Answering some thoughtful questions from management consultant Robert Morris

By William Seidman I was recently interviewed by management consultant Robert Morris. Our conversation was posted on the  First Friday Book Synopsis,  part of “The Employee Engagement Network.” I’ll be sharing some of the highlights (some edited for brevity) here. Today: What I know now that I wish I’d known when I founded Cerebyte, the major challenges our clients face, and the difference between leadership and management.. Morris: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you founded Cerebyte? Seidman: Our most valuable insight is this: how hard it is to establish an innovative product and process even if everyone says they want it and even if it has incredibly strong proof points to support it. More specifically, we thought there would be an openness to innovation in the area of performance improvement because almost every organization talked about the need to improve performance and there was widespread agreement about the ineffectiveness of the available approaches (e.g. training classes) at improving performance. However, there was actually a tremendous amount of resistance to change, even if everyone thought it was a good thing to do. It was only when the science actually caught up with what we had been doing, and became widely accepted that the resistance to change decreased. Morris: Although there is great diversity among Cerebyte clients, in terms of both size and nature of business, which major challenge do all of them face? How specifically does Cerebyte help them to respond effectively to that challenge? Seidman: They are serious about making the changes in their organization required to significantly improve performance, usually in a particular focus area. In many cases, it is a “change or die” situation for them so motivation and disillusionment with traditional approaches are high. We help organizations improve performance, faster, more completely, more predictably and at less expense than has previously been possible. Morris: Do you differentiate leadership from management? Seidman: Yes, though primarily in the leadership programs we develop for our customers. To us, leadership is much more about creating a compelling vision and providing the support and resources that enable the team to achieve the vision (in our terminology, it is about guiding “transformation”) while management is much more about the administration of the business (i.e. “transactions”). We find that this difference is most important when there are significant challenges to the organization. Managers retreat from performance improvements to a survival mode – Did I make my numbers today? -whereas leaders look at the challenges as an opportunity to drive the organization forward, even if it means taking some significant risks. In addition, we know that “operational excellence,” which is the focus of management, is a subset of leadership —  so if you have great leadership, you get the best of both worlds. It doesn’t work the other way though. Managers, even good ones, literally think differently than great leaders and need extensive education to become leaders.]]>

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