about a youth hockey riot in Utica, N.Y.  This stuff happens all the time.  The problem is adults who don't understand social boundaries.

We recently dismissed a boy from our scout troop because he refused to operate within the boundaries of safety and respect for the troop.

Boundaries are both cultural and structural. They function to not only guide groups toward common goals, but also protect them from destructive behavior.  They are cultural because they are formed in a tacit agreement between us based on shared values.  They are structural because they are essential to insuring the viability of an organization.

I believe it is the duty of leaders to set the boundaries for their organizations and their communities.  These boundaries need not only to be clear, but also the consequences for actions when those boundaries are crossed. 

If you have a connection to a school or some other youth organization, connect your kids to Josh's website.  Engage him to come talk with your kids about responsibility.  And as adults, listen to his message because it is not just for kids, but for all of us.

Josh understands this and is trying to communicate a message of responsibility to kids.  Read his Change This manifesto on how to talk with teenagers.  It's right on the money. 

The problem is not that kids don't understand boundaries, but adults don't.  Kids often times are victims of adults failure to understand what's appropriate and what isn't.

I'm glad to know that Josh is out there.  As an old guy, I think he is really cool.


Brand Autopsy's take on Whole Foods Market

Read John Moore's 10 point description of Whole Food Markets. He is reacting to an article in Business Week.
Here's the list:
1 | Maximum Freedom. Minimum Governance.
2 | Small Pieces Loosely Joined
3 | Getting Bigger by Acting Smaller
4 | Food as Theater
5 | Shoppers as “Brand” Ambassadors
6 | Education Leads to Appreciation
7 | Everything Matters
8 | Price to Value
9 | Profit is a Good Competitive Game
10 | Team Members Make the Difference

What impresses me about this company is their commitment to decentralized leadership.  In essence, it means that the closer the decision is made to the customer, the better.  My question is whether this is a trend or an anomaly?  If it is a trend then we will continue to see large, complex, top-down bureaucratic structures changed to what WFM has developed.  If it doesn't work, then we'll see a chronic internal confict between the past and future in organizations.


Change This: Tom Peters Goes One on One with ... Everyone?

Change This is back, and Tom Peters has one of the first manifestos in the renewal of this innovative diffuser of ideas.

TPs Manifesto is a take off on the old "You say to tomato, I say toma[h]to."  Here he takes on the traditionalists.  Not the historical traditionalists, but those traditionalists who are content with driving 5 miles under the speed limit in the far left lane.  In otherwords, 90% of the population.

Here's how he begins.

They say ... my (Tom's) language is extreme.
I say ... the times are extreme.

They say I'm extreme.
I say I'm a realist.

They say I demand too much.
I say they accept mediocrity and continuous improvement too readily.

They say "We can't handle this much change."
I say "Your job and career are in jeopardy; what other optoins do you have?"


I really love this contrast.  It is very important to understand what he is saying to us.  Over the past several years, apart from Tom, I've reached much of the same conclusion.

It has to do with standards and our attitude toward change.

I come at this from the standpoint of seeing good people who are underperforming, underachieving, underrealizing their potential.  I see this from the perspective of people who live letting circumstances dictate to why they are not fulfilled in their work, their jobs, their life.

Here's some more from Tom.  See how this fits with the above paragraph.

They say "Rationality is th Bedrock of Modern Society."
I say "Irrationality  (irrational exuberance?) is the Mother of all True Entrepreneurial Pilgrimages."

They say "Order is the necessary precursor to measured, sustainable success."
I say "Dis-order is the precursor to Opportunities Sorties, Market Creation, Quantum Leaps, and Entrepreneurial Adventure."

They say "To get anywhere, you have to know exactly where the hell you're headed."
I say "If you know precisel where you're headed and exactly how you're gonna get there, then you clearly suffer from Advanced Shrivelus Imaginationus."  (This disease is fatal.)

They say "Employees need Well-defined Structure."
I say "Talent should be encouraged to embardk on Quests to the Unknown."

They say "I'm here to maximize shareholder value."
I say "I'm here to inflame each & every member of my Awesome Staff to embark with Vigor & Determination & Passio & Enthusiasm on a Quest of Monumental Consequence."  (And if I come even clsoe to succeeding, it will, in fact, dramatically up the odds of Thriving Amidst Today's Chaos -- and creating untold shareholder value in the process."

As a planner, I agree with him.  Every planning project I've ever done I've gone into the project telling the client that I'm not here to change their organizational structure.  And everytime we change it.  So, I'm beginning to say this with potential clients up front. 

Every organization needs a clear organizational structure whose purpose is to liberate the talent to take leadership initiative.  Initiative is what separates leaders from followers.  And the first task of leadership is to expand the leadership base by creating a structure that frees people to create.

Finally from Tom.

They read Jim Collins and grok on "quiet, humble leaders."
I say "Give me the Bold, the Brash, the Brassy, the Egocentric Dreamers who, like Steve Jobs, "Dent the Universe."

For one I think this is an oversimplification of Collins work, and he says it enough to know that it isn't just for setting up a straw man to topple.

I say that we've had the Bold, etc, and they have toppled their businesses because of their hubris.  This is really a false comparison

To be humble doesn't mean quiet.  To be humble is to recognize it isn't about  you and you can't do it alone.  In fact, if you want to achieve what TP suggests in this manifesto, the self-serving, narcissistic egotist leader will fail, but it will not create a liberated environment for leaderhip initiative.

Ultimately what I like about Tom Peter's dance with the traditionalist in this manifesto is his attitude toward change and standards. 

I don't know a single business or organization that has set high enough standards for its performance. 

Is this because life is filled with compromises?  Possibly. 

However, I rather think that is because instead of being "pioneers", we are "settlers."  We want to settle down at some level that is comfortable, instead of creating something new, great, and innovative.

What I've concluded as I've gone through my own transformation is that so much of this has to do with the confidence we need to attempt greatness.  And that is a story for another day.

Read the manifesto. For each give and take, give your own
"I say."And publish it somewhere, here, there, wherever.


Increase Participation? Raise Standards

Leadership can be the loneliest business in town.  Too often because of the way we conduct ourselves as leaders, we end up taking on most of the burden of the organization.  As a result, participation falls off, and the leader experiences burn out.

It is the issue that I address in my latest Real Life Leadership column - Raising your personal standards can work wonders for your organization - that appears in today's WNC Business Journal in the Asheville Citizen-Times.

Here I speak to the need for raising standards. 

It is this topic that became the impetus to create the University of Word of Mouth weblog and to create the Fill The Seats project at UNCA last month. I have more to say on this topic here.