Leadership Is a Conversation

“Leadership” is a lot like a U.S. Supreme Court Justice once described pornography: “Hard to define, but easy to recognize when you see it!” All joking aside, defining leadership is important for those of us who are interested in being effective leaders.

A recent Harvard Business Review (June 2012) article, “Leadership is a Conversation” by Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind, does a great job of defining positive leadership through the art of conversation. (The two also teamed up to write the book, Talk, Inc.: How Trusted Leaders Use Conversation to Power their Organizations, Harvard Business Review Press, 2012). In my book, Building a Winning Business, I dedicate five chapters in the leadership section to the topic of communication. There also are five other chapters sprinkled throughout the rest of the book on the importance of communication, including chapter 18 (Involve the Team when Defining Values), chapter 28 (Let Everyone Weigh In), chapter 41 (Communicate at the Beginning to Avoid Problems at the end) and chapter 46 (Communicate Early and Often).

So, please believe me when I tell you that I’m excited about this new work by Groysberg and Slind, which goes way beyond the One Minute Manager concept and includes observations based on interviews with nearly 150 people at more than 100 companies: large and small, blue chip and start up, for profit and non-profit, U.S. and international. Building upon insights and examples gleaned from this research, they developed a model of leadership called “Organizational Conversation,” which they define as having the following attributes: (1) intimacy, (2) interactivity, (3) inclusion and (4) intentionality.

“Talking with employees, rather than to them, can promote operational flexibility, employee engagement and tight strategic alignment,” notes Groysberg, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, and Slind, a professional writer and editor.

I’m going to take some time to explore “Organizational Conversation” as a leadership model in my upcoming posts. I’ll also share some of the lessons learned along these lines at Intertech. Please share your thoughts and observations too. After all, a conversation can only happen when there is an open exchange of ideas and information!

Next post: Just what, exactly, is Leadership Communication?

Intertech #1 in the 100 Best Companies to Work for 2012 in Minnesota by Minnesota Business Magazine

Last night, at an awards gala, Intertech was named #1 in Minnesota Business magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work for.” We won in the mid-sized business category.

Wow.  I’m humbled and honored.  My thanks to all the folks at Intertech who give their very best every day and make us who we are.

Here’s the full press release on the Intertech website.

The secret behind Intertech’s success

Yesterday, we celebrated our 20th year anniversary at Intertech with customers, employees, partners, friends, and family.  100’s attended in-person and live via simulcast.  It was a wonderful event.

I give my thanks to all who coordinated, participated, and attended.  We wouldn’t be possible without you.  I’m humbled by your support and commitment.  Thank you.

Onto the final post in this series…

In the previous four posts I have explained the business development philosophy called “Act-Learn-Build” as described by Leonard A. Schlesinger, Charles F. Kiefer and Paul B. Brown called Just Start: Take Action, Embrace Uncertainty, Create the Future (Harvard Business Review Press, March 2012). I’ve also described how this approached has worked at Intertech, with both failed and successful new ventures. In this last post of this series, I will share the secret that belies the success.

In a word: “Passion!” Without passion for the venture, there’s not much point in trying. While we have started small in all of the new initiatives I described, there always has been an underlying passion driving the effort. Extending the reach of Intertech’s consulting and training means extending the things that we already care deeply about and deliver on with a high degree of client satisfaction.

In the March 2012 issue of Harvard Business Review, the Just Start authors summarize the Act-Learn-Build approach and include a sidebar titled “Why Desire Matters.” I will conclude today’s post with an excerpt that sums it all up:

“It doesn’t make sense to venture into the unknown unless it’s for something you care about. Desire motivates you to act, enables you to persist, and makes you more creative when confronted with obstacles. That doesn’t mean you must have a big idea or a grand passion, at least not at first. Most entrepreneurs begin with a simple interest in a market, product, or service—an itch they need to scratch—and pursue it because it feels satisfying or because they think it might lead to something that does. “

The article also includes some great advice for people who work inside large corporations and who may feel they have less freedom to try new ideas:

“Very few of work at places like Google, where the business model is open, and pet projects are expected to take up to 20 percent of employees’ time. Consider the goals of your company, your division and your boss, and then figure out whether you can link them to what you care about. If you have just been handed a new company initiative, look for something in it that excites you—even if it’s just the project’s potential to boost your career. If you can’t find that connection, consider stepping aside. While it’s certainly possible to try the “Act-Learn-Build” strategy when desire isn’t present, it won’t be much fun and your chance of success will be significantly compromised.